Pokémon Generations: Episode 11

Oh, now this one is interesting.

Episode 11 of Pokémon: Generations is a new take on the fate of Cyrus, the boss of Team Galactic and major antagonist of Diamond, Pearl and Platinum.  Cyrus’ ambition, to quickly recap for people who either never played those games or don’t remember them very well, was to outshine every other Pokémon villain who ever had been or ever will be, by unmaking reality itself and becoming a god in order to create a new universe that would be free from the weakness and imperfection of the soul.  Let’s see how that turns out for him.

We join Cyrus and two of his lieutenants, Mars and Jupiter, at the Spear Pillar – an ancient ruined temple at the highest point in Sinnoh, atop Mount Coronet.  The third Galactic lieutenant, Saturn, is watching with most of their grunts from their headquarters in Veilstone City (in the games, Saturn later claims that he’d never known what Cyrus was really planning – but then, he would say that, wouldn’t he?).  Cyrus uses a pair of artefacts of his own creation, the Red Chains, to summon and command Dialga and Palkia, the legendary Pokémon that control time and the spatial dimensions, respectively.  At Cyrus’ order, they unleash their power and begin to unravel the universe.  At this point, Sinnoh’s Champion, Cynthia, arrives on the scene with her Garchomp and tries to stop Team Galactic… but she doesn’t get very far before someone else decides to intervene.  Cyrus’ plan is interrupted by the sudden appearance of what I can only describe as a pool of darkness on the temple floor beneath where Dialga and Palkia are hovering.  From the pool emerges Giratina, the legendary Pokémon who controls… death?  Nothingness?  Antimatter?  It’s not altogether clear.  Cyrus, for his part, betrays no surprise and commands Dialga and Palkia to attack Giratina.  They comply, but the shadowy Pokémon’s counterattack shatters the Red Chains and they immediately fly away.  With Mars and Jupiter watching helplessly, Cyrus calmly and impassively stares down Giratina as it dives onto him and drags him back into its own world.  Mars and Jupiter call out to Cyrus while Saturn, back at their base, frantically tries to raise him on the radio, but to no avail.

We then see Cyrus wake up in the Distortion World – Giratina’s realm, which the player briefly visits on Platinum version.  The Distortion World is filled with huge slabs of reddish-brown rock floating in a swirling purple vortex, populated only by sparse, dead-looking trees.  Streams of water flow between them in random directions – gravity seems to be largely a suggestion in this world.  When Cyrus awakens, Giratina is looming over him.  He addresses the mysterious Pokémon calmly: “So this is your world, is it?  Are you content, now that you’ve interfered with my plans and ruined everything?”  He stands and looks around.  As he surveys the Distortion World and continues to talk, half to Giratina and half to himself, he gradually realises that this strange place is what he had wanted all along – “a world… that requires no spirit; it would be a perfect world.”  He turns to Giratina, who is still staring at him, motionless, and slowly begins to smile.  Meanwhile, back in the “real” world, Saturn is still trying to contact Cyrus.  He gets one sentence – “do not look for me” – followed by an otherworldly roar from Giratina that raises a flinch from everyone in the room.  Then the transmission cuts out.  Saturn calls out to Cyrus one more time before finally giving up.  “Master Cyrus… I understand.”

The games never really produced a satisfying conclusion to Cyrus’ story.  In Diamond and Pearl, Giratina never appears, and after losing a battle to the player at the Spear Pillar, Cyrus vows never to give up and then… just… kind of disappears, never to be heard from again.  In Platinum, he is abducted by Giratina as in Generations, but Cynthia and the player actually follow him into the Distortion World – Cyrus believes that Giratina’s universe is somehow stabilising the “real” world, like a matching strand of DNA, and keeping Dialga and Palkia from destroying it, so he tries to master Giratina in order to destroy both at once.  When defeated by the player, he taunts you, challenging you to battle Giratina yourself – he believes that capturing or defeating it will make the Distortion World disappear, achieving his goals for him, while Cynthia believes that battling Giratina will help it to understand humanity and calm its rage, closing the portal between the worlds that is damaging the fabric of reality.  Ultimately, Cynthia turns out to be right.  Cyrus throws a tantrum and, again, disappears, vowing revenge.  As in Diamond and Pearl, this is the last we ever hear of him.

Cyrus is… a mixed up person.  He seems to be deeply sociopathic; not only does he not understand emotion or desire, he doesn’t want to understand them, thinks that they are the root of all the world’s problems, and believes that the universe would be perfect if he could extinguish them forever.  We’re told by an old man in Cyrus’ hometown, Sunyshore City, that as a child he preferred the company of machines and computers to that of people.  Despite all that, he has a strange charisma to him, a facility with command that allowed to assemble Team Galactic and inspire the kind of blind devotion that is indispensible in a Pokémon antagonist.  As mad as it sounds, he honestly seems to believe he’s doing the right thing; Cyrus’ explicit goal is to end all suffering forever.  The problem is that he believes the ultimate cause of all suffering is the imperfection of the soul, and that the only way to change this is by starting the whole universe anew.

Giratina, much like Cyrus, is a very difficult figure to understand.  According to the Pokédex – whose descriptions are presumably derived from assorted myth, legend and speculation – it was “banished” to the Distortion World for its violence, one assumes by Arceus, the supreme being who created it as well as Dialga and Palkia (although it might be worth interrogating what we think we know about that as well).  This… sort of makes Giratina the Pokémon equivalent to Satan, the rebellious angel cast out of heaven.  But the more I think about the role Giratina seems to play in Platinum, the more I think this can’t be right.  Based on Cynthia’s observations and suspicions about the Distortion World in Platinum, Giratina is the guardian of a universe that serves as the metaphorical photo negative of ours, which can be used to stabilise and repair damage done to “real” space or time.  That’s a pretty important place in Arceus’ creation, and certainly not one you’d want to give to a Pokémon that had been banished for being dangerously violent and unstable.  It seems likely to me that a lot of the nasty things we hear about Giratina are the result of people encountering its manifestations in the “real” world and being so utterly freaked out by it that they never really tried to understand what they were seeing, and jumped to their own conclusions about what it was (it probably doesn’t help that apparently Giratina can most easily cross over between the worlds in places of death, like cemeteries).  Giratina lives in a universe that is supposedly devoid of other life (other than perhaps those strange trees).  It may have been created specifically to guard that universe from intrusion, which would explain its supposed violence.  Most importantly, it has no experience of other beings except as dark intruders into its realm, and its unclear position in Pokémon’s cosmology – “banished” from the universe at the beginning of time – could make it the only living being to be exempt from Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf’s bestowal of the aspects of the spirit.

In the games, Giratina seems to attack and seize Cyrus because it is enraged by the damage he has caused to its own universe through his meddling in ours.  But in Generations, when Cyrus comes to in the Distortion World, Giratina isn’t angry at him – it’s just floating there, watching over him almost protectively, just as impassive as Cyrus himself was when it rushed him.  I don’t think it was angry with him at all.  I think that Giratina saw Cyrus as a kindred spirit – the only being from the “real” world who could ever really understand it, and share its satisfaction with being alone in the void.  It wasn’t attacking Cyrus, and it didn’t need to; it had already freed Dialga and Palkia and kept any more damage from being done.  It brought him to the Distortion World because it saw that, on some level, the two of them were the same – outcast, misunderstood, perhaps literally soulless – and that its strange, dark universe was the one place where Cyrus, the only human who could ever be worthy of being Giratina’s trainer, would be happy.

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