Hyper Beam asks:

How would you…in glorious detail…imagine kyurem, zekrom, and reshiram finally combined?

(Disclaimer first: I’m not a designer or an artist, and a Google image search would give you multiple answers to this question that are better than anything you’ll get from me)

The thing is, I actually like that Game Freak never gave us a final realisation of this concept.  Whatever they came up with, it would not have lived up to our expectations or done justice to the idea.  The original primordial dragon represents the totality of all truths and the realisation of all ideals, the reconciliation of every pair of opposites and the resolution of every conflict.  I suggest, though I obviously cannot prove, that the reason it never appears in the games is because Game Freak realised that there is no satisfying way to depict that, and decided it was better left as a mysterious background presence in the lore.  Sometimes it’s more effective to leave things to the imagination; there’s a reason some horror movies never show the monster.  A big mass of black and white wings and scales and $#!t is not as evocative or meaningful as the vague suggestion, buried in layers of mythology, of a primordial being who symbolises the impossible unity of all divisions.  Frankly I think Pokémon could do with more of that kind of restraint, not less.

Continue reading “Hyper Beam asks:”

Squidward Tentacles asks:

I Could no longer….

Anyways, how do you think gamefreak would approach restoring Kyurem to the original Dragon?

My idea would be (as true to the seemingly benevolent natures of the protagonist in the games). Reshiram and Zekrom giving a piece of their essence, which would then be transformed into a mega stone for Kyurem

Well I am not Game Freak, as I have learned over the course of the last seven years, slowly, painfully and at great material and mystical cost.  What we actually know about any plans Game Freak may ever have had to release this Pokémon (let’s call it “Primal Kyurem” for the sake of argument – I think Primal Reversion is arguably a better analogy for what we’re doing than Mega Evolution) is that there is an unobtainable item lingering in the code of all the games from Black and White onwards, called the God Stone.  Aside from its grey colour, it looks exactly like the Light Stone and Dark Stone, the dormant forms of Reshiram and Zekrom, which are plot-critical items in the final versions of Black and White.  Not enough information is left in the finished games for us to deduce what the God Stone was intended to be for.  It might have been meant as a dormant form of Kyurem, but the name “God Stone” seems altogether too grand for a being as diminished and broken as Kyurem.  I suspect it is the item, created by somehow merging the Light and Dark Stones, that would be absorbed by Kyurem (as it absorbs the Light Stone or Dark Stone at the climax of Black or White 2) to restore it to its “primal” state.  But even if this is true, the notion was probably abandoned at a relatively early stage of the games’ development cycle. Continue reading “Squidward Tentacles asks:”

Pokémon Generations: Episodes 15 and 16

I’m a big fan of episode 16 of Generations; 15 is nothing special, but it covers characters who were already quite interesting, so it’s worth looking at anyway.  15 is the last of the generation V episodes, and focuses on the confrontation between N and Ghetsis in Black and White 2, while 16 is the beginning of generation VI, and is all about the characterisation of X and Y’s main antagonist, Lysandre.  15 follows the games quite closely, but 16 is a bit more exploratory, and it’s when Generations tries to depart a little from the games, and show the bits of backstory that we haven’t seen before, that it does its best work.  Let’s take a look.

Episode 15 is fairly straightforward; it depicts the events of the end of Black and White 2, when N challenges Ghetsis at the Giant Chasm in an attempt to stop him from using Kyurem to freeze Unova.  Until the last few moments, this happens more or less as we remember from White 2, barring the absence of the player characters, Rosa and Nate.  As Ghetsis commands Kyurem to unleash its full power, N arrives with Reshiram and blasts through the gusts of freezing air emanating from Kyurem’s body.  N’s subsequent conversation with Ghetsis is largely quoted directly from the games.  He proclaims his defiance against Ghetsis and his plans, and Ghetsis decides to “teach [him] a lesson” by using the DNA Splicers he stole from Drayden to activate Kyurem’s secret laser cannons, or however that’s supposed to work.  Kyurem disables Reshiram and absorbs it in order to transform into White Kyurem, and Ghetsis orders it to destroy N.  In the games, this is the point at which the player intervenes and stops Kyurem; here, N makes contact with the elements of Reshiram’s psyche that are still conscious within Kyurem and is able to slow it down, but can’t actually free Reshiram.  Ghetsis completely flips his lid, which in the games is your cue to challenge him directly; in Generations, he repeats his previous order to Kyurem, who prepares to turn N into a pile of frozen ashes (or possibly charred snowflakes).  N is saved at the last second, though – by none other than Hilbert, the male player character from the original Black and White, who arrives with Zekrom to face down Kyurem.  The short ends as they prepare for battle.

Generations doesn’t really do much of anything for this scene, other than giving the spotlight to N (who by all rights really should be the centre of attention here), but it was already a fairly interesting moment in the games, just for the interaction between N and Ghetsis.  Ghetsis calls N a “freak without a human heart,” which N doesn’t directly respond to, although he does acknowledge that Unova “taught [him] how to live as a human.”  It’s never really made 100% clear where N came from or why he is the way he is.  He calls Ghetsis “father,” though it visibly pains him to do so, and we’re told elsewhere that Ghetsis found him living in the woods with Pokémon.  Despite the apparent family resemblance between them in their pale green hair, no one ever mentions a mother.  When Ghetsis gets mad (both here and at the end of the original Black and White after N loses to the player) he’s not just angry at N but ashamed of him, ashamed of the “freak” who shares his name.  He also seems to regard N as more Pokémon than human, lumping him in with Pokémon like Kyurem as tools for his conquest.  There’s a lot of different ways you could explain their relationship.  It’s possible that N’s origins are truly mystical, that he was “conceived by the midichlorians,” as it were, and that Ghetsis simply found him in the middle of nowhere and recognised the power his abilities might yield.  On the other hand, the story might actually be more compelling with less magic and mysticism.  Perhaps Ghetsis once loved a woman with similar abilities to N’s, who disappeared or died and left him bitter and cold.  Perhaps he was Ghetsis’ biological child, but his abilities came completely out of nowhere, and Ghetsis’ disgust of his “freak” son destroyed his relationship with N’s mother.  Perhaps his strange abilities are simply the natural consequence of a human being raised by wild Pokémon; perhaps he was even the result of an experiment conducted by Ghetsis specifically to investigate this phenomenon.  And heaven only knows how N’s foster sisters, Anthea and Concordia, fit into all this.  What is clear, though, is that N and his powers are the embodiment of everything that he was originally working to destroy – the unity of humans and Pokémon.  By the time of his showdown with Ghetsis at the Giant Chasm, this unity is something he will now risk his life to defend.

Episode 16 aims to take a closer look at Lysandre, the leader of Team Flare and main antagonist of X and Y.  It opens with a press conference at which Lysandre, accompanied by his Pyroar, unveils his company’s new holo-caster technology to a rapturous audience.  He performs a bit of technological wizardry, using holograms to make himself appear and disappear from within his Pyroar’s Flamethrower and awe the audience.  After the press conference, we go to his meeting with Diantha at the Café Soleil from the early part of X and Y, shortly after the player’s first meeting with him.  This conversation is where he and Diantha outline their respective beliefs about age, change and beauty.  Lysandre thinks that beauty should be eternal, and “would end the world in an instant so that beauty never fades,” while Diantha believes that age and the fading of beauty are natural, and beautiful in their own way; as an actress, she doesn’t fear the loss of her youth, but relishes the complexity of the changing roles she will play later in life.  Next we are shown a news report, delivered by Elite Four member Malva (who is also a journalist), which covers a major donation that Lysandre is making to a Kalosian Pokémon Centre.  Though Lysandre already has a reputation for philanthropy, this is apparently his largest charitable contribution yet; Lysandre himself characterises it as a way of “giving back” a portion of the success he’s had from the holo-caster.  As he goes on his way, a reporter tries to ask him one last question about his company’s rumoured new project, a mysterious initiative code-named “Project Y,” but Lysandre and his security dismiss him.  Later, at what seems to be a meeting of Lysandre Labs’ board of directors, it becomes clear that Lysandre himself is the only member of the board who actually knows what Project Y is.  Lysandre attempts to reassure the board that they don’t need to understand what he’s up to, as long as they trust that he’s working for the good of Kalos, then leaves the room before anyone can object to his new budget proposals, declaring the discussion over.  At the end of the day, he travels to Geosenge Town to check on Project Y, descending into Team Flare’s hidden lab to gaze upon Yveltal’s black cocoon.  “This beautiful world,” he muses, “will not just fade away.”

What X and Y really needed, I felt, was a bit more of Lysandre’s backstory, and a bit more opportunity for us to see him as a good guy – without that, he doesn’t have anything like the shades of grey that I think he was probably supposed to.  This episode does a decent job of providing that.  The conversation between Lysandre and Diantha (a really great establishing character moment for both of them, that does an excellent job of setting up the ideas behind the central conflict of X and Y) actually makes him seem a lot more creepy and sinister in Generations than it does in the games, where his talk of ending the world comes across as vague poetic-philosophical rambling.  The rest of it though, where Generations goes off-script and stops directly quoting the game dialogue, is really interesting.  We get to see Lysandre the philanthropist, Lysandre the showman, Lysandre the science celebrity.  He has a flair for the dramatic, he can hold a crowd, he can persuade on a massive scale.  His company’s holo-casters have been transformative for communication in the Kalos region (Malva mentions that Lysandre Labs has had to increase production in order to keep up with massive demand for the new gadgets).  His reputation for charitable giving is second to none, and much of what he donates comes from his company’s own ground-breaking medical research.  Lysandre is so trusted and adored that no one ever suspects the nefarious nature of Project Y.  As the project approaches culmination, though, it’s clear that Lysandre is getting careless.  The public know that he’s working on something, they just don’t know what, and the board of Lysandre Labs is becoming uneasy enough with his secrecy that they decide to confront him about what he’s really doing, and they’re visibly startled when he refuses to give them a clear answer.  We don’t see what the board decides to do after Lysandre leaves the room – he seems confident that their blind faith in him will overcome their misgivings, but there’s a definite tension here.  During the events of X and Y, Lysandre is nearly at the end of his rope with the legitimate side of his organisation.  But that doesn’t matter anymore – while a public fallout with the board would bring unwelcome scrutiny, it seems like Lysandre is probably close enough to his goals by this point that withholding corporate funds wouldn’t actually stop him; the facility in Geosenge Town is fully operational and Yveltal is just waiting for the energy transfer that will wake it up.  All in all, we get a much more rounded picture of who Lysandre is and what kind of position he’s in at the beginning of X and Y – and that’s all to the good.

Pokémon White: Victini and Zekrom (Part 3 of 3)

Where I left off last time, Ash was chilling with Zekrom in the basement while Damon continued his ill-advised plan to return the Sword of the Vale to its original site.  While Ash is gone, Mannes (who has been doing recon in his crazy-awesome home-built Klinklang-powered helicopter) tries to suggest to Damon that something might not be quite right here, since the Dragon Force appears to be doing a few minor things it probably shouldn’t, like incinerating the forest.  Damon is unconcerned.  Meanwhile, Juanita decides to have another go at Reshiram with her Golurk, because she apparently has terrible pattern recognition; Golurk lobs a couple of Hyper Beams at Reshiram but quickly winds up embedded in the castle wall.  Just as Reshiram is about to nuke it, Ash and Zekrom explode out of the base of the Sword of the Vale and intercept the white dragon’s attack.  As soon as he gets the chance, Zekrom drops Ash off at the tower and goes to deal with Reshiram, which involves a great deal of incredibly flashy CG explosions, lasers, shockwaves and miscellaneous sparkly bits (okay, I’m disdainful, but as Pokémon battles go, Reshiram vs. Zekrom is pretty spectacular).  Reshiram loses and nearly falls into the chasm created by the seething Dragon Force as it flows across the land, but Zekrom saves her at the last minute.  By this point, Pikachu has gained the upper hand over Damon’s Reuniclus up in the tower, and Ash is trying to break Victini free from the six miniature Pillars of Protection at the centre of the room.  He isn’t having much luck, until Reshiram suddenly turns up and obliterates the pillars.  Then this exchange happens.

Damon: Reshiram!?  What the hell!?  This was totally not in the plan!

Reshiram: Oh, hey, Damon… so, about that plan?  That little project we had going?  Turns out it might destroy the world a little bit.  My bad; this is totes my bad.  But, you know, who’d have thought, right?

I’m writing this from memory, so that may not be an exact quote.

Green good.  Purple bad.

Anyway, the Sword of the Vale doesn’t immediately drop out of the sky, which leads me to wonder what exactly Victini was doing that was so important, since all the Solosis and Duosion seem perfectly capable of holding it up without him.  Reshiram and Zekrom make another fantastically sparkly CG explosion to blow the clouds away, so Damon can actually see what’s going on down on the ground and goes into “my god, what have I done?” mode.  The two dragons then attempt to mitigate the damage by redirecting the excess energy of the Dragon Force into the Sword of the Vale, which… kind of works.  The progress of the chaos is slowed, and the castle absorbs a lot of energy.  Unfortunately Sigilyph, who’s still piloting the castle, can’t handle the strain and abandons ship, along with all the other Psychic Pokémon.  It still doesn’t drop out of the sky; in fact it flies even higher and shows every sign of intending to go into orbit.  I have long since stopped trying to figure out what is keeping it up.  Everyone evacuates using Mannes’ helicopter and Carlita’s Hydreigon, but Damon stays behind to man the controls, and Ash refuses to let go of Victini and gets stuck behind the Pillars of Protection, which are closing in on the castle.  Damon falls out, and I’m not sure why they even bother to show this, because he’s absolutely fine; Golurk rescues him and brings him back within five minutes.  In that time, the six pillars have continued to close in on Ash, Pikachu and Victini and eventually lock together.  Reshiram, Zekrom and Golurk blast them repeatedly, to no effect, while Ash begins to freeze to death from the cold of the upper atmosphere.  He apologises to Victini for not being able to take him to the ocean and then slips into blissful unconsciousness.  This scene, with Pikachu in tears and trying to wake Ash up… well, don’t get me wrong, it is touching, but it’s kind of clichéd and I’m having flashbacks to the climax of Mewtwo Strikes Back, which had, y’know, pretty much the exact same scene.  Also, for me anyway, the earlier scene from Victini’s memories actually had a far bigger impact, maybe because we know the King is actually dying, whereas Ash is contractually obliged to stay alive at least until he finishes the Unova series.  After all the ridiculousness Ash has survived over the years, including facing off with honest-to-goodness not-even-joking deities, I have trouble believing that this is going to finish him off.

 You teared up.  ADMIT IT.

Whatever I may think, Victini is certainly affected by Ash’s impending demise.  He suddenly remembers that he knows the most absurd attack in the entire game, V-Create, then sets himself on fire and rams the pillars at full speed, causing the movie’s most dramatic explosion yet, in which the pillars are completely destroyed and a huge flare of unstable Dragon Force is released into space (where, ten million years later, it will reach a peaceful planet on the other side of the galaxy and scourge it of all life).  The Sword of the Vale, incidentally, still doesn’t crash back to the ground.  When Ash wakes up, Sigilyph and the other Psychic Pokémon are back on board and Reshiram, Zekrom and Golurk are helping to guide the castle (this is the only indication the movie ever gives, by the way, that the Sword of the Vale is even slightly impaired by losing Victini and the Pillars of Protection).  Victini is nowhere to be found, and they all believe he’s given his life to destroy the pillars and save Ash and Pikachu.  Damon lands the Sword of the Vale in an entirely new location, a forested headland just in front of the oncoming stream of instability rushing through the Dragon Force.  This finally settles the chaos down, because of the plot.  Ash has a sad moment on the beach, because he’s brought the castle to the ocean but not Victini.  That lasts for about five seconds before – in the most predictable twist of the entire move – Victini turns out to be alive after all… in fact he doesn’t even seem to be particularly tired, which raises the question; if Victini could destroy the Pillars of Protection without killing or even severely weakening himself, why didn’t he do that centuries ago?  In the context of the movie’s efforts at characterisation, it’s because his desperation to save Ash caused him to unleash powers well beyond what he’d ever realised he had, but you’d expect him to be very much worse for wear after pulling something like that (and let’s not forget that his wish to escape the barrier has been weighing very heavily on Victini’s psyche for a long time, so I’d expect him to have tried absolutely everything to get out of there before now).  Anyway, there is much rejoicing, the end credits roll, and they all go back to the Vale, where Victini works his magic and begins to return life to the place.

Actually, I kind of liked it, mostly because it didn’t make my brain hurt the way Jewel of Life did.  I realise this may not seem like a major selling point, but bear in mind that my expectations were low.  I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone who isn’t a Pokémon fan, but it won’t actually make you stupider when you watch it.

 <em>Arceus and the Jewel of Life</em>: a simple film, but one that taught us so much.

I assume this movie has a moral, but I’m not entirely certain what it is.  At the moment I’m in favour of “don’t mess with what you don’t fully understand,” although “just follow your dreams and everything will work out, although you might risk destroying the planet along the way” works too.  I think the moral of Jewel of Life was “don’t let the High Priest brainwash you with his magic bell,” so either is a definite step up.  Speaking of not fully understanding things, the vagueness of the Dragon Force bothers me.  I don’t mind this kind of vagueness in a story with a lot of complex characters because it’s fairly easy to accept that a fuller explanation would just get in the way, and that the plot device only matters anyway because it provides something for the characters to react to.  Pokémon doesn’t do stories with deep characterisation, though.  What’s more, Victini and Zekrom/Reshiram places a great deal of emphasis on the Dragon Force itself; visually it gets a lot of attention because it’s one of the shinier things in the movie.  The movie resents having to explain how it actually works or make it behave consistently, though.  Why does the original battle between Reshiram and Zekrom turn it into a destructive force?  Why does moving the Sword of the Vale fix it?  Why, for goodness’ sake, does moving the thing again, a thousand years later, turn the Dragon Force chaotic again?  These are, incidentally, exactly the kind of questions people don’t bother asking if they’re more interested in your characters anyway.

Finally, I know I complained about Reshiram and Zekrom already, but I want to do that some more.  Compared to everything the Pokémon series has produced before them, Black and White (the games) were a triumph of storytelling.  I mean, I realise that’s not exactly saying much, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.  The movie offered an opportunity to expand on that by developing Reshiram and Zekrom as independent characters with motives and ideals (shut up, Zekrom), in a context that didn’t demand that they be freely interchangeable the way the games did.  Instead, by using that weird two-movies-for-the-budget-of-one gimmick, it embraced the same bizarre line of thinking that forces the two dragons (who are supposed to be opposites, mind) to become blandly identical.  The result is that they act more like plot devices than the pivotal characters they should, by all rights, be.  When you think about it, Reshiram – who symbolises truth – should be the last person (…dragon…whatever) to rush into action without fully understanding a situation, but this is exactly what Damon and Reshiram do in this version of the movie, a mistake which ought to be more characteristic of the brash and idealistic Zekrom.  In contrast, I could see Reshiram being prepared to accept Victini’s suffering in the Sword of the Vale as a necessary evil, with Zekrom demanding much more persuasion from Damon to go along with it.  This is an issue in the games as well, of course, but I’m much less prepared to accept it here because the games are, first and foremost, games, not stories; I would certainly like better stories out of them, but I’m happy to take what I can get.  My expectations are a bit higher for something that is, first and foremost, a story.

 No, really, I swear they're in the movie somewhere.

There you have it, then; my thoughts on- oh!  Wait!  I almost forgot!  Team Rocket are totally in this movie too!  Because… well, I don’t really know why and I don’t think the writers did either; they just are!  Team Rocket show up right at the beginning wearing absurd disguises and overhear Juanita as she tells Ash the legend of Victini, which, of course, they believe instantly.  They then spend the rest of the movie flailing around trying to capture Victini, pretending that they’re going to have some kind of impact on the plot but never actually getting close enough to do anything, to the point that the none of the real cast members even see them (much the same way as in Jewel of Life, except not quite as mind-meltingly stupid).  Like Iris and Cilan, they’re completely superfluous to the plot, but kind of form a package deal with Ash and Pikachu.

Anyway, that’s the movie, and I hope you enjoyed my rambling; see you next time!

Pokémon White: Victini and Zekrom (Part 2 of 3)

Now, where were we?  Ah, yes; Ash, Pikachu, Iris and Cilan were in mayor Mannes’ office with him and Damon, who were about to tell our plucky young heroes the history of Eindoak Town and the Sword of the Vale.  Right.

 Continuing to snatch screenshots from Pokemon.com.  Here we see Reshiram demonstrating her special skill: she is made of explosions. (Incidentally: yes, I know Reshiram has a male voice actor in the film, but she was explicitly designed to have a feminine appearance and I've always thought of her as feminine, so nyeh)

One thousand years ago, according to Damon and Mannes, their ancestors lived in the Vale, a now-lifeless area which is just visible from the battlements of the castle.  At the time, the Vale was a paradise, thanks to a mysterious power called the Dragon Force, which is basically the life energy of the planet; the flow of the Dragon Force through the Vale made it one of the most naturally temperate and fertile places on Earth.  The Dragon Force… has never been mentioned in the series before now, to my knowledge, and will probably never be mentioned again.  It doesn’t come completely out of nowhere because it’s well-established that some sort of “life force” is as much a part of the Pokémon universe as gravity, and that Dragon Pokémon have a particularly close connection with it, but as we’ll see, the Dragon Force has an alarming tendency to function in whatever manner the plot requires it to.  Anyway.  The Vale was ruled by a benevolent old king – Victini’s master – and his two sons, who were known as the “Hero of Truth” and the “Hero of Ideals” because of their “unique qualities” (yes, that’s as specific as the movie ever gets) and partnered with two almighty Dragon Pokémon: the white dragon Reshiram and the black dragon Zekrom, respectively.  For reasons that are never explained and which cannot be extrapolated because we’re never told anything else about the heroes or their beliefs, the two princes quarrelled, and their argument gradually escalated into a full-scale war that devastated the Kingdom of the Vale.  The King, whose Pokémon partner had the power to make him unbeatable at everything ever, including diplomacy, sat his sons down for a good long talk that resolved all of their disputes and made everyone happy again.  This is exactly what didn’t happen because then there wouldn’t be a story.  The King… I don’t know, watched, I guess.  Reshiram and Zekrom nearly killed each other and were turned into two small round stones, at which point the princes stopped to think about it and realised that they were shredding their kingdom.  Unfortunately, the chaos of the battle between two of the most powerful Dragon Pokémon ever had infected the Dragon Force and caused it to become destructive, because of the plot.  The King, in desperation, created the Pillars of Protection to channel Victini’s power and used them to cast the spell that moved the Sword of the Vale, with all his surviving people crowded inside, to the castle’s present location at Eindoak Town.  At the same time, he altered the flow of the Dragon Force to restore its balance, but had to cut off the Vale to do so, leaving it a wasteland.  Unfortunately, the exertion was too much for the King and he died before he could dismantle the pillars, causing Victini to become trapped in Eindoak Town.  Most of the People of the Vale, bereft of their ancestral home, left the region for good.

 Zekrom's special skill is very similar to Reshiram's.  He is made of explosions also.

This is where Damon comes in.  When he was a child, Juanita once told him about her dream of seeing the Kingdom of the Vale restored to life, which he apparently took to heart, leaving Eindoak Town to travel the world and reunite the scattered People of the Vale when he grew up.  Most of them seem to have thought he was insane; they probably didn’t even believe in the old legends anymore.  Dejected, Damon returned home, where he heard a mysterious voice telling him to seek the truth.  The voice led him and Mannes to the crystal caverns beneath the Sword of the Vale, where Damon found the Light Stone and reawakened Reshiram, who told him that “the truth within you has been judged worthy.”  Suddenly his distant cousins find him far more credible.  Now, he’s brought everyone he met back to Eindoak Town and wants to re-enact the King’s spell, return the castle to the Vale and restore the original flow of the Dragon Force.

By the time all this has been explained, it’s late at night, so Ash and his friends go to bed.  In the garden.  Cilan has a sleeping bag, Iris climbs a tree, and Ash just leans against the trunk and drapes a cloth over his knees.  I guess hard core badass Pokémon Masters can get a good night’s sleep anywhere.  While they sleep, Ash appears to share Victini’s dream: a vision of the old King dying.  It turns out, unsurprisingly, that the poor little guy was horribly traumatised when his master died right in front of him and left him trapped and alone for a thousand years.  The next morning, Ash resolves to find a way to free Victini and, rather rashly, promises to take him to the ocean.

Meanwhile, Damon has gone up to the central tower of the Sword of the Vale, where his Sigilyph helps him to coordinate the vast numbers of Solosis and Duosion who live in the tower and provide the psychic energy required to move the castle.  Victini realises something is going on and flies up to the tower.  He doesn’t like what Damon is up to one bit, but Sigilyph uses a set of six miniature Pillars of Protection to trap Victini on the altar in the middle of the room.  The full-size ones are now airborne and revolving steadily around the castle.  The pillars use Victini’s power to fire up the horde of Duosion and Solosis, and the castle takes flight, granting Damon control over the Dragon Force.  Ash, Iris, Cilan, Juanita and Carlita lean out over a balcony and watch joyfully as Damon redirects the flow of energy back to the Vale… until Ash hears Victini cry out in pain.  He runs to the tower, sees Victini trapped, and tries to free it, but Damon calls out his Reuniclus to stop him.  Pikachu and Reuniclus are fairly evenly matched, so Damon plays his trump card and summons Reshiram.  Juanita tries to fight Reshiram with her Golurk, which goes better than you might expect, in that Golurk is not instantaneously reduced to a heap of molten glass and actually manages to keep Reshiram busy in aerial combat for a few minutes (yes, Golurk can fly; it is perfectly aerodynamic).  Damon is confused that they’re trying to stop him, which is not entirely unreasonable; everything seems to be going according to plan.  Victini clearly isn’t happy about it, but they’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done before, so Damon has no reason to think he’ll cause Victini any long-term harm.  We the audience, however, were watching when Victini and the King did this the first time, and Victini wasn’t struggling or in pain then.  Something is wrong here.  With his dreams so close to fulfilment, though, Damon won’t listen to his family or friends, and Reuniclus knocks them all out with its Psychic attack.

 The set-up in the central tower of the Sword of the Vale that allows Damon to control everything.

While Ash is unconscious, he receives another vision from Victini, which shows him what the problem is: Victini is resisting Damon because the King’s last words were to tell his friend that the Sword of the Vale must never be moved again; its new position in Eindoak is essential to keeping the Dragon Force balanced, because of the plot.  So, to summarise, Victini watched his beloved master die, was imprisoned alone for a millennium, and is now being forced to violate his master’s dying wish.  Also he met Ash.  This movie really hates him.  Reshiram doesn’t understand the danger, so Ash goes to explain and- oh, no, wait, he’s Ash, so instead of that he goes down into the crystal caverns (which are attached to the castle’s foundations and lifted off with it) to find Reshiram’s opposite, Zekrom.  I’m not sure why they think this will help, since Zekrom doesn’t know anything more about the situation than Reshiram does and is no more likely to listen to reason.  Nonetheless, like Damon before him, Ash is inexplicably able to navigate the maze inside the caves when no-one else can, and finds Zekrom sleeping at the bottom in the form of the Dark Stone.  Zekrom demands to know what Ash’ s ideal is, to which Ash stammers that he wants Victini to see the ocean.  This… is apparently good enough for Zekrom, and here I really have to talk about this “truth and ideals” stuff.  See, the one major difference between the two versions of this movie is that in the other version, Damon found Zekrom and Ash finds Reshiram, which means that, in theory, Damon’s ideals and Ash’s truth should be put to the test in the other story.  The writers, however, weren’t keen on actually having to write two separate plots for their two movies with separate character arcs for both Ash and Damon in each one, so what they’ve done instead is whitewash (no pun intended) the concepts of “truth” and “ideals” to the point that they are completely interchangeable, and translate out to “your vision of how the world should be”.  As a result, Reshiram talks about “truth” as though it’s an incredibly subjective thing that each person has to find inside him or herself, and both of them, in their respective versions of the film, are perfectly satisfied that Ash’s wish to take Victini to the ocean exemplifies each of their respective virtues.  As in the games, therefore, Reshiram and Zekrom both represent exactly the same things: desire and the will to pursue it.

…suddenly it makes perfect sense to me that they wound up fighting.

Pokémon White: Victini and Zekrom (Part 1 of 3)

A couple of weeks ago I went, against my own better judgement, to see the new Pokémon movie, Pokémon White: Victini and Zekrom.  Is there, you may well ask, a Pokémon Black: Victini and Reshiram?  Yes, there is.  Only White was actually released here in New Zealand though (and that only for one weekend), and the reason for this is that they are the same damn movie.  You see, Pokémon has finally taken its policy of always releasing two nearly-identical games at a time to its most insane possible conclusion by releasing two nearly-identical movies at the same time.  There are, I am lead to understand, numerous little cosmetic differences, but the plot is the same, which leads me to wonder what the point is supposed to have been.  I’m getting ahead of myself, though… let’s talk about what happens.

SPOILERS AHOY!

Damon's official art.  The clothes seem to be traditional dress for the People of the Vale.  The hair is either an oddly neat example of genetic mosaicism, or just weird hair.

Victini and Zekrom opens in a desert (Victini and Reshiram opens in a frigid polar area; either way, we see the other area later in a flashback) where a hooded man and his Reuniclus encounter an injured Blitzle on the dirt road and return it to its owner, a little girl in a nearby village.  The villagers thank the man, whose name we learn is Damon, but tell him that “the answer is still no.”  Damon and the villagers are both descendants of a race called the “People of the Vale,” and Damon has concocted a zany scheme to restore them to their ancestral homeland.  They’re very diplomatic about it, but they clearly think he’s off his rocker and are humouring him because he’s kind of a nice guy.  Luckily for Damon, he soon gets a chance to prove he isn’t completely insane when a huge herd of Bouffalant, frightened by a tornado, stampede towards the village.  As the villagers panic, Damon summons Reshiram, a mythical white dragon Pokémon with absolutely no concept of subtlety, who solves the problem by hurling ludicrous quantities of cerulean fire at it.  Reshiram tells the villagers to follow Damon, and this time they readily agree, because, well, Damon doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to nuke their village if they don’t, but you never know with these Destined Hero types.

After that little prologue, we join Ash, Pikachu, and their travelling companions for the most recent season of the anime: Cilan, one of the Gym Leader triplets of Striaton City, and Iris, a young Dragon Master-in-training.  I’m sure these two are great, interesting characters in the TV series, but they don’t actually do anything in this movie and their views and opinions on what’s happening mirror Ash’s on just about every point.  The only thing I really took away from it was that Cilan likes using culinary metaphors and figures of speech… a lot.  Seriously, he makes a food pun practically every time he opens his mouth (I’m guessing he does this in the TV series too, but I haven’t seen any of the Unova season).  The movie wouldn’t really have been changed notably by their absence, but it would have been a little awkward to explain, so I suppose the writers figured it was easier just to stick them in, give them some throwaway lines, and have them compete in the tournament that takes place during the opening credits.  Again, though, I’m getting ahead of myself.

When we first meet up with our unlikely heroes, Cilan is checking his Nintendo DS for directions to their next destination: a place called Eindoak Town, which hosts a Pokémon tournament each year as part of the harvest festival celebrations.  Just as they come into sight of Eindoak’s major landmark (a towering castle known as the Sword of the Vale, because its architecture resembles the hilt of a sword) Ash spots a pair of Deerling on a crumbling ledge of rock.  Unseen by Ash and his friends, a small orange fairy Pokémon tries to talk to the Deerling, but startles them and nearly causes one to fall off the ledge.  Ash, apparently forgetting that he has Pokémon who are much better than him at this sort of thing, edges out along the rock face to help the Deerling, but quickly overbalances.  However, the orange Pokémon reaches out invisibly from the crevasse where it is hiding and touches Ash, imbuing him with a golden energy just before he falls.  Ash miraculously manages to slide down the cliff face, find his balance when he lands, perform a leap that would put an Olympic athlete to shame, while keeping hold of both Deerling, and reach another ledge facing the first one.  Presumably Ash pulls this kind of stunt off-screen all the time, because everyone is perfectly happy to chalk this one up to luck.  Ash can’t see a way to get back, but he can feel a breeze from a nearby cave mouth and guesses that it will lead him to Eindoak Town, so he tells Iris and Cilan to go on without him.  The fairy Pokémon follows him, still unseen, as he is inexplicably able to lead Pikachu and the two Deerling through a labyrinthine crystal cave and into one of the basement rooms of the Sword of the Vale.  Iris and Cilan reach the castle to find Ash waving at them from a balcony.

Screenshot of the Sword of the Vale, shamelessly ganked from Pokemon.com.

Ash, Iris and Cilan release the Deerling in one of the two massive rooftop gardens and then start exploring the castle.  No-one seems to mind that there are three kids and a number of Pokémon wandering around the historic castle uninvited and unsupervised.  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anyone there to mind – except for an invisible something that keeps stealing Cilan’s macarons from Ash.  Eventually the group runs into Damon, the fellow from the prologue, who is working on restoring the castle.  By himself.  Oh, the uphill battle of cultural heritage management… Anyway, Damon shows them the quickest way out of the castle so they can take part in the harvest festival.  As they check out the town, Ash, Iris and Cilan meet a woman named Juanita who runs a souvenir stand with the help of her Golurk, selling trinkets modelled on a legendary Pokémon called Victini, who has the power to make people (or Pokémon) insta-win at everything.  He’s also kind of a klutz and keeps banging into things invisibly as he follows Ash around the town.  Iris buys a pendant for good luck, and they move on to enter the festival tournament.  Cilan is quickly overpowered, while Iris is disqualified when her Excadrill (who’s kind of a douche) breaks out of his Pokéball when she has a Pokémon in play already, but Ash works up an impressive winning streak.

EDIT: Having watched some of the Unova series since writing this review, I have learned that, although Iris’ Excadrill is kind of a douche, this incident was actually the fault of her Emolga, who is a gigantic douche, and has a habit of using Volt Switch without warning and at the most inconvenient moments possible.

Victini flips out after being dragged into an invisible wall by Ash (again, ganked from Pokemon.com).

When Ash’s Tepig defeats a powerful Samurott (despite a type disadvantage, as Iris and Cilan explain for us just in case someone in the audience has never heard of Pokémon before), Juanita’s daughter Carlita, the trainer who defeated Cilan, begins to suspect that Victini may be helping Ash and challenges him with her Hydreigon.  Hydreigon is a tremendously destructive Dragon Pokémon and a fundamentally ridiculous thing for a teenage girl to have, and marks Carlita as probably one of the most powerful trainers Ash has ever met.  None of this merits comment from anyone (except for Iris, who thinks Hydreigon is adorable because she’s a shameless dragon fangirl).  Ash’s Scraggy meets Carlita’s challenge and is quickly knocked into the bushes.  Carlita, watching carefully, notices Victini appear and power up Scraggy, who leaps back into the fray and pulverises her Hydreigon.  She tells Ash what’s been happening, and explains that Victini can become invisible.  This is apparently Ash’s first clue that maybe his recent run of success has not been all luck.  The four of them manage to persuade the Victory Pokémon to emerge from hiding by offering some of Cilan’s macarons, and the tournament is quietly forgotten.  Ash, being Ash, immediately tries to hug the poor thing and nearly crushes him.  How Ash always manages to be the one who gets all chummy with the legendary Pokémon is beyond me; if Victini’s experience in this movie is at all representative I’m surprised there are any legendary Pokémon left.  Pikachu is able to smooth over his partner’s glaring faux pas, however, and Victini joins the group.  Ash soon manages to injure him again by grabbing Victini’s hand and dragging him along as he runs to check out one of the six massive dark purple pillars scattered around the town.  Victini crashes painfully into an invisible force field while Ash runs straight through, and Victini (reasonably enough) decides he’s sick of this lunatic and flies away.  Carlita explains that the pillars, known as the Pillars of Protection, mark a boundary line; according to the legends Victini can never pass the pillars or leave Eindoak Town.

Juanita helps the group find Victini again in the rooftop gardens of the Sword of the Vale, where Ash apologises profusely for repeatedly injuring the tiny Pokémon and manages to regain his trust.  At the castle they meet Damon again, who turns out to be Juanita’s son (and a terrible son he is too; Juanita didn’t even realise he was back in Eindoak since he apparently never talks to his family or tells them anything).  Damon and Mannes, the mayor of Eindoak, tell Ash, Cilan and Iris about the People of the Vale, the legend of Victini, Reshiram and Zekrom, and Damon’s plan to return their people to their ancient homeland, which means… it’s exposition time!