Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: Pokémon The Movie: The Power Of Us
Anime Studio: Wit Studio, OLM Inc.
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Children’s / Adventure
Released: February 18th, 2019
Length: 105 minutes
Our hopes. Our dreams. Our stories. A young athlete whose running days might be behind her, a compulsive liar, a shy researcher, a bitter old woman, and a little girl with a big secret the only thing they have in common is the annual Wind Festival in Fula City. The festival celebrates the Legendary Pokémon Lugia, who brings the wind that powers this seaside city. When a series of threats endangers not just the festival, but all the people and Pokémon of Fula City, it’ll take more than just Ash and Pikachu to save the day! Can everyone put aside their differences and work together or will it all end in destruction?
While I’ve always preferred Digimon in terms of long-run storytelling, Pokémon has been a part of my life for a very long time. In fact, when Red and Blue were first released in the UK, I was among the first in my school to pick up a copy, and the anime was a mainstay on my TV. Now, more than twenty years on, the franchise is still going strong, and for good reason. The mainline games remain consistently great, the spin-offs hit all the right points for their audience, and while repetitive, the anime series is still hugely popular. But how does this new movie release fit into it all?
The film is the second in the reboot movie series, following on from 2017’s I Choose You! Long-term franchise production company OLM Inc is again part of the team, but this time, they’re collaborating with Wit studio. Given that this is the studio behind such series as Attack On Titan, Kabaneri Of The Iron Fortress and The Ancient Magus’ Bride, you may expect that to mean that you’re in for a visual treat here. If so, you won’t be disappointed. The colours are vibrant, the animation is smooth, and the background work is immaculate. This is such a noticeably huge step above the series, and it’s all the better for it. One thing remains the same as ever though is the simple fact that it’s the battles that feel the most dynamic, with plenty of familiar characters and moves on show.
These are not the only production collaboration here either. This time around, the writing duties have fallen to Eiji Umehara (Grimoire of Zero) and Aya Takaha (The Ancient Magus’ Bride). Where this really aids the film is that it does a far better job of presenting multiple storylines effectively within the timeframe given. Each of the new characters has their moments of focus, motivations are clear, and everything ties together.
The soundtrack is really well done, with Shiji Myazaki retaining his role as primary composer. What we get here is a selection of orchestral moments that feel like they belong in a movie, while still be referential to the franchise as a whole. For example, long-time fans of the games will recognize the reworked Route 1 music instantly, and honestly, it really will bring a smile to your face. The voice acting is consistent with the series with the current cast intact, and that is no bad thing really. While I do still miss the likes of Eric Stuart, the current team do a decent job, so I can’t really complain. For J-Rock fans, Porno Graffitti also provide a song for the film, in the form of ‘Breathe’.
Manga Entertainment also deserves some praise for the packaging here, as the Blu-ray special edition is only a few pounds more than the standard DVD. For those pounds, you not only get the superior visual quality but a poster and four art cards. While the video itself may not be the most important to kids, the extras will likely impress.
All that being said, the movie is not perfect. While the scripting is good, it still isn’t going to feel like it’s a massive departure for the franchise. The expected friendship and partnership with your Pokémon arc is front and center, and even the environmental undertones of the story aren’t exactly fresh. If anything, while satisfying, it does feel fairly straightforward, so if you were hoping for new ground to be broken, you’ll be disappointed. It could also be said that, while welcome, Team Rocket’s involvement is fairly minor overall and the movie wouldn’t have suffered too much without them.
So, what do we have here overall? Well, even with some minor flaws, there’s no doubt that the film is entertaining. Children will certainly enjoy it, and adult fans should be suitably entertained. Throw in the excellent animation and audio, and really this is about as good as you could wish for from an animated Pokémon film. This is well worth a look-in for fans and is an easy 4 out of 5 for me.