Pokemon Sun and Moon – Episode 19

1 month ago 9

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Right now, I’m still mired in what I believe is known as the dog days of summer, where it’s too hot and humid out to even appreciate the sunshine. Meanwhile, with COVID preventing any sort of group outing that might distract from the heat, my current Survival Strategy is to sit within an air-conditioned room, silently staring at the blistering heat outside. This is not a particularly enthralling summer vacation experience, but fortunately, I know a place where the summer heat is always just right – Alola, a special archipelago that just so happens to also house a diverse menagerie of friendly, collectable creatures.

Last time on Sun and Moon, we joined Mallow in her quest for the perfect Alolan soup, a journey that ultimately resulted in Bounsweet evolving into the powerful high-kicking Tsareena, as well as the acquisition of aforementioned perfect soup. After a fair stretch of episodes that have all been episodic adventures, I’m somewhat expecting us to return to Ash’s island pilgrimage today – but if not, I’m also absolutely down for some kind of wacky one-off again, perhaps involving hot air balloons or an angry Miltank. Whatever’s in store, Sun and Moon is always a good time, so let’s dive right into our next episode!

Episode 19

Kukui’s on intro duty this time, bolstering my expectation that we’re back on the main story track

I like these context-bereft images of Lana cheering and Kaki sighing in defeat

Hah, they actually use the standard Pokemon battle music for Ash’s training battle here. There’s something about those high, descending piano arpeggios that really emphasizes “danger approaches!” High notes in general tend to be used for alarms or threats, while a series of repeated descending notes implies forward movement – combined together, you get the sense of “we’re hurrying into danger”

Ash is fearlessly using his rock-type Rockruff against a ground-type opponent, because he never learned type advantages and refuses to believe they are real

It is actually very funny to me that Ash basically never accounts for type advantages in his battles, considering that on a casual level, matching types correctly is close to the only strategic element of a Pokemon game

An excellent series of cuts involving spinning camerawork and dramatic shadows as Ash and Iwanko power up for a Z-move

Interesting camerawork around those cuts, too – they’re making it look like the “camera” has a wide-angle lens, so the image essentially wraps around the active pokemon, emphasizing their aggressive stances

And once again, Ash makes up for his lack of intelligent strategy with a display of overwhelming power

Iwanko looking tired but proud of himself as he pants after battle is great

“Intense Electric Shock Training! A Rematch with Kapu-Kokeko!” Oh hell yeah

I’m very interested in seeing how they handle this battle animation-wise. Oddly enough, it’s frequently Sun & Moon’s battles that are more “conservative” in terms of animation, in that they frequently rely on the show’s stock of banked attack footage, rather than animating something entirely new. But those bank cuts are somewhat limited in that they are necessarily forced to lack context – designed to be used for any battle, they cannot actually show two pokemon in active conflict, resulting in a somewhat stilted “I use my attack, then you use your attack” battle pacing. That is indeed how pokemon battles work in the games, but Sun & Moon’s best fights have embraced the active interplay of powers in combat, like during the battle against the Island Guardian, or Iwanko’s training with Magmar. Considering this episode is outright named after its presumed climactic battle, I’m looking forward to some similarly inspired choreography and animation here

I like this opponent’s happy Geodude shirt

“When using a Z-Move, a pokemon receives power from its trainer and manifests it.” Interesting. It’d be nice to see trainers more actively integrated into the drama of pokemon battles, and this seems like a decent way to accomplish that

Mallow seems personally proud of how strong Kapu-Kokeko is. Adorable

Bless Lillie for actually mentioning Kapu-Kokeko’s elemental types, and hopefully encouraging Ash to think for more than three seconds about his choice of pokemon

Sophocles’ mom looks like… well, like the woman who’d have made Sophocles. They have similarly goofy wing-tips in their hair, and their eyes are drawn the same way

Oh my god, they have a family photo in a little Togedemaru picture frame

Pikachu trying to cool a too-hot snack in his mouth is blessed content

Rather than a full base on top of a mountain, Sophocles’ “laboratory” is here just a workstation in his family’s storage shed. A more appropriate choice for his role in this narrative, where he’s basically just another kid like the protagonist

Even Rotom gets some excellent expression work as he and Sophocles yell at Ash for putting on the Electric Hat. These characters have no bones, but evocative exaggeration can easily convey the expressive effect of a grimly set chin

Damn, they’re actually discussing how to deal with Kapu-Kokeko’s electric field! To be honest, as someone who only obsessively played through Pokemon’s first generation as a kid, the proper uses of terrain-altering moves are still a mystery to me. I’m aware terrain setting is powerful, but the actual games don’t seem interested in teaching you its subtler uses – like with breeding and EV-maxing, this is one of those spaces where there’s a massive gulf in understanding between the peak of “casual Pokemon” as taught by the game itself, and the bottom of “competitive Pokemon” as enjoyed by serious players

There’s been a whole lot of dynamic camerawork this episode, which got me curious about who storyboarded and directed it. Apparently this one was storyboarded by one of the series’ veteran stars – Masakatsu Ijima, who also boarded the first island challenge episode, as well as the pancake race, and who has done an absurd amount of work as unit director on a variety of Pokemon films

Incidentally, a “unit director” is someone who directs a segment of a larger film project – anime films will regularly have two or three unit directors handling different portions of the project

Pikachu running in a hamster wheel is adorable

I did not expect this episode to arrive at Ash training by running inside a giant human-sized hamster wheel

Ash and Pikachu’s combined power sends a massive bolt of energy arcing into the sky. I love the other pokemons’ aghast reaction faces

The pokemon school actually looks even prettier from the back, where you can fully appreciate its elegant latticework, and the distinctions between its various round structures

“Physical activity benefits Ash more than theory.” That is very true. I’d always thought of Ash as a kind of generic protagonist, but Sun & Moon has been giving him a reasonably distinct personality – he’s incredibly upbeat and a supportive friend, but not a deep thinker, and always ready to jump head-first into things. It’s light characterization (as befitting the show’s consistently light tone), but it helps

Kapu-Kokeko arrives, and directly calls Pikachu out. YOU AND ME, PIKACHU

Hah, we even switch to letterbox formatting to emphasize the start of this momentous battle

HELL YEAH, this is exactly what I was hoping for! The battle commences with a series of remarkably dynamic cuts, as the camera swings 180 degrees to follow Pikachu in its dash towards Kapu-Kokeko, then curves even further to catch his bounce away into the nearby trees. Kapu and Pikachu are trading blows at lightning speed, and the show is actually conveying their sparring, rather than just showing one attack after another

There’s a real sense of physical space in this fight, capturing the inherent challenge of Pikachu rising up to strike a flying opponent

And now some terrific loose linework for this hyper-closeup on Kapu-Kokeko. This is easily one of the show’s most visually impressive fights so far

A true warrior to the core, Kapu-Kokeko holds off after its assault, hoping to face off against Ash and Pikachu’s full strength

Kapu-Kokeko’s counterattack sends Pikachu flying off a cliff, and in a characteristically Ash move, Ash leaps off afterwards to catch him

And Done

Well, damn! The team lost, but that’s a minor concern considered how exciting this fight was – and ultimately, losing with grace and pledging to improve is a better way to exhibit the core Pokemon ethos, anyway. Winning aside, this episode was absolutely stuffed with dynamic layouts that lent lots of energy to Ash’s training process, and contributed greatly to its spectacular final battle. You rarely see camerawork this active in any action anime, but its benefits are clear – you could really feel the sense of speed and rapid shifts in momentum throughout this fight, as the camera held close to Pikachu, carrying the audience along with his lightning-speed attacks. Another stellar battle episode for Sun & Moon!

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

Read Entire Article