Somehow, after writing on this blog for nearly 10 years(!!!) and having reviews of individual Pokémon be a pretty big part of my schtick, I’ve never actually talked in depth about Pikachu – the beloved mascot, the one Pokémon everyone knows, even people who have never played a Pokémon game or seen an episode of the TV show; heck, I’d wager there are people who don’t even know what a Pokémon is who’d recognise Pikachu. But no more, for I have been commanded by the mysterious cloaked figures of my Dark Council to write next about the most famous Pokémon of all. So… what exactly is Pikachu’s deal, anyway? Where did it come from, and what makes the design so effective? Whence Pikachu? Read on, as we delve into the history of Pokémon’s favourite child.Continue reading “Pikachu”
Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:
What do you want to do tomorrow?
– Explore the deep forest.
Part of you wants to focus on getting to Pewter City so you can get that whole gym challenge thing back on track after your frustrating false start in Viridian City. On the other hand, though… this forest is fascinating to you. People in Viridian City called it a “natural maze” because of the way the vegetation swallows any artificial path that isn’t constantly maintained, leaving a tangled mess of Pokémon migration paths, treefall clearings and hill crests as the only real landmarks. No one alive really knows Viridian Forest, and even your new friends who’ve spent time here before are only truly familiar with a small part of the southern reaches. Still, with your scientific knowledge, their wilderness skills and a bit of luck, you’re confident you can map out a sector of the forest and gain some valuable data about the ecosystem – maybe even find a cool new Pokémon or some kind of, like, lost treasure or whatever. You all pack up your gear and set off northward, most of your Pokémon out of their balls and playing together as you move.Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XIX: The Larry Scenario”
So Mimikyu theory you may not like: it’s always been weird to me that ALL Mimikyu dress like Pikachu, especially since Pikachu never struck me as universally popular in-universe as it is in real life, at least not to the point where EVERY Mimikyu would base itself on it. But what if that’s the point? What if Mimikyu is breaking the fourth wall and is, for lack of better phrasing, meant to be self-aware? After all, it’s a ghost type, and in some psychological horror games there are characters that become “aware” of the player and even obsessed with them (yandere style). Maybe Mimikyu is meant to reflect that as a ghost Pokémon that’s aware of the real world and wants to appeal to players and not necessarily in-universe characters. The anime characterizes it differently, with Jessie’s having its own motivations, but that IS a different canon and GF might have had different intentions (and it’s not like the games ever avoided breaking the fourth wall). I have a feeling you’re not into fourth wall breaking as it completely ignores in-universe lore, but what are your thoughts on this reasoning?
Well, I’m not sure all Mimikyu do dress like Pikachu, actually – just the ones we’ve seen. The Sun and Moon website actually claims that it’s a recent phenomenon, so Mimikyu in the past must have looked like something else, or simply never revealed themselves to humans at all. Mimikyu seems to me like a Pokémon that’s ripe for regional variation, with other forms imitating other locally popular Pokémon, or even inanimate objects. But then again, the website’s reason for Mimikyu dressing like Pikachu is itself very fourth-wall-break-y; it claims that they picked Pikachu because of “the rising popularity of Pikachu-styled merchandise around 20 years ago.” Sun and Moon were released twenty years after Red and Blue, the first Pokémon games, so it seems like this is referring to the real worldwide Pokémon boom of 1996-1999 (especially given that the internal chronology of the core games – to the extent that there even is one – is not real-time; we know that generations III and IV are contemporary with I and II, while Blue and Red the characters are in their early 20s at most when they appear in Sun and Moon). I’ve also never really had the sense that Pokémon is particularly averse to breaking the fourth wall. So I guess my answer is… mayyyyyybe?
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)”
Look, the raw, unvarnished truth is that I think all hype is dumb and everyone should just sit down, shut up, and wait for the movie in an unfurnished stone cell in perfect, motionless silence without eating, drinking or breathing. But I guess that’s the kind of attitude that people around me are always calling “not normal” or “disturbingly aloof” or “please put down that Necronomicon,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. I’ll just have to say something and get on the record as being just as wrong and dumb as everyone else.Continue reading “Detective Pikachu things”
So, how about that Detective Pikachu trailer?
(Yes, this is how far behind I am; I’M WORKING ON IT)
Well, mostly I’m just really excited that this is apparently a Pokémon movie that is going to try to be a decent movie in its own right, something that can be enjoyed by people who aren’t already die-hard Pokémon fans and isn’t just product placement for the latest event-exclusive legendary Pokémon (which, let’s be honest, is what a lot of Pokémon movies set in the world of the anime tend to devolve into). Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Pikachu seems promising too; he may not be Danny DeVito, but he’s got a nice balance of heartfelt and snarky that I think should serve the premise of the film well. I like that, although the most prominently-featured Pokémon are first-generation classics (presumably to draw the nostalgia crowd), there are a few newer Pokémon as well, apparently focusing on the ones who are already big cross-media stars like Greninja.
Jim the Editor is not a fan of the fuzzy, vaguely felt look of the Pokémon in the trailer, and I have to admit some of them are a bit disconcerting. It’s difficult to put creatures designed for anime into a live action movie, and some level of dissonance is almost unavoidable – I suspect there’s an argument that it’s a bad idea even to try. On the other hand, there’s still a prejudice against animation in the West that makes it hard for people to take an animated movie seriously or put much effort into it unless it’s pitched mainly at young children, so that may be a necessary sacrifice. I think we’ll get used to it, though, especially if this isn’t Pokémon’s last foray into live-action.
Also no-one in the trailer can pronounce “Pokémon” (learn to e-acute, people!) but that’s kinda par for the course for English-speakers.
They’ll have to make obtaining Alolan forms outside of Alola possible. Although here’s a question I have for you, do you think it’s possible that the Pikachu line is native to Alola? And that Raichu is meant to be a psychic type when it evolves, but without it’s Alolan Diet, ends up being a pure electric type instead?
I’m sure they’ll be obtainable in some way, yeah, same as the regular “Kantonian” morphs are obtainable in Sun and Moon. But that’s not at all the same thing as finding them in the wild with no explanation for how they got there when they’ve previously been specifically described as unique to Alola.
Anyway. Pikachu and Raichu. Unclear. The Pokédex tells us that diet triggers the manifestation of Raichu’s psychic abilities, but doesn’t really give us anything either way on which evolutionary path is the “original” one. Thinking in terms of Alola being an analogue to Hawai’i I’m inclined to see rodent-like Pokémon like Pikachu as introduced by humans, but potentially quite a long time ago – long enough to have adapted in surprising ways to their new environment. On the other hand, we know from direct empirical evidence that all Pikachu, regardless of their origin – Kantonian, Kalosian, everything in between – become psychic Raichu if they evolve in Alola (the only other Alolan form that works this way is Marowak, and that might literally be magic [EDIT: Also Exeggutor]). If we assume something resembling a real-world understanding of genetics and evolution, then that suggests that the psychic abilities are a dormant ancestral trait, present in all Pikachu but requiring some environmental stimulus to activate. Buuut it could also be that components of Pikachu’s Alolan diet – or even something else about Alola – are somehow mutagenic (or some mystical equivalent), and alter their genetics and powers in predictable ways. Or it could be that, as I’m inclined to think for Marowak, there’s no genetic component at all and instead there are Alolan traditions that allow them, basically, to learn magic (because, like Marowak, the Alolan Raichu form is associated closely with a particular cultural practice – namely, surfing). I actually had a massive argument with Jim the Editor over this one. He thinks that the Pokédex must be wrong about diet being a factor, since Pikachu can evolve into Alolan Raichu after spending literally minutes in Alola and without eating anything; I think that this is an edge case that doesn’t reflect the designers’ intent, and is a result of Pokémon’s mechanics for time and eating being extremely unrealistic. Also his interpretation doesn’t really suggest any other answer for why it happens other than Alola being surrounded by a magic field that gives Pikachu psychic powers for some reason. Basically he thinks that if the designers had meant for Pikachu’s diet to be a factor, they should have represented that with a change in the evolution method (he suggests an item called a Thunderstone Cake, or something similar).
So I’m a solid “maybe” on this one.
So, Pokémon Generations. We should probably talk about it. Generations is a series of 3-4 minute animated shorts that are being released each weekend on Pokémon’s official YouTube channel, as part of the ongoing barrage of promotions to mark the franchise’s 20th year. Its aim is to shine a spotlight on a selection of memorable events from the games, in the same sort of spirit as Origins did, but covering the whole of Pokémon’s life rather than just Red and Blue. Its point is to evoke nostalgia in veterans of each generation of games, but also to the stress their continuity – Pokémon is the same adventure it’s always been, and will continue to be, as the first episode does its utmost to stress.Continue reading “Pokémon Generations – Episodes 1 and 2”
The Evolution Solution – The Pi-Kahuna
These two episodes cover a brief (?) excursion to tropical Seafoam Island, where Delia and a group of her friends from Pallet Town are enjoying a relaxing holiday (it’s a very different place from the Seafoam Islands in the games). Misty and Brock are both invited to join their group, but Ash – who is theoretically supposed to be training for the Pokémon League – is left behind, until he manages to con Professor Oak into giving him an excuse to go anyway. The Evolution Solution, upon watching it again, is not as interesting an episode as I had hoped it would be, and The Pi-Kahuna has themes that are pretty standard for the Pokémon anime. However, the former gives me an excuse to ramble at length about Shellder and Slowbro, while the latter… let’s just say its themes are open to creative reinterpretation. Anyway – without further ado, let’s jump right in.Continue reading “Anime Time: Episodes 66 and 67”
House Raichu: The Storms at Our Call