Hello all, and welcome the heck back to Wrong Every Time. You folks ready for some Pokemon? It’s been a few weeks since I last checked in on Alola on my side, since I’ve been trying very hard to push through a variety of my ongoing projects, and make sure everyone’s getting some articles to enjoy. But goddamnit, sometimes you have to play favorites, and it’s hard to deny that Sun and Moon is one of mine.
Rather than the slow deterioration in production quality you tend to expect from long-running productions, Sun and Moon’s last episode was actually one of its greatest so far, elevated by Masaaki Iwane’s stunning animation work. Like Precure, Sun and Moon possesses a stable of top shelf talent that many shows would kill for, and I’m delighted to see them apply their talents to concepts as inspired as Mallow’s drunken finger role. Whether we’ve got more luxurious animation or simply fun times with friends ahead, I’m here for it. Let’s get back to Sun and Moon!
Lana’s handling the Pokeproblem today. It is remarkable how distinctive and personality-filled the character acting is in this show, even for cuts that don’t involve all that much fluid movement. It certainly helps that there’s basically no complex shading or difficult linework in the character designs; Lana is essentially a series of half a dozen block colors, making it far less labor-intensive than usual to animate a whole bunch of posture changes. But simply attributing it to that would downplay the genuine brilliance of the minimalism on display here – things like how the simple up-and-down shuffle of her “feet” moving is paced to create a sense of slight nervousness, which is then complemented by her defensive hand posture, altogether creating a clear sense that Lana is a little nervous but also proud to be here
In animation, you don’t need to drench a story in inner monologue or offer rapid-fire conversations in order to clarify a character’s personality: you can do it purely through the way they inhabit their own body, using the inherent intentionality of animation (since every change in movement must be actively drawn) to convey personality through visual shorthand
Anyway, apologies for rambling so much about a character slightly moving across the screen
“Which pokemon becomes Popplio’s master?” It does seem like it’s about time for Popplio to evolve, though I’m gonna miss that little seal baby. Why must pokemon become badass, why can’t they just evolve to be even cuter!?
Though to be fair, Popplio’s final form might be my favorite final form of any pokemon starter. If I can’t embody a cute animal, you bet your ass I’m going to embody an incarnation of beauty and grace
Oh my god. Popplio attempted a water Z move, but made itself dizzy using its own dang whirlpool. Clearly some training is in order
I like these low-angle shots they’re using to center the frolicking pokemon in the frame. The pokemon themselves are animated very well, and meanwhile, the contrast between them and their trainers in the distance creates a sense of depth and space in the frame, further integrating the audience into the scene
They run into a woman performing with one of Popplio’s evolutions, the mid-tier Brionne. I appreciate the design innovation that is “what if Popplio got pigtails and a pretty dress”
Brionne starts playing catch with Popplio. My heart is nourished
Ooh, lovely layouts, fluid cuts, and reasonable digital effect integration for this Z-move
My subtitles’ attempts to convey the accents of this performing couple have successfully made it impossible to parse what they’re saying. Good job, I think?
Aw shit, Lana’s in her Determined Stance. I appreciate that even these minor, situational quirks keep showing up – recognizing a minor quirk makes you feel like you know a character personally, making it that much easier to care about them
BRIONNE AND POPPLIO GREET BY TOUCHING NOSES OH MY sorry, sorry, I’ll try to keep it together
I’m curious as to what Japanese dialect these subtitles are attempting to imitate. I can hear it in the vocal tone, but can’t really recognize it – the only regional Japanese accent I’ve become accustomed to is Arata’s from Chihayafuru
Popplio’s shitty balloons are no match for Brionne’s sturdy, robust balloons
This all-day training session underlines the inherent difficulty of conveying pokemon trainers actually training. All of the “training” that Lana is doing is basically just yelling “Balloon!” repeatedly – after a scene like this, I can see why they usually depict Ash as performing all the same physical training exercises as his pokemon, to emphasize that he’s working as hard as they are
Alright, here we go. You can’t have a proper training session without a musical montage! Catchy chorus too, even if the verse lyrics are just a stream-of-consciousness ramble about pokemon types
I’m nearing the point of giving up on parsing these accented subtitles, and just assuming they’re all having a nice time
They’re on the hunt for a “Mystic Water Drop,” which is apparently like steroids for water pokemon
“Tailing good-time Charlie here sure paid off.” Subtitlers just having a full day with this one, huh
I guess this lady pulls in a pretty good income doing street tricks with pokemon, given this luxurious boat they apparently own
Kanoa finds the sunken ship, but there’s already an anchor-shaped Dhelmise guarding it. According to the Pokepedia this motherfucker eats whales, so maybe we should come back for treasure another day
Great use of dramatic irony here, as Kanoa explains that he knows how to carefully avoid angering the Dhelmise, right as Team Rocket pop into view in their shitty peddle boat. His explanation carries as we pan out of view of the main cast, contrasting against Team Rocket’s appearance to emphasize precisely how things are about to go wrong
Oh Meowth, you asshole. Confronted by the Dhelmise, he claims they were only acting under orders of our main crew
Oh my god, the thing’s dragging the whole ship underwater. Sun and Moon rarely leans into the scarier aspects of pokemon lore (with exceptions, like the sandcastle episode), but the underlying reality that they live in a world with genuine sea monsters is kind of terrifying. In spite of their often friendly nature, all pokemon are to some extent designed for battle, and generally more dangerous than they look
Of course, Jessie is so goddamn greedy that she can’t just take the win, and insists on returning for the treasure. Bless this queen
Ooh, another great low-angle shot as Ash sends Pikachu into battle. Here, the ship’s railing and Ash’s posture help draw the eye across the composition, creating a sense of forward momentum as they move towards battle
Yeah, now the entire ship is trapped in a massive whirlpool. Pokemon world can be pretty terrifying!
Exceedingly amused by Team Rocket’s ship having an old-fashioned hand saw “attachment.” Fully controllable robotic arms, sure, but if you want to cut anything, those arms better be holding an actual saw
Of course, the actual reason for that feature is that making drama visually clear is essential in animation, and also it’s really funny
Even several hundred feet under the sea, Bewear always finds his target
Popplio, I know you’re trying to look fierce and determined, but even that is just too adorable
As expected, the full reveal of Lana and Popplio’s Z-move combination is gorgeous. Lana’s design, composed almost entirely of fluid, rounded shapes, is absolutely ideal for Sun and Moon’s animation fluidity – and at the same time, that fluidity makes her seem even more appropriate as an avatar of water type attacks
Lana’s powers just keep emerging! This was a delightful episode for our water team, elevated largely by how adorable Popplio and Brionne were together. The water baby earned an effective water mentor, while we got to enjoy plenty of scenes of cute pokemon hanging out, as well as some excellent cuts of battle animation. Not a highlight like last episode, but Sun and Moon’s standard is a pretty high bar all by itself; and with so many of the show’s leads getting power upgrades, now I just want to see them cross swords with each other. Let them fight, Sun and Moon!