Reviewby Callum May,
The Wind Festival is held once a year in Fura City, where people live together with the wind. Since long ago, on the final day of the festival, the legendary Pokémon Lugia will appear and bestow the blessings of the wind upon the people. This film is about everyone's stories, from Lisa, a high school girl who is just starting out as a Pokemon trainer, to Kagachi, a guy who can't stop lying to Torito, a researcher who lacks confidence in himself, to Hisui, an old lady who hates touching Pokemon, and Rarugo, a mysterious young girl who watches over the forest by herself.
Pokemon movies are often known for cheesy titles like “Zoroark: Master of Illusions” and “Hoopa and the Clash of Ages”, but the title of Pokemon the Movie: Everyone's Story has a very distinct meaning. Rather than being at the center of every conflict, this time Ash shares the limelight with an ensemble of local townsfolk. Many of the character arcs happen independent of Ash, and by the end of the movie, he's only present for about half of the events that occur. This means that there's a lot more time available to explore character motivations and give each some time in the spotlight. This is the best part of the film, especially for people who have gotten too used to the Pokemon movie formula.
It takes some time for the main conflict to be established, but that doesn't seem to be the focus of the story at all. Pokemon the Movie: Everyone's Story isn't about waiting for the legendary Pokemon to attack or clashing with an evil team. Instead, it begins with a group of townsfolk who lie to protect themselves or their loved ones. One favorite character of mine was Kagachi, a man who spends the film's beginning trying to cheer up his niece by pretending to be a master trainer. This leads him into a situation where he saves a Sudowoodo from an attack which results in the Pokemon following him around. In Japanese, Sudowoodo's name is “Usokki (Uso=Lie, Ki=Tree)” and his Pokemon cry is “Uso! Uso!” This annoys Kagachi, since Sudowoodo is always inadvertently guilt-tripping him by crying out “Lie! Lie!” It's clever interactions like these that eventually develop into heartwarming moments of clarity where the lies fade away.
Thankfully, these character conflicts take the focus for the majority of the film's runtime rather than the main plot. Although it successfully ties the cast together, Zeraora's personal story (and the one that Ash is most involved in) appears to retread a lot of ground for Pokemon. His story follows a similar arc to those of Mewtwo, Lucario, Genesect, and Volcanion along with countless others from the TV series. It's well-worn territory, but thankfully it's only given the same amount of screentime as any other character's narrative, staying true to the title of “Everyone's Story”.
Or rather, almost everyone's story. Those expecting to see Lugia for more than a few moments may be disappointed, especially after its reveal in the first teaser trailer. (That footage doesn't actually appear in the film.) But with that said, Lugia's presence wouldn't have been that effective due to the sheer amount of stories taking place at any given time. Having to deal with Lugia as well as Zeraora's problems may have taken the focus away from the stories involving the human characters.
The story takes place in Fura City, a movie-original locale presumed to be in the Johto region. This is perhaps one of the most ambitious attempts in a Pokemon movie to populate a city. Each shot is filled with moving characters and Pokemon. Even shots where two characters are conversing will have small silly moments of people interacting with Pokemon in fun ways. The beginning of the film introduces the cast with a sequence exploring a crowded street and how the main characters interact with others. However, the staff's ambition may have gotten ahead of them in some scenes, where the backgrounds are filled with 3D character models that have odd shading and stiff movements. Other shots had clearly cloned the same set of characters several times to fill a background.
Although the 3D character and Pokemon models struggle to fit in with the film's 2D aesthetic, OLM Digital's 3D backgrounds were responsible for many of the most exciting scenes. One of the most memorable shots features the camera flying through Fura City, eventually finding itself at the Wind Festival where it shows the title logo. Other exciting 3D moments have the camera following Ash as he chases a Tyranitar down a alleyway and a battle with Ash where the camera follows the electric attacks closely. 3DCG has always amplified the action of Pokemon movies, but we're still a ways off from 3D character models that can fit smoothly into the films' worlds.
One of the first things fans noticed about this film were the distinctive new character designs, particularly for Ash. Character designer Shizue Kaneko developed an aesthetic featuring bright colors and idiosyncratic clothing choices, with the fashionista character Lisa having a particularly unique appearance. Likewise, Torito's bright green hair contrasts nicely with his orange monocle and white lab coat. Each character has their own three specific colors to easily identify them. Kaneko's contributions were so signature to the film that she was even asked to provide illustrations for the ending credits.
Due to the collaboration between OLM and WIT Studio, Kaneko's designs were able to come to life in some really beautiful ways. Even though the film only features three memorable battles, much of the animation is used to emphasize the cast's personalities. Sudowoodo may be essentially a rock Pokemon shaped like a tree, but his expressive visual gags make him a valuable screen presence. The same goes for his pal Kagachi, who is wild and emotive when trying to impress his niece, but contemplative and awkward when alone. The previous film, Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You!, had a similar level of character animation, but it was unable to maintain consistency for its whole runtime. Perhaps WIT Studio's collaboration with OLM allowed this film to have high-quality animation throughout.
Pokemon the Movie: Everyone's Story is one of the most successful attempts at telling multiple stories within the same Pokemon film. Although Zeraora's plot feels too familiar, the cast of human characters and their own personal motivations and secrets leave a stronger impression. There is a possibility that the localisation won't be able to properly translate some aspects and may lose the tone of some important scenes, but if they manage to nail it, Pokemon fans are in for a standout film that reinvents the formula yet again.
Overall : A
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : A+
Music : B+
+ Character stories are compelling and easy to engage with, great 2D animation throughout, standout visual style and exciting use of 3D backgrounds
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