You folks ready for some friggin’ Pokemon? Sun and Moon’s last episode served as a sort of communal celebration of Ash’s many new friends, as Ash’s entrapment inside an angry sandcastle forced the whole secondary cast to work together towards a solution. Considering the fun personalities and general slice of life warmth of Ash’s companions is one of Sun and Moon’s greatest strengths, this unsurprisingly resulted in a pretty great episode. Pallosand made for a very entertaining kaiju, Snowball and Popplio got to play the heroes, and the whole main cast proved they’ve become a competent and loyal fighting force.
I’d be happy to see the whole team face off against another irate mega-pokemon this week, but I’m guessing we’ll be switching gears instead, and embarking on an entirely new kind of adventure. Whatever the future holds, I’m sure Sun and Moon will find a way to make it interesting, and I’m happy you’re all accompanying me for the journey. Let’s enjoy another day in Alola!
We’ve got Sophocles on the Pokeproblem this week, which doesn’t necessarily mean all that much. At this point, every side character in Sun and Moon has gotten at least one focus episode, which has essentially served as their “welcome to my life” episode – Lana reflecting on her relationship with Popplio, Mallow searching for her stew ingredient, etcetera. Given that, it’s hard to draw much of a conclusion from someone introducing the episode beyond the certainty that they’ll at least appear in it somewhere
I assume most people are familiar with the concept of “Chekhov’s Gun” – a writing principle by Anton Chekhov that states if a gun is hung on the wall in your story’s first act, it should be fired in the second. The fundamental principle he’s getting at is that nothing you include in your narrative is irrelevant, at least from an audience’s perspective – if you draw your audience in with a promise of dramatic escalation or narrative revelation, you have to make good on that promise, or risk losing the audience’s trust or interest. A gun on the wall tells the audience “at some point, things are going to escalate to the point where the gun is fired” – and if you don’t want the audience to think that, you shouldn’t include objects that provoke such an expectation in the first place
But the principle applies to far more than devices as dramatic as a gun on the wall. There are a million ways for stories to promise resolution, and great storytellers must understand how to use them in order to subtly, naturally provoke audience investment, while avoiding the sense of betrayal invoked when those guns are not fired. Even something as simple as Sun and Moon’s Pokeproblem uses a pattern to create two separate “Chekhov’s guns” – these have become a way to sell the audience on the episode to come, by essentially advertising them with both one of their central characters, and a vague allusion to their narrative turns
Ah shit, time for a beachfront concert! See, something sweet is always going on here
Oh my god, I forgot how cute Kaki’s sister Hoshi is. The two of them are criminally adorable together
It’s a “Dugleo” concert, featuring Dugtrio with DJ Leo. Once again we’re getting an “isn’t this Alolan pokemon cool” episode, in this case featuring Alola’s uniquely glamorous Dugtrios. When I first saw their design, my assumption was that their design process was basically just “what are things that remind us of beaches” “uh, the Beach Boys?” “Brilliant, give Dugtrio their hair.” Happy to see that affirmed by an actual concert
“The long-haired one is Jessica, the one with a bob is Ashley, and the one with a perm is Michael.” Absolutely incredible. Ride or die, Dugleo for life
And of course Kukui is a Michael fan. Typical
Oh my god Steenee is wearing a Jessica wig too, this episode is so much
Kaki doesn’t want to cosplay, but his friends pressure him into it. Good work, team
“A Dugtrio Split-Up!?” JUST WHEN I GOT INTO THE BAND!? NOOOOoooo
Rotom just defaults to his Alolan Lucky Detective wig
Team Rocket are, of course, selling a wide variety of entirely irrelevant wigs. Why is Wobbuffet wearing a middle-aged combover wig?
It seems pretty easy to visually evoke the atmosphere of a concert; cycling through low saturation color filters is doing a fine job of it here, along with some more directed lighting overlays
Oh my god the Dugtrio can’t sing at all. Why do people love this group. FANDOM OVER
Team Rocket decide they can make a lot of money by… stealing Dugtrio and becoming their managers? Team Rocket are very good at concocting the first steps of nefarious plans, but all the steps after that are pretty dubious
Kaki making an impassioned speech in his blonde bowl cut is excellent. Nice drawings here too; Kaki frequently gets excellent, Jojo-style overly etched muscles and facial features
Diglett attempts to steal Rotom’s wig! If this is just going to be like a normal episode except everyone is constantly wearing fabulous blonde wigs, I am absolutely down
It turns out Leo and Kukui are old friends
Leo’s original design is a very funny interpretation of “the opposite of a cool DJ” – bowl cut, glasses, suspenders, the works
Diglett is apparently a big fan of Dugleo, and wants them to listen to his demo tape. This episode is absurd
Pikachu in a feathered blonde wig is so much. I don’t even know if he’s cute anymore, the image is so ridiculous that my mind just short-circuits trying to catalog its cuteness levels
Ahaha, Kaki has been crying straight through their whole meeting, and is still crying as they make their exit. An excellent running gag; Kaki’s usual personality leaves him wide open for bits that subvert our expectations by showing his sensitive side, like this or his treatment of his sister. I believe the kids call it “gap moe”
Aw shit, the band is in turmoil! All three of them want the center singing position. C’mon guys, you’re perpetually sharing a dirt hole, you can definitely learn to share the spotlight
And now Team Rocket are presenting themselves as record label representatives. At least they’re finding a use for all those wigs!
Jeez, Dugtrio are jerks! They are immediately dazzled by the allure of greater fame and a brighter spotlight, and immediately abandon Leo. The whims of these temperamental artistic types…
One neat effect of the whole blonde wig gimmick is that Diglett actually gets to be a lot more expressive than he would otherwise, because the wig adds more emotive signifiers to his overall design
The hunt for Dugtrio leads us into a montage search across the island, which is a visual treat as always. Like many great slice of life, Sun and Moon understands the appeal of simply luxuriating in a peaceful, beautiful environment
Oh my god Meowth please stop trying to rap
DJ Koin’s a pretty good name for him, though
Dugtrio have arrived at a fate they’ve thoroughly earned: serving as the backup vocalists to a yowling cat who thinks he can sing
Nice to see Team Rocket getting up to an old-fashioned scheme and battle this episode. They’re always basically just comic relief, but you gotta let them get at least three quarters of the way through a scheme from time to time, or they’ll just end up getting dispirited
Ooh, I really like this interpretation of the “Bite” attack. Rather than Rockruff literally biting into another pokemon, his energy essentially forms a jaw-shaped shell around him, which collapses into his opponent in the form of a strike. Not only does this avoid the unvarnished, potentially frightening violence of a pokemon actually taking a bite out of another one, it still manages to convey the essence of an attack named “Bite” with more visual flourish than an actual bite would
More excellent cuts as Pikachu faces off with Mimikyu. I love this cut of Pikachu leaping at the screen before performing a tail flip; it’s another clever use of 3D space, and does an excellent job of drawing the audience into the drama
Oh my god, this reaction cut. Team Rocket realizing Dugtrio has escaped is accompanied by a combined riff on Sharaku’s classic kabuki paintings and Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa. I’m so thankful this show has made such a clear, consistent effort to expand the boundaries of reaction face science
Dugtrio captures Team Rocket’s pokemon in its fabulous hair! God I love this show
Hah, very cute of Leo to put his shades on before announcing Dugtrio’s attack. The band is back!
Also nice that their signature move is Tri Attack, emphasizing their regained unity of purpose
Well, that was some spectacular nonsense. As expected, this was less of a character-focused episode than a celebration of another one of Alola’s fun quirks, this time complete with a full wardrobe of luxurious blonde wigs. While the animation was on the conservative side this time, the comedy stepped up to keep things entertaining, and that Great Wave off Kanagawa reaction frame easily secures a spot in Sun and Moon’s premiere reaction gallery. Dugleo may have toyed with my affections, but ultimately, how can I not forgive Jessica, Ashley, and Michael? After all the joy they’ve brought us over the years, I intend on staying a fervent Dughead for many years to come.