“Bullying is wrong.”

It arrived on Saturday and it was a bloody corker. The latest Pokémon games, Pokémon X & Y hit shelves around the world on Saturday. But it’s not over yet, the English language dub of the latestfilm is set to premiere this coming Saturday. Join THN as we take a look back over the entireseries of Pokémon films.

Director: Kunihiko Yuyama

Cast: Sarah Natochenny, Emily Bauer, Michele Knotz, Bill Rogers, Jimmy Zoppi, Ikue Ootani, Eileen Stevens, Sean Schemmel, Marc Thompson, Wayne Grayson, Bella Hudson

Plot:  Ash and friends rescue a Zorua and discover that she is looking for her mother. They decide to help the Pokémon, and soon find themselves in a deserted city battling a business man with the power to see into the future.

As the only Pokémon film in the Diamond and Pearl era that stands alone, POKEMON: ZOROARK MASTER OF ILLUSIONS is a curious title that actually takes us all the way back to Silver and Gold. It does this with the inclusion of legendaries from that time including Raikou, Suicune, Entei, and Celebi. Having these Pokémon join us again was a great way to assure audiences that the franchise wasn’t just pushing for more new Pokémon to sell.

After a prologue that details a Pokémon tournament and the current state of a captured Zoroark, we are quickly thrust into a story that seems a little on the lighter side at first. Which is of no surprise when we consider all of the universe hopping of the connected trilogy of films that preceded this entry. Zorua, having escaped her prison, is seen being incredibly cheeky to everyone she comes across. With the ability to mimic any Pokémon or even person, Zorua is a mischievous little creature that, considering she is searching for her mother, is a bit too concerned with teasing and showing off. Its annoying little giggle EVERYTIME it morphs is also something that grinds my bacon.

Zorua is saved from a hoard of understandably pissed Vigoroth, by Ash, Brock, and Dawn. Brock once again sounds like a much older man for some reason. In fact, it kind of creeps me out. Dawn is also given the poor line of “Bullying is wrong.” which has all the subtlety of POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE – METWEON STRIKES BACK. The gang are suddenly shocked and taken aback by Zorua’s ability to speak. It’s not like they have encountered Mewtwo, Lucario, Shaymin, Slowking, Lugia, Arceus, Darkrai, Jirachi, or Meowth before. So a talking Pokémon must be a real novelty to them.  The gang then look towards Crown City, lit up in the darkness of the night; it makes for a fantastic sight. However, nothing can prepare to the beauty of the town during daylight. Zorua explains how she is out to rescue her mother, and that’s when Piplup and Pikachu step in and convince the humans to help Zorua. This is another strange turn of events, as the humans have never needed convincing before. It makes you wonder why Piplup and Pikachu even bothered.

We are then shown Zoroark, the evolved form of Zorua, being held captive by Mr. Kodai. Mr. Kodai is an impressive villain and one with a lot of character. He has the ability to see through time after he touched a time ripple left behind by Celebi, 20 years ago. Now that his power is starting to fade he wants to track down Celebi so he can encounter a time ripple once again. He’s the man with a power he is terrified to give up. He has become reliant on his power to build an empire, becoming a business and media tycoon. He now uses his fortune to instil fear and have control over the people of Crown City. Kodai forces Zoroark to do his bidding by convincing her he still has Zorua in his possession. Zoroark is made to go into crown city and take on the form of the three legendary Pokémon Entei, Raikou, and Suicune and create some illusions which come across as disasters and force the city to be evacuated.

Before the city can be evacuated, we are treated to a gorgeous tour of the town thanks to following Celebi on a CG flythrough. Crown City is absolutely stunning which comes as no surprise as it bears a striking resemblance to stunning European locales such as Amsterdam, and the most beautiful place in the world, Bruges. But without Colin Farrell there as the worst tourist in the world.  The architecture, the textures, the local waterways, anyone who has ever been lucky enough to visit such places will find this animated film to stir memories inside them. But before Ash and friends can step foot inside the city, Zoroark is causing panic with her illusions. Not finding this chaos satisfying enough, Kodai even adds special effects to create even more disturbing images of destruction. It shows the dangers of having one man control large amonts of business and the media itself. They may as well have given him an Australian accent and called him Murdoch. For a kids film, it isn’t afraid to get a bit political and after warning children of the dangers of fighting and the importance of acceptance, now we’re warning them to not trust everything the media tells them. We’ve come a long way baby.

After the city is evacuated, Ash, Brock, and Dawn meet an investigative journalist called Karl. He helps them into the city, and had the film been released just a year or two later, I’m sure he would have uncovered a phone hacking scandal. As they navigate the wonderful scenery, Karl discovers that certain things that appeared to be destroyed on the news are in fact still in one piece. By this point it is also clear that Zorua’s arrogant attitude has been completely disbanded. Perhaps the witers realised it was too similar to Shaymin in POKEMON: GIRATINA AND THE SKY WARRIOR. We also realise that Dawn has real issues with Zorua turning into her. Perhaps it’s a self-conscious thing. We also discover that 20 years ago, when Kodai first touhed the time ripple, al the plants in Crown City died, and this is bound to happen again. As Zorua runs off to find her Mima, we are treated to a scene in which Ash and Dawn simply say ‘Pikachu’ and ‘Piplup’ but the Pokémon understand them exactly, and soon follow Zorua. This shows the perfect connection between these Pokémon and their trainers.

Ash, Dawn, and Brock are kidnapped by Kodai, but they are soon released by Kodai’s personal secretary who happens to be an undercover saboteur. The real problems are only just beginning as the real Suicune, Entei, and Raikou are on their way to Crown City to confront Zoroark about its gross misrepresentation of character. Raikou was previously relegated to the TV movie POKEMON: RAIKOU – THE LEGEND OF THUNDER and ENtei was just a figment of a little girl’s imagination in POKEMON 3: THE MOVIE – SPELL OF UNOWN, so we finally get to see them all in battle and together. It’s the Pokémon equivalent to a rock band reforming. At this point I’d also like to mention Jesse and James, who have been present during every film, but have become such an inconsequential sidenote that it’s no longer any fun. Even their bumbling fails to be even the slightest bit funny anymore, and the fourth wall breaking of the first 3 efforts is now a thing of the past.

With some beautiful visuals and interesting action sequences, POKEMON: ZOROARK MASTER OF ILLUSION is an enjoyable romp, but misses out on the epic feel of the previous few films. It also falls into the traps of earlier films, such as the poor dialogue and becoming a bit too touchy feely. The main antagonist was interesting, but he was also played as being a bit too cruel while the star Pokémon, Zorua, just wasn’t that appealing.I also felt as though the relationship between Zorua and Zoroark could have been more touching in places. A good effort, and the animation is faultless. The climax was rather fitting though, and with so many legendary Pokémon joining together in the final moments it was quite the epic conclusion. This is the final appearance of Dawn in the movie universe, which is a shame as she became the best female companion of Ash, even if she was sidelined a bit in this film. Brock is also on to bigger and better things after this film, so once again it’s all change in the world of Pokémon.

Best Performance By A Pokémon:  Zoroark is the star here, and much better than Zorua, mostly because she doesn’t speak. Everything is emoted through screams, and we see the pain it causes Zoroark to be forced into doing such terrible things. It’s the first time, in the films, we’ve seen that mother type Pokémon, which reminds us how protective animals can be of their young. She gets some excellent scenes of battle where she gains retribution for her previous indiscretions, and the reuniting with Zorua is moving at least on her end. Plus, she is able to mimic anyone and anything, which just goes to show her range.

Best Battle: My favourite has to be when Brock and Dawn send out their Pokémon to buy Ash and Zaorua some more time. They take on Kodai’s bodyguard and his gang of Scizors and Ninjasks. Dawn uses Piplup, who kicks some major Ninjask arse, which makes up Piplup’s use as a slapstick character earlier on, and Mamoswine. Brock releases his Sudowoodo and Croagunk. Croagunk hasn’t had chance to drag Brock away from his philandering ways in this film, so it’s great to see him in perfect combat mode, as a hand-to-hand fighter. Zoroark joins the fight at the end, showing that she is no longer decived by Kodai’s evil ways. The only problem with this battle is that Kodai’s bodyguard could have easily stayed in the vehicle with Kodai and driven around Dawn and Brock, making the whole thing kind of pointless. Ah well.

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Come back tomorrow for our next PokéMovie Marathon article. Gotta read ‘em all here.

Pokémon X & Y are released for the Nintendo 3DS are out now. POKEMON: THE MOVIE: GENESECT AND THE LEGEND AWAKENED will premiere on CITV’s Movie Club at 9:25 am on 19th October in the UK, and on Cartoon Network in the US.