As fans around the globe celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Pokemon franchise, the latest film, Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You!, is here to bring wave upon wave of nostalgia to those who grew up with the original anime series.
The film, which opened July 15 in Japan, takes us back to how Satoshi (or Ash, as he’s known in English), a ten-year-old Pokemon enthusiast eager to become a Pokemon Master, and Pikachu, an adorably mischievous electric mouse Pokemon with a profound distaste for being kept in pokeballs, first meet in Professor Okido’s (Oak’s) lab.
The start of their journey is a rocky one, as Pikachu rebels against having Ash as a trainer, but after fending off a flock of angry Spearows together, the two finally come to see eye to eye. After their victory against the Spearows, a giant rainbow-colored bird Pokemon, Ho-oh, soars overhead, leaving a single feather which falls into Satoshi’s hands. Captivated by what, at the time, was still an undiscovered Legendary Pokemon, Satoshi and Pikachu decide to seek out the mysterious Ho-oh to see him again.
New characters who weren’t part of the original series are also introduced: Makoto, an outgoing, tomboyish female trainer and her partner Piplup, plus Souji, a levelheaded male trainer whose goal is to become a Pokemon Professor and his partner Lucario. It is from them that Satoshi hears about the legend of Ho-oh, which goes: “The rainbow feather will show you the way to Ho-Oh, and the one to follow it will become the Hero of Legend.” The two join Satoshi on his journey to find and battle Ho-oh.
Like many modern-day anime movies, I Choose You! takes some of the most memorable moments from the original series and weaves them into the plot of the movie. However, instead of simply recycling full scenes, like most compilation films, general director Kunihiko Yuyama, who’s overseen the production of every Pokemon film and TV series to date, was put to the test in recreating and adapting some of the most nostalgic scenes from the original anime into movie form.
Yuyama attended the first showing of the film in Tokyo, where he commented, “the anime began with when Satoshi and Pikachu first met, and so I wanted to go back to zero and rebuild from there.”
As one can imagine, the pressures and expectations that came with recreating the most iconic moments of a widely beloved anime were high, but as the man behind 20 years of Pokemon animation, Yuyama, did not disappoint.
One particular heartstring-pulling scene involves Satoshi finding a weakened Charmander sitting alone in the rain, trying to shield the dwindling flame on his tail while waiting for his trainer, Cross – the new antagonist introduced in the film — to come back for him. Unbeknownst to this Charmander, Cross has abandoned him, feeling he is too weak in battle. Satoshi, unable to stomach this mistreatment, takes Charmander in, nurses him back to health, and offers him a place in his own party. The moment Charmander butts his head against the Pokeball Satoshi holds out to him practically dares the audience not to break into smiles.
The main ending theme song, “Oración’s Theme ~Let’s Walk Together~,” based on the instrumental piece “Oración” from the 10th Pokemon movie, was an impressive piece of teamwork. The singer, Asuca Hayashi, had previously performed the ending theme song for the 6th movie at the age of 14, while the lyrics were written by vocalist Futoshi of the famous J-pop band Aqua Timez with an arrangement by ak.homma (Akimitsu Homma), who has produced songs from popular Japanese artists like Ayumi Hamasaki and Nana Mizuki.
The film also debuts the long-awaited Marshadow, the world’s first and only Fighting/Ghost type Pokemon. In a unique technological tie-in, Marshadow was made available for download in theaters showing the movie for those carrying copies of either Pokemon Sun or Pokemon Moon.
Stunning visuals, nostalgia overload and a reaffirmation of the bond between our most beloved trainer and his Pokemon: as the franchise enters its second decade, I Choose You! gives long-term Pokemon fans the chance to relive some of the best moments of their childhood.
Annie Zhong is a Tokyo-based anime enthusiast with 20+ years of otaku history. She is dedicated to worshiping Pikachu.