The series of Pokémon animated films have been going strong for over 20 years now, but the series recently went on a fascinating path. Beginning with Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!, the films now house themselves in an alternate continuity separate from the anime. While I Choose You! followed more or less the same path as the first season, it’s followup, Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us, tells an original tale. Centred around an annual festival in the all-new Fula City, The Power of Us also stands out from the other films in some fascinating ways.
While the previous films tended to be big, dramatic affairs centring around the exploits of the Legendary Pokémon du jour, The Power of Us takes the opposite approach. A grounded, human affair, it’s more concerned with the stories of the people in Fula City and their relationship with Pokémon. Sure, there are still bombastic Legendary Pokémon moments, but even those are more low-key than before. It has its cheesy moments, but The Power of Us is a heartwarming, emotional affair that reaffirms one of the key themes of the entire Pokémon franchise.
A New Look
Possibly in an attempt to further distance itself from the weekly anime (which is currently in its 21st season in America), The Power of Us features a completely overhauled animation style. Granted, the Sun and Moon anime also resulted in a major animation makeover, but the difference in this film is striking. Animated by Wit Studio (probably best known for its work on Attack on Titan), the animation seems of a higher quality.
There is a deeper color palette, lighting is more emphasized, and characters seem more expressive. While the Sun and Moon anime proved to be controversial due to what many saw as a downgrade in quality (whether or not that is true is up for debate), this movie is inarguably of a higher standard. The Pokemon films have always felt a little higher-quality than the weekly series, sure, but The Power of Us appears to be making a claim that they are their own, distinct entities.
With a focus on wind and taking place in a bustling city, the animation in The Power of Us is fluid and dynamic. Some 3D-animated shots here-and-there sometimes detract from the experience, but overall, this film is a visual treat.
A Story of Trainers
The Power of Us, as mentioned, takes place in Fula City, which celebrates a Wind Festival every year. Our heroes Ash and Pikachu find themselves in Fula City right as the festival is about to start. Naturally, things veer off-course very quickly, and it’s up to Ash and the residents of Fula City to make things right and save both the festival and the city.
In a surprising change of pace, The Power of Us is more of an ensemble story than any prior Pokémon film. Sure, Ash is still at the center of it all, but the (all new) faces he meets also have equal (some arguably more) importance in the story. All of the major characters in this story have their own backstories, their own motivations, and their own traumas. Of course, they all have their triumphs too.
More than anything, The Power of Us is a very human story. Granted, as human as you can get in a world full of fictional monsters, but the point still stands. There may be Legendary Pokémon, a city-wide festival, and even a natural disaster or two, but at the end of the day, The Power of Us is about its characters.
From scorned athletes to a compulsive liar, Fula City is full of characters trying to find their way in the world. Now, some of the resolutions can be a bit hokey at times. But being a more grounded story allows The Power of Us to be a more emotional one. There were definite moments where I got choked up, whether it be a fan-favorite Pokémon in peril, or discovering the reasonings behind a character’s hatred of Pokémon. The Power of Us can get cheesy at times, but it’s definitely affecting.
I Choose You!
In addition to being a story about the humans in the Pokémon world, it’s also about their relationships with Pokémon. Quite notably, The Power of Us doesn’t feature any major Pokémon battles. Instead, it focuses on the different types of relationship between Pokémon and trainer: that as a partner, and a friend. Obviously the relationship between Ash and Pikachu is a well-established one. But there’s also the timid scientist, Toren, and his loyal Chansey. She is always there to support him and help pick him up. In another instance, one close bond ends in tragedy. Conversations have been raised about the ethics in the Pokémon world, but here, Pokémon and humans are true friends.
The Power of Us also dives head-first into the relationship between humans and wild Pokémon. Sure, most of the monsters in the anime are wild, but this specifically focuses on how they fit into society. One notable example is a meek Sudowoodo who quickly becomes attached to one of the residents, and follows him mercilessly. Then there’s student-athlete Risa, who’s tasked to find an Eevee for her brother. In a mirror of the Ash-Pikachu relationship, their partnership is rocky at first, but quickly becomes a strong one.
There are also interesting questions created about the relationship with society and Legendary Pokémon. Are they deities, tasked with the well-being of the world? Certain plot elements make it seem that Lugia is the one thing keeping Fula City alive, which is rather curious. Obviously these are questions that aren’t answered in the film itself, but it’s definitely something worthwhile to think about.
The Power of Us
Pokémon the Movie: The Power of us is fascinating. It’s a more low-key and grounded Pokémon story than we’re used to, which is to its benefit. It focuses on the humans in the Pokémon world and the relationship they share with the Pokémon. The story isn’t anything groundbreaking and things can get a bit cheesy by the end, but it’s still heartwarming.
The animation is striking and really helps enliven the world. The freedom of a new continuity really opened up the possibilities for both this film and the series moving forward. It’s not perfect, but The Power of Us is the start of an exciting new chapter in the Pokémon universe.
- THE GOOD
- Beautiful animation
- A grounded, emotional story
- THE BAD
- Storyline doesn’t innovate
Pokemon the Movie: The Power of Us is a heartwarming tale set in the Pokemon universe. A more human story than we’ve seen before, it’s a sure-bet for anyone who’s a fan of the series.
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