Pokemon - Ash & Pikachu

Musings on Pokémon Movie 20

Finally a Pokémon movie I’m really, really excited about!

I’ve followed and adored the Pokémon anime for the past twenty years, and for a while its films were always special, often refreshing, detours from the redundancies of the TV series. Each movie has at least one thing going for it, so I can’t say any are major flops. But let’s face it; after 19 films, it’s become more and more obvious how each Pokémon movie’s concept is fundamentally the same—it’s just that some stories are much better executed than others.

Now, don’t think I’m necessarily criticizing Director Kunihiko Yuyama and his team—I’d run out of ideas after 19 movies, too, especially whilst juggling the Pokémon TV show at the same time. Frankly, I applaud the Pokémon anime for still being around after twenty years, and I hope it’ll be around for another twenty, too! But that doesn’t mean I haven’t craved something “new” from the series, either, especially from its movies.

Nineteen film retrospective

Like I said above, the Pokémon movies used to be a special opportunity for the series to try things it normally wouldn’t in the TV show, most notably better storylines that couldn’t be justified in half-hour TV episodes. The earliest films often involved darker elements, too, such as significantly more dangerous adventures for Ash and friends, including more violence and even an occasional death. These films touched upon serious elements and proved that Pokémon can be more than just a silly, happy-go-lucky Saturday morning kiddie cartoon.

And let’s not forget how the Pokémon movies’ production values (music, animation, CGI) have always been a highlight. Even though the early Pokémon movies had their share of animation/CGI issues, the films still looked much better than anything the TV show offered. Best of all, each Pokémon movie’s visuals improved over the years, to the point that I consider the new ones to be sheer eye candy. If there’s one place the Pokémon movies haven’t lost their edge, its visual presentation.

The movies’ plots are another, pardon the pun, story. Again, every Pokémon movie is fundamentally similar—Ash and friends encounter a legendary pokémon and must save the day. Because these movies usually center on said legendary pokémon, I usually find a film either hits or misses depending on the actual personality/portrayal of said pokémon. Some legendaries have terrific backgrounds (Lucario and the Mystery of Mew), others have relatable personalities (Genesect and the Legend Awakened), and some form strong relationships with our human heroes (Jirachi Wish Maker). Then there are some legendaries that come across as annoying (Giratina and the Sky Warrior), or worse; are simply filler characters as an excuse for the movie to have a legendary pokémon cameo (too many to count in Hoopa and the Clash of Ages!). Even hero Ash can feel secondary to these legendary pokémon sometimes, so obviously if a Pokémon movie’s legendary pokémon is uninteresting, chances are the rest of the film will be as well.

But there have been some Pokémon movies that feature an enjoyable legendary pokémon, who unfortunately is involved in a generally uninteresting scenario/adventure for our heroes. Early Pokémon movies offered higher stakes, some even going so far to reach apocalyptic proportions (The Power of One), which could be argued as going a tad too far—which I suspect is the reason why Pokémon movies have gradually downgraded their situations from “saving the world” to more believably “saving the day.” That’s fine, but remember that this formula isn’t much different from what we see in the TV show—and therein lies the issue I’ve found with more current Pokémon movies that don’t feel much more momentous than an extended TV episode. It’s even more noticeable now that greater effort is being put into the TV series’ storylines. Just compare the last Pokémon the Series: XYZ movie Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel to the XYZ TV series finale; the latter is much more exciting and features imperative character growth. It’s great to see the TV show upping its game, but not so great to see the movies losing their edge.

The Big 20

So after such a rollercoaster of Pokémon movies, what’s to be done about its platinum anniversary? Back when the Pokémon movies turned ten in Rise of Darkrai, we were treated to a movie that offered a commemorative smorgasbord of similarities to its predecessors. It felt like an anniversary piece, “the best of the old and new” as it was obviously intended, and I expected the upcoming twentieth movie to be the same. So you can imagine how far my jaw dropped when I heard how Pokémon Movie 20: I Choose You! will be another anniversary piece, but instead of offering a new story built out of old parts, it’s going back to the franchise’s very earliest roots and retelling the tale older Pokefans grew up with!

For the record, the Pokémon movies have generally remained separate from the TV show, give or take an occasional cross-reference. We’ve never before had a movie that makes such a direct correlation with the TV series. Yet read the film’s title and you’ll know it’s a direct reference to Pokémon’s first episode, Pokémon, I Choose You! You guessed it; Movie 20 is a retelling of how Ash first became a Pokémon trainer and met his irreplaceable companion Pikachu. True, a rebooted idea isn’t technically “new” material, but I’d much rather watch a Pokémon movie that has some direct relation to the TV series’ canon, rather than yet another unrelated sidestory. Plus, I Choose You! presents an enlightening opportunity for newer Pokéfans—you may be surprised to know Ash wasn’t always as good of a trainer as he is nowadays, nor did he and Pikachu start off as bosom buddies. Their first encounter is as hilarious as it is heartfelt.

Right now there aren’t many details revealed about I Choose You!, although the first trailer looks extremely promising. I probably should warn fans that early-production Pokémon movie trailers aren’t always indicative of what we’ll see in the finished product (check out Destiny Deoxys’ Japanese trailers—you’d swear they’re advertising an entirely different movie! It’s the kind of movie I wish Destiny Deoxys could have been, too). So I am cautious when watching Japanese Pokémon movie trailers, at least until the film is further in development and there’s a greater chance that subsequent trailers will feature actual film footage. Therefore I can only hope I Choose You!’s trailer turns out to be a case of what we see is what we’ll get in the finished product.

The first trailer has recognizable scenes from Episode 1, such as Pikachu refusing to enter its Pokeball, and later Ho-Oh flying overhead, gorgeously depicted across a lush sunset, I might add. The visuals are an expected upgrade from Episode 1’s humble beginnings, but you can tell the movie is also aiming for a dramatic effect, rather than just rehashing everything with a nicer coat of paint (think “reboot” instead of “remaster”). Ash’s character design finally looks like his original self, give or take a few subtle changes in detail (the symbol on his hat is a little different). This tells me that even though I Choose You! is technically a movie that will run concurrently with Pokémon the Series: Sun and Moon, it won’t feature the ridiculous art changes seen in Sun and Moon. Speaking as one who was taken aback by Sun and Moon’s depiction, I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief right now.

I’m not sure if I Choose You! will chronicle Episode 1’s plot exclusively, or if this movie will also cover the rest of the original Indigo League saga. I find it hard to believe that the writers will stretch Episode 1’s half-hour story to span a full-length movie, but at the same time I wonder how they’ll handle a movie that spans 78 episodes (even subtracting the umpteen filler episodes, that’s still a lot to cover in 90 minutes). Maybe this movie will be longer than typical Pokefilms, or I Choose You! will be the first of many reboots? It’s too soon to know.

Either way, the fact I Choose You! retells Ash’s origins already proves that it will be a main character-centric film, rather than starring the Legendary Pokémon of the Day. Even in past Pokémon movies where Ash was the “star,” rarely was he more than an obligatory hero figure. I Choose You! being about his early days means we’ll see Ash’s beginnings, growing up as both a pokémon trainer but also growing into a young man.

This also begs the question if Pokefans will be treated to the long overdue returns of Ash’s first traveling companions Misty and Brock. Let’s not forget Ash’s original rival Gary, either. And hopefully we’ll also see Team Rocket as they used to be, semi-villainous characters rather than outright stooges. It’ll be nice to see Ash’s human friends/enemies share the movie’s spotlight, since they almost always become background ornaments/comic relief in typical Pokémon movies.

But naturally, this being a Pokémon movie, I expect some legendary pokémon to play an important role, leading me to assume that role will be filled by Ho-Oh. After twenty years, Pokémon has many legendaries, but to this day Ho-Oh’s role in the anime remains an enigma. I suspect I Choose You! may not only retell Ash’s origins but also explain why Ho-Oh has appeared before him so sporadically over the years. The series’ writers have obviously been saving Ho-Oh’s story for some special occasion, because every other legendary pokémon under the sun (including Ho-Oh’s counterpart Lugia) has already gotten its movie spotlight. Since Episode 1, Ho-Oh has been a twenty-year-long mystery I’m hopeful to see finally solved.

Safe to say, my expectations are already high for Pokémon Movie 20: I Choose You!, and we’ve still got a ways to go before it hits theaters, never mind comes overseas. Nevertheless, I can honestly say I haven’t felt this excited about an upcoming Pokémon film in quite some time. Whether or not I Choose You! turns out to be the definitive origin story of Ash Ketchum, it’s guaranteed to be a nostalgic, heartwarming celebration of two decades of Pokémon memories.
  • Current Mood: jubilant jubilant
Xenosaga - Jr. hearts Eastwood flicks

2017 Will Be Another Banner Year for Visual Novel Localizations

I’m so happy that more and more Japanese visual novels are being localized for North America, especially on consoles like PlayStation. 2016 had its share of memorable VN localizations like Steins;Gate 0, but in terms of quantity I didn’t find last year to offer nearly as many VNs as (my self-titled) 2015’s banner year. Fortunately, 2017 promises to not only make up for last year’s small number of releases, but also far exceed what we VN console gamers are accustomed to.

Feel free to dub 2017 the “Year of the Monokuma,” because NIS America’s Danganronpa releases will be abundant this year. Every previously-localized Danganronpa game will be getting an upgraded release on PlayStation 4: Danganronpa 1-2 Reload will bundle the first two games, and Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls separately. Of course, best of all will be the entirely new (and long awaited) entry into the series, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (PS4/Vita/PC)! (And if that doesn’t offer you enough quirky class trial fun, there’s Danganronpa VR and the bargain-priced rerelease of Danganronpa: The Animation to look forward to!) If ever there was a time to dive into the killer world of Danganronpa, it’s now!

We haven’t seen the last of the Zero Escape series, either. The franchise’s first two games, 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue’s Last Reward will also be receiving a bundled HD upgrade in Zero Escape: The Nonary Games (PS4/Vita/PC—albeit a bummer for ZE fans who originally played the saga from the perspective of Nintendo DS/3DS. As much as I love [and admittedly prefer] my VNs on Vita, I agree that Nintendo 3DS is in dire need of more visual novels).

Other 2017 HD upgrades (and localizations) for tried and true mystery VNs will include the overdue release of The Silver Case (PS4/PC), by none other than the infamous Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture (better known for games like No More Heroes). But perhaps one of the most surprising localizations will be that of the highly-acclaimed 428: Shibuya Scramble (PS4/PC), which was originally expected to never be released outside Japan.

If you’re looking for VNs outside the realm of dark mysteries, we’ll be getting a variety of lovely Otomate romances this year, too! Aksys Games will be treating us to Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ (Vita), Collar x Malice (Vita), and Bad Apple Wars (Vita) (the last being one of my most-wanted VNs originally released in 2015, second only to Reine des Fleurs). Hakuoki will also be returning stateside in Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds (Vita), arguably the most expanded edition of its original story with nearly double the number of characters/story branches to choose from.

Considering it’s only March, I’d say that’s an impressive number of visual novel localization announcements so far for this year. I still haven’t found a solid release date for Aksys Game’s edition of the fandisc Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~, along with some of Sekai Project’s promised console VNs like Fault Milestone One and World End Economica, and who knows what PQube plans on releasing internationally this year, too. 2017 is still young, and I look forward to seeing this list of localized visual novels grow! :D
  • Current Mood: excited excited
Pokemon - Cheeky authoress Misty

Fanfiction Progress: December 2016

Needless to say my writing has been on the back burner yet again. I am working on Chapter 8 of At Sixes and Sevens, but the story’s been a pain in the butt to write lately. It doesn’t help that I’ve been warding off a cold (I haven’t caught it yet, but I can tell my immune system is fighting tooth and nail to stay healthy—which is good, but I can still feel the strain). Plus, winter is starting to rear its ugly face more and more in my hometown, which is never good, either (I’d tolerate—perhaps even appreciate—winter a lot more if my city wasn’t such a deathtrap thanks to its perpetually untreated roadways. Tax dollars hard at work!). My brain just hasn’t been able to focus well lately, is all, which is very frustrating because I want to write!!

Right now, it’s a coin-toss whether or not I’ll finish off 2016 with one last update for At Sixes and Sevens. I’ll consider that a big victory if I can, but I’m not counting my chickens just yet. I’ll probably come to a decision sometime next week, and thereafter (whether Chapter 8 is published or not) I’ll halt further fanfic publications until spring.
  • Current Mood: busy busy
Supernatural - Dean & Sam

Post-Accident Jitters

It’s been an interesting few weeks. I’m happy to report that (it appears) everything has been settled post-car wreck. I’m still vehicleless at the moment, of course, but I’m managing thanks to friends and family (thankfully, my workplace isn’t too far from where I live, so that’s a plus). Honestly, the “worst” part about everything that’s happened has been the effect on my nerves. I don’t want to claim PTSD or anything, but I have noticed I’m much more skittish driving on the road now (and I tend to be a worrywart as it is), but I suppose that’s to be expected after some crazy driver previously came out of nowhere and plowed into me, huh? I still think it’s a beautiful miracle that nobody got hurt. ^_^
  • Current Mood: thankful thankful
Supernatural - Dean & Sam in the Impala

As Long as We're Okay

It’s Halloween season, and I ended up with arguably one of the biggest scares in my life two weeks ago; my vehicle was smashed into. T_T Thank God that nobody was hurt. Still, it’s been a whirlwind of rigmaroles ever since, dealing with the insurance companies and so on, not to mention sleepless nights from post-accident nerves. But it looks like matters are starting to get settled, so hopefully we’ll be able to get on with our lives.

Again, the important thing was that nobody got hurt. Of course, I can’t say the same for my truck—she won’t be coming home, and it’s a bittersweet end to a 15-year era (that truck’s been around for half my life! ;_; Call me sentimental, but that's a lot of memories), but I’m eternally grateful that she went out protecting the even more precious people riding inside her. That accident was a nightmare, but it could have ended much, much worse, too. I’ve been counting my blessings ever since that I can still come home at night and hug my loved ones. That’s all that really matters.

Stay safe this Halloween, folks.
  • Current Mood: thankful thankful
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Pokemon - Cheeky authoress Misty

Fanfiction Progress: October 2016

Just when I think I’ll be able to really get back into fanfiction my schedule gets all whacked-out again. @_@ It’s to be expected at this time of year with pre-winter prep (yes, we’re already getting ready. I can’t believe it, either. But considering how last winter was on the mild side in my neck of the woods, we can’t expect lightning to strike twice). Plus, everybody in the higher end of my job’s hierarchy suddenly got the urge to go on vacation during the past month, so I’ve been filling in (and earning some extra cash, which has already gone into early Christmas shopping). Needless to say fanfiction is back on the back burner.

I do plan on updating At Sixes and Sevens, ideally this month because the currently-drafted Chapter 7 is a somewhat spooky-themed tale appropriate for the Halloween season (^_^). Going forward from there, I’m not sure how the remainder of 2016’s updates will fare—I MIGHT hold off further updates until after New Year, solely because this is always my busy season. But that’s subject to change given my finicky schedule and finickier writing muse.

On the brighter side, I've been feeling better (health-wise), a nice improvement from the last time I visited LJ. I'm on a small regimen of simple supplements and a revised sleep schedule (what I need most!) and that seems to be doing the trick. Nothing major, thank God. :)

  • Current Mood: good good
  • Current Music: Random OSTs
Saiyuki - Goku

It's Amazing/Scary What Stress Can Do

It's been a few months since my much-needed job change, and while I'm feeling much better (and happier) to be out of that negative situation, I've noticed that my overal health hasn't improved by the leaps and bounds I'd expected. My doctor suspects I may have (probably) developed some poor habits (sleeping, eating, etc.) during my previous job, and my body's having a slower recovery. Yes, I admit I wasn't sleeping/eating well during my old job, and after over year's worth of self-damage these things don't fix themselves overnight. So right now it's a detective game to figure out what exactly I'm missing/need in order to get back to my usual self, 100%.

It's really eye-opening to see what long-term stress can do to the body. Ever since I changed jobs, yes, I've been happier, but I also feel like I've been recovering from one long hangover. A friend had suggested I take "some time off" after leaving my previous job, rather than jumping into another one, just to recover better and be more refreshed for the challenges of my next job. It wasn't a bad idea, but considering how much trouble I had finding a new job in the first place I wasn't in a position to pick and choose "when" I could start fresh. You have to strike when the iron's hot, too. So there was no time for any mini vaction. But in hindsight it's no wonder why my "recuperation" is progressing more slowly.

Hopefully with my doctor on board we'll find a solution that'll help me feel more like myself and I can get back to all my randomness. ^^ I miss being, well, me!

  • Current Mood: drained drained
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Pokemon - Wobbuffet!

And You Said I was Crazy

It's no secret that I recently ditched my old crappy job for greener pastures. And while the majority of family/friends have supported my choice (most agree "it's about time!"), one particular acquaintance of mine wasn't so much. Incidentally, she worked alongside me at said job, so she was well aware of how stressed and unhappy I was, yet after I left she'd say things like, "oh, the job wasn't that bad," as though I was stressing out over nothing or was a plain wuss. She wasn't exactly our A-hole boss' number-one fan, either. Personally, I suspect she was just upset because I "left her behind" in that dump, and bossman probably saddled her with my abandoned workload. Whatever her reason, I didn't appreciate her attitude, and it made me almost regret leaving...but I had my health to think about. My choice to quit wasn't any reflection on her--If she thinks the place "isn't so bad," then she's more than happy to stay there for the rest of her life!

I heard through the grapevine that she quit Monday.

I'm not arrogant enough to expect an apology or anything. This news just reinforces my confidence in my decision to quit--that job was stressful and our boss was an ass. I wasn't some exception. The boss treats everybody equally...like shit. Some businessmen are just like that. I wish him (and his future employees) luck, because in the span of a month he's already lost two people, and let's just say the other people who work there aren't exactly the happiest of campers. I realize it's hard for businesses to find good people nowadays, but it's a two-way street: if you want good people to work for you, you have to treat them well, too.

  • Current Mood: relieved relieved
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Supernatural - Dean & Sam

Moral of the Story: Worrying Accomplishes Nothing

Latest goings-on in my life have been pretty boring but busy. I’m still getting used to my new job (as in I’m still a total rookie, something my boss doesn’t seem to quite fathom. Newsflash: newbies are bound to screw up in the beginning. It’s called learning and gaining experience!)…but on a whole it’s still much better than the shithole I worked for previously. Is it weird of me to say that I’m not overly worried? I mean, sure, I worry about job security, money, etc. like anybody else, but for some reason I don’t find myself stressing the hell out like I used to (and I’m a certifiable worrywart). So either I’ve grown some self-confidence, or I’ve been so numbed by my last job experience that nothing really fazes me anymore. Watch, the shit will hit the fan tomorrow and I’ll be eating my words. Then again, I suppose there’s always a possibility that hell can break loose tomorrow (hell, even today!)…that’s life! Worrying accomplishes nothing, except depriving me of sleep I reeeeeally need to catch up on.
  • Current Mood: complacent complacent
Xenosaga - Jr. hearts Eastwood flicks

Can't Wait for Zero Time Dilemma!

The third and final entry in the Zero Escape series, Zero Time Dilemma, debuts tomorrow, and like many fans I am thrilled! And to think that not long ago that there was a large possibility that this game would never materialize. But it goes to prove that game developers do listen to what their fans want.

Zero Escape has a special place in my heart, primarily because it was the first visual novel that truly opened my eyes to the ellusive video game genre. Now visual novels have become one of my favorite types of games, and I'm always clammoring for more to be localized in English. That's why I can't stress it enough: if you're a gamer who's even a tiny bit curious about Japanese visual novels, the Zero Escape series is a great starting point. It's got a great balance of story and puzzle, and though not all visual novels follow that exact formula, I found it to be particularly effective for a first-time western gamer such as myself (who expected some level of interaction in a video game).

Needless to say I have extremely high hopes for Zero Time Dilemma, and I doubt I'll be disappointed. It's sad to see the series end, but you know what they say about all good things. ;)
  • Current Mood: excited excited
  • Current Music: Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA f 2nd OST