Image source: ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル on YouTube

The new Pokémon movie Pokémon the Movie 20: I Choose You! is a retooling of the original Pokémon anime series. But, what was left in and what was changed from the anime series?

Like the first batch episodes of the long-running anime, I Choose You! follows the first few months on Ash Ketchum’s quest to become a Pokémon Master. He meets his Pokémon partner, Pikachu, and then catches a glimpse of the legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh. But, while I Choose You! uses a few story beats and visuals from the original Pokémon anime series to great effect in the story, the are more than a few massive changes to the tale. Here are some of the most interesting ones we noticed.

[Editors Note: This article contains heavy spoilers for Pokémon the Movie 20: I Choose You!]

Image source: ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル on YouTube

The first major change to the movie from the TV series is the core narrative of the movie. When Ash and Pikachu see the legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh at the end of the first episode, they see Ho-Oh fly off through a rainbow. Yet, in the movie Ho-Oh leaves a parting gift for the two, one of its feathers. This sets the larger machinations of the movies story into motion and is where the movie truly diverges from the anime series.

The New Pokémon Film Isn’t a Trip Down Memory Lane and It’s Better For It

However, the first thing that’s obviously missing are the two characters Brock and Misty. These two characters are main stays in the original Pokémon anime series as they traveled with Ash to become a Pokémon breeder (Brock) and the best water-type Pokémon trainer (Misty) respectively. Their absence from the movie takes out some of the memorable scenes from the early episodes of the anime series, like Misty chasing Ash to make him pay for a new bike, or Brock leaving Pewter City Gym. Brock and Misty often serve as a straight man to Ash’s overconfidence as well. But, they both have their moments of humor, especially Brock always trying to pickup Nurse Joy or Officer Jenny.

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In the place of Brock and Misty are two new trainers: Souji, a boy who wants to become a Pokémon Professor, and Makoto, a girl who aspires to be a Pokémon trainer. Souji and Makoto are a great presence in the film as they help reinforce Ash’s training philosophy: the bond between Pokémon and trainer.

Another two major characters—or rather Pokémon in this case—absent from the movie are Ash’s Bulbasaur and Squirtle. These two Pokémon have fantastic character arcs in the original Pokémon anime series, so it’s kind of sad they’re missing in the movie. Of course, because we’re dealing with a 110 minute long film, the number of Pokémon Ash can interact with is limited.

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As limited as Ash’s interaction with his original Pokémon are, his Charmader and Caterpie both appear in the movie. However, their arcs are changed to fit the new narrative of the movie. In the case of Caterpie, Ash and Pikachu battle him before catching him. This is unlike the TV series where Ash is able to catch Caterpie when he’s off guard. From there Caterpie does go through his evolutions to become Butterfree. Yet, much like when he is caught the circumstances of his evolution are much different than in the anime series. The big question, though, is does Ash release his Butterfree? The answer is yes and the scene is just as touching as it is in the 21st episode, “Bye, Bye Butterfree.”

Charmader’s arc is very similar to Caterpie’s in that the overarching story is similar, but the minor details have been changed. Ash does save Charmander from the rain again in an emotionally griping scene. However, Charmader’s original trainer in the movie is Ash’s new rival, Cross, instead of a trainer named Damian. From there Charmader does evolve to his final form of Charizard, however he’s more amiable towards Ash’s commands as opposed to ill-tempered. The crux of Charmanders arc though is his encounters with Cross throughout the movie. So, we get the chance to see Charmander grow as a Pokémon just as much as we see Ash develop as a trainer.

On a smaller scale, the changes aren’t as noticeable unless you really know you Pokémon anime or have just re-watched the series. These are when Ash receives Pikachu from Professor Oak and when Ash leaves his hometown of Pallet. We still have Ash staying up late the night before he receive Pikachu, but we don’t see him dream about which Pokémon he’s going to start with. In the series this is a nice little scene for us to become familiar with the three starter Pokémon: Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. Yet, cutting the scene really tightened up the first 10 minutes of the movie.

Along the same lines, Ash’s anime rival, Garry, only appears on screen for a few seconds when Ash goes to Professor Oaks laboratory. There’s also no cheering crowd—only a late Ash asking Professor Oak if he still has a Pokémon for him. And when we first meet Pikachu he’s out of his Pokéball running around the laboratory. The following scene with the angry Spearow’s chasing Ash and Pikachu is also slightly modified because Ash doesn’t meet Misty. All of these are very small changes to the original story and actually help speed us through the opening scenes to get us to meat of the story.

I Choose You! isn’t a exactly retelling of the original Pokémon anime series. But, it certainly took elements from it and repurposed them in creative ways.

Pokémon the Movie 20: I Choose You! was released in Japan on July 15, 2017. There is currently no information on a Western release.

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