Pokémon’s 20th theatrical feature is shaping up to be an emotional, lavishly animated look back to the series’ very start.
In Japan, there are certain events that let you know summer is in full swing. Towering thunderheads form in the humid skies. The sound of fireworks festivals echo through the night. And in theaters, a new Pokémon anime film is released.
And no, we’re not exaggerating about the frequency of Pokémon theatrical features. Since 1998, the Pocket Monsters franchise has released a new movie each and every summer. But after roughly two decades of moving relentlessly forward, this year Pokémon is taking a moment to look back. The 20th Pokemon movie, subtitled I Choose You, is turning the clock all the way back to the beginning of the animated Pokémon narrative, and the film’s first trailer has just been released.
The clip opens with on unseen man saying “There’s sort of a problem with this leftover Pokémon.” That doesn’t seem to bother series protagonist Satoshi/Ash, though, who eagerly says “Please, let me have him.” The man reluctantly consents, adding, “See, his name is Pikachu…”
Latecomers to the Pokémon fandom may assume that Ash and Pikachu have always been inseparable pals, but those who watched the anime’s very first TV episode know that their relationship wasn’t always marked by such friendly compatibility. As a matter of fact, in the beginning Pikachu was downright rebellious. As shown in the clip, he refuses to go in a Poké Ball, and resents being literally dragged around by Ash. When the young Trainer asks “Do you hate me?”, Pikachu nods and, though only saying his name, seems to be indicating a pretty clear “Yes.”
Against this backdrop, it looks like the new I Choose You movie is going to be placing its focus less on tracking down Legendary Pokémon or saving the world from some sort of crisis, and more on how the bond forms between Ash and Pikachu.
▼ Though Ho-Oh does make a dramatic appearance in the trailer.
It’s unclear how closely the events of the I Choose You movie will align with those the Pokémon TV episodes with which its story overlaps. For fans who ‘ve been around since the beginning, though, it at least offers a concise way to relive the excitement of the early Pokémon arc with a fresh coat of paint that’s far more lavish than what the anime could afford when it was just an unproven television series, compared to the massive pop cultural icon it is today.
And for those who missed out on seeing Ash and Pikachu’s friendship develop in real time, I Choose You appears to be a great way to see an important part of the franchise’s history without having to watch several hours of old TV episodes.
Pokemon the Movie 20 – I Choose You premiers in Japanese theaters on July 15.
Source, images: YouTube/ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル
Follow Casey on Twitter, where it’s a little hard for him to hear Pikachu’s voice and not want to rewatch Escaflowne.