Ty asks:

Have you seen this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVO8QrGAPHs) Battle Royale of Legendary Pokemon yet? If not, congrats! Now you have! 

Anyway, the question is: Which Legendary Pokemon do you think would most likely win in a Battle Royale scenario where Pokedex Entries are assumed to be true (i.e. do you agree with the video), and also in a scenario where they aren’t true (because the Pokedex really doesn’t seem like a reliable source of information) and you’re just using their in-game combat capabilities?

…I think I might love this

But yeah, to answer the question… well, I don’t think I need to agree with the video for it to be great, because it’s supposed to be funny and not, like, a watertight argument for a position in a “who would win” debate.  But let’s talk about it anyway.

Continue reading “Ty asks:”

Detective Pikachu analysis and review (part 1 of 2)

Yes, that’s right; it’s time to take a break from reviewing generation VII Pokémon and take a look at THE CINEMATIC EVENT OF THE DECADE, the movie so many of us have spent basically our entire lives waiting for: Legendary Pictures’ Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (hereafter just Detective Pikachu because… come on, Pokémon Company International; just get the fµ¢£ over yourselves).  Clearly it is my responsibility, as a mad person writing about Pokémon on the internet, to discuss whether I think Detective Pikachu is a successful movie.

…I mean, [spoiler alert], the answer’s yes, but we’re going to talk about why.

I’m interested in this film on two levels.  First, this is arguably the first Pokémon movie that is meant to have mass appeal outside of just fans of the Pokémon games.  A lot of Pokémon movies are, let’s face it, vehicles for featuring legendary Pokémon that play prominent roles in recent or upcoming games, and their writing is… well, let’s call it hit-and-miss.  Guys… I love the Lugia movie as much as anyone, but Casablanca it is not.  Frankly, I think you can make a plausible, albeit facetious, argument that up until now the best Pokémon movie was actually Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Now, Detective Pikachu isn’t Casablanca either, but it is at least a decent movie in its own right (which is a high bar for movies based on video games!).  The second thing I’m interested in is that, aside from just being live action, Detective Pikachu is the first Pokémon movie that is creatively independent from the Pokémon anime (and doesn’t feature Ash Ketchum), which makes it a fundamentally new type of addition to the franchise that has its own take on Pokémon’s core themes.  So, tomorrow I’m going to talk about why Detective Pikachu is specifically a good Pokémon movie, and today I’m going to talk about why it’s a decent movie generally: in short, it’s well-cast and acted, with (I will argue) a coherent theme that ties in with the main character’s arc and its central conflict, and was, at the very least, not a commercial flop.  And, y’know, some significant flaws, which I also am going to talk about because they will eat at me if I don’t.

I was going to start this whole thing with a synopsis, but frankly I tried to write one and it was just too long, and there will be other summaries on the internet that you can read first if you don’t want to see the movie but are still interested in what I have to say, so I’m just going to get straight to analysis.  Please bear in mind that although I took some notes during the movie, quotations are from memory and may not be verbatim, and of course, it should go without saying: HERE BE SPOILERS!

Continue reading “Detective Pikachu analysis and review (part 1 of 2)”

Anonymous Nobody asks:

I am sorry but reading your last answer to Ty and seeing the part where you said “unless Mewtwo is somehow half human, which I don’t think is what anyone ever intended to imply”… well, that is actually the case in Pokémon Aeventures manga at least in which Blainehad to use some of his own cellsto create Mewtwo as they did not have enough Mew cells. I am just curious to know what you think about that.

Well, Pokémon Adventures does tend to have a lot of independence and I don’t think it necessarily says much of anything about the “intent” of writers working on the games or anime.  I suppose more than anything I think it’s a little encouraging that I’m not the only person who played the games and thought “you know what would be a plausible explanation for Mewtwo’s background?  Human DNA.”

Ty asks:

I’m familiar with your thoughts on how the games try and paint Mew as the ancestor of Pokemon and how backwards their logic is claiming it’s due to Mew having the DNA of all Pokemon. That, as you’ve pointed out multiple times, is not how ancestry works.

I wanted to share with you an idea I’ve had about how I’d handle the Mew situation and what your thoughts about it are. For me, since Mew is the only Pokemon barring Ditto that can learn transform, I really like the idea that Mew could be the ancestor of all Pokemon, or at least the Mew species. In how I’d handle it, Mew would be #1 in the Pokedex and would be the original Pokemon that could change shape at will. As the curious creatures as they are, mews explored endlessly, tackling any environmental challenges by changing shape into the various Pokemon species we’re familiar with to suit that environment. Over time, those mew who grew older and decide to settle in their areas in whatever shape they were in, over thousands of years, lost the ability to transform and remained in that shape as whatever new species they were. Because so few environments are comfortable for Mew’s natural form, and/or so few mew continued to travel endlessly, modern day mews are fairly rare, hence their legendary status. This would really help explain a lot of artificial Pokemon since the mew that originally became that species took on an artificial form for one reason or another somewhere down the line, rather than Pokemon like Klinklang, Electrode, and Klefki existing and being able to breed in some degree for no particular reason.

Continue reading “Ty asks:”

Random Access asks:

The only Pokémon with multiple mega evolutions are Charizard and Mewtwo. In Pokémon Origins, Red is given a key stone and a Charizard mega stone by Mr. Fuji, who was also said to have a hand in creating Mewtwo. Do you think there might be some sort of connection?

Ehh… honestly… no, not really.  If that was supposed to be a significant detail, I think Origins probably would have found a way to show one of Mewtwo’s mega evolutions.  I don’t really see anything there that rises above the level of coincidence.

Pokémon Origins: Episode 4

Blastoise seriously reconsiders the life choices that brought him to this point.

With Giovanni and Viridian City behind him, Red’s journey takes him to Indigo Plateau and the headquarters of the Pokémon League.   He narrates, briefly, his conquest of the Elite Four, accompanied by only brief clips from each battle, and is finally sent through by Lance to meet the Champion, who turns out to be – spoiler alert – Blue.  Red is surprised, but seems almost pleased to find him there.  Blue gives an adapted version of his classic overconfident and egomaniacal entrance speech, complete with his line about being “the most powerful trainer in the world,” and hurls his Pidgeot’s Pokéball to start the battle.  We skim through most of it in a few seconds – Blue’s team is the same as he would use with Blastoise in the games, while Red uses Jolteon, Lapras, Persian, Scyther, Dodrio and Charizard.  Eventually, of course, the battle comes down to their starters.  Although Blastoise shrugs off Charizard’s initial Mega Punch and then nearly ends the battle with Hydro Pump, Charizard is able to endure the damage, trap and weaken Blastoise with Fire Spin, and finally nail him with what I imagine to be a critical hit with Fire Blast.  Blue is confused and upset by his loss, but covers it up quickly – and then Professor Oak arrives.  Professor Oak’s lines in this scene were sort of forgivable in the games, where all the dialogue was pretty simplistic, but a lot more jarring in this medium: he initially ignores his grandson completely to give embarrassingly glowing praise to Red instead, and when he finally does acknowledge Blue, his first words are a condescending “what a shame…”  Blue shrugs that off – and gets accused of forgetting to treat his Pokémon with trust and love, something which rings a little hollow given that we’ve never really seen the way Blue treats his Pokémon.  Once Professor Oak has finished being a douchebag, he leads Red backstage to enter him in the Hall of Fame.  Red is a little self-conscious here, but is assured by Professor Oak that he’s earned it, so he vows to uphold the honour of the position.

Continue reading “Pokémon Origins: Episode 4”

Aftermath

Let’s recap.

I am the Champion of the Kalos region.  Team Flare has fallen by my hand.  Xerneas, the embodiment of life itself, stands by my side.  Lumiose City is under the thumb of a likely unstable robotic ninja with some newfound delusions of grandeur and an app specifically built to steal Pokémon.  I control several of the precious Mega Stones, and possess the means to find more.  I have an enemy in the Elite Four, but I know her identity and can destroy her in due course.  All is as it should be.

Of course, there are still one or two little things we have to take care of.

Armed with my newfound authority as a Pokémon League Champion, I return to the Pokémon Village and enter the Unknown Dungeon.  I fully expected a large, complicated cave system on the model of the original dungeon outside Cerulean City, but no – this ‘dungeon’ is a single chamber, with Mewtwo meditating in the centre.  I am a touch disappointed; after seeing some of Kalos’ amazing scenery, I had hoped for more from the lair of the so-called ‘strongest Pokémon,’ but I suppose I can’t have everything.  I quickly realise that this Mewtwo can Recover from damage, and in my irritation decide to use my hard-won Master Ball.  It’s been a long time since I last bothered to actually fight a legendary Pokémon with healing powers, and my go-to Pokémon for sleep is weak to Psychic attacks.  As Mewtwo is dismissed to the PC network, I notice a glint on the floor – a Mega Stone.  Mewtwonite X.

Oh.  Right.  The two new Mewtwo-looking things that were revealed right at the start of the X and Y pre-release hype.  I’d forgotten about them.  Mega Mewtwo X and Mega Mewtwo Y.  Because Mewtwo desperately needed more power and the ability to transform into a godlike physical attacker at the drop of a hat.  Seriously, though, I’m not sure how I feel about this.  Once you get Pokémon as powerful as Mewtwo charging around the game my brain gives up even trying to complain about game balance and just gives them a sort of startled “um… yes!  Well done!”  Mewtwo is particularly weird in that part of his flavour is that he’s supposed to be the strongest Pokémon, but for a long time now that hasn’t really been true; things like Lugia, Kyogre, Arceus and  Reshiram can give him a serious run for his money, and by their standards he’s pretty frail.  With Mega Evolution an option now, he might well have a shot at the top again… then again, from memory, Mewtwo’s physical movepool isn’t great for a legendary Pokémon, and he can already do physical damage with Psystrike anyway, so who knows?  I can’t speak for Mega Mewtwo Y.  If that’s just Mewtwo with more speed, special attack, and defences, we’re all dead.

Next stop is the formerly guarded bottom level of the Terminus Cave, where I meet a third Kalosian legendary Pokémon: the great serpent, Zygarde.  This one doesn’t heal itself, so a traditional Sleep Powder-and-Ultra Ball battle ensues, and the creature is eventually subdued so I can get a look at it.  Zygarde is a Dragon/Ground dual-type, known as the ‘Order Pokémon,’ that supposedly “reveals its secret power” when “the Kalos region’s ecosystem falls into disarray.”  Its ability, Aura Break, reverses the effects of other ‘aura’ abilities – and since the only other ability I can think of with ‘Aura’ in the name is Xerneas’ Fairy Aura (Yveltal presumably has some equivalent), I have to wonder exactly how useful that would be, especially given that Zygarde is still weak against Xerneas’ Fairy attacks anyway.  All this seems to mean that Zygarde has a similar relationship to Xerneas and Yveltal as Rayquaza does to Groudon and Kyogre – its job is to maintain the balance between life and death, either of which would do a number on any ecosystem if they got out of hand.  Following a hunch, I take Zygarde to the move relearner in Dendemille Town, and discover that it has a signature move: Land’s Wrath, a decidedly underwhelming Ground attack that seems to act like a slightly powered-down version of Earthquake (the description seems to indicate that it’s ‘party-friendly,’ so if nothing else it’d be great for double and triple battles).  People are saying that Xerneas, Yveltal and Zygarde represent some of the denizens of Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse mythology – four stags, an eagle, and Nidhogg, the dragon who gnaws at the tree’s roots.  Alternatively, the serpent could be Jormungand, the sea monster whose body encircles the world.  Personally, I want some love for Ratatosk, the squirrel whose job is to carry insults between Nidhogg and the eagle, but hey, whatevs.  The thing that bugs me here is that Nidhogg and Jormungand are both unambiguously bad news.  Nidhogg’s stated aim in life is the death of the World Tree, whereas Jormungand is one of the major players on the evil side of Ragnarok, the ‘Doom of the Gods’ (Jormungand, in particular, is a much more important figure than any of the other proposed identities for any of the three).  Cheery stuff.  What, if anything, does this mean for Zygarde?  Maybe nothing more than that it’s the harbinger of momentous events – when Zygarde actually starts taking an interest in things, $#!t’s about to get real – or maybe that Zygarde is actually capable of far worse than either Yveltal or Xerneas.  I’m not sure.  Definitely a Pokémon to tread very carefully around in… well, I want to say ‘Z,’ but after Black and White 2 I’m taking nothing for granted.

And for now… that seems to be it.

Since I seem to have reached the end, more or less, of what this game’s story will provide, it seems appropriate to give a brief (HAH!) retrospective.  To the surprise of absolutely no-one in the world, the basic eight-gyms-elite-four-champion structure remains firmly unchanged.  The Team Flare storyline had its merits, but it was nothing particularly special – the plot of Black and White remains my favourite from the series for another year.  Lysandre’s characterisation gave me major flashbacks to Cyrus, their motives and goals being quite similar, although Lysandre was marginally more subtle about it – both turned to villainy through despair at the human condition and a realisation that their ideals could never be fulfilled with the world in its current state, and both decided that wiping out the old world to make way for a new one (somewhat more literally in Cyrus’ case) was the only way forward.  Both, I think, are best described by the phrase “messiah complex” – Lysandre is less explicit about it, but as you may have gathered from my indignant speech in the Team Flare headquarters, I have little difficulty seeing a desire for self-aggrandisement as a major factor in Lysandre’s motives.  The plot itself follows what has become the standard: prevent the legendary Pokémon-induced apocalypse.  However, like Black and White, there seems to be something of a retreat from the idea that the Pokémon in question are, in and of themselves, forces capable of ending the world as we know it – Xerneas and Yveltal are very powerful beings, of that there is no question, but I don’t think there’s any indication in the story that they really embody life and death in the way that, say, Dialga embodies time.  The threat of what they can do to Kalos, and the world, largely has to do with the amplification of their powers by the Ultimate Weapon (so, the combination of human and Pokémon abilities).  There’s nothing about them to suggest that the very fact of their being in a trainer’s possession could disrupt nature or the cosmos, which is reassuring.

In terms of the game’s mechanical changes from the fifth generation, the two big, obvious steps are Fairy Pokémon and Mega Evolution, both of which I am, perhaps unsurprisingly, fairly ambivalent about.  I want to discuss Fairy Pokémon on their own later, and, hell, maybe Mega Evolution as well; we’ll see how that goes.  I do want to take the opportunity now, though, to rave once again about Pokémon Amie and Super Training, both of which I love as additions to the game, because there hasn’t really been a good moment to do that since I first met them.  Pokémon Amie makes a relationship with a Pokémon something you really have to work at, rather than something that just kinda ‘happens,’ it puts the interface for those relationships right in front of you as you move around the world so that they’re always on your mind, and it links them to direct, if minor, mechanical benefits – Pokémon with high affection in Pokémon Amie can avoid attacks, withstand finishing blows, purge status effects, and score more critical hits, all of which is described as resulting from the concordance of the trainer and Pokémon’s thoughts and desires.  Like Mega Evolution, it adds to the idea that Pokémon can do extraordinary things not just through being with humans but through being friends with humans, which is one of the concepts that allows the whole setting to function.  My only real complaint is that it’s difficult to conceptualise how Amie and the affection ‘stat’ are supposed to relate to the traditional friendship mechanics – although people are pretty sure they do affect each other, they seem to be separate, so what exactly is friendship supposed to represent?  To put it another way, how do we imagine a Pokémon with high ‘friendship’ and low ‘affection’?  Super Training, similarly, helps the ‘feel’ of the game by demystifying the effort system, something we all recognise as very important to high-level play but which past games made almost no attempt to introduce players to, leaving that task to the internet and the fan community.  X and Y are up front about this aspect of the games; they tell you from the start “okay; this is something you should probably figure out how to use at some point” instead of tip-toeing around it as previous iterations always have.  Attentive readers may remember that when I spoke last year about what I would do If I Were In Charge, themes like this were among my greatest concerns – specifically, I dealt with friendship here and effort training here – and while my ideas for dealing with them were rather different to what Game Freak presented to us in X and Y, I think the results show an interest in similar goals.  It should hardly need to be said that I approve!

As for all the new Pokémon… well, I really suppose I’d better talk about them individually, don’t you?  That is why I started this blog in the first place, early in the Unova era.  It’s a daunting project, but this is a much smaller generation than Black and White – indeed, the smallest yet, where Unova was the largest – so maybe I can pull it off.  There are a few other things to get out of the way first, of course: we need to talk about Fairy-types, Team Flare and Diantha both deserve fuller, more focused discussions to go with my old series on villains and Champions (as does Iris, for that matter), I have to review Origins, and I do want to spend some time thinking about attacks from a flavour perspective as well.  The game is over, but the show, as ever, must go on!

Anime Time: Episode 63

The Battle of the Badge

Okay!  Last badge!  We are PSYCHED!  GO ASH!  WHOOHOO!

So, Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu enter Viridian City.  Misty remarks that it’s been a whole year since they were last there, which I mention because it’s one of the few instances in the series where we get actual references to time passing – this particular one tells me that Ash probably has his twelfth birthday while preparing for the Pokémon League, since he’s only a few weeks shy of eleven when he leaves Pallet Town, and is the basis for my estimate that the kids travel for about five days between episodes (obviously there’s some variation – for instance, no time at all passes between Riddle Me This and Volcanic Panic – but assuming their ‘adventures’ are mixed fairly evenly with their ‘down time,’ it should be about five days on average).

Well, I thought it was interesting.

 I've decided that Giovanni has decorated his Gym and door guards in a vaguely classical style because he's (presumably) of Italian descent, but doesn't know enough about the Roman army to make his soldiers actually look authentic.

Anyway, when Ash is about to walk up to the Viridian Gym, he’s interrupted by his dear sweet archenemy, Gary Oak.  Gary actually has ten badges already; he’s just going after an eleventh for bragging rights (another telling little detail: there are at least twelve official Gyms in Kanto, since we know Gary never won a Volcano Badge either).  Gary waltzes past Ash, throws a few choice insults his way, and struts up to the door guards, who are inexplicably decked out in the kind of Greco-Roman mish-mash that makes classicists like me cry ourselves to sleep – bronze breastplate, leather skirt, etc – but armed with halberds, of all things, which are blatantly Renaissance weapons (I promise that this will be my last barely-relevant tangent for this- oh, who am I kidding?).  These imposing fellows let Gary in, but refuse to admit Ash, declaring that only one challenger at a time may enter… so we follow Gary for a while instead.  The Viridian Gym Leader turns out to be Giovanni, the mysterious Boss of Team Rocket (what a twist!) though this is lost on Gary, who doesn’t know him.  He overpowers Giovanni’s Golem with his Nidoking, and boils a Kingler with his Arcanine’s Fire Spin, prompting Giovanni to test out his newest and most powerful Pokémon, whom Gary’s Pokédex is unable to identify.  He even invites Gary to use both Arcanine and Nidoking together to fight the armoured monstrosity, but both are paralysed by its mysterious powers and flung roughly against the wall of the Gym.  Then, just for fun, Giovanni has his Pokémon incapacitate Gary and his cheerleaders before leaving to take care of other business.

 Mewtwo in his badass armour.  I'm not even totally sure what this is for; he certainly doesn't need it for protection.  I think Giovanni claims that it helps Mewtwo to control his powers.

Meanwhile, Togepi has gotten lost and been carried halfway across the city by a wild Fearow.  Misty, of course, searches everywhere in panic, but Team Rocket find Togepi first.  Jessie suffers great personal injury trying to grab Togepi as she wanders across a plank suspended between two tall buildings, but manages to secure her.  Overjoyed at finally having stolen a rare Pokémon, she, James and Meowth go in person to present their spoils to Giovanni, who stares blankly at Togepi and asks “what… exactly does this Pokémon do?”  Jessie, James and Meowth confer, and realise that they have absolutely no idea what powers Togepi possesses, if any, and Jessie answers “it… would certainly make a handsome paperweight!”  Giovanni is about to eviscerate them for their incompetence, but is notified of an emergency and has to hurry away to fetch his super-Pokémon.  For lack of anyone more capable, he instructs Jessie and James to man the Gym and tosses them three Pokéballs before exiting.  Togepi, who has wandered off in the meantime, finds her way to the front doors of the Gym, where the kids have met up again after completing their search.  They hear her voice and haul the doors open to find Togepi, safe and unharmed… and Gary and his cheerleading squad, unconscious and scattered around the arena.  As Ash tries to learn from Gary what happened to him, Jessie and James appear, declare that they are now the Gym Leaders, and challenge Ash to a battle.  Just to make things more interesting, Meowth has rigged special trainer boxes that transmit the pain felt by the battling Pokémon to their trainers, reducing Ash to crippling agony when Jessie’s borrowed Machamp pummels his Squirtle into submission, and her Kingler shrugs off Bulbasaur’s attacks.  When he calls Pidgeotto, however, and hits Jessie’s Rhydon with a mighty Double Edge, Jessie realises that her box has the same set-up as Ash’s.  Gary snatches the control remote from Meowth to keep him from turning off Jessie’s box, so she panics and calls Arbok and Weezing into the fight as well.  Ash objects to her using five Pokémon at once and has Pikachu join the others and blast them with his best Thunderbolt.  Giovanni’s Pokémon flee the arena and, while Jessie, James and Meowth flail uselessly, Togepi finds Meowth’s remote and starts playing with it.  Jessie’s trainer box explodes and flings Team Rocket out of the Gym, dropping an Earth Badge on the way.  Well… Ash never even met the Gym Leader… and his challenge was marked by flagrant rule violations on both sides… and no-one ever actually conferred the Earth Badge on him… but what the hell, a Badge is a Badge, right?

 ...is it just me, or is Jessie's Machamp kinda TOWERING OVER her Rhydon?  I'm pretty sure Machamp are roughly human-sized, but Jessie would barely come up to his waist... then again, I wouldn't put it past Giovanni to load 'em up on steroids...

It turns out Giovanni was the Viridian Gym Leader all along!  I realise this is probably old news to almost everyone reading this, since he’s the Leader in all the games set in Kanto as well but, of course, I find this really interesting.  In the games, Gym Leaders tend to be portrayed as pillars of the community, and this tends to hold true for later seasons of the anime as well, but in the Indigo series things are often much weirder – most notably for Sabrina, Koga and Blaine.  Giovanni adds another bizarre perspective to things: this Gym Leader is a mob boss.  I think it’s fair to assume that the Pokémon League either doesn’t know about what he does in his spare time or doesn’t care… and which option you think is more likely says a lot about what you think of the Pokémon League.  If they don’t know, then this adds support to my overall impression that there is fairly little League oversight in the way Gyms are run.  One also has to wonder whether the League might be dangerously incompetent.  True, Giovanni is a criminal mastermind and probably very good at covering his tracks but, on the other hand, he is at the head of an organisation that often works in direct opposition to the Pokémon League and regularly tramples on every value they stand for.  If the body responsible for the regulation of Pokémon training can’t sniff out the head honcho of a crime syndicate devoted to the abuse and exploitation of Pokémon within its own ranks, something has got to be badly wrong here.  The alternative possibility – that the Pokémon League knows exactly what Giovanni is up to and just doesn’t care – is even more frightening, possibly implying that significant factions of the League’s management are in Team Rocket’s pocket.  I think some combination of the two is probably in play: many overworked League officials are willing to get lazy with their background checks, or keep inspectors out of the Viridian Gym’s private areas, in exchange for a little ‘incentive.’  After all, plenty of Gym Leaders are eccentric – he probably just has a few little projects going in the basement that he doesn’t want to be public knowledge.  Can’t do any harm to let that slide, right?

 "Ohmygod Gary!  Here, let me hold you..."

The next big question is one that Misty actually raises in the episode itself: why would Team Rocket want to own a Gym anyway?  Jessie responds haughtily that she wouldn’t understand; Team Rocket’s plans are too far-reaching and intricate for the likes of them (which, Meowth explains, means that she doesn’t know either).  It is difficult to imagine that Giovanni could actually steal Pokémon from challengers without blowing his cover – moreover, he had ample opportunity to take Gary’s Arcanine and Nidoking (who had, remember, just defeated two of Giovanni’s own Pokémon) but chose not to, so it certainly doesn’t seem like that’s his game here.  The obvious motive is money; Showdown in Dark City implies that official Pokémon Gyms can expect to be profitable, since that’s the Yas and Kas leaders’ primary reason for wanting official status.  Then again, some Gyms (notably Cerulean and Celadon) run separate businesses too; as a result I’m very unsure as to whether most Pokémon Gyms are funded by League grants or by their Leaders’ own personal wealth (and I quietly suspect that Giovanni created the Viridian Gym in the first place, sinking a significant portion of his ill-gotten fortune into setting it up).  The simplest argument, though, is that if the Viridian Gym existed for anything so transparently mercenary as direct profit, Jessie would know about it; there’s simply no reason for her not to.  Having a respectable public persona, too, seems like an obvious benefit, but one which Giovanni doesn’t choose to take advantage of.  It seems likely that owning an official Pokémon Gym simply gives Giovanni space to do various illegal things in secret, a place to keep Mewtwo under wraps, for instance, and work on upgrades to his cybernetic armour (taking challenges, of course, provides him with opportunities to test Mewtwo’s strength, though this is probably not routine business).  We also see that he has a number of caged Pokémon in there (incidentally, the fact that anyone would ever bother to put a Pokémon in a cage suggests quite strongly that Pokéballs just won’t cut it – they apparently wouldn’t be effective at restraining Pokémon that really want to break free).  Paradoxically, the best way to keep this stuff out of the League’s sight is by doing it right under their noses, in an official Pokémon Gym.  It seems reasonable to imagine, further, that Gym Leader status is an asset in itself; Giovanni could probably expect to be consulted about policy decisions and notified in advance of any important developments in League business, information he might be able to use to Team Rocket’s advantage.  Finally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Giovanni simply enjoyed taking challenges.  He does genuinely seem pleased by Gary’s strength, and it’s a basic truism of the series that powerful trainers seek powerful opponents; running the Gym might actually be something of a hobby for him, which would imply a whole slew of interesting twists on his characterisation.

 I wish we got to see more of Giovanni; the other Gym Leaders are all interesting, but his particular situation, I think, is the one with the most potential for elaboration.  If nothing else, it would be fantastic to have more evidence for how he treats his role as a Gym Leader (perhaps fairly casually, if he’s willing to let the notoriously incompetent Jessie, James and Meowth stand in for him – but, then again, whatever emergency he needed to deal with, it apparently required both his own personal attention and Mewtwo’s, so it’s clearly not an ordinary day for him).  The bare facts of his situation themselves, though, are more than enough for me to play with; we can learn a few rather worrying things about the Pokémon League from this episode, and this has to impact on the way we view them elsewhere in the series.

That’s the last I’m doing on Anime Time for a little while – now, there’s one more week to go of the Pokémon Power Bracket, so I’ll do another entry on that and then, I think, wrap it up with a sort of retrospective on legendary Pokémon in general.  After that… I think I need another break, but we’ll talk more about that as it comes.

The Pokémon Power Bracket – Semi Final

http://www.pokemon.com/powerbracket

So, what I didn’t anticipate when I started doing this was that I would wind up talking about a lot of the same Pokémon over and over again.  I am getting to the point where I have, quite honestly, said most of what I care to say about Celebi, Mew, Rayquaza and Mewtwo.  If you’ve been reading this so far, you all know that I’m edgy about time travel but much less bothered by Celebi than I am by Dialga, you all know that I think Mew’s backstory is blatantly contradicted all over the place, you all know that I think Mewtwo’s angst is all about stuff that shouldn’t matter in-universe anyway, and you all know that I think Rayquaza deserves to die in a fire for replacing the climax of Emerald version with a massive deus ex machina.  You can almost certainly guess for yourselves by now which way I’m going to vote in the two semi-final matchups.

This is why, instead of discussing what these Pokémon are like and which ones I prefer and what my reasons are, I’m going to do what I do best and MAKE STUFF UP!

Celebi vs. Mew

 

So, here is what we all know about Celebi.  She is a time-traveller, supposedly from the future, who brings life and light to forests (she is particularly associated with the Ilex Forest in southern Johto), and appears only in times of peace.  Stories say that she occasionally leaves mysterious eggs from another time in the deepest parts of the woods, and that “so long as Celebi appears, a bright and shining future awaits us.”  My take on Celebi – which may or may not have any relation to what Game Freak actually had in mind – is that she is the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy: a paradox being with the power to engineer the circumstances of her own birth at the end of time.  Celebi brings back Pokémon eggs from the future in order to seed the world with the genes and species that will one day give rise to her own ancestors, while protecting and nurturing the forest ecosystems that will allow them to thrive.  One such egg is her own, brought from the future and hidden deep within the Ilex Forest, which will one day be the place of her birth, and sustained through its millennia-long gestation by the vibrant energy of the entire living forest.  Celebi dances through history in intricately choreographed steps, using her formidable psychic abilities to influence events, pushing war and industry away from her precious homeland while gently nudging the people of Johto towards veneration of nature.  Occasionally she comes into contact with humans directly; occasionally she even decides she admires them and submits to capture, staying with them for years or even decades, learning to see the world through their eyes, until they either part ways with her or die, and she loops back on herself to continue her work.  Far in the future, perhaps helped along by human genetic manipulation, a species of Pokémon will evolve that possesses an unusually intuitive sense of time, able to pick out the paths of causality and predict future events with a precision that would leave the dim-witted Psychic Pokémon of our era wide-eyed with amazement.  Eventually they will develop the ability to make tiny hops through time, a few seconds forward to avoid an attack, or backward to undo a mistake.  Under their descendant’s guidance, their powers will grow more phenomenal with every generation, ultimately giving rise to the impossible: the final prodigy who will take her own egg and travel back in time to ensure the sequence of events that led to the creation of her own species.  That is the “bright and shining future” Celebi promises: the only possible version of history that culminates with the birth of the immortal guardian of the forest, who will always lead humanity into harmony with nature.

 

If Celebi is the end, Mew, of course, is the beginning.  Most famous for being Mewtwo’s ‘mother,’ Mew is a mysterious Psychic Pokémon from South America, who was for a long time believed to be extinct, or simply nonexistent.  It turned out, of course, that Mew not only did exist but possessed something akin to a genetic library of all other Pokémon species, an asset which gives her access to all of their powers.  The scientists of the Pokémon world began to theorise that Mew was the common ancestor of all Pokémon, in flagrant defiance of the way evolution actually works (see this entry).  We, of course, also know that Arceus was the first Pokémon and not Mew, and that his first creations were Dialga, Palkia and Giratina, followed by Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf.  Moreover, we know that many Pokémon are unequivocally not descended from Mew, or from any other Pokémon: Grimer comes to mind.  Given these facts, here’s my take on Mew.  I believe I’ve mentioned before that I think of Mew as the first living thing created after Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf; her claim to fame, therefore, is that she is the first living thing with a complete soul: knowledge, emotion, and will.  As for Mew’s ‘genetic library,’ my immediate thought is that she must have been ‘programmed’ in advance with the DNA of every species of Pokémon ordained by Arceus.  I’m pretty sure that’s not what anyone ever had in mind, though, either for Mew or for Arceus; I am quite convinced that evolution (in the real-world sense) is supposed to be a thing in the Pokémon world.  I want to define, then, a very different role for Mew: she really is a genetic library.  Her special power – and, indeed, her duty – is to copy and absorb the genetic information of all Pokémon she encounters, building up a ‘library’ of gene sequences that, between them, record the form, traits and powers of every species that has ever existed (of course she was found in the jungles of South America – she would linger in places of the greatest biodiversity).  She can use this borrowed DNA as a blueprint to Transform into any Pokémon she has observed, or learn techniques from every element.  Further, she was gifted by Arceus with incredible defensive powers, including invisibility and her signature telekinetic shield bubble, ensuring that her precious genetic library will be preserved for all eternity.  As long as Mew exists in the world, extinction will never be forever; she can Transform into every Pokémon that is or was, using all their abilities, and from her genes any of those Pokémon could be resurrected.  She is the holy grail of evolutionary biology, and the scribe who documents for Arceus the history of the world he set in motion.

Rayquaza vs. Mewtwo

 

Oh, yes… Rayquaza… my old enemy.  What do we know about him?  Well, he lives high above the clouds in the ozone layer, where he flies forever, feeding on water vapour and other rarefied substances.  Because Rayquaza lives so high above the earth, his existence was totally unknown until he descended during the events of Emerald version.  Even the myths of Groudon and Kyogre’s first battle seem to have forgotten him, mentioning only the Red and Blue Orbs that calmed the titans.  However, he is in fact the only one who can calm them once they start fighting.  Alone, either Pokémon can be pacified by the matching Orb (or awakened by the opposite Orb) but once their attention is fixed on each other, neither Orb helps.  My version, then… Rayquaza was set to act as the guardian of the sky, to protect the world from any threats from outer space – meteors, for instance (as in Mystery Dungeon), or flares of cosmic radiation – but also to guard the sky against threats from below.  Kyogre and Groudon were made to sculpt the surface of the earth and will awaken every century or so, independently of each other, to shake things up a little before returning to sleep.  For both of them to wake up at the same time is much rarer, and will lead to a catastrophic battle; their instincts drive them to make the world around them resemble themselves, and they will sense  each other’s opposite powers as threats.  They will fight on and on, their clashing weather manipulation powers creating storms and cyclones that grow more powerful the longer they stay awake.  Eventually – after weeks, months or even years – the chaos will disturb Rayquaza’s domain in the stratosphere, causing him to descend and nullify their weather powers with his Air Lock aura.  With their powers dampened, Groudon and Kyogre simply cease to view each other as threats and return to their slumber in their own time.  The Orbs were created by an ancient civilisation with Rayquaza’s assistance, after the survivors of an earlier cataclysm witnessed him calming the titans.  They are similar to Arceus’ plates, in that each embodies and reflects the power of an element in its most passive form.  The proximity of the appropriate Orb allows Kyogre and Groudon to feel at peace, as though surrounded by boundless ocean or land, and renders them gentle.  Once the Orbs began to be used to control the titans, it could be ensured that they would never be awake at the same time.  Rayquaza no longer needed to calm them, and retreated into the stratosphere.  The sky dragon faded from legend, and eventually the purpose of the Orbs was forgotten too… until Maxie and Archie, misunderstanding the stories that the Orbs were used to “control” the titans, used them to awaken Groudon and Kyogre.  Feeling as though surrounded by powers opposite to their own, both Pokémon lashed out… and you all know the rest of the story.

 

Mewtwo, of course, is Mew’s ‘child,’ created from Mew’s DNA by human scientists including Blaine and Mr. Fuji using advanced genetic manipulation techniques with the aim of building the ultimate fighting Pokémon.  Unfortunately, Mewtwo rebelled against his creators, destroyed the old laboratory on Cinnabar Island where he was born, and escaped.  He is now considered to be the most savage and violent of all Pokémon.  Journals found in the burnt-out Cinnabar mansion suggest that Mew gave birth to Mewtwo, which doesn’t seem to fit the image found elsewhere of Mewtwo being grown in a tube.  Also, the games do not support the story given by the movie that Giovanni and Team Rocket were backing the scientists who created Mewtwo (though they don’t necessarily contradict it either).  So, what do I make of all this?  Well, the first thing that strikes me as unusual is that Mewtwo was supposedly a genetically ‘upgraded’ version of Mew… whose DNA already contains the genes of all other Pokémon.  What could the scientists possibly add to that?  I can think of two answers.  The first possibility is that Mewtwo is part human, which would have interesting implications for the way humans view Pokémon: apparently, when told to create the ultimate Pokémon, they do it by adding human DNA.  The other possibility – the one I’m actually going to run with – is that they didn’t actually add anything at all, but created Mewtwo by shaving off most of what they considered “junk DNA” – the genes of all the other, less combat-ready Pokémon assimilated by Mew over the years, as well as the regulatory genes that allow Mew to do her thing in the first place.  Mew reproduces by parthenogenesis (‘virgin birth’), passing on all the DNA she has ever collected to her child to ensure that her work need not by interrupted by such trivialities as age and death.  When the scientists who had discovered her began to tamper with the embryo’s DNA, however, her body detected the changes, decided that it had made some kind of mistake, and jettisoned Mewtwo prematurely in order to try again later, forcing the scientists to incubate him in his tube (this may well have happened several times, each time resulting in an unviable embryo, before Mewtwo was successfully incubated).  As a result, Mewtwo is missing huge amounts of the DNA Mew collected, but still retains many of the instincts that allow her to fulfil her purpose.  He knows that something is badly wrong with him, and that despite his awesome powers he is fundamentally incomplete, but he cannot understand why, and could not correct the problem if he did.  No wonder his mental health leaves something to be desired.

Feel free to let my heavily embellished versions of events sway your votes, or not, as the whim strikes you.  Me, I’m just trying to make sense of what I’ve got and establish a nice, internally consistent version of the setting.  I hope I’ve managed to avoid contradicting myself so far…