NOTE: The English version of the movie provides us a good translation of the Japanese title of this Arceus movie by putting it right in the dialogue. Remember folks, if you are going to translate the title instead of using the English adaptation’s as I have, Choukoku no Jikuu e should now be called Transcend the Confines of Time and Space. Stop using every translation of the title except this one, including my previous one. That line of debate should be over one way or another.
The latest movie in the Pokemon franchise is unique in a number of ways, something which is impressive given that this is the twelfth time Pokemon has seen a theatrical release. This is the first time a Pokemon movie has been released in English so soon after its Japanese release. Known as Pocket Monsters Diamond & Pearl: Arceus – Transcend the Confines of Time and Space (known in English as Arceus and the Jewel of Life), it not only is the conclusive part of the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum movie trilogy, but also the first Pokemon movie to place its focus on a god of all creation.
That god is known as Arceus, who in legends is said to have shaped the universe with its 1,000 arms. A metaphor I’m sure, seeing as the kirin-like Arceus has no arms to speak of. The movie centers around his return to Earth after many generations, where Arceus plans on exacting Judgment upon the humans who had dared to betray him all those years ago. And in the case of Arceus, “Judgment” translates into “Fiery Death from Above.”
The only Pokemon capable of even putting up a fight against this Pokemon deity are the feature Pokemon of the previous two movies, Dialga (the Pokemon who rules time), Palkia (the Pokemon who is given dominion over space), and Giratina (the sole natural inhabitant of a mysterious alternate dimension). We also learn that Arceus’ impending arrival is also what caused the distortions in time-space in the first two parts to the trilogy. Even then, they are barely able to withstand Arceus’ ire, and it is up to Satoshi/Ash and friends to figure out the truth about the Alpha Pokemon.
The 12th Pokemon movie is decent overall and definitely the kind of thing fans of the series will enjoy, but there are some things this movie does not do all that well. First, it never gives you a good sense of just how powerful Arceus is supposed to be. Though it clashes with and overpowers a number of other legendary Pokemon, the difference between Arceus and the three dragons of Sinnoh are never made clear enough to really appreciate that gap in power and majesty. Second, and I admit this is being somewhat unfair to the movie, it just does not live up to the bar set by Mewtwo Strikes Back. I revisit the first movie every time I review a Pokemon theatrical release because I believe it represents the pinnacle of the franchise and its ability to tell stories with a surprising degree of maturity and moral complexity.
That said, Arceus – Transcend the Confines of Time and Space still succeeds in showcasing through its story elements of human behavior that are both supportive and condemning of their place on the planet, albeit in a somewhat ham-fisted manner, and it provides a lot of information on the world of Pokemon that we had not previously seen, and this is probably the most fascinating part of the movie. Although the fourth movie starring Celebi gave us a view of the past where Poke Balls were hand-cranked devices, and the eighth movie starring Lucario showed us a time before the Poke Ball was even invented and Pokemon were controlled by humans like a general controls an army, Arceus’s movie goes back further still. Here, we learn that before they were known as Pocket Monsters they were called “magical creatures,” as if to imply that the relationship between man and Pokemon changed as technology progressed, though not necessarily for the worse, as the magical creatures of ancient times could be seen forcibly controlled by restrictive harnesses. That doesn’t exactly make up for not quite living up to the movie’s potential, but it does provide a lot of food for thought.
Overall, while it definitely could have been more, it was a mostly satisfying end to this trilogy. The next movie is bringing back Lugia, who’s had a 10-movie break, and will mark the first true theatrical appearance of Ho-oh. Ho-oh holds special significance in the Pokemon anime, as its appearance always signals great changes for Satoshi/Ash, so an entire movie featuring the Rainbow Pokemon almost feels like the end of an era.