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Anime / Pokémon: Secrets of the Jungle

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Pokémon the Movie: Secrets of the Jungle is the 23rd Pokémon movie produced by OLM Incorporated, set in the same continuity as Pokémon: I Choose You! and Pokémon: The Power of Us. It was once again directed by Tetsuo Yajima, with the script written by franchise mainstay Atsuhiro Tomioka.

Ten years prior to the events, the Mythical Pokémon Zarude finds a human baby alone in the Forest of Okoya. The Zarude leaves its pack to raise the child. Ten years later, the child, named Koko, is an adventurous jungle boy, but one day while swinging on vines, he crashes into a metal pipe and ends up in Milyfa Town, where he meets Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, who are touring the Biotope Corporation, a company looking into the water in the forest run by a scientist named Dr. Zed. However, the scientist isn't what he seems...

The film was released in Japan on December 25, 2020. It was supposed to have a July release date, but it was pushed back due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was released in English on Netflix on October 8, 2021.

The movie was followed by a TV special episode broadcasted in Japan on December 23, 2022, following the finale of Pokémon Journeys: The Series. It's the first TV episode to feature Ash from the movie continuity instead of his more famous TV series counterpart.

Secrets of the Jungle provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Laboratory: What Zarude found of Koko's former home, and how he explains his past. The lab itself has clearly been claimed/reclaimed by the jungle around it, with plant life growing over almost everything.
  • Actor Allusion: Meowth's disguise with the blonde bowl cut wig could be a nod to Manta Oyadama whom Inuko Inuyama also voices.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In Takeshi Shudō's source material for the Pokémon anime, Pocket Monsters: The Animation, Ash's father abandoned him and Delia, shortly after the former's birth. Here, it's revealed he stayed with him long enough to the point where his son can remember him fondly as the inspiration for him to become The Determinator.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Dada Zarude begs the forest Pokémon to join the fight against Dr. Zed, while admitting how the way he treated them was wrong.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Ash and his Pikachu continue their journey to parts unknown in the ending as usual, but Koko also gets this treatment, having adopted his identity as both human and Pokémon, and bids a farewell to Dada to see more of the world outside his home.
  • Animal Talk: In scenes where Koko and the Zarude are alone, they are shown speaking human language, but when they are around Ash, they say their names like regular Pokémon.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The massive spider-tank Dr. Zed operates is too powerful to be fought directly, but its vulnerable spot turns out to be a power-source located on its back. After one slice from Pikachu's Iron Tail, the entire thing goes down.
  • Bad Boss: Dr. Zed, when his colleagues realize he's gone too far. He physically pushes one of them to the side for questioning him, and it's later revealed that he was indirectly responsible for the death of Koko's parents.
  • Beyond the Impossible: As a child raised by Pokémon, Koko believes himself to be a Pokémon at first and is frustrated by his inability to use Pokémon moves. At the climax of the movie, as Dada is dying, Koko is miraculously able to pull off a Jungle Healing to save Dada's life.
  • The Cameo: Rita and Phil from New Pokémon Snap appear in the background in Milyfa Town. Conversely, there are framed photos of the Milyfa Town Pokémon Center, the Great Tree and the Biotope Company building appear in Professor Mirror's laboratory in that game, implying this film and New Pokémon Snap are connected.
  • Dance Party Ending: The credits sequence consists of a Skwovet and Cramorant dancing to the ending theme.
  • Darker and Edgier: The first 'reboot' Pokémon movie with a defined villain, and he is a nasty piece of work responsible for two onscreen murders and all but attempting suicide rather than lose. The rest of the movie is surprisingly somber as well.
  • Disney Death: Dada Zarude is fatally wounded from protecting Koko and gives him his Last Words, but Koko's Jungle Healing saves his life anyway.
  • Deus ex Machina: The impact of Dada Zarude’s death is thrown out the window when Koko uses an untapped power of healing to revive him.
  • Deuteragonist: Ash plays this role this time around, with Koko being the main character.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Jessie's decision to release Ash's Pikachu from their lucky containment is that, while they'll have plenty of chances to catch it later, they might not get another chance to access Zed's lab with the key they need Pikachu to unstuck.
  • Ecocidal Antagonist: Dr. Zed intends on stealing healing energy from a tree with no regard for the ecosystem or the Pokémon living there. The scientists who advise him against it are killed for their criticism, and Dr. Zed is also a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist who claims to want the healing energy to help people, but the movie shows that his main concerns are for his own pride and ego.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jessie and James are a part of Team Rocket, but the horror on their faces are made apparent when they realize that Dr. Zed was responsible for the deaths of Koko's true parents. Despite Team Rocket not gaining anything for his arrest, they choose to do so due to the man having no ethics or concern for welfare.
  • Hate Sink: We can’t hate Team Rocket, due to them falling into the Laughably Evil category, but we can hate Dr. Zed. He is an elitist asshole who is motivated entirely by greed and his social status, looks down on his men and women as expendable tools, is willing to commit genocide as part of his agenda and has no sympathetic qualities at all.
  • Hidden Depths: James turns out to be a surprisingly good hacker, producing a fake keycard to access Zed's lab.
  • It's All About Me:
    • The Zarude believe they have the right to take what they wish, not giving a damn about the other "weak" Pokémon.
    • Dr. Zed is eventually shown to be this, as well. As mentioned down below, his desire to find the healing spring is less about helping humans and more about helping his own ego and proving himself.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Zed, though he pretends to be nice early on.
  • Mask of Sanity: Dr. Zed at first appears to be completely in control of himself, but as soon as the tree is in his sight, he reveals his truly deranged self that is willing to hurt both human and Pokémon to get what he wants.
  • Might Makes Right: What the Zarude believe, for following the law. As mentioned above, they use their superior strength and numbers to basically bully the other jungle Pokémon just because they can.
  • Morality Pet: Koko is this for his 'Dada', bringing out the best in him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • The Elder realizes how wrong the Zarude were at fanatically enforcing the law, which makes them no different from Dr. Zed.
    • Dr. Zed's colleagues also have this reaction when they see how far he's willing to go in his quest to prove himself right, and how they were destroying the home of the Zarude.
  • Mythology Gag: The basic premise of a young boy who was raised by a group of wild Pokémon brings to mind the original series episode, "The Kangaskhan Kid".
  • The Native Rival: Dada Zarude is more of a father figure than a direct rival, but he bears many characteristics of this trope, especially his fellow Zarude’s reluctance to accept Koko as one of his tribe.
  • Nature Versus Nurture: A big part of the conflict, probably the main one, revolves around Koko/Al’s struggle to decide whether he belongs with those who raised him and who he's been friends with his whole life, or with the creatures who look like him, think like him, and whom he came from.
  • Never Learned to Talk: Koko is shown speaking in English around the clan of Zarude, but this is only because of the Translation Convention. When he's around other humans, he only says, "Zarude". This is because he was raised by Zarude, but he learns to speak more English later on.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Dr. Zed claims that he wants to gain access to the healing energy to help countless humans, but it's speedily made clear that he's only interested in his ego and proving himself right. The superiors he murdered to reactivate the project even told him they would restart it once they found a safe way to extract the energy without compromising the Zarude's home, but he simply couldn't wait or let go of his obsession.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Zarude as a whole (believing they have the right to steal from the other jungle Pokémon just because they're stronger and often settling internal disputes with fights), though they grow out of it by the movie's end.
  • Put on a Prison Bus: Dr. Zed is arrested and put on trial for the murder of Koko's parents.
  • Sinister Shades: Dr. Zed wears some tinted shades and he's a nasty piece of work
  • Spider Tank: Dr. Zed's team brings in one to clear out a path through the jungle to the Great Tree, a huge mecha armed with a flamethrower and a retractable wrecking-ball. He ends up hijacking it himself in the climax and then uses it to try and kill all of the Pokémon and humans in his way, setting up the final battle.
  • The Starscream: Dr. Zed, when he took over the project after indirectly getting Koko's parents killed.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Koko looks just like his real dad.
  • Toilet Humor:
    • Dada Zarude becomes the victim of a slapstick routine when he first meets Koko as a baby. His humiliation culminates with Koko's bottom landing on Dada's nose, his diaper hasn't been changed in a while...
    • In the next scene, a Zarude of Dada's tribe comments that the baby "smells like Stunky's rear end."
    • Dada Zarude roars at a group of Pokémon accusing him for the lack of food in the forest, one of them is a Stunky who farts in fear.
  • Villainous Breakdown: By the end, Zed is reduced to a hysterical animal who rages at Koko for saving his life.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Team Rocket get no clear benefits from releasing Doctor Zed's confession video anonymously, but do so anyway.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To Disney's Tarzan, notably when Koko presses his hand against Ash's and his argument with Dada for never telling him that he's a human. Dada finding baby Koko by a river at the start of the film is also one to Disney's The Jungle Book, being identical to how Baghera found baby Mowgli.