As the fourteenth film based upon the enormously successful Pokémon anime series, Japanese animation studio Oriental Light and Magic have seen fit to try something new.
Soon due to hit retail on April 9th, thanks to Universal Pictures UK, this dual-disc DVD release of epic proportions sees Pokéfans able to view both Pokémon the Movie: Black – Victini and Reshiram, and Pokémon the Movie: White – Victini and Zekrom. These are alternate counterparts to each other, scenes at specific moments within each being the only alteration that sees the spotlight placed on whichever of the legendary dragon Pokémon you favour.
At the beginning of the film we find Ash, Iris and Cyrus – with Pikachu, Axew and Pansage in tow – continuing their travels across the Unova region. Turning around a bend the group notices two Deerling stranded along the side of a rocky crevasse, with Ash and Pikachu soon rushing to their aid only to soon find themselves facing a similar predicament.
It is here that, unbeknownst to them, they are first graced with the presence of the mythical Pokémon Victini, who lends Ash its power to allow him to perform a gravity-defying leap to safety. This sparks a curious friendship, where Victini, able to turn itself invisible, follows Ash and his friends to the nearby destination of Eindoak Town, where its citizens are currently frivolously celebrating the Harvest Festival.
Having explored the sights and sounds of the city upon arrival, their attention is soon diverted to participating within the Annual Battle Competition, its rules seeing Pokémon Trainers combat their opponents in 1-on-1 battles with no substitutions. Seeing success early on in the competition, Ash soon hits problems when he blindly chooses Tepig to fight against Samurott. Sensing trouble, Victini revitalises a worn out Tepig and grants him extra power – taking out his opponent with an almighty Ember attack. Similar assistance also sees Ash able to defeat a Hydreigon with his overtly cumbersome Scraggy.
The Pokémon Trainer who he bested, Carlita, then reveals that Victini is the secret to his victory, and Ash lures it out of hiding by offering the mythical Pokémon tasty macarons – a treat that it seemingly nurses a particular appeal for.
From this encounter, however, the plot instantly becomes far more foreboding, seeing Ash and his friends become embroiled within the history of local legends as they discover Victini’s close association with the Sword of the Vale, a monumental castle that is said to have been flown to its mountainside location from a distant valley, and the presence of an emanating power known as the Dragon Force.
Team Rocket also make an appearance, their perseverance to cause trouble finding their latest scheme aimed toward the capture of Victini for their own dastardly needs. Although, regrettably, their presence throughout the film is a notably subdued one than fans may be expecting.
What surprises is the particularly thought-provoking plot, an underlying morale of self-sacrifice for the greater good that finds itself well-explored. Whilst the writing at times seems more than a little sophisticated for the younger audience to which the anime stereo-typically appeals, there is a level of depth here that will ensure that the older crowd will feel rewarded by the viewing experience.
Impressing from the outset of the hour-and-a-half feature is the striking quality of animation, a vast improvement on that seen during its early beginnings back in 1997, and serving to enhance the already engaging experience that the film offers. Even as a standard definition DVD release, it’s noticeably sharp.
Ash’s latest cinematic adventure may very well prove to be one of his best, and we’re certainly glad to know that there’ll be more to come. Pokéfans will most definitely want to pick this up.