For some, the magic of Pokémon never really went away, but even stalwarts have to agree that the success of Pokémon GO was a shot in the arm, giving the veritable franchise its second wind in the mainstream. I Choose You! is an exercise in nostalgia, serving to celebrate two decades of this franchise.
As the 20th movie in the series, this legacy flick had to pull out something special, and professed to offer fans a peek into how Ash and Pikachu became one of anime’s best loved friendships. Oh, and why Pikachu doesn’t like being inside a Poké Ball, in case you ever wondered. Rather than just retelling events, though, this reboot plays fast and loose with canon with an alternate continuity, welcoming new fans into the fold while giving veterans something to get excited about.
So we begin with a plucky Ash Ketchum turning ten and ready as ever to receive his first pocket monster from Professor Oak. It’s nothing short of anti-climatic to learn that the only reason Ash picked Pikachu in the first place was because he was late and the starter monsters – Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur – had already been snapped up. Yup, that’s the big reveal. But it’s not all bad, as Pikachu has more sass that we’ve ever seen before. In fact, he’s downright tsundere.
Although the campy antics of Team Rocket were by far and away the best thing about the classic series, they’re relegated to filler. They’re but a side show to the new characters, who fit perfectly in the canon, but don’t offer much to get excited about. An appearance from the starter Pokémon from the recent Sun and Moon 3DS games was fun for newer fans, mind you.
In one of its more interesting scenes, Ash has a glimpse into what life would have been like had Pokémon never existed, and it’s basically just a run of the mill slice-of-life show. But the film is better known for featuring Pikachu saying something other than his name for the first time. It’s every bit as misguided and unnecessary as you might imagine, and only marginally better in the original Japanese (which is sadly lacking from this release).
Although the handheld games will always be the bread and butter of the Pokémon franchise, the anime and its sugary morality tales have played no small part in its continued success. Clocking up two decades is no easy feat, and we should definitely be celebrating. I Choose You! hits all the right beats, and the re-recording of the classic nineties theme song is sure to go down a hit with all viewers. Still, an appearance from Brock and Misty would have been a nice touch.
Includes bonus disk containing the first movie