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"Pokémon Jirachi Wish Maker" Doesn't Fulfill Every Wish

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Slowly and steadily, 4Kids has been getting better at dubbing the Pokémon movies. After the disaster that was Mewtwo Strikes Back, they allowed for some quietness in Power of One, produced an almost-perfect translation in Spell of the Unown, and used Japanese music in Celebi: Spirit of the Forest. However, with this, the first Pokémon direct-to-video movie, 4Kids again shows us that, while they have taken baby steps, they’re still not ready to move into the big time.

Pokemon: JirachiThe main feature, Pokémon: Jirachi Wish Maker, starts out with a narrated explanation of the Pokémon world: Think of an updated version of those World of Pokémon extras in the first, fourth and fifth movies. A magician named Butler (I know it’s his Japanese name, but come on–Butler?) and his assistant Diane chance on a strange rock which seems to speak to young Max. Butler explains that it holds Jirachi, a mystical Pokémon that only appears for one week every 1,000 years when the Millenium Comet is visible on Earth. Jirachi awakens and immediately befriends Max, and soon the two are inseparable. However, something sinister is about to happen: Jirachi is taken away from our heroes to try to resurrect the ancient Pokémon Groudon for Team Magma. So Ash and company have to race against the clock to stop Groudon from re-awakening.

While this movie does continue the trend of story-over-action that has been going on since Pokémon 3, it doesn’t really reach out and grab you. It merely seems like a two-part episode of Pokémon Advanced rather than a movie. I’m not sure if it’s because the music is low or because the battles in the movie either don’t last long or are just uninteresting. Heck, the best battle in the whole movie is Pikachu and Torchic vs. Absol, and that lasts only about a minute.

Speaking of battling, very few of the Pokémon, especially our heroes’ Pokémon, actually battle, or even appear. This has been a growing trend ever since the third movie, and it’s really bugging me. I know the producers want to spotlight never-before-seen Pokémon–Absol, Flygon, and Salamence get plenty of screen time–but it can’t be that hard to have the main heroes call out someone other than Pikachu. The only other Pokémon that come out are May’s Torchic (for the battle against Absol) and Ash’s Tailow, and the latter appearance is actually a flashback to Episode 4 of Pokémon Advanced, where Pikachu shocked the birdie. I mean, you figure that since Treeko and Mudkip are on the cover they’d, you know, appear.

Still, the movie isn’t all bad. Max gets some much needed development, as he is really the main focus of the film. May gets a minor subplot with Pokémon‘s version of a dreamcatcher, and Ash gets plenty of screen time since he’s the star. But the entire movie belongs to Max as it expands on his friendship with Jirachi and his reluctance to separate from his new friend–a feeling which Ash knows all too well. The whole Butler/Diane subplot is a little bit more in-depth than most of the other movie one-timers, but it’s just not as good as Dr. Fuji’s subplot in Mewtwo Strikes Back. If you liked Pokémon Heroes, you’ll probably love this film. If you hate Max, though, stay far away.

Visually, we get some decent CGI, brighter colors, and some nice animation. The main characters seem a little taller as well as a bit rougher than on the TV series, and I like the change. Their hair changes shape slightly depending on the condition, and it just makes the movie feel more natural. Effects are as nice as ever, with fire and electricity being very fluid while being true to the show. While the animation is far from perfect, it is the best a Pokémon movie has had yet, though it doesn’t really do anything too special with said animation–unlike, say, the weather in Power of One or the crystal fortress in Spell of the Unown–so it may seem more standard than the other movies. The main problem is the lack of widescreen. Throughout the actual movie the video is in fullscreen. However, during the credits and in all the extras, the video is in widescreen. It really makes one frustrated.

Audio-wise, we get something special. Not only is this the first Pokémon movie to not have a special intro song–those waiting to hear a remixed version of “Advance Adventure”/”I Wanna Be a Hero” will have to wait–but the ending song is half-English, half-Japanese. Yes, you read right. The first verse and refrain of the ending song “Make a Wish” are in English, while the next minute and a half are in Japanese; and then it reverts back to English, then back to Japanese. The best part is that the English parts of the song fit in very well and seem very natural. It was pretty cool to have 4Kids fly in Asuca Hayashi, the singer of the Japanese version to do a remix of the song. As with all the Miramax-released movies, the original Japanese score is used, but for the first time, the title screen music is the same as in the Japanese version, and it’s nice to finally get it over on our shores. Unfortunately, 4Kids just couldn’t make the giant leap and include the actual Japanese version of the film (nor did they even subtitle the Japanese portions of the ending song), but they’re getting close.

The Pikachu mini-movie, Gotta Dance! is the main extra on the disc, and, like the previous mini-movie, it’s in widescreen with original Japanese music. Meowth, along with the help of Seviper, Wobuffet, and Cacnea, are done building a new base for Giovanni. Then Meowth shows off a new staff which makes Pokémon dance when they hear it. Pikachu, Treeko, Mudkip, Torchic, and Lotad happen by and see three captured Whismur forced to perform for Meowth, who is imagining his promotion. They try to rescue the Whismur but get caught up in the staff’s dance beat. It’s basically a giant homage to all the dancing Pokémon that appear in the majority of the Japanese Ending Songs. While I liked Camp Pikachu a little more (Wynaut is so irresistible), it is still worth multiple viewings.

Aside from the short there are not many extras. There’s the basic trivia game; a 30-second “thank you” from the director of the Pokémon anime (which is pretty cool, but way too short); short Pokédex bios and character art of all the major Pokémon in the film; and snapshots of the scenery from the movie. Finally, there’s a music video to the ending song “Make a Wish” (this time Japanese-only, though still lacking subtitles), with Asuca Hayashi herself in the video. The song is good, though it’d be nice to know what the hell Hayashi is actually saying; that’s a hint to you, 4Kids. The angelic effects do get cheesy, though. There is no commentary track.

Once again, 4Kids takes little baby steps toward being a respectable dubbing company (movie-wise anyway), but it is still reluctant to make that giant leap. Maybe if Miramax oversaw 4Kids television production, we could get the original music back for good in Pokémon as well as for other 4Kids shows. If you’re a Pokémon fan, you probably have already picked this up, but if you’re not a fan, this won’t change you into one.

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