When you stop to consider the ramifications of the world of Pokémon, it’s actually quite a dark and gruesome place to live. On the one hand, the original Gameboy game and the corresponding late ’90s animated series established the relationship between humans and their critters as one of love and friendship… on the other, the series’ bread and butter is capturing wild animals and forcing them to fight each other to the point of unconsciousness for sport. (Thank the Pokégods for places like Rhyme City, where battling is outlawed.) Although the Pokémon canon has always sugarcoated such harsh truths with cute imagery and upbeat melodies, this new take on the franchise makes no bones about it: Pokémon is a horror show.
From the Octopie team and the minds of directors the Junquera Brothers and producer Adi Shankar, creator of Netflix’s Castlevania animated series, comes a glimpse at the dark and sinister Pokémon movie we’ll never get. The would-be premise reimagines Ash Ketcham as a renegade activist fighting for the liberation of Pokémon, and ostensibly driven to such extreme measures by his grief over the death of his beloved pal Pikachu.
Present and accounted for are familiar faces from the game and series, namely Professor Oak, Misty, Brock, Giovanni, Nurse Joy, and Team Rocket’s own Jesse and James. Naturally, the human cast is accompanied by some choice Pokémon cameos delivered in new, grittier design; we see the likes of Venusaur, Ninetales, Magikarp, Charizard, Doduo, Squirtle, Magnemite, Pidgeot, Muk, Primeape, Tentacool, Tentacruel, Seaking, Togepi, Meowth, Starmie, Paras, Psyduck, Arbok, Geodude, Gyarados, Mewtwo, a very upsetting version of Chansey, Cubone, Machamp, Moltres, and Scyther.
Also present and accounted for are creepy masks made to resemble Pikachu, Nidoran, Kadabra, Haunter, Raticate, Jynx, Growlithe, Mr. Mime, Pinsir, Vaporeon, Slowpoke, Weedle, Psyduck, Jigglypuff, and Lickitung, as well as a likeness of Dewgong represented on the storefront of Misty’s gym.
Detective Pikachu may have pushed the envelope slightly on the standing tone of the Pokéworld, but Octopie’s take on the franchise is a whole ‘nother level—one we’re curious about but not so sure we’re ready to handle. (Sorry, but that Chansey…)