Little subjects it is time for me to bring yet another factual opinion on the pokemon movies. This week it’s the third one that is going to get reviewed. Like always the shorts that come prior to these are not being taken into the review and if possible I try to watch the uncensored version with english audio. This movie featured the legendary pokémon Entei and the mysterious Unown as its main subject. It is produced by OLM Inc, whose is responsible for all 22 animated pokémon movies. This would be the last Pokémon movie written by Takeshi Shudo and also be the last movie Warner Bros would launch internationally up until detective Pikachu. Like my previous reviews, I will discuss the plot in detail in the third part of this review, so that part will contain major spoilers.
How Does it look and sound
Entei, the spell of the Unown is the best looking Pokémon animated movie I have reviewed to date. Only being launched one year after the second one, (US launch in April 2001) the improvements are quite noticeable The drawings in a distance have significantly improved, right up until the end credits where they might not have tried as hard. The movie has a much more ethereal setting , surreal even, with spirit realms and fantasy worlds. Lighting looks a lot chunkier in this movie and it doubles down on explosions and special effects. The 3d animation we saw used in the second part returns to animate the unown , and unlike the last movie here it works! Unown are supposed to be from a different dimension and those qualities are portrayed quite well.The way pokémon combat is mostly animated overall seems great and well thought out. At first you wonder why Entei uses such odd coloured flames (even if he has an attack called Sacred Fire) yet later we find out there are “beam struggles” with other fire pokémon and it all just ends up reading a lot better. We also finally get a really colourful setting,. Mewtwo’s palace was kind of bland in looks and about half way in the second we mostly ran through icy landscapes. While the setting here is mostly crystalised landscapes we do see some nice vibrant colours in it and around the middle part we get a few other settings to keep it fresh. The crystals setting itself can even range from a bright princessy looking bedroom, a cool blue crystalised flowerfield with spikes as a warning and even twisted strains of crystal with nothing but endless black depths below. There was also a lot of attention to detail, in terms of animation. At one point Misty and Brock enter a room while riding a stream of water gun. When Ash rejoins them their hair has actually changed from being wet.While it sounds logical these kind of effects oftenly get overlooked and people would just and drops to their har.. but in this case it is actually weighed down and slightly darker as well. Tiny details occur throughout
The sound design I am somewhat less ecstatic about, overall the music score just felt very forgettable. The only song that stuck somewhat is the remix of PJ Lequerica ‘s Johto Journeys opening. Besides that the music is there and it isn’t detracting either but never did I get the feeling ‘this is pokémon or now ‘this is amazing. Near the conclusion there is one particular scene that has some great music but at least during the first two thirds of the movie it all feels a bit , meh. There is one particular entry that felt particularly disjointed and it was something that made me frown a little, but that disjointed tone kinda fits the tone of the movie, so I somewhere have to give them credits for choosing this as a score, it seems well thought out it just hardly managed to capture me. I missed the quirky sound design that was in the first and second movie. At least I could not detect effects they “stole” from other movies. So little monsters if you know of a weird sound effect in it please let me know.. it has become a sport of me somewhat. All in all just forgettable sound design.
How does it Feel
So when we come down to the emotional impact of this movie, I have mixed feelings. Do not get my wrong both of my feelings are fully factually correct and a lot better than that of others who have written these reviews but this movie does feel very pokémon and not very pokémon at the same time. That doesn’t mean I do not like this movie though, in fact all in all I was very invested in this movie. Which was mostly due to it’s ironclad plot, but more on that later. This movie felt consistent. The treat wasn’t a black and white villian but the concept of how grief and loneliness and how it can impact people. A story on how we can fool ourselves with denial or refusing to see reality and how we can become a prisoner to our own delusions. That is is a lot more powerful stuff than ‘People were mean to me.. time for revenge’ or ‘I liked collecting Pokémon Cards I need to have more so let me destroy the world to collect real ones’. We get an antagonist much more comparable to the Japanese Mewtwo rather than the Western one, resulting in Ash fight being much more layered this time around. The way the movie opened with a trainer battle featuring the opening team, hugging his pokemon was an homage to the way the Mewtwo movie started. A nice little tribute. The battles feel like pokémon battles, although they can be fairly short that actually is much more reminiscent to how things go in the games so I did not particularly mind. It felt like good hybrid of the games and the series, while the later battles added some oomph. Now the best choice they made in this movie by far is to give Brock and Misty stuff to do! Of course it was the ‘You go ahead I shall take care of this battle’
Yet was done very well. Their persona , their careers and even their battles contributed to resolving this fight just as much as Ash did, in their own way. Even Delia, who plays a major part in this movie, contributed to the plot. For those who forgot Delia is Ash’s mother. No one feels redundant…. well almost no one. I guess it is time to bring up some of the negatives so I can end up with some positives again.
Team Rocket in this movie is completely throwaway and they this time really detract from movie. This isn’t just because they dont really do anything, it is also because their humor this time is really lackluster. The movie is a lot more nuanced in a lot of things but it came at the price of the zippy humor of the previous part. The fourth wall breaks are still there, but that is basically all they are good for and they only do it once. This results into the movie becoming a bit more heavy handed, with less for the non pokemon fan to enjoy. This only enforced by the fact that most of the things happening in this movie are.. only semi real. Molly our sort of antagonist is a tortured little girl who is being granted the power to sort of live in a reality bubble. Where she can create what she imagines and shape her own little dream world. This results her in using Pokémon that can never really be beaten, but also not really pokémon. It results into a house that is crystallized leading into grassy fields, onto a nice little beach and stuff like that. The power they give the unown isn’t as lore intrusive as what happened with the legendary birds but it is all a bit ‘out there’. Way too much for someone not into the pokémon franchise to handle. It has a plot that is enjoyable for everyone, but it al seems quite unhinged and the pokemon spirit and mindset patches this back up. This one isnt for you if you do not like weird.
What I do like however is the journeys everyone makes. Ash has to do some creative puzzle solving to get to a location, has to show trust in his friends and than has to do a battle which he cant blatantly win. He has to grow. Molly as a ‘antagonist’ has to learn and grow to reach the resolve she reaches by the end. Each scene feels like it’s own , where the second movie had four kinds of boat scenes here that felt interchangeable the action in this felt diverse. Every single Pokémon on Ash Team was at least used for something whether it be combat or to make progress in moving through Molly’s ‘home’. We encounter several types of situations that need to be resolved in certain ways and none of them feel like a rethread. The actual journey feels like a sensicial one .. even if it is in twisted reality it all feels logical and engaging. We get to see some old familiar faces which felt nice and heartwarming, you feel sad for the suffering little girl who caused all this and you really hope for an happy ending. I believed all the characters, aside from maybe the Deus Ex Machina trainer that led them stumble upon the town.. and she hardly has a role other than provide some occasional exposure in a fairly natural manner. This time we even see the official instances making some attempts to solve this dire situation, Ash just gets some motivation to not be as cautious as them. Great job! It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but as only the third movie it didn’t really need to either. It uses it tropes well enough to be a very solid pokémon product. Nagging about how he flies on pokemon and how he uses the same types of strategies again is like complaining you about how all D&D have dungeons where you have to kill a lot of things.
How is the plot?
The plot of The spell of Unown: Entei, or Entei and the crystal tower, or MO3 Entei: The spell of Unown (this movie has a LOT of names) easily has the best plot of all three movies I saw so far. It’s written very very well with the English Dub in fact even having my preference as in consistency. (There are a few minor changes between versions) We start of with an intro seeing Molly’s father playing with his daughter. Showing her pictures in a book of a pokémon he is researching Unown. We also see a picture of Molly and professor Hale hanging out with Delia, Ash and professor Oak. Already a lot of strings are being set up and while it initially feels forced this tie actual makes sense later on. We see the scientist getting a call about a new room being discovered in some ancient ruins, consistent to how unown discoveries are made and having to leave his daughter for it. We see the pain in her face as she is established to be a lonely girl. He gets sucked into an alternate dimension and thus goes missing. His aide takes some of the mysterious symbols along to investigate the disappearance and then goes to the daughter and her butler to report it. Molly distraught she is an orphan now interacts with the symbols which summons the unown from her father’s stories, wishing her father returns to her but als remembering he played an Entei. As it appears for her and agrees to be her father the house begins to crystallize making sure the staff has to flee leaving the daughter in a proverbial ivory tower. The unknown are making her wishes appear to gather psychic energy from her fantasies. It’s a perfect start albeit a bit stuffy in terms of originality. Knowing that Unown only knows the move ‘hidden power’ this to me fits the brief of their mysterious powers as well.
The title pops up and we move our perspective to Ash Where we get the intro titles and the set up for the heroes to be where they need to be. While somewhat of a Deus Ex Machina, it really isn’t that much of an issue. Ash battles a trainer and Bulbasaur Chikorita and Pikachu get scuffed up so it makes sense he ventures to a pokémon center. The pokémon center lies near the crystallizing town so.. sure I can believe it. Cheap but functional. We get a better hook from professor Oak and Delia. The missing professor was a student of Oak’s and having been present in Pallet Town he was a classmate of Delia. His wife had gone missing so while he was working Ash and Molly would occasionally play together. Delia and Hale being childhood friends is nice way to provide exposure. Delia tells about how Molly’s mother had gone missing. (In the japanese version she got sick) and now that her father is missing , what it must do with the girls minds. It is exposure but done in a smart way. It also sets up for another incident to drag Ash into this. Traumatised Molly looks at the photo of everyone together and sees a surrogate for a mother in Delia and asks her mental Entei to give her a mommy. Which of course would be Delia who then gets kidnapped. It gives Ash the determination to brave the dangerous that is to come but also seems like what a little girl that is traumatised would wish for. She deludes herself with fake family and builds herself a fort so no one can take her little family away ever again. It makes her an interesting ‘obstacle’ for our heroes to overcome. The rescue operation uses a lot of , sort of, clever pokemon and terrain usage to get to their destination which I found quite enjoyable.
The third part of the movie is the actual rescue operation. Get Delia out of the clutches of Molly and Entei. This means climbing one the crystal towers the mansion , now crystal flower, has gotten. One each floor Molly shows up, or an illusion of herself. On the first level she fights brock as a mature woman because that is how she feels she has to be to be a pokémon trainer. She uses a Flaaffy, Teddiursa and Phanpy to properly kick Brock’s ass. We discover that in this realm Rebecca can not be beaten because she can always imagine her pokémon as strong enough. Brock manages to bond with Molly though saying how pokémon of a trainer are like family too. On the next level Molly fights Misty and discovers she is a gym leader. While Misty also fights a losing battle, the discovery that a young girl can be a gym leader causes mature molly to regress .. to more Misty and Ash’s age (her real body a floor above is a bit younger) Before the battle can finish though Delia and Ash meet up and tell Molly they need to all leave this place. Which triggers an anxiety attack in Molly as she has to give up her delusions but is not ready yet. A final battle ensues between Entei and Ash squad. This goes about as well as you expect for Ash. His Pokémon , aside from Pikachu get oneshot. Pikachu can hold his own against a legendary AGAIN!.. but this time the movie does it right. We see Entei coming from the encounter unharmed while Pikachu is quite spend. The look in Entei’s eyes reveals he is just wearing the pokémon out to proof their fight is hopeless. Which he also tells them (of course Entei can speak like a lot of movie pokémon and since Molly imagines him with her father’s voice) .Ash jumps in front of an attack again in a way very similar to the first movie and gets blasted out the tower falling to his death. He is however saved from this fate by his Charizard, who saw Ash on a news report ad decided to go help him. This was very impactful to me, albeit a bit convenient. It felt so sweet that Ash got reunited with his pal and it opened new dimensions to this fight. As Ash takes to the sky, and Molly’s mind manipulates the tower with her mind so Entei does not fall either. During this fight Ash realises he can not flat out win, because Molly would lose her father again.. thus not solving anything. Instead he also shows her the bond between a trainer and their real pokemon and how it is more genuine than what Molly has now. With the help of Delia who comforts her during these hard realisations they manage to quell Entei’s anger. However the confusing Molly experiences cause her psychic energy to go out of control and the crystals begin to grow wild. Consuming everything in its path.
The final act sees our heroes dealing with the unown and their messed up spirit-bomb. It becomes all to obvious that they do not have the strength to stop this raw power. Their fates are in the hands of Molly. This place still amplifies and realises her fantasies. She has to believe in Entei one last time, which in the Dub she now calls Entei while in the original version she still calls Pappa. The dub showing better how much she has progressed. She has to believe in her hopes and dreams ..while fully realising that once Entei stops this treat he will fade away. Entei tells her she has the strength to stop this, that she can believe in him if she wishes, to signify this choice. Teaching Molly to take strength from her memories but to never live in a state of delusion. Completing her lesson Molly sacrifices her Entei and her safe space to rescue the world. Realising their goal, Molly’s fantasies fade away as Entei says it goodbyes. It makes you stronger to have fantasies but we can never lose grip of reality either. A strong lesson for a strong plot. During the credits the Unown move back to their world and set free Molly’s father, as they also seemingly have learned their lesson. Causing the father to go home.. where he to has learned to put his ambitions over his family.
In the original western release, this scene takes place prior to the end credits as they believed no one would stick around in the movie after the credits. It was different times back in the early 2000’s .
What is the Verdict
As you can most likely tell I was quite pleased with this movie, as a pokémon fan. I fully well realise that this movie is not for the average eye. If you know little about Pokémon and do not have an open mind about “thought manifestation’ as such this movie most likely will be horrible for you to sit through. If you however believe in the power of the mind and enjoy pokémon, nearly everything in this movie will click together nicely. You won’t be as invested and shouting as let’s say the second Gurren Lagann movie and you won’t cry as much as you would in Your Name and no where does this movie show any creativity like in the Ghibli movies. Yet this manages to be a movie that does everything well enough and it just works. It is a perfect movie to watch on a rainy saturday morning. Like those classic saturday mornings cartoons it’s quite cool.
Three down, about 20 movies to go if we include detective Pikachu. At least there is plenty of content so I wont be out of a job any time soon. If at least some of these are as enjoyable as this one I will have a blast. There is a lot of them to go trough and I am kind of scared.. I heard the Hoopa movie is allegedly terrible! It will be a good while before I get there though!
The Pinkest Poké Blogger is blasting off again!