Hello everyone, and welcome the heck back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am eager to relax with some Sun and Moon, and hope you all don’t mind if we just chill out in Alola for a while. After last episode’s absurd animation spectacle, which essentially compressed twenty years of animated passion into twenty glorious minutes, I’m not expecting a similar feat this time – and I’m actually quite okay with that. Animation highlights are fun and all, but Sun and Moon’s perennial attraction is the simple, peaceful joy of hanging out with this crew, and going on rambling adventures across their beautiful home. Sun and Moon is a place of rest and recovery, where you’re always welcome to just chill out for a while, and I hope you all appreciate that peace just as much as I do. Whether we’re finding a new pokemon or just lounging on the beach, let’s ease right into another day under the Alolan sun!
Lillie on the pokeproblem today. It’s been quite some time since we had a Lillie episode, hasn’t it? Her last one was… lemme check… oh wow, taking care of Pikachu back in number thirty. She’s well overdue!
I suppose it makes sense that it’s a little trickier to integrate Lillie episodes, though. It doesn’t seem like she’s training for the island pilgrimage like the others, and she’s not really interested in pokemon battles, so she tends to miss out on the “my powers leveled up!” circuits the others go through. Her stories tend to be driven more by emotional drama, as she works to overcome her pokemon phobia, but that’s only a well you can return to so many times
There’s also the fact that her in-game character is intrinsically tied to the fairly dark Sun and Moon main story, which this anime has largely foregone in favor of episodic shenanigans. If they start weaving in the game’s plot beats, her relevancy will naturally increase, making it also natural to give the less plot-relevant teammates more time in the sun early on
“My mother appears in this episode.” OH SHIT IT’S HAPPENING. Game Lusamine was a megalomaniacal villain with no qualms about sacrificing her children for glory, so I expect her character’s receiving some touch-ups for the anime
We begin on an ominous cold open, as Ash appears to be led to a foggy, mysterious monument in a dream. Already, it seems like the show is turning towards a more focused narrative, offering a menacing prophecy that may drive us for episodes to come
They reach a temple marked by the sun and moon symbols, and the legendary Sun and Moon pokemon appear in the sky. An eerie sight undercut only slightly by Pikachu’s persistent “pika pika”s
All the island guardians take note as a new pokemon appears, and Gladio’s mysterious friend is restless. Shit is undeniably Afoot
Yep, the Ultra Beasts are arriving. These creatures felt like some combination of tragic mad science experiments and Lovecraftian void creatures in the game, so I’ll be interested to see how they’re integrated here
“Ash and Starcloud! A Mysterious Encounter!”
The gang are oversleeping after their vacation. Some delightful Pikachu animation here, as he rolls off the couch like the boneless lump he is. Is this… yep, it’s another Masaaki Iwane episode. Good times ahead!
Like all cats, Nyabby delights in waking up his master in the most abrasive way possible
Wow, a style of superdeformed faces we haven’t seen before. Will this show ever run out of silly Ash faces?
Oh my god, Pikachu just collapsing through the shot as a wipe transition. Inspired. This is cinema
“The Alola Lady Award goes to Alola’s woman of the year.” I love how unspecific this is. No competition or pageant or anything, just “yeah, you did a great job as a woman this year, have a trophy”
It goes to Professor Burnett, a pokemon researcher
She researches “Ultra Holes,” presumably the portals used by Ultra Beasts
Oh wow, beautiful new background as we get a full pan of the Altar of the Sun
Lusamine and Burnett are both at the shrine, implying Lusamine will be an ally from the start this time. She’s still got that condescending ojou-sama attitude, though. Sun and Moon understands the essential things
We get the usual opening cut of Ash running to the school, but it’s interrupted by a guardian pokemon leading Ash into the forest. Oh god, that seems like a statement of purpose: “school time’s over, the plot’s starting.” I don’t need any plot!
Excellent “yo, where the fuck did you go” noises from Pikachu as he chases the guardian
Kapu-Kokeko leads them to Cosmog sleeping in the forest. The processing effects get noticeably more intense for this key sequence, bathing the whole party in diffuse sunlight
Kukui wonders why Ash isn’t in class, and all of his classmates immediately assume he was distracted by a shiny rock. Love this crew
Unsurprisingly for Iwane, Ash’s character acting is great this episode. There are lots of wonderfully exaggerated full-body contortions he’s doing, but then also neat subtle touches that feel very true-to-life, like the way he suddenly tilts his head to hear Kukui’s answer
Oh my god, Cosmog and Rowlett are sharing the backpack like a sleeping bag. Too much fluffiness
AND NOW A PIKACHU-SHAPED STAR WIPE TRANSITIONS US DIRECTLY TO PIKACHU’S FACE. THEY CAN’T KEEP DOING THIS, THEY’RE BREAKING CINEMA
Lillie names the little fluff ball Starcloud
He wakes up and immediately starts screaming, which I can certainly relate to
Just delightful character acting and expression work all around the crew. This sequence of Ash handing off the baby to Kaki is just perfectly executed, from the clarity of Ash’s salute to the flawless comedic timing
Interestingly, while most pokemon are assigned pretty clear animal-like mannerisms, Starcloud is characterized more like a human baby, prone to wild emotional shifts
Starcloud is a picky eater! Love this cut of Lillie devastated that Starcloud doesn’t want her cake
There are a lot more establishing shots in this episode than usual, which creates a sense of anticipation that is perfect for an episode all about the plot kicking into gear
Oh my god, this Lusamine is a quintessential embarrassing mom, immediately trying to squish her daughter’s cheeks in front of her new friend. Brilliant work
The simultaneous introduction of all these new adults really hammers in just how good pokemon’s character designs are. Lusamine’s hair and dress balance each other perfectly, while Wicke manages to evoke the clear aura of an office assistant while still maintaining plenty of individual flair. And then there’s Sauboh, who’s just Elton John
Easy to see how Lusamine hasn’t shown up yet. She loves her daughter, but isn’t really much of a mom – she’s more of an embarrassing older sister character, without much genuine interest in guiding Lillie
Well, that certainly wasn’t the episode I was expecting! A whole bunch of plot in my Sun and Moon? But in spite of this episode being far more narratively propulsive than I might have hoped, it was fortunately still brimming with all of the wonderful character acting and charming relationships that make this show special. In particular, it was delightful to see Nefarious Mastermind Lusamine transformed into Embarrassing Mom Lusamine, and I look forward to plenty more scenes of her smothering her reluctant daughter in affection. Plus, those Pikachu wipes! Scorsese would be proud.