Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. I hope you’ve been having a nice day so far; personally, I stayed up far too late last night with some friends, and so I’m now hopelessly behind schedule on today’s work. That’s alright though, because I was already planning on treating myself to some Sun and Moon, and frankly can’t feel stressed while watching Pokemon regardless of my other temporal circumstances. Devastating Nyabby episodes aside, Sun and Moon is an emotional oasis, and so I hope you join me as we all chill out and enjoy some relentlessly pleasant cartoons. Without further ado, let’s slip back to the beaches of Alola!
Oh shit, James is on Pokeproblem duty this time. There’s no way this won’t be a good episode
He’s so excited about it, too! Good for you James, you’re finally getting the recognition you deserve
Team Rocket never feel “nefarious” so much as passionate in a misguided direction. I get the feeling James would actually make a great school teacher, if he just chose to apply himself in a more productive way
The class is practicing what they’ve learned about Z-moves, and Team Rocket is listening in. Apparently they’re only just now learning about the existence of Z-moves, twenty-five episodes into a season where Z-moves are the main tactical innovation. I love these idiots, but oh my god they are terrible at their job
I’m not even sure why they’re hiding. I know they’ve been attempting to steal pokemon, but their attempts have been so halfhearted and inept that I’m guessing if they just asked to join the class, Kukui would let them. Perhaps their pride only allows them to steal lessons, not attend them honestly
Ooh, nice cuts for Ash and Kaki posing during their Z-moves
Aw, look at their adorably villainous smiles when they see the Z-moves in action. I just want them to be happy!
“The Fight Over the Crystal! Team Rocket vs the Skull Gang!” Hell yes, we’re actually getting the villain-off that I’ve been waiting for. These islands aren’t big enough for two villainous crews!
Oh my god, I love how all of Team Rocket’s pokemon have lined up for this lecture on Z-moves
Meowth describes his personal fantasy of shooting a super beam from his coin, complete with childlike illustrations of him defeating Ash and Pikachu. See, they’ve basically already set up their own tiny Pokemon School. And they’re all so supportive of each other’s efforts! How could you not love Team Rocket – they lose all the time and are perpetual underdogs, but they never let it get them down, do their best to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and are always ready to support each other, or stand down if they realize something more important than their scheme is happening. Just commendable, top shelf villains in all respects
James debuts a dowsing rod machine for crystals. Unexpected tech prowess from our boy, but I guess someone has to design all their wacky devices
Apparently Z-crystals are more rare than I expected; only Ash and Kaki have them among the group, and Kukui only has a collection of replicas
I suppose it just hasn’t been relevant; this is a story about the group’s communal experiences, not Ash’s individual rise to glory, and clearly delineating his “specialness” has never been important. Sun and Moon celebrates the things that make its characters special, but never in a framework of assessing powers or putting people in a hierarchy. The pursuit of individual glory is emphatically never the point
It’s a point I’ve made before, but this is one of the reasons I frequently prefer children’s anime to late night anime. Children’s anime tend to be suffused with the thoughtfulness and openness of perspective that their creators are attempting to impart on their audience; in contrast, anime for teenagers frequently just tells its audience what they want to hear, which, given their audience is teenagers, tends to be pretty indulgent and myopic. “You’re the best, your otaku hobbies make you funny and smart, and all the girls should love you” isn’t really an interesting message the first time, much less the fiftieth or sixtieth time
They all applaud Rotom for naming the elements, which feels a bit like congratulating a calculator for multiplying correctly
Ooh, some really nice forest sets for Team Rocket’s journey
They find a dark Z-crystal, but it’s guarded by a bunch of those fat-cheeked Raticates
Oh man, this quick cut of James leaping in front of his friends to protect them from attack. None of them even mention it, it’s just assumed they’d all die for each other. I LOVE THIS CREW
One of the Skull Gang is leading his bros to an “evil candy store” he heard about. What do these people do all day
Apparently pink and blue are siblings. They decide to hunt down the giant Raticate
Both Rocket and Skull are simultaneously plotting in separate, adjacent bushes. This episode is very good
The Skull leader has moved past his hatred of Z-moves, for the very understandable reason that he got his ass kicked by them, and now wants one for himself
Nice split screen cut for Skull and Rocket’s simultaneous plots. One of the strengths of visual narratives relative to prose is that they’re good at conveying simultaneous actions
They bump into each other at the summit, but Jessie doesn’t miss a beat, and transitions into their villainous intro directly from “hey, it’s you guys!”
Skull are not impressed by the intro, but Pink likes Meowth
Incredible expression work here, as Blue reveals he doesn’t even know where the Kanto region is
Seeing more of the Z-move poses next to each other makes their intent much more clear. For the water pose, Lana moves her arms like rippling waves, while Mallow’s grass pose essentially mimics a plant sprouting towards the sun. Different poses trend towards different balances of dance, yoga, and martial arts stances
Extremely good blob smears for Rocket and Skull picking themselves up. Hopefully them Blasting Off Again together helped them bond a little bit
“They made fun of our nice uniforms. I refuse to forgive them.” Love you, Jessie
They propose a race to see who gets the crystal, and who has to be the other group’s servants. We’re sort of dealing with an “unstoppable force vs immovable object” conflict here, except in reverse: who wins in a competition between two groups who are destined to always, inevitably lose?
James begins this scheme as you begin all great schemes, by immediately poisoning himself
Meowth is planning to catch them in a big cage that is simultaneously too large to effectively trap the small Raticates, and too small to contain the giant Raticate. This team is amazing, and I hope they never change in any way
They catch the little ones, but the big guy is furious. I like the comedic contrast in the animation style as they’re blown away – while the Skulls running in the opposite direction are animated fluidly, Team Rocket are just one flat, unmoving layer floating off the other way, emphasizing the cartoonish unreality of their “blasting off” mode. There’s frequently strong comedy to be found in contrasting different styles of animation against each other, and Sun and Moon’s flexible designs, along with its willingness to embrace farcical beats like this, mean it’s a prime candidate for that sort of comedy
Meowth gets to pull off a “don’t worry about them, we’ll be your opponents!” I hope I get the chance to do one of those myself some day
The moment Jessie and James realize Meowth is in genuine danger, they abandon the competition and rush to his side. This is because they are perfect angels who only want the best for their friends. Please cherish this beautiful team
Goddamn. Mimikyu takes matters into its own hands, and just mercilessly beats the shit out of giant Raticate. I like the subtly creepy way its “head” is animated – the Pikachu bag frequently just lols sickeningly to the side, like its neck is broken
All of Mimikyu’s scenes are accompanied by the sound of a rusty hinge creaking shut. Nice attention to detail by the foley team
Team Rocket successfully end up with the dark Z-crystal, though frankly, they actually kind of earned it – you normally get Z-crystals for beating totem pokemon, and Mimikyu really did defeat Raticate
Oh my god, they built a little cardboard wrist band for Meowth to carry the Z-crystal. How could you not root for these hard-fighting underdogs and their love of arts and crafts!?
Beautiful. Exceptional. Wonderful. Perfect. As expected, this entirely Team Rocket-focused episode was an absolute blast, full of great gags and fun visual tricks, but most fundamentally enriched by the clear sense of trust and mutual support shared by all members of Team Rocket. Though they claim they’re dedicated to evil, their every action this episode demonstrated that more than anything else, they are loyal and true to each other; supportive of their teammates in failure, and genuinely proud of them in victory. They are top tier villains, and I’m always happy to see them take over the stage. Good luck with that Z-crystal, you gallant, intrepid ne’er-do-wells.