The Many Ways Mewtwo Struck Back

Japanese Theatrical Program
A Program from the release in Japanese Theaters

In the beginning, Mewtwo Struck Back. And then his story was enhanced, and a prequel was added. He then struck back in completely different ways as he was mercilessly dubbed into English. And still there are more different versions of Mewtwo Strikes Back... frankly, it makes my head spin.

I have no hope of making a complete guide to all the versions of this poor movie, and I have absolutely no intention of doing so. But I would like to take note here of certain key versions of Mewtwo Strikes Back that exist. I would also like to comment on the versions that I personally have access to, since you will be seeing screenshots of these versions throughout the site.

The Trailers

Mew flying in front of yellowish, non-CG moon.
Mew flying in front of the beta-version moon

The Japanese trailers for Mewtwo Strikes Back contain footage that was never seen before, and never seen again. Yet some of these shots, notably that one with Mew flying over the moon, looks very much like scenes from the final movie, but a bit different, suggesting that the animators later went back and tweaked these scenes some more before the theatrical release. Check out the Trailers page for more information.

The Original Japanese Theatrical Release

Japanese Theatrical VHS
VHS Release of the Japanese Theatrical Version

And then there was the original Japanese theatrical release of Mewtwo Strikes Back. This was before they added Mewtwo's Origin and all that CG nonsense that I will be talking more about shortly.

While this version of the movie had some releases, in the form of VHS or LaserDisc, this version is now critically endangered - see Dogasu's Backpack for an in-depth history and some amazing screenshot comparisons between this version and later versions of the movie.

In that shot of Mew with the moon that was previously seen in the trailers, in the theatrical release of the movie, the moon was made silver instead of yellow. It still had evidently hand-drawn craters, but they were fewer and more subtle.

The Japanese Kanzenban

Kanzenban VHS
A VHS release of the Kanzenban

And then... there was CG. This is the era when three-dee was cool, and I suppose the Japanese creators of Pokémon wanted Mewtwo Strikes Back to be extra cool for international audiences.

So, they created a new, so-called kanzenban (or "full version") of the movie. This added the animated segment Mewtwo's Origin directly to the beginning of the movie (flowing seamlessly into Mewtwo's dreams of Mew in the water), and notoriously, replaced several beautifully hand-animated clouds and doors with CG versions of the same. I feel so bad for the artists who made all those clouds that were then tossed in the bin in favor of the CG fad...

Mew flying in front of the CG moon
Mew flying in front of the CG moon

This was the version that was used for most of the home-releases of Mewtwo Strikes Back in Japan. Years ago, Rosy obtained a copy of this Kanzenban version of the movie, and I've been using it for a lot of screenshots throughout the site.

This is also the version of the movie that was passed on to 4Kids for them to localize.

The Theatrical Version of the 4Kids Dub

English poster
English Promotion for The First Movie

So then 4Kids made the American English dub of Mewtwo Strikes Back as Pokemon: The First Movie. I discuss what the hell they did to the movie on the Dub Edits page.

In short though, they cut the entirety of Mewtwo's Origin for the theatrical release (although this decision seems to have come after they did the work of dubbing it). They also altered virtually every line of the script, replaced the entire soundtrack, changed the whole theme and message of the story, and pretty much did whatever they wanted without any regard to the original. Sigh.

The US Home Releases

The jungle of Mewtwo's Origin

Of note about the home releases is that they include the dub of the very beginning of Mewtwo's Origin. But only up until right before Amber appears.

I vaguely remember that I rented a VHS version of Pokemon: The First Movie when it first came out, and this segment was before the rest of the movie. I am going by memory here, but I think it went Pikachu's Vacation, then this chopped version of Mewtwo's Origin, then a bunch of corporate logos, and then Mewtwo Strikes Back.

The DVD version has the chopped version of Mewtwo's Origin as a Bonus Feature. So I guess, in a strange way, the VHS version is slightly closer to what the Japanese Kanzenban version is like, with Mewtwo's Origin (at least the chopped version) more incorporated into movie-watching experience itself.

Lumina Sumnor sent me a list of the Special Features that were included on her copy of the DVD. They are:

International Releases

Pokémon: Il Film
Pokémon: Il Film

If you ask me, one of the saddest things about what 4Kids did with the dub is that this was the version that was used by other countries to localize to other languages. My understanding of this is that, it is easier to find a translator from English to say, Italian, rather than from Japanese to Italian, so going from what the Italian localizers apparently assumed was an accurate translation of the Japanese movie to English, they could then bridge the gap from English to Italian more easily than if they went back to the Japanese version.

Rosy can tell me that the Italian localization in particular is an extremely, extremely faithful adaptation of the English script. Italian localizers clearly care and have artistic integrity about this sort of thing. Unfortunately, they were so lovingly translating something that 4Kids had already run amok with, and so all their attention to detail and careful word choices are were wasted on an already-warped version.

Mew flying in front of the CG moon, from the dub
Mew flying in front of the dubbed CG moon

Rosy also tells me that, in Italy at the time, anime was already very much beloved and respected: she grew up with lovingly localized Italian dubs of Lupin III and World Masterpiece Theater. For comparison, the only anime I grew up with in the US was anime that was localized with the primary goal being to disguise the fact that it was Japanese, like Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (which was co-produced by American companies and was made with American audiences primarily in mind) and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (which went so far as to remove all Japanese names and Japanese companies from the ending credits). By the time Pokémon was being dubbed, anime was considered slightly more acceptable in the United States, but 4Kids continued the tradition of brutally "Americanizing" Japanese anime without any respect for the source material.

We can only imagine that if the Italian localizers had the opportunity, they would have gone back to the Japanese version and put as much care and attention into translating the original version into the Italian dub of Mewtwo Strikes Back as they did with all the other anime that was brought directly to Italy. But, alas, this never was to be.

Super-Extras, including supposedly The Story of Mewtwo's Origin
Don't get overly excited, it's unfortunately not the full version of Mewtwo's Origin. Gyarados, how could you lie to us like this?

There used to be rumors that European DVD releases of this movie sometimes contain the full version of Mewtwo's Origin, but I don't think that's actually true. At least, Rosy has the DVD of Pokémon: Il Film, and it's not there. In the special features section, it claims it includes "The Story of Mewtwo's Origin" - but it is indeed very much cut right at the very same place where 4Kids chopped it for the US home releases.

I wonder if the rumor is just from seeing the back of the box and the DVD menu promise this feature, when it's actually untrue. Maybe whoever was responsible for the flavor text knew that this was a scene that had previously been cut from the movie, but didn't realize it wasn't actually the full, uncut version. How unfortunate. Well, at least I didn't succumb to the temptation back in the day to order several European copies of the DVD off the internet to play Mewtwo's Origin lottery.

The doors!
The doors!

As an aside, when you first start up the DVD, you get to see a little introduction before the menus come up, like a lot of DVDs for some reason thought was necessary back in the day. There's some cheesy exploding text effects introducing Mew and Mewtwo, and overall, this intro would be completely not of note except for one thing: it starts with a shot of doors of Mewtwo's castle, and they are the non-CG version of the doors. So, for some reason, it seems the Japanese theatrical footage was used to make this little intro, instead of the footage used in the dubbed movie itself. Buh? Why would they do that? Ah well, I am glad to be able to see them here!

The Official Bootleg-Looking Version

The cover of this DVD consists of Generation-III-era official art of Mewtwo, with a scaled down version of official art of Mew from the Lucario movie.
Graphic design is clearly the passion of whoever is responsible for this DVD cover.

In 2016, there was a US re-release of Mewtwo Strikes Back which has no Pikachu's Vacation, no Mewtwo's Origin, no commentary from the dubbers, no language options, absolutely zero bonus content, a slapdash, generic, bootleg-looking DVD cover featuring official art of Mew and Mewtwo that is much newer and completely different in design than the way the Pokémon appear in the movie... In a word, it's awful, and the publishers should be ashamed of themselves.

Mew flying in front of the CG moon -- in 16x9!
Mew flying in front of the dubbed CG moon... but this time in 16x9 format!

But me being the fan that I am, bought this otherwise trash DVD for the simple fact that this release is, shockingly, in 16 x 9 format so that I can take beautiful screenshots of it for this site. Enjoy!

This release also seems to be a different version yet of the movie, as I noticed it doesn't have that one notorious part during the opening theme song where Machamp comes out of the PokéBall twice. I need to compare it with Rosy's DVD one of these days and see how they managed to have Machamp only appear once without throwing everything else off, and are there any other differences?