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A Surprisingly Decent Movie
Ah yes... the Pokémon anime. Many of us have grown up with it, some of us no longer care about it and view it as embarrassing kiddie Snark Bait, and some of us still enjoy it as a Guilty Pleasure or due to nostalgia. A lot of this is because the show insists on being Strictly Formula and suffering from lazy, kid-oriented writing, but once in a while the show can produce something that's actually enjoyable, watchable and even moving. This movie is one of them.

The opening (explaining Sir Aaron's sacrifice) is incredibly badass and serious, but then we catch up with the wacky antics of Ash and the gang for the first half of the movie. This part is pretty much unwatchable in English, but at least tolerable in Japanese. Then, Ash unwittingly revives Lucario, the movie's star Pokémon, and the movie kicks off from there. Just like in Shudo's early movies, we're treated to great characterization (especially for Lucario and, surprisingly, Ash), expansive world-building and imagination, and a few super-effective emotional moments, especially at the end (I don't want to spoil anything). I highly recommend this movie for anyone who's cynical about the Pokémon anime, or who wants to appreciate the Lucario character more after playing the games or Super Smash Bros..

Despite the good characterization, the film suffers from some pacing problems. Compared to Pokemon3, which gets into the plot pretty much right away, this movie spends waaaaaaay too long focusing on the festival and the Ash gang's antics at first. Even when Lucario appears, it takes a while for any significant developments to go through, but that doesn't detract from the emotional impact of the ending one bit.

The English dub is terrible, but at least it doesn't suffer from the same Cut-and-Paste Translation problems as Pokémon: The First Movie. Unless you're big on nostalgia, I highly recommend watching the movie in Japanese, even with crappy subtitles.
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