Pokémon Generations: Episodes 9 and 10

Right, for a brief period there I was literally dead, for tax reasons, but I’ve now clawed my way out of hell and back into the world of the living to keep doing… um…

…what… exactly is it that I do here, again?

Oh, Christ, this nonsense.  Well, let’s see if I can catch up by the end of the week, shall we?

The ninth Pokémon: Generations short took an unexpected direction, but one I was surprised to find myself rather enjoying: it focused on the Mega Rayquaza incident from the end of Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, but instead of focusing on a prominent character like Zinnia or Steven, it followed Gabby and Ty, a couple of characters who really are in the games, I promise!  Both in the original Ruby and Sapphire and in the remakes, Gabby and Ty – a television reporter and her long-suffering cameraman – appear periodically to challenge the player to double battles (Gabby using a Whismur and Ty a Magnemite; both eventually evolve).  When defeated, they will interview the player; the results can appear on Hoenn TV networks.  They’re quite useful in the original games because they’re just about the only trainers outside of the Elite Four who can be battled whenever you want (you just have to follow them around, as they cycle between three locations), and their Pokémon eventually reach quite a high level.  Gabby and Ty are particularly interested in finding and interviewing powerful trainers, hence the battles, and this seems to be a focus for them in Generations as well.

The situation in which we encounter Gabby and Ty here is as follows.  The great meteor that threatened to wipe Hoenn off the map has been destroyed by Mega Rayquaza, and humanity is safe.  Footage of the incident, captured by a satellite, has been released by the Mossdeep Space Centre, and shows Mega Rayquaza soaring out of the upper atmosphere and smashing through the looming meteor, after which the video goes to static, implying that the camera was destroyed.  Gabby, however, has heard rumours that there’s more footage being kept secret.  She decides that it is her solemn duty as an investigative journalist to break into the Space Centre and find the truth, dragging poor Ty along for the ride.  They apparently gain access by scheduling an interview with one of the scientists, but once inside, manage to give their handlers the slip and access the centre’s network through an unguarded terminal in a server room.  Gabby finds the unreleased footage: video that shows a dramatic battle between Mega Rayquaza (apparently commanded by a child in a space suit) and a mysterious Pokémon, recognisable to us as Deoxys, that emerged from the destroyed meteor.  Rayquaza eventually defeats Deoxys, who is captured in an Ultra Ball by the young trainer.  Gabby downloads the video to a flash drive and tells Ty that she intends to find the trainer.  As they try to leave, they are halted by some security guards led by a scientist, who tries to confiscate Gabby’s flash drive.  Gabby manages to pull some sleight of hand to keep the flash drive out of his hands, and the episode ends with her and Ty frantically running away with the guards in hot pursuit, as the scientist muses that “it’s too soon for the world to learn that information.”

This short does a lot of things that I like.  It gives some minor characters something cool to do, of course, as I’ve already explained.  More importantly, though, it gives some context to the appearance of Deoxys in Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, and while doing so it helps to develop a different kind of atmosphere around the Mossdeep Space Centre and the people working to stop the meteor.  Deoxys… kinda comes out of nowhere in the games.  After the climb up through the Sky Pillar, catching Rayquaza at the Dragonhark Altar, and the battle with Zinnia, the story reaches a crescendo when you triumphantly ride into space on Rayquaza’s back and shatter the meteor.  And then Deoxys, whose existence has never been hinted at anywhere else in the story, appears from inside of the meteor and battles you for no clear reason (without any of the framing that the last two generations’ games have been using elsewhere to make battles with legendary Pokémon feel more climactic).  Generations doesn’t actually make any attempt to explain what Deoxys is doing there, but it does try to acknowledge that what’s happening here is genuinely mysterious, that not everyone knows the full details of what’s going on, that there are forces actively working to keep those events secret.  Deoxys’ presence was as much a surprise to everyone else involved in the story as it was to us, and the very knowledge of its existence is being supressed by people who fear that it would cause panic.  There’s nothing terribly original about that, of course – the idea of paranoia about government forces, or of conspiracies to cover up the existence of alien life, is a standard trope.  But it’s interesting to see it in Pokémon, where both science and government are more likely than not to be forces for good, and it helps to put Deoxys in context.

On the same day as the Rayquaza/Deoxys episode (October 28th), we got a second short clearly meant to tie in with Halloween.  And it’s… well… let’s just say it’s a bit of a tone shift.  This episode focuses on one of the minor characters from Diamond and Pearl, Cheryl – a young woman who accompanies the player through Eterna Forest, with her Chansey in tow, fighting double battles alongside you and healing your Pokémon on demand.  She’s cheerful and energetic, but cautious enough to be wary of the possibility of being attacked by Team Galactic if she travels through the forest alone.  In Generations, she apparently didn’t find someone to escort her, and although she doesn’t run into Team Galactic, she might wish she had…

Cheryl and her Chansey are walking through an eerie forest at dusk.  In need of a place to sleep, they come upon an old but well-lit and neatly maintained chateau – the Old Chateau of Eterna Forest, which in the games is home to Ghost Pokémon, including the elusive Rotom.  Cheryl decides to enter and ask for lodging.  At first, everything appears to be fine: they’re greeted by a dour-looking but friendly and well-dressed old man, whose portrait hangs on the wall of the atrium, and he offers them both a place to stay and a luxurious evening meal.  But things quickly become decidedly weird.  The portrait’s eyes flash red and follow them across the room when Cheryl’s back is turned.  We the audience can see that, although the dinner table is loaded with food, Cheryl and Chansey’s own plates are empty when they start to eat.  They seem to be in the thrall of an illusion.  Cheryl slices at empty air with her knife and pokes at food that isn’t there with her fork; Chansey happily chews and swallows nothing at all.  Neither of them notice that the old man isn’t eating anything, and is chuckling ominously as he watches them.  Cheryl only realises that something is a bit off when the old man is leading her and Chansey to their room, and he vanishes after turning a corner in front of them, only to reappear behind them.  Now apprehensive, they keep following him… and he sinks into the floor, leaving behind a trail of bubbling purple goo.  A moment later, there is an evil laugh behind them, and a cloud of purple smoke, flashes of fire, and sparking lightning chases them down the corridor.  The cloud resolves into the rough shape of a Haunter, and swallows them up.  Cheryl and Chansey then wake up to find themselves on a sofa in a ruined library – I’m tempted to interpret this transition as them being on the receiving end of a Dream Eater attack.  As Cheryl checks to see if her Pokémon is all right, several books suddenly fall from the shelves, and a note drifts into Cheryl’s lap: “something so peculiar should make off with the motor” (this note can be found in the Old Chateau’s library on Platinum, and seems to be a reference to Rotom’s ability to possess and control electrical appliances).  After Cheryl reads the note out loud, the ghost of an incredibly creepy young girl appears in the air behind her, and says in a mock-sympathetic tone “oh… you had to read it… aww… oh, my dear…” before transforming into a horrible monster.  We cut to a shot of the Old Chateau’s exterior beneath a swirling purple sky as Cheryl screams, and the episode ends.

Soooo… looks like Cheryl’s totally dead.

The episode doesn’t really explain what’s going on here, and it sort of doesn’t need to – it’s aiming at horror, and the essence of horror is in what you leave unexplained, the things that are left beyond the rationalising power of human deduction.  But there’s definitely stuff here to play with and comment on.  The Old Chateau sort of stands alone in the games, and has nothing to do with the plot.  The anime changed it almost beyond recognition.  So it’s neat to see it get its moment in the sun… or, uh… the hellish black light of the soulless void.  We don’t exactly know what happened to the Old Chateau – it seems to have once been luxurious (luxury that is restored in the illusions we see in Generations) but fallen into disrepair some time ago.  You can occasionally see – but never interact with – an old man and a little girl in the building, and these are presumably the ghosts who torment Cheryl in this episode.  One of the rooms even has a portrait whose eyes follow you – this is the only room in the building where, if you have one of the Gameboy Advance-era games inserted in your DS’s lower slot while playing, you can occasionally encounter wild Gengar, so it’s possible that the shifty eyes (both in the games and in Generations) belong to one of them.  These are clearly not the playful Ghost Pokémon of the anime, who delight in pranking Ash in Lavender Town, but nor are they simply trying to protect their home from intruders like the mother Marowak in Origins; these ghosts actively entice Cheryl and Chansey with their illusions, and take the interesting step of offering them food.  Remember, if you ever find yourself in supernatural danger: eating food in or of the spirit world can trap you there.  This is one of those ideas that has variants in many cultures; I’m most familiar with the pomegranate seeds that caused Persephone, the Greek goddess of spring, to become trapped in the underworld as the wife of Hades for half of every year, but Japanese mythology apparently has similar concepts.  The intention seems to be that Cheryl’s not leaving (and it, ah… might be something to keep in mind if you ever intend to let your Pokémon sample the Old Gateau, a consumable item from the Old Chateau that has the same effect as a Full Heal).  Ghost Pokémon get portrayed in a lot of different ways across the different media and over the years, so I think the takeaway is not to treat them as though they all work in exactly the same way, even within single species – but having said that, some of them are seriously bad news.

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