1 July 2019 | Shostakovich343
A Pokémon Retrospective, Part 9.5
In my ongoing quest to destroy my childhood I have set out to (re)watch all Pokémon films, and see how they hold up now that I am an adult. As of writing, "Pokémon: Castle in the Sea" (as I remain it should be called) is still the longest film in the franchise at a not entirely justified 1h45m, and I must admit I was looking forward to "The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon" as a short intermezzo. I shouldn't have been. It is awful.
The story is incited the same way as the first film's: with Ash being invited by an enigmatic challenger. Unlike in the first film, however, this invitation is received in the opening scene, and not after 30 minutes of utterly redundant backstory.
Any relief is short-lived. Bad as "Mewtwo Strikes Back" may have occasionally been, at least it showed some production value. The animation here is on the same level as the TV show's, and a bit of a tough pill to swallow. Yet nothing shocks quite like the acting. The new cast is inferior to the previous in all respects, and although they managed to do a serviceable job in some of the later Pokémon films, here they sound absolutely terrible - as if the translators' neigbhours were invited over to give it a shot.
I would recommend watching the dub nonetheless. Staggeringly bad as the voice acting may be, at least it distracts in an 'unintentionally funny' way from the abominable story.
Ash and Co., as well as professor Oak and Misty, have been invited by an idiosyncratic inventor, who is so polite he introduces himself to a man he has already met: 'Yes Oak, it's been too long. My name is Dr. Yung.' The doctor has created a device that can create semi-digital 'mirage Pokémon,' and challenges the trainers to fight them. However, a masked villain, the 'Mirage Master', takes control of the device to use it for his own sinister goals. I wouldn't dare give away the Master's identity, but since he covers his face it is obviously someone the audience knows, and the film only introduces one new character, so do the math.
Then Ash goes ahead and stops him. I'm sorry to be anticlimactic, but that's all there is to it. Sure, the film takes a couple of detours involving Team Rocket and some obligatory legendaries, but in the end, Ash goes to the Master, beats him, and that's that.
'Then what did you expect of a 45-minute TV special?' you ask. To which I respond: "Mewtwo Returns." That film had better writing and pacing than any of the first four theatrical releases, and built on the first film's themes without turning as gratuitously melodramatic. What we get here is just lazy and dumb.
"The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon" is presented as a 10th Anniversary Special and appears to have been cynically cobbled together for that event. Some have suggested it would have worked better as a double episode, but even then it would have been a disgrace. The animation is mediocre, the writing awful and the acting atrocious. If you are not amongst the biggest of Pokémon fans or working on a silly retrospective like me, there is no reason to watch it at all.