Pokemon Sun and Moon – Episode 20

2 weeks ago 7

Hello everybody, and welcome the heck back to Wrong Every Time. The summer’s starting to wind down over on my side of the screen, and with the horror show that has been 2020 showing no signs of relenting, I think it’s well past time that we took another Alolan vacation. Sun and Moon’s last episode was actually one of its most technically impressive so far, with Ash’s rematch against Kapu-Kokeko standing as perhaps the most dynamically storyboarded and fluidly animated battle yet. Rather than relying on some of the banked attack animation that Pikachu frequently employs, this fight was all about spacing, speed, and physical contact, lending a tremendous sense of urgency and immediacy to Ash’s toughest fight so far.

Coming out of that battle, I’m expecting this next episode to likely recenter Ash on his Island Pilgrimage quest, springboarding off the renewed focus he exhibited while training. But whether Ash is pursuing fortune and fame or just lounging at the beach, I’m eager to get back Alola, and simply spend more time with this charming cast. Let’s get to it!

Episode 20

Welp, it appears that this and the show’s next episode were initially broadcast as a double episode, celebrating the show’s… twentieth… anniversary. Oh god, I remember watching along when the very first episodes of Pokemon came out. I am an ancient, decaying husk

Charmed by this bombastic “NYABBY VS PIKACHU” overlay, set against two adorable animals bonking heads on the sidewalk

So apparently Ash and Pikachu are heading to an uninhabited island, meaning Ash provides our Pokeproblem this week

Oh my god, Exeggutor can’t even begin to fit into the frame, so they just cut off his head entirely

The gang are hanging out at the mall, where Lillie wants to buy a scarf for Snowball. Lillie is a genius

The girls want to keep shopping, but the boys are looking for an exit. Excellent expression work as Sophocles makes up an exit strategy, leaving Ash to hang out with the girls

As a shopping-averse boy who grew up with two sisters, getting bored sitting outside the store while waiting for them to finish shopping was indeed an essential element of my youthful family vacations

“The Promise Between Ash and Pikachu”

Ash is a good friend. I appreciate that he doesn’t complain about being dragged along on an activity he isn’t necessarily thrilled about, and that he actually seems to somewhat enjoy himself at the accessory store, even if it’s clearly not his thing. This show rarely engages in much emotional friction, but even in slice of life shows, you need some friction to truly define the shape of characters’ personalities and relationships. If all characters are equally excited about all activities at all times, they don’t really feel like individual characters

Lovely sense of space as Ash walks onto the back deck, with the camera panning from the visually busy store towards a sparse blue sea. The visual effect amplifies the sense of stark freedom Ash feels, leading naturally into the next cut of him stretching in the breeze

The shop owner points out that the island across the way is known as “Treasure Island”

She offers to lend him her kayak to get there, which is very nice and also absurdly reckless. Ash getting lost at sea would be a disappointing end to a promising pokemon career

Pikachu stands at the front of the kayak, like a dog trying to enjoy the wind. This show’s well-observed animalistic touches for the pokemon are such a reliable strength, turning fantastical creatures into familiar pets

Ash starts getting philosophical about how standing in the ocean makes him feel like he’s the only person in the world. Pikachu doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, but is supportive nonetheless

Upon reaching the island, they immediately run into another informal pokemon fight club

Ash wonders at the name of a new pokemon, and reflects that if Rotom were here, he’d name it for them. I actually like how Rotom’s absence here changes the dynamic of their adventures. Without him there to immediately classify each new creature they come across, this island feels more like a genuine wilderness, full of creatures our heroes don’t fully understand. Of course, that’s not necessarily as effective of a sales pitch for the Sun and Moon game, so I understand why they normally have Rotom around to tell us why each new pokemon is interesting

Ooh, I like this cut into depth here, as Ash and Pikachu emerge from the forest into a clearing. Clever use of multiple planes here – the foliage sliding off-screen to the right and left, partitioned into four separate planes of movement, creates a convincing illusion of the characters walking forward into the screen

They emerge into a beautiful meadow full of friendly bug pokemon. Even the bugs are a positive part of the experience when you’re camping in Alola!

A herd of Exeggutors pass by, slowly marching towards a watering hole. It feels like their physical mannerisms are based on the lumbering, one-side-at-a-time movements of elephants – or to be honest, the brachiosauruses from Jurassic Park

Everyone just chilling with their exeggutor buds. This is a very soothing episode; we’re in full “joy of discovery” mode here, propelled forward by the allure of the island itself, rather than the tension of conflict

Oh my god, Pikachu waving his stubby arms to reach for a treat. My heart

Ooh, Ash’s speech here is interesting. He essentially offers a retrospective on his time in Alola so far, but for perhaps the first time, he’s tying his experiences here into his overarching quest to become a pokemon master. Ash has come to love Alola, and through embracing life here, he feels like he will gain something crucial to his larger journey. These might just be empty words, but we rarely see Ash reflect on his journey as a whole, and it seems like we might have come to something of a turning point

Pikachu leaps at Ash so hard he knocks him over. Lotta power in those tiny little legs

After falling asleep on the beach, the team awaken to discover they’re under attack by a fleet of creatures that look like a mix between horseshoe crabs and house centipedes. Truly the final form of creepy-crawlies

Gorgeous sunset as the evening approaches. This episode is heavy on wide-open layouts that create a sense of depth and space, which is very appropriate for an episode all about the inherent thrill of exploring these islands

One of the creepy crawlers has gotten itself trapped within the shore’s cliffside

Ash has the bright idea of climbing straight up the cliff face, so that he can… shout encouragement down at the pokemon beneath him? His strategy is a little unclear

Pikachu licking his hand after he falls down is a nice detail

Without a human character for Ash to interact with, this episode is unsurprisingly leaning much more heavily on visual drama

Aw, this bug creature looks like a lost puppy now. Goddamnit, they’re even making me like creatures with way too many legs

It’s also making some pretty adorable squeaking noises, to be fair. Squeaking noises can go a long way

And in the end, another island guardian floats by, and offers a handy healing wave. Ash is making a name for himself among the island royalty

And Done

What a breezy, relaxing episode that was! We were in full vacation mode this week, with even the natural conflicts provided by Ash’s friends set aside, in order to fully appreciate a day of adventures on a lush island. I’ve mentioned before how Sun and Moon frequently relies on the pure joy of discovery to guide its narrative, and that’s never been more apparent than in an episode like this, where simply spending time in the sun and discovering new pokemon habits is its own reward. I tend to love stories that approach life as a series of intimate, distinct moments, rather than a clear narrative journey, and this show is remarkably good at capturing the appeal of living in the moment. Thank you Sun and Moon, that was precisely what I needed!

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