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It’s quarter to four on a Friday, and I’ve just got back from school me and my buddy have already had a Pokemon battle on the ride home. We are both excited to show how our Pokemon have grown and show off new captures. That excitement and nostalgia came rushing back in the opening scene of Pokemon The Movie: I Choose You!.
It’s been over twenty years since Ash and Pikachu made their first steps in their Pokemon adventure. The Indigo League was a magical time in the Pokemon series defining a generation and touching the hearts of many young Pokemon trainers such as myself.
This was when Ash had little to no Pokemon experience and walked in the shadow of Gary. After defeating a flock of angry Spearow and “borrowing” Misty’s bike, Ash and Pikachu come across a beautiful view of a rainbow over Viridian City.
In the sky, they spot the legendary Pokemon Ho-oh, tantalized by this rare Pokemon. Ash is left wondering what its presence could mean.
Bottom Line-Up Front
- Pokemon The Movie: I Choose You is a reboot that condenses the anime’s first season into a feature-length film. I love this idea, and overall the movie does a great job of capturing major moments within the anime. However, I believe it falls flat to some odd decisions, of removing Misty and Brock and cutting Team Rocket’s screen time to a minimum.
- I love watching Charizard outnumbered take on a group of mind-controlled wild Pokemon. This recaptured that Pokemon magic from when I was young watching Charizard save the day in Pokemon: 2,000 and Pokemon The Movie: 3.
A Legends Beginning
As a kid, I remember being intrigued by the appearance of Ho-oh in Pokemon I Choose You! I would only fall further into this mystery with the following episode, Pokemon Emergency!, where Ash explains to Professor Oak that he saw a Pokemon similar to an ancient carving.
After all these years, this part of the story is wrapped up in a nostalgia-inducing twentieth Pokemon movie. Pokemon The Movie: I Choose You!
The movie appeals to both old fans that grew up watching the original series. And newer fans of the franchise as it shows how Ash and Pikachu began their journey. It pictures Ash as a novice trainer far below his capabilities displayed in Sun & Moon Ultra Legends.
However, the movie does a great job of displaying Ash’s incompetence as a trainer. The original series was much funnier and showed Ash’s growth as a trainer and personality. Although I could be biased, Ash, Brock, and Misty’s dynamic was hilariously unmatched. However, I’ll cut the movie some slack as it’s challenging to condense the character development from a series into a film.
Just like the first episode of Pokemon, the movie starts with a high-octane Pokemon battle being shown on Ash’s television. Excited to begin his journey, Ash cannot decide whether to choose Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur. As a result, gets a rough night’s sleep, causing him to be late to pick up his first Pokemon from Professor Oak.
Ash tells Professor Oak that he has decided to choose Squirtle as his starter, only to find that it has already been taken. When Ash discovers that all three starters have been taken, he is left with only one choice to claim a Pikachu as his Pokemon. But Pikachu is less than pleased with the idea of a Pokemon adventure and would much rather laze around.
A Series of Similarities
So far, the movie has mirrored the series with minor differences, such as the absence of Gary mocking Ash and Ash’s mom and friends meeting him outside Professor Oak’s Lab. Later Ash can be seen pulling Pikachu with a rope before attempting to catch a Pidgey.
It all goes horribly wrong, though. As Ash tries to throw a rock at the Pidgey, he misses and hits a Spearow instead.
So begins the cat and mouse chase of angry Spearow. I love how the movie so far has kept tightly knit to the original series. It is, after all, Ash’s origin story. It’s really cool to see this story in updated animation. I do miss the old art style, though, and the embarrassed Spearow was much funnier in the original show.
From this point forward, the story has significant changes as Misty does not appear at all. While I understand this choice for the film’s overall plot, she plays a big part in Ash’s journey. After Pikachu saves Ash and defeats the proud and angry Spearow, we again see Ho-oh appear. However, this time Ho-oh drops a Rainbow Feather.
The Fork in the Road
From here on out, the movie significantly diverges from the original story and tells an original story from existing foundations laid by the Indigo League series. We are introduced to Verity, a hot shot Water-type trainer who battles Ash after encountering an Entei. Ash also meets Sorrel, a Pokemon scholar with dreams of being a Pokemon professor.
Periodically there are iconic moments from the original series in the movie, such as Ash catching Caterpie in the post-introduction montage and saving Charmander from a brutal storm after being abandoned by a trainer named Cross. This flows nicely into the next act, as the rivalry between Ash and Cross grows.
After Ash reveals, that he has a Rainbow Feather, the trio band together to find the legendary Pokemon Ho-oh. On their journey, Ash evolves Metapod and releases Butterfree into the wild. The group is chased by a group of enraged Primeapes. Charmander also evolves into Charmeleon before Cross challenges Ash to battle. Unfortunately, Charmeleon loses the fight to Incineroar, and Ash struggles with his defeat.
So far, the movie has strayed from the original series by altering major events to suit the film’s narrative. For example, Charmander’s story is significantly changed as Charmeleon evolves soon after evolving from Charmander and doesn’t hold any of the pride and ego of Charizard in the show.
Butterfree’s release is another example of this, as it’s used as a way to prove to Ho-oh that Ash is worthy of the Rainbow Feather. This explains the reason for Raikou’s appearance.
Ash’s Lowest Point
While at the Pokemon center, Sorrel researches the legend of Ho-oh, discovering that Ho-oh gives trainers the Rainbow Feather trainers it deems pure of heart as an invitation to meet. Sorrel continues to read that the FeatherFeather had once fallen into evil hands with catastrophic consequences. Foreshadowing future events with Cross and Ash.
Retreating to a forest at night, a series of dark thoughts race through his mind. It’s soon revealed that the Pokemon Marshadow is stalking Ash in his shadow, feeding him negative thoughts and dreams. This is an exciting part of the movie and the lowest point for Ash in his story so far.
In the main series, Charizard is one of Ash’s most powerful Pokemon. However, in earlier episodes, Charizard disobeys Ash’s orders, filled with pride and arrogance it would take Ash to once again save Charizard’s life for Charizard’s loyalty to return. After this pivotal moment, Charizard protects Ash without time for thought, although it remains somewhat prideful.
As a fan of the main series, I think they respected Ash and Charizard’s friendship dynamic in the film very well… The movie does not shy away from the dark corners of Pokemon as Sorrel reveals to Ash and Verity that Pokemon are incredibly loyal to a fault.
As his Family’s Luxray saved his life at the cost of its own. I love this addition to the film as you get the sense that the film is targeting the older audience of Pokemon by including dark themes and the addition of Ash’s Charizard. Furthermore, it becomes relevant later when Ash sacrifices himself to save Pikachu.
In the final act, Ash, Verity, Sorrel, and the newly acquainted Bonji discover the Rainbow Rock with guidance from the Rainbow Feather.
However, before Ash can use the Feather, Cross once again makes an appearance challenging Ash to another Pokemon battle in a bid to steal the Rainbow Feather. This is my favorite battle in the movie as Charmeleon evolves into Charizard and defeats Inceneroar getting revenge for how Cross had once treated him.
Although defeated, Cross wrestles with Ash, steals the Rainbow Feather, and activates it upon the Rainbow Rock. Just like the legend read in Bonji’s book, evil corrupts the Feather and Marshadow quickly takes over. Channeling power from the rock Marshadow takes control over Cross’s Lycanroc and the many spectating wild Pokemon to attack the group. Outnumbered, the group struggles to fend off their attacks. Ash and Pikachu are split up from the group cornered. Ash uses himself as a shield to save Pikachu and is hit by a barrage of powerful attacks. As Ash lies beside Pikachu, battered and bruised, he begs Pikachu to return to its Pokeball. Unpredictably Pikachu speaks and explains that it doesn’t want to go in the Pokeball as it always wants to be with Ash.
Ash is hit by an array of attacks and seemingly killed; however, the power of the Rainbow Feather brings Ash back to life. He is reunited with his Pokemon and friends. After this event, Ash challenges Ho-oh to battle. The movie doesn’t show who wins but ends with Ash going his separate ways from Verity and Sorrel.
An Old Pokemon Fans Thoughts
As an old fan of the Pokemon franchise, I’ve seen Pokemon evolve over the years in its art style and quality of games and seen myriad merchandise sustain on shelves. I believe that Pokemon The Movie I Choose You does a fantastic job of capturing that electrifying feeling of Pokemon from the late 90s and early 2000s.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable watch that catered to the series’ long-time fans. The animation was top-notch, and I loved seeing Pokemon such as Charizard and Onix with a fresh coat of paint. That being said, I have a few quarrels with the movie as I think Verity and Sorrel are the film’s weakest parts. I believe that the film would benefit much more with Brock and Misty as Ash’s companions.
As the film is set in an alternative timeline, adding these two characters wouldn’t matter. As the film targets long-time fans, it would make sense to focus on these characters rather than introducing new throw-away characters. Moreover, I’ve yet to talk about the lovable Team Rocket in the film because of the villainous trio Jessie, James, and Meowth (“that’s right”), but that’s because they barely have any screen time whatsoever.
In true Team Rocket fashion, the trio explains their evil plan to the viewer to capture Ho-oh, and they begin to follow Ash and his friends. However, this is an excuse to show the odd scene of them blasting off and is used only as a quick gag.
While I enjoy this, Team Rocket is my favorite character. They play a significant role in the main series and are often displayed as the anti-hero in the movies. For example, joining the heroes in Pokemon 3: The Movie or in Battle Aboard the SS. Anne. Therefore, I was expecting and hoping they’d join with Ash, but this never happens as they fall off a cliff in the final act.
Finally, I think there isn’t much at stake compared to previous Pokemon movies. The film doesn’t explain why Ho-oh selects trainers to become the Rainbow Hero.
The film does demonstrate that in the wrong hands, the FeatherFeather corrupts, and we see that firsthand; however, before Ho-oh gives Ash the Feather, there is no looming threat. Making the plot feel kind of pointless other than the reveal that Pikachu can talk.
Main Characters Explored
Does he need an introduction? Ash is the main character of the Pokemon movies and series. In the I Choose You! movie Ash is portrayed as a novice trainer, unlike present in the series. Although a new trainer, Ash learns quickly and becomes a formidable trainer. While Ash is a strong trainer in the series, it took him much longer to get to this point.
In the I Choose You! movie Ash only catches a Caterpie and Charmander, which would later evolve into Butterfree and Charizard.
This is significantly different from the Indigo League series. As Ash catches Caterpie, Pidgeotto, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle early in the show and before he releases Butterfree in episode 22, Bye Bye Butterfree. I like this approach as it allows more time to establish Ash’s Charizard as a character and show how much Ash’s Butterfree meant to him.
Verity is a Pokemon trainer from Twinleaf town and joins Ash on his adventure to find Ho-oh. She has a competitive streak and occasionally acts as Ash’s rival and mentor. Her Pokemon journey is driven by a desire to be accepted by her mother. This is lightly touched upon in the movie but isn’t explored too deeply.
A lack of attention to this stopped me from caring too much about this character. I think her character would have benefited greatly with the addition of a scene between Verity and her mother battling or struggling to reconcile. That being said, Verity is no push. Her Piplup is shown to be well trained and later revealed that she owns a Lapras.
Sorrel is the polar opposite of Verity. His journey is propelled by the desire to become a Pokemon professor. He doesn’t care much for battling but does own a powerful Lucario. He is quiet but caring of his friends and all Pokemon alike, as shown when he helps save Charmander.
I don’t like or dislike Sorrel as a character as he is just flat. There isn’t much to him, and he is only used to explain to the viewer why events are occurring, a role which is later shared with Bonji. Yes, we learn that he has a tragic past with his family’s Luxray, but there is a lack of emotion while he tells this story.
Just like Verity, Sorrel’s arc is never really fulfilled. Although this film is the first introduction to these characters, it leads to questioning why they established these characters as Brock and Misty replacements in the first place.
In my opinion, the film would have been a lot better if Sorrel had been removed completely, and Bonji solely took on his role. His character is more in intune with the Ho-oh legend. It has significant experience and age over Ash and Verity, making for a more interesting dynamic than another hero’s origin tale.
I can imagine Ash and Verity’s appetite for battle envigorate Bonji’s spirit. Giving him new motivation to research other legends of the Pokemon world to wrap up his arc nicely.
Ho-oh Fan Theories
Before Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! fans of the series were left to guess the significance of Ho-oh’s appearance in the first episode of the Indigo League. It was believed that Ho-oh made Ash immortal by making his wish to go on a Pokemon adventure forever come true. As Ho-oh’s Pokedex entry states:
- “HO-OH’s feathers glow in seven colors depending on the angle at which they are struck by light. These feathers are said to bring happiness to the bearers. This POKéMON is said to live at the foot of a rainbow”.
- “It will reveal itself before a pure-hearted trainer by shining its bright rainbow-colored wings.”
You’ll be thrilled to know that there are a ton of Pokemon in this movie. Although the film is based on the first episode, it’s not limited to the first and second generations of Pokemon.
Newer fans will be delighted by the addition of Lycanroc, Incineroar, and Marshadow. I like this as it makes the world feel much more significant and establishes that these new Pokemon have always been part of the franchise.
Naturally, the movie starts in Pallet Town of the Kanto region. Still, after Ash’s adventures into the world, the location becomes pretty ambiguous as characters shout out the Raizen Mountain Range. As a nerd, I wonder where this film is set on earth. However, I can’t criticize this too much as the series has always added new towns and cities not seen in the video games. This allowed for the addition of a newer generation of Pokemon.
Older Pokemon fans will be pleased to know that many original 151 Pokemon appear in this movie, and it’s cool to see Pokemon such as Onix and Charizard animated with great detail. I very much enjoyed the addition of Vaporeon. Although its screen time is brief, it’s one of my favorite Pokemon, and I never realized how small this Water-type was.
I was rather disappointed that Ash never caught a Pidgeotto as arguably Pidgeotto was one of Ash’s most beloved Pokemon as his second ever capture. Pidgeotto served Ash well on his Pokemon journey winning him many battles and helping save his life on occasion.
Question: Is there a Sequel to Pokemon The Movie: I Choose You?
Answer: Pokemon The Movie: The Power of Us would release in 2018 a year after I Choose You and would carry on from the events of the alternate timeline. Pokemon The Movie: Secrets of the Jungle would be the third instalment of the alternate timeline and released in 2020.
Question: What Happens To Ash’s Pidgeot?
Answer: Ash releases Pidgeot to protect the Pidgey and Pidgeotto of Viridian forest from a flock of Spearow and Fearow in season 2 of the Pokemon series in Pallet Party Panic. Ash promises to Pidgeot that he will one day return to it however, Ash has yet to fulfill this promise.
Question: Why Did Brock Leave Ash in the Anime?
Answer: Fueld with new ambition to become a Pokemon doctor Brock left Ash at the end of their adventures in Shinnoh in the Diamond and Pearl Shinnoh League Victors season.
I Choose You Guide: Conclusion
In conclusion, Pokemon The Movie: I Choose You is great at honoring the original material. As a long-time fan of the original series, I thoroughly enjoyed this reboot of Ash’s first steps into the Pokemon world. Although the film has flat supporting characters and the absence of Misty and Brock is sadly missed, it’s still a fun watch.
The dynamic relationship between Ash, Pikachu, and Charizard is my favorite aspect of the film. As I loved seeing these characters meet for the first time again, it’s a great reminder and introduction to newer fans of the origins of Ash’s most powerful Pokemon.
There is little urgency in the story as there is little at stake, and I think this left me feeling as though the film was pointless. Mewtwo in the first Pokemon Movie or the threat of natural disaster in Pokemon 2000. This Offers way more urgency and poses challenging situations for the main characters to deal with, making for a more entertaining watch.
Perhaps the magic of Pokemon is rooted in a time long passed, a simpler time for many older franchise fans. A time when the series moved slower but with extra care and thought for the product. Maybe there was an ounce of cynicism within me while watching this movie that disallowed me to let go and fully enjoy the film. Overall, I did enjoy it; it was a great blast from the past.