Hau, Lillie and Gladion

In a way it feels strange to do all three of these characters together – like, it makes sense to have Hau and Gladion together because they both fit Pokémon’s existing “rival” archetypes, and it makes sense to have Lillie and Gladion together because (uh… SPOILERS, I guess???) they’re family, but the three of them don’t fit together quite as neatly at first glance.  In fact, though, they play off each other in ways that I think are worth talking about.  Hau, Lillie and Gladion all act as foils to one another – Hau’s carefree optimism, Lillie’s self-effacing dutifulness, Gladion’s edgy pragmatism.  All three of them also have certain issues with their parentage (granted, in Lillie and Gladion’s case, it’s the same parent), which is important not just in terms of their own characterisation but because tradition (and, by extension, ancestry and inheritance) is a minor theme of Sun and Moon.  Lillie’s relationship with her mother is also basically what the entire climax of the game turns on.  So let’s talk about these three, their personalities and what happens to them, and see what we can be come up with – starting with Hau.

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Hop

This one isn’t going to be super heavy on sweeping themes and allegory; I don’t have, like, a hot take about how Hop’s character arc is actually a commentary on British masculinity, or anything like that. Nor (thank Arceus) do we need to get especially deep into the lore of any particular legendary Pokémon to understand what Hop’s deal is; Zacian and Zamazenta are relevant to his story, but we can do this without them. That means I can just… talk about what Hop does in the story, then say what I think about it, like I used to do back when I was still pretending that my life made sense. The theme here isn’t even all that complicated or particularly unusual in a Pokémon game: Hop’s story is about growing up in other people’s shadows and learning to find your own path and excel in your own way, not comparing yourself to the achievements of others. It’s sweet, it’s uplifting, let’s talk about it.

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Chairman Rose

Chairman Rose.

Today we’re going to be looking at another pivotal character of Pokémon: Sword and Shield: Chairman Rose, the… [SPOILERS… obviously???] main antagonist of the game’s climax.  Even more so than Lusamine, Rose spends a lot of the game being obviously suspicious but never actually doing anything untoward that we can see, until suddenly he flips out and does something completely ludicrous that I am probably going to spend the entire duration of generation VIII trying to puzzle out.  Exactly what he does is swathed in some weird deep-lore $#!t that I don’t think we have the full picture of, even from our vantage point at the end of the game, and anyway I’m going to talk more about it when I cover Sonia’s storyline, and eventually when I review the relevant legendary Pokémon.  For Rose, I think it’s more important that we look at who he is and what his motivations are.

So what’s Rose’s deal?

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Marnie, Piers and Team Yell

Okay; let’s get cracking!  New generation, renewed sense of purpose, momentary spike in my will to live… aaaaaand it’s gone.

Oh well.

I’m going to begin with my character studies of the major players in the plot of Sword and Shield, rather than Pokémon reviews like I’ve done in the past, partly because I want to get my thoughts on the story out there while the games are fresh in people’s minds and it’s more immediately relevant… and partly because I was still doing Pokémon reviews for generation VII just a couple of months ago and frankly I need a minute (also I am kiiiiinda thinking I should go back and do the characters from Sun and Moon that I missed out).  Let’s start with the, uh… pseudo-villains… of Sword and Shield – Team Yell – and their reluctant “leaders” Piers and Marnie.  In more ways than one, Team Yell are a continuation of things we saw in Sun and Moon with Team Skull.  Team Skull are arguably not “villains” in Sun and Moon, and certainly not the main antagonists.  They’re set up as troublemakers and petty criminals, but if anything we’re supposed to come to sympathise with them by the end of the game, and their leaders earn redemption in the epilogue.  Team Yell are the same, but more so: they’re obstructive and annoying, but they never really hurt anyone as far as we see, and once we learn their true nature, it’s clear that their motives are – if not exactly “pure” – certainly understandable.

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Team Rainbow Rocket

Official art of Team Rainbow Rocket’s castle.

…well, I…

…I mean, do I really need to-?

…then again, “Team Rocket is gay now” is pretty compelling

(what am I saying, “now”? look at Jessie and James; they were always gay)

all right, let’s try for a shorter one

In the aftermath of the resolution of the main plot in Ultra Sun and Moon, Team Rocket appears out of nowhere and takes over first Festival Plaza and then the entire Aether Paradise, renovating Lusamine’s mansion with a new menacing black-and-red colour scheme.  Only they aren’t Team Rocket anymore – they’ve rebranded, are now Team Rainbow Rocket, and are accompanied by a rogue’s gallery of villains from all the previous Pokémon games.  And they’ve got plans.  Apparently.  I know a lot of my readers haven’t actually played Ultra SMoon (which… well, fair enough; they’re not a big step up over Sun and Moon) so let’s begin with a summary of what exactly happens.

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Lusamine and the Aether Foundation

Lusamine

This piece is in principle about the Aether Foundation, and we’ll start by talking a little about them.  In practise, though, as I hinted last time in my review of Team Skull, it’s actually more a character study of Lusamine, since a lot of the real “villainy” happening in Sun and Moon is a result of her personal actions, either independently of the Foundation itself or abusing her position within it.  The interesting thing about Sun and Moon is that, although Team Skull clearly aren’t the villains by the end of the game, the Aether Foundation aren’t really the villains either.  In fact, I’m not even sure Lusamine is.  Let’s talk about that.

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Team Skull

Team Skull grunts.

Well, I finally got my act together and reviewed every Pokémon from generation VII, but we’re not done yet.  While I was reviewing the Pokémon of Unova, I wrote a series on Pokémon’s villains – Team Rocket, Teams Aqua and Magma, Team Galactic and Team Plasma.  Those articles… are fine.  I mean, they’re not bereft of insight, but they’re from the first six months of this blog’s life and they’re far from the most interesting things I’ve ever written.  Having written those, though, it seemed only logical that after finishing the Kalos Pokédex I should write about Team Flare and Lysandre, and that one holds up much better in retrospect.  Which means that now… well, where would we be if I didn’t write about Team Skull (and, after them, the Aether Foundation)?  My Team Flare review focused pretty heavily on Lysandre himself and his beliefs, because his characterisation is very important to the plot of X and Y and central to how I understood and reacted to a lot of the events of those games.  That’s probably going to be true of my upcoming piece on the Aether Foundation as well, which I anticipate will concentrate on Lusamine, but I think Team Skull demands a different approach.  The two named characters of Team Skull, Guzma and Plumeria, do matter, but Team Skull’s story isn’t really about either of them, in my opinion; it’s about Team Skull as a group, with Guzma and Plumeria exemplifying different facets of that group’s values and experiences.  So let’s talk about that. 

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Rivals, part 8: May, Brendan and Wally

…Jim, do you feel like we’re forgetting something?

No.  Why?

I don’t know.  Just… I have this nagging feeling we’re supposed to have done something.

Probably nothing important.

Hmm.  Okay; if you say so.

Well, we never did do the last entry in that rivals series.  About Mrayndan and Wally.  So, I mean, it could be that.

The what now?

We were talking about all the rivals?  You know, like how you did that series on the Champions years ago?

…OH S#!T!

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Rivals, part 7: The X/Y Kids

Serena.
Serena

Okay.  Just me this time.  Jim’s played Omega Ruby, but not X or Y, so he’s not terribly familiar with Serena/Calem and the rest of the gang from X and Y.  Let’s… see if I can still write one of these on my own, then.  So, first impressions, then; what do we think of the X/Y rivals?

…right, right; it’s just me.  Bollocks; this is harder than I remember.

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Rivals, part 6: Colress

Colress, in all his scientific glory.
Colress, in all his scientific glory.

Okay, I realise that we’re pushing it by including Colress in this series; it’s easy to come up with reasons to lump in N with the list of ‘rival’ characters, even though he behaves very differently to the rest of them, but Colress is very clearly not the same thing.  However, I don’t care and I want to talk about Colress, because shut up.

Nice reasoned argument there.

Thank you.

So, Colress.  Crazy mad scientist character.  I was underwhelmed by him, to be honest.  I mean, what does he even do?

I actually liked him!  I enjoyed the fact that he was working pretty much at right angles to what literally everyone else in the story was trying to do.

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