Fan Fic: Anima Ex Machina
Anima Ex Machina is an ongoing Pokémon fanfiction written by JX Valentine (alias Jax Malcolm). While apparently serious on the surface, its main goal is, as the author herself puts it, "to read like a cheesy, B-rated sci-fi movie." Probably while hitting every trope on the way down.
The story focuses on Bill, a young but absurdly unlucky Pokémon researcher (and noticeably the author's favorite character in the franchise
) who has been recruited onto a top-secret government project to study an alien Pokémon. However, by the end of the first chapter, he's kidnapped by Team Rocket and forced to become the host of the aforementioned Pokémon, which transforms him into a human-alien hybrid
. After a series of rather unfortunate events, he finds himself in Hoenn, dragged into a war between human survivors (most of whom want him dead) and the hostile alien Pokémon (who just want to hurt him… a lot). In the meantime, Team Rocket wants to add him to their Pokémon army, a mysterious organization known as the Committee plots to use him as a guinea pig, and his own father manipulates the strings in the background for his own as-of-yet-unknown agenda. Oh, and the parasite sharing his body is not only sentient but also a calculating sociopath who prefers withholding as much information from its host as sanely possible. Yes, Bill's life pretty much sucks.
So far, the fanfiction spans over thirty chapters of one book (eighteen in an earlier discontinued version
), with a second book mentioned to eventually exist. The majority of the most current version of the fic can be read on a smattering of different forums and outlets, but the most reliable updates tend to be on the author's own website
The earlier version of this fanfic contains examples of:
- Alien Invasion: The entire plot centers around the invasion of the Ixodida (aka XP-650) of Hoenn… and only Hoenn.
- Ascended Extra: The entire cast.
- Even the move tutor in Pokémon Crystal is given a major role in this fic.
- As an in-universe example, Thom and Ellen received brief mentions in the original version of the fic before dying, but both become side characters in the current version, simply because the author liked them enough.
- Also Lanette, who went from support to practically the Lancer.
- And I Must Scream: The Ixodida invoke this trope if one realizes that every host is conscious within their own minds. Those moments where Bill is forced to watch what Adam does? Every single waking moment of any other host's life. And there's nothing they can do about it.
- Baleful Polymorph: Within the general fandom, it's very rare to find a fanfiction that doesn't have Bill be one of these at some point if he's mentioned at all. This fic takes that idea and runs with it. By adding zombie alien mutants.
- Bilingual Bonus: Any of the Japanese featured in the fic. The first time it's featured, it's a Non Sequitur Thud on Bill's part, but most of it comes from Hope, whose lines when translated are meant to crank her Creepy Child vibe up to eleven.
- Blessed with Suck: All of the Ixodida hosts. Either they're super-powerful mutants who have no free will, or they're cosmic butt monkeys.
- Body Horror: The earliest chapters delighted in this, including a dream sequence that had Bill watch himself transform into an Ixodida. This involved describing his innards liquefying and his skin falling off in great detail. It tones down in later chapters. Sort of. Until we see it happen again to Brigette in chapter 25.
- Bond Creatures: The Ixodida parasites to their human hosts.
- Bonus Material: There's a series of extras published in between chapters that explain various aspects of the AEM universe that aren't made clear in the text or are otherwise difficult to keep track of. These include everything from the structure of the Ixodida hierarchy to character biographies. Also, there are multiple holiday-themed crack specials.
- Bring Him to Me: When the empress learns about Bill's existence, this becomes the main mission for the monarch Ixodida under her control. Whether or not they bother to execute it is a different story, however.
- Broken Bird: Pretty much most of the female cast is this. The male cast, on the other hand…
- Butt Monkey: If there's a chapter in which the reviewers don't at some point mention that Bill's life sucks, it's because Bill didn't appear in the chapter to begin with.
- Calling Your Attacks: Bill occasionally does this, particularly with new attacks (and always with Magnet Rise). For whatever reason, he's the only character to do this. Even Tate doesn't.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Bill and Lanette's relationship is practically based on this. It doesn't help that Lanette treats Bill the way she does because she's afraid of having to kill someone she cares about, and Bill routinely announces that he cares about her as a friend because he's an idiot when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
- Cerebus Rollercoaster: Those moments when someone is comically beating the crap out of Bill, when Thom opens his mouth and inserts his foot, or when John is happily blowing off Team Rocket are usually neatly sandwiched between chapters in which the body count goes up.
- Classical Anti-Hero: Your main character, ladies and gentlemen.
- Code Name: Each of the Ixodida has one, as do many of the Team Rocket operatives.
- Color-Coded Elements: The easiest way to tell the Ixodida apart is by looking at their skin color. Each one has skin that matches their specific type, such as silver for Steel-types, red for Fire-types, pink for Psychic-types, and so on.
- Continuity Nod: The fic references the anime in one way or another all the time. One of the instances, a quote from episode 13, is even foreshadowing.
- There's plenty of references to the games as well.
- Continuity Reboot: Technically, the fic is in its second version; the first version, still viewable on Fanfiction.net under the name Codename Adam, boasted a completely different (far darker) plot and longer chapters.
- Crazy Enough to Work: During a battle against a Fire-type in chapter 27, Bill realizes he has a massive type disadvantage, so he decides to try the most logical solution he can think of at the time: cut off his opponent's oxygen supply by taking the battle to higher altitudes and thinner air. Although this means he cuts off his own oxygen supply, his plan did exactly what it was meant to do, and had he been faster (and aware of the fact that Prometheus could still attack him regardless), he would have actually won. Word of God has already promised that we can expect more of this from Bill throughout the rest of the fic, given the nature of his talents in the first place.
- Creator Cameo: In the first Christmas special, JX Valentine appears to apologize for a lack of a Christmas special, only to have Lanette and Domino call her out on her laziness.
- Creepy Child: Hope. And she wasn't always like that.
- Crowbar Combatant: Lanette's chief weapon against Ixodida? A crowbar. Her skills with it are so keen that she has managed to incapacitate Bill, a mutant with living armor, increased strength, knives for hands, and a sociopathic second personality that could take over at a moment's notice.
- Dark Fic: The fic's prologue features an Absol getting devoured by aliens. And it goes downhill from there.
- Deadpan Snarker: Adam. Even more so in later chapters.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Over the course of several chapters, Lanette slowly warms up to Bill… at least to the point where she doesn't want to kill him anymore. Until chapter 28, anyway.
- A Dog Named Dog: This is apparently one of the few fics in which trainers don't give nicknames to their Pokémon (to match canon). Unfortunately, this has led to the author having to explain on more than one occasion why she capitalizes words like Spinda and Chansey at some points but not at others.
- Expy: Abel's host wears a blue jumpsuit and is kidnapped and experimented on by mad scientists. Sound familiar?
- If the Committee reminds you of SEELE, there's a reason for that.
- The Agency is pretty much the Men in Black.
- But Nikki Stark is a female expy of Nick Fury.
- Fantastic Racism: Humans towards the Ixodida.
- Good Is Not Nice: Lanette is an Ice Queen, but she'll put her life on the line… for humans.
- Go Out with a Smile: Brigette tried to do this, but Lanette refused to Mercy Kill her. As a result, her parasite took over, and she died minutes later at the hands of Mr. Briney.
- Hair Color Spoiler: Whenever Bill's human form was described, one detail that would continuously be highlighted is the fact that he had green hair. In later chapters, the first tip-off that he and Hope are related? Her green hair.
- Harmless Electrocution: Averted messily when Abel breaks out of Polaris Institute.
- Heel-Face Turn: Most humans one way or another. Up until they find out that Bill isn't really a bloodthirsty monster, they generally go out of their way to either torture him or attempt to kill him.
- He Knows Too Much: This is how the plot actually starts. Specifically, Team Rocket infiltrates Polaris Institute in an attempt to steal data and obtain samples of both the Ixodida parasite and a parasite-host hybrid. In the process, three agents capture a random scientist (who happens to be Bill) in order to create the latter. Although Domino realizes that Bill is one of the people she was ordered not to touch, she reasons that he would talk and has him infected anyway.
- Heroic Host
- How Do I Shot Web?: Most Ixodida and Pokémon in general have no trouble mastering skills. Bill is talented enough to come very close to killing himself on more than one occasion when trying out new ones.
- Humanity Is Infectious: Adam began the fic as a cold-hearted sociopath who maintained a distant relationship with its host and only seemed interested in survival. Over time (and after spending weeks in Bill's head), it evolves into a deadpan snarker with some semblance of emotion, the ability to feel genuine concern for its host's well-being, and an insatiable curiosity towards humanity.
- Humanoid Abomination: The Ixodida preserve their hosts' faces during transformation as a defense mechanism. Why is it a defense mechanism? Because not every human would be okay seeing the faces of their loved ones on the bodies of alien mutants.
- I Call It Vera: According to the first version of the fic and Word Of God, Lanette's crowbar is named Mr. Smashy.
- Ice Queen: Lanette in a nutshell.
- I Have Many Names: Domino, who is referred to or refers to herself over the course of the fic as 009, Black Tulip, Sienna, Saffron, Yolanda, and whatever a cast member happens to feel like calling her at any given moment. Most side materials refer to her as Domino, but she quickly establishes that this is only the name of her favorite cover, not her actual name.
- Interspecies Romance: Adam finds Lanette very interesting.
- It Can Think: Happens twice. In the first instance, Bill realizes that Abel can understand him and is attempting to defend him. A few chapters later, the Mauville residents begin to understand that Bill – and by extension all Ixodida – are humans inside.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Several characters initially refer to Bill in his Ixodida form as an it, largely because Ixodida are generally seen as inhuman, sociopathic monsters. The characters that call him by the correct pronoun are the ones who see him for who he is.
- Meanwhile, Adam is always referred to as an it (except when referred to by other characters) to invoke this trope for the readers.
- Literary Allusion Title: Many of the chapter names are lines from poems, short stories, songs, or Bible verses (if they're not famous quotes, proverbs, or references to literary devices).
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Love Triangle: It's more like a love octagon, and they call themselves the Caravan.
- Meaningful Name: Most of the Ixodida have one that foreshadows their roles in the fic. Pandora gives pain and sorrow to humanity. Abel is the first to be murdered. Lilith rules demons. Adam is the first man. Ereshkigal is the goddess of the dead.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Naturally. Bill is able to keep a decent level of control over himself (with the explanation being he likens his situation to the costumes he wears for research purposes), but the longer he stays an Ixodida, the more frequently he slips up, like enjoying eating raw Pokémon meat a little too much, obeying a trainer's every command without the least bit of resistance, or growling like an animal when he's frustrated. It comes to a head at the end of chapter twenty-seven, in which he's driven by starvation and instincts to attack Steven, Vito, Lanette, and their Pokémon.
- The Mole: Apparently, Polaris Institute came complete with its own army of Rocket agents disguised as scientists, assistants, and security officers.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: No, Lanette, there really are better ways of dealing with the fact that your ex-partner lost control over the alien parasite inside him and attempted to maim everyone within arm's reach. Really.
- Mysterious Past: Even when Adam mentions its own, there seem to be details suspiciously missing.
- Lanette also keeps a lid on hers until chapter twenty-five.
- No Biochemical Barriers: Of the cross-species disease variety. And hand-waved at that.
- Not Using the Z Word: The story is about an alien zombie apocalypse, but the fic itself goes out of its way to avoid mentioning either. The zombie part is justified due to Our Zombies Are Different, but the part about aliens happens for literally no apparent reason, especially given the fact that the characters are aware of the Ixodida's extraterrestrial origins.
- Our Zombies Are Different: The Ixodida.
- Oh My Gods!: Whenever a character says something similar to "oh God" or "For God's sake," the word "god" is always plural. Justified in that most people in the fic's world are polytheistic. (Note that Professor Nettle, a foreigner from a predominantly monotheistic culture, is the only character who keeps "God" singular.)
- The Omniscient Councilof Vagueness: The Committee.
- Out-of-Character Alert: In chapter 18, the moment that sparked the fight between Adam and Lanette (and subsequently Adam's "interest" in her) is the fact that it saved her from Ixodida while pretending to be Bill. The only reason why she knew it wasn't him was because "Bill" was actually willing to fight at all.
- Out of Focus: There are actually four different plots going on at once. The main one obviously focuses on Bill, but the other three involve Team Rocket's plans to capture an Ixodida in order to form an unstoppable army, the mysterious Committee's observations on the Ixodida, and most recently, John's activities in Polaris and his resistance to Team Rocket. Typically, the fic goes for four chapters without focusing on any of the other three, so characters like John, the Committee members, and Ariana are shoved off to the side in favor of characters like Bill and Lanette. This is also used to prevent the reader from seeing everything that goes on in the other three plots.
- Overcome Their Differences: This seems to be the basis of Bill and Adam's relationship with each other.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: As of the end of the Mauville Arc, Bill wears human clothing to hide most of his Ixodida features. Supposedly, this is meant to make people more comfortable to interact with him, but really, it's not even remotely fooling anyone.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Thom.
- Pokémon Speak: Naturally and literally. This fic also doesn't bother to translate it when it happens; the main character does it for us. If he wants to.
- Power Glows: Most Ixodida gain an aura of one color or another when using one of their Elemental Powers.
- Psychic Powers: From what Lanette has to say, it's heavily implied that all Ixodida have some level of this towards each other, and it's explicitly stated that Ixodida parasites are psychically linked to their hosts, allowing the two to communicate with each other. The empress herself apparently has clairvoyance.
- Puppeteer Parasite: The actual body of the Ixodida are their parasitic cores; the rest is the mutated form of the human host. This is why an Ixodida can't be killed unless the core is destroyed. An Ixodida can theoretically regenerate any body part its host lost – except the head – because all of the body parts still attached to the core is considered to be alive. In most cases, the host's mind is suppressed to let the Ixodida take over, but there are exceptions known as rogues, who maintain their human minds for one reason or another. The hero is a rogue himself, although his parasitic alien sidekick has a tendency to take over whenever it pleases.
- Rasputinian Death: A female Ixodida is shot multiple times in the head, has her limbs ripped off, is beheaded, and the only way she truly dies is to have the Ixodida parasite ripped out of her. And that's why you go for the core.
- Refusal of the Call: Bill spends a lot of his time in the first half of the fic trying to do this, which usually prompts someone to beat the everloving crap out of him.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Averted. For a fanfiction with geniuses and scientists running around, no one seems to bother breaking out a thesaurus.
- Shout Out: Too many to list. The author has explicitly stated that this is half the point.
- Staking the Loved One: Turns out that before the events of the fic, Brigette was infected by the ixodida parasite while she and Lanette were traveling to Point Zero. Halfway through her transformation, she begs Lanette to mercy kill her. Lanette refuses, and this is the catalyst for her transformation into an ice queen.
- The Symbiote
- Theme Naming: All Ixodida are named after first humans or characters in mythology or religion associated with early humanity. Justified in that all of their names are codenames.
- Also, the Joys and Jennies are generally named after characters in science-fiction/superhero media. This version of the fic has Ellen Joy and Veronica Jenny, but past versions also had a Pepper Jenny.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Bill dislikes fighting and spends a large amount of time actively seeking alternative ways of getting out of fights without seriously injuring or killing his opponent. In fact, all of the times "he" has killed someone, it's actually been Adam. However, with his recent training and with events gearing up for a showdown between the main characters and the empress, it's difficult to say whether or not Bill will be teetering into Reluctant Warrior territory after all.
- To Know Him I Must Become Him: Played with. One of the more obvious examples is an aversion. Adam mentions that Bill's research methods is to don costumes and become a Pokémon mentally, but Bill refuses to emulate an Ixodida despite his situation being like wearing a costume full-time. The less obvious example is the fact that Adam, in its downtime, reads Bill's memories and reconstructs events in his life to better understand his motives and habits.
- Training from Hell: A lot of Bill's training falls under two categories. The first is battling his friends, which involves things like electrocuting him, engulfing him in a tower of fire, and slamming him face-first into concrete after being swung around by his tail. The second involves Adam crawling into his brain to "teach" him how to use his powers.
- Trust Password: A literal one. When Bill and Lanette first encounter each other, the former gets the latter to stop attacking him by whispering one of the administrative passwords of the storage system to her. It later turns out to be her real first name, which apparently only he and Lanette's family know.
- Undying Loyalty: Lanette beats Bill with a crowbar, sentences him to exile, locks him in Mauville Gym (handcuffed to a metal bar while refusing to give him the key), and sedates him to prevent him from attempting to escape so the Caravan can leave him behind. What's Bill's response once he breaks out? Go save her from the incoming Ixodida. Even when he breaks down and chews her out on her cruelty towards him, it's clear he has no intention of leaving her, despite having the option to do so.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: The fic was explicitly written with this in mind. As such, it's overloaded with geek culture, including not only references to sci-fi/fantasy film, television, literature, and video games but also references to everything from classic literature to Mesopotamian mythology. There is literally no chapter that doesn't have at least one reference to an outside source, and the author frequently dares readers to find them all. This is because while it reads like a serious dark fic on the surface, in reality, it's actually a very subtle Take That to B-rated sci-fi film and the Pokémorph fanfiction genre. In fact, this entire page was created to challenge readers to find and catalogue as many of them as possible.
- Violence is the Only Option: Experience and everyone around him try to convince Bill that this is true in the war against the Ixodida. For the first half of the fic, he tries desperately to argue this point. Hilarity ensued.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Most of the humans in Hoenn at first. Apparently, humanity's stance on protecting themselves involves pulling a xenocide on a new Pokémon species.
- We Used to Be Friends: The source of Bill's angst over Lanette's hostility towards him. It takes six chapters for her to treat him as if he's not a complete monster, much less like he's her best friend. And then it takes two more for them to take a step backwards.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?
- When You Snatch the Pebble: As a training exercise, Veronica puts her hat on her Growlithe and tells Bill to grab it. Considering Bill is a Steel-type and therefore horrendously weak to fire, this does not end well.
- Zombie Apocalypse