Pokémon Movie Review: The Celebi Movie

Time-travel surprise!

Written by ritabuuk and dubiousdisc
Posted on May 20th 2018
Celebi: A Timeless Encounter
Celebi: A Timeless Encounter

Next in our series of Pokémon movie reviews is the fourth one, the one with Celebi.

Continuing the trend of corny titles for Pokémon movies in English, the Celebi movie's actual dub title is... Pokémon 4Ever - Celebi: The Voice of the Forest. For some reason, 4Kids seems to have thought the numbers needed to be really emphasized in the Pokémon movie titles up to this point (Pokémon: the First Movie, Pokémon 2000, Pokémon 3), so they were going to get a four in there no matter how awkward, and bonus points if it could be a pun. And so, Pokémon 4Ever. Of course they put 4Ever in the title -- this is the team that named themselves 4Kids, after all.

Less cheesily, the Japanese title is Celebi: A Timeless Encounter. We don't know why this couldn't have been the dub title as well. While it doesn't feature the number four, it makes perfect sense and it already has a clever double meaning. Because, this being the movie with Celebi, the Time Travel Pokémon, the plot also appropriately involves time travel! Imagine using a Pokémon's actual known features as plotpoints, and not ending up with Lugia doing whatever with the birds and Unown granting wishes and Entei being dad. In this movie, Celebi does exactly what is expected out of Celebi: being cute and time-traveling. Yay!

Before we continue, know that the plot of this movie hinges on what is a major spoiler for the entire Pokémon anime, and knowing this spoiler in advance lessens the experience of watching this movie. So, probably stop reading if you haven't watched this movie, because we are going to talk freely and at great length about the spoiler it hinges upon.

The plot

Seriously, don't read this if you haven't watched the movie. Last warning.

Sammy time-traveling at the shrine

Forty years ago, a boy named Sammy went into the Ilex Forest, and was never seen again. It turns out that he tried to help the guardian of the forest, a Celebi, to escape from a poacher, and he got whisked away with Celebi to the future.

Ash, Sammy, and Celebi

There, Sammy meets Ash and friends who just so happen to be visiting the Ilex Forest at that moment in time. They help Celebi recover from its injuries, and they all really hit it off, especially Ash and Sammy. Especially Ash and Sammy.

Vicious

But the good, gay times can't last forever, because, as always, there's a villain with unclear motives and a laughable name. Vicious (that's his name) wants to capture Celebi to flaunt his hunting skills -- no, to take over Team Rocket -- no, to take over the world!

Monster Celebi

He uses his evil "Dark Balls" (that's their name) to turn Celebi ~evil~ and into a giant walking abomination cocoon thing made out of its own destroyed forest and copious amounts of bad CG. Suicune shows up, but it doesn't do anything. Anyway, Ash and Sammy manage to get to Celebi and remind it of all the good, gay times they shared together, snapping Celebi out of the grasp of the Dark Balls. However, now Celebi is dead. Suicune shows up again, but it doesn't do anything. Celebi ends up saved by all the other time-traveling other Celebies from the future and the past. Since now Celebi is safe, it can go back forty years ago where it came from, and Sammy can return back to the past, with a tearful farewell to Ash.

During the credits, Tracey is seen helping Professor Oak reorganize his books. He finds Professor Oak's old sketchbook. Which has the same drawings that Sammy was seen making during the plot.

Yeah.

Yeah!

Professor Samuel "Sammy" Oak, age 50.

4Kids' moment of thinking they know better than anyone

In our previous review of the Entei movie, we said that 4Kids did a pretty good job of tweaking something that made the movie more authentic, even if it was a fluke. Here, drunk on their own perceived success, 4Kids went wild with their tweaking. They decided to pay the Japanese animators to make new scenes for the American release, because they thought American children were too dumb to get that Sammy was Professor Oak. The truth is, they didn't get it while watching the movie, so they thought nobody else would. This is not us snarking, this is a fact; this is indeed why the changes were made, out of 4Kids' own admission in the DVD commentary. So they added an entire sequence in the beginning in which Professor Oak heavily foreshadows what's about to happen, and another entire sequence at the end in which Professor Oak heavily implies the truth of what just happened. They also added another sequence in the middle about Team Rocket wanting to eat a peach, which is absolutely vital in clarifying the situation with Sammy.

Team Rocket and the Peach
Money well spent.

Despite 4Kids' difficulties in understanding the plot, it's not like it was impossible to follow the movie as it was originally designed. Sure, the confirmation that Sammy was Oak happens in the credits, but if 4Kids was concerned about the proverbial "everyone leaving before the end of the movie", couldn't they have just moved that scene a little earlier, just like they did with Spencer's return at the end of the Entei movie?

Concept art of Sammy
Concept art of Sammy and his Apricorn Ball, drawn by none other than Ken Sugimori!

And also, even if you missed that Sammy was Professor Oak, the basic message of the movie would have still come across. Sure, you would have missed the cool bonus point, but the plot itself would still be perfectly understandable. Ash met a friend from the past and they had to separate, but they will always remember each other. It's not even important to the plot that this friend was actually Professor Oak, it's just a fun thing to think about later.

Just, 4Kids, what in the actual fuck? Your job was to localize the movie, and you already take too many liberties all the time, but this is going wayyyyyyy too far. We're saying this as fans of Mewtwo Strikes Back, in which 4Kids altered the meaning behind every line. But this is outright changing the movie itself, adding new scenes because they thought they could tell a better story. Wow. Assholes.

Luckily, the added scenes don't ruin the movie (although the one with the peach is baffling). They just make the clear plotpoint extra obvious. It's the principle of what they did that pisses us off.

It barely makes up for it, but 4Kids' translation of this movie is surprisingly faithful. Also very unlike their modus operandi, they also kept most of the original music, except for the songs in the opening and in the credits. We guess they'd already filled their tampering quota for this movie.

But yeah, it was Professor Oak!

The implications! The implications!

Sitting in a tree
Ash and Sammy, sittin' in a tree...

The movie presents Sammy and Ash as very good friends. Of the "arm over the shoulder sitting in a tree watching the sun rise" variety. Yeah. You can see them as friends, but it's easy to see them as having crushes. Professor Oak and Ash may have time-travel crushes on each other. What a thing to be in this movie (and in the Pokémon universe in general).

In a way, it's a good thing this happened in a movie, because movie plots never come up again, which ensures that Ash will never think about Sammy during the show, and therefore will never figure this out. Because imagine if he did. We don't think Ash would be able to handle learning that he crushed on Professor Oak. Professor Oak, on the other hand, does have the attention and introspection both to realize the truth and to handle the truth, although it must have been hard (and taken his entire life).

Older photo
This photo was taken not long before Ash was born.

So, Sammy went on a time-travel adventure where he met a boy he liked. After returning to his own time, he lives his life, has other friends and lovers... And one of his partners may or may not be Delia, depending on how platonically you interpret their relationship. Whether they were dating or friends, it must have given him a heart attack to learn that Delia was going to have a baby named Ash. Professor Oak probably thought he was never going to meet his friend again. And then Ash was born in the next house over. When he was 40, Professor Oak got to see his childhood crush as an infant. What the fuck.

Even if you think Professor Oak and Delia are friends and not lovers, does Professor Oak like Delia in part because she reminds him of the things he liked in his friend that will then be her son? How did he deal with realizing that he might like her in part for how she reminds him of her own son? Well, Delia is her own person, and even if Professor Oak likes the aspects of Ash he sees in her, those aspects are indeed Ash reflecting what his mother taught him to be. In any case, Professor Oak seems to have gotten over it, and is in a zen state about it now.

By the way, Ash did talk to Sammy on camera about his mom. Yeah.

If you are in the "Professor Oak is Ash's dad" camp, this means he might have seen aspects of himself in Ash, which is part of his crush. Later in his life, he meets Delia, and sees aspects of Ash in Delia, which is part of his crush. He doesn't think the two things are connected, and he might not even be aware of them, until he realizes that he's become the father of his own love interest. Oh no. That might be why Professor Oak never tells Ash the truth. Because the truth is complicated and he doesn't want Ash to be burdened with it. We said before that Ash wouldn't be able to deal with learning that he simply had a crush on Professor Oak, but imagine learning this. He can never know.

Regardless of any of these variables, the events of this movie would explain why Professor Oak acts as a sort of strangely friendly and strangely distant parental figure to Ash, and why after the events of this movie he slowly fades from relevance in the show. Now that Ash has met Sammy, Professor Oak feels even less comfortable interacting with Ash.

Gary
Smell you later, ...uncle?

The events of this movie would also explain why Professor Oak seems to favor Ash over his own grandson Gary. Because Ash is someone that he liked as a kid, which beats out his bratty grandson who has to start out as a stranger. And if you believe that Professor Oak is also Ash's dad, then it's even worse. No wonder Gary is so hostile towards Ash. He knows that something is up, even though he can't quite tell what.

All in all, it is actually really impressive that this movie managed to pull off a time-travel plot as late as the fourth movie and after multiple seasons of the anime without breaking anything. Wow! That doesn't happen often.

We can believe that Professor Oak didn't interfere with the timeline and was always supportive of Ash perhaps for this additional reason. Ash can be a bit of a dumbass, but Professor Oak knows firsthand that Ash turns out alright.

Pikachu
Oak knows this has to happen and is trying not to ruin the timeline.

It also sheds some light on how did Ash get Pikachu. Professor Oak probably saw and recognized Pikachu in the woods at some point, since he had already met him and drawn his portrait, and caught him for Ash and knew to give him to Ash. This retroactively explains the beginning of the anime and why Ash was given a Pikachu against all standard conventions.

Sammy drawing Sammy drawing
It was worth staying up all night for this.

And this movie even explains how was the PokéDex born. Sammy went around drawing Pokémon in his sketchbook. Ash compared this with the PokéDex, and explains it's an encyclopedia about all the Pokémon you see. Sammy is impressed by this. In the future, Professor Oak invents the PokéDex. Which, by the way, is called the Picture Book in Japanese.

Speaking of which, there is an entire scene in which Sammy is drawing Celebi and Pikachu while they're sleeping, and Ash wakes up and sees him drawing. In the Japanese version, it's clear that this is happening early in the morning, and that Sammy simply woke up early and so passed the time by drawing. In the dub, Sammy says he couldn't sleep, making it sound as if Sammy just pulled an all-nighter out of the unstoppable need to draw. As artists, we can sympathize with that.

It looks like Sammy picked Charmander as his starter Pokémon, since he's seen having a Charmeleon. But what happened to that Charmeleon? Is it still alive? Probably not.

This movie throws the private mind of Professor Oak into a whole new light. He was involved in a time-travel event and had to process all the resulting paradoxes. He had to decide what he was going to do with his knowledge of the future and of the people around him. He had to decide to preserve the timeline rather than doing anything to alter it. And he had to decide whether or not he would ever tell Ash, and weigh his desire to talk again with his old friend with the inevitable pain doing so would cause Ash.

Wow...

Now that we've discussed the major plot twist, let's discuss the rest of the movie.

Celebi and the forest

The featured Pokémon of this movie is Celebi being Celebi. And we have a new-found respect and love for Celebi. It is so cute, and says "bii!" so cutely. Aww.

The CG forest
Nobody will notice anything amiss.

While Celebi is well-drawn and well-animated, the forest isn't drawn. The forest is CG bullshit. Which is ridiculous because this is a story that takes place in the forest.

Making things even worse is that sometimes the animators did draw the forest. And then, it looks just fine, even pretty. It seems that any time Celebi moves through the forest, they decided it would be cheaper and easier and cooler to make it be in 3D, and so they only bothered to draw the "easy" still shots of the forest. Unfortunately, the result is that this movie has aged terribly, and we know they could have done a good job drawing it, if they had drawn it.

By the way, this forest is the Ilex Forest, or Ubame Forest in Japanese. Both Ilex and Ubame are species of oak. Hehe.

We even get to see the famous shrine in the Ilex Forest as it appeared in the game, but... it is never really important beyond making a pretty background for Sammy to wake up next to. Poo. We were hoping to learn more about it. Especially considered that that was the part of the game that never made it out of Japan.

Shrine
It is really pretty, though, which is why we used this picture as the header.

Celebi is known to make a particular sound when it's about to time-travel, and the local lore says that if you hear it, you should stop in your tracks lest you get whisked away with Celebi. The concept is beautiful, but in reality, Celebi uses its time-travel powers by screaming like an onion banshee. That's not what we were expecting.

Diana and Towa
Such tiny eyes.

But, back on the visuals of this movie, there is something really weird with the style of the human characters. Ash looks relatively on-model, but there is something weird with Misty's eyes, and there is something really weird with the eyes of the old lady. They're tiny and really far apart.

But apart from the bad CG and apart from the weird eyes, this movie has a lovely fairytale feeling. There are lots and lots of Pokémon in the background being cute. That is what we want to be seeing in our Pokémon movies. Pokémon! Every Pokémon that made sense to show up in the forest makes an appearance.

Furret
Furret, in particular, gets several adorable moments.
The tunnel from Celebi: A Timeless Encounter The tunnel from Spirited Away
Top: The tunnel from Celebi: A Timeless Encounter. Bottom: The tunnel from Spirited Away. However, the two movies came out in Japanese theaters in the same month so... it was either a coincidence drawing from shared folk imagery or cross-studio espionage.

It's evident that the animators were very influenced by Studio Ghibli, and by Princess Mononoke in particular. To enter the forest, the characters must first venture through an eerie tunnel, like the beginning of Spirited Away. Later, the characters must get through the fog, and along the way, they are led by a bear (Ursaring), until they are led by a deer (Stantler), until they are led by a ferret (Furret), along a safe, hidden path to the sacred healing lake.

But why is Celebi cured by a pure lake? Because a pure healing lake is a major plotpoint in Princess Mononoke.

How many times is a healing lake going to be featured in the Pokémon anime? Also during the Johto era, in Mewtwo Returns, Mewtwo is cured by a pure lake. In Mewtwo's case, this makes some sense, because Mewtwo was born in fluid, and Mew lived underwater, so having this scene with Mewtwo being cured by the pure lake draws on these recurring themes in Mewtwo's story. In Celebi's case though, there's no particular reason why Celebi is cured by a pure lake -- just to rip-off Princess Mononoke. There's no more reason for Celebi to be cured by a pure lake than for Celebi to be cured by about anything else.

Celebi eating berries
There's even an entire scene with the berries!

Right after it is cured by the pure lake, it goes and eats berries. Why couldn't it just have been cured by the berries. In the Generation II games, berries were a new mechanic, and they were healing items. It would have made perfect sense. Why did there need to be a curing lake?

Because Suicune.

Poor Suicune

Suicune
And here comes your favorite Pokémon, (looks at hand) Sweet Cone.

Right, Suicune is in this movie, and, as we explained in the plot summary, it doesn't do anything. It tries to be helpful, but it ultimately fails each time. Not like a plotpoint, it's not like it's played for laughs, it's just, anything Suicune does just doesn't matter. It's so obvious that Suicune was stapled onto the plot at a relatively late stage of development just to shoehorn in another Legendary Pokémon, and to be a visual parallel to the Forest Spirit of Princess Mononoke.

Not only is Suicune's role in this movie disrespectful, but so is its appearance. For some reason they felt the need to make Suicune with bad CG that is super obvious and doesn't fit in with the rest of the scene. Its nose is misshapen, and its tails come not out of the spine, but out from between its buttcheeks, making it look as if it is constantly farting ribbons. That's where the North Wind comes from.

Suicune
Frrrt...

So, Suicune looks wonky, it does nothing important, and then it goes away. Poor Suicune. Looking at the Three Legendary Beasts of Johto... Entei gets the movie where it is the whole dad, which is strange but at least a full role. Raikou didn't appear in a movie until much later, but at least it got a really cool appearance in a special three-part episode -- it tragically wasn't dubbed for a million years, but in Japan, Raikou got respect. But Suicune... gets to be a cameo in its own movie, and that's the biggest role in the movies that it has gotten to date. Suicune gets to save the twerps, be a horse, look awful, get tortured, get asked to purify the water (as if it had to be asked), and then the water doesn't work.

Lugia at least got to look awesome while being a glorified bus. Suicune got to look awful while being a not-so-glorified water purifier on poorly-animated legs.

Suicune
Suicune should have a long talk with its agent.

Vicious and the Hunters

Concept art of Vicious
Concept art of Vicious, drawn by none other than Ken Sugimori!

Vicious doesn't get a name in the dub (maybe because not even 4Kids could keep his name as Vicious with a straight face). In English, he is known only as "The Iron-Masked Marauder". Given what little we can glean of Vicious's character, we imagine he goes by such an unwieldy title just so that he can enjoy watching people struggling with that mouthful.

To borrow a quote from Borderlands, he looks like a Truxican wrestler moonlighting as a dominatrix, man! The dub even casts some shade on this, with Meowth literally comparing him to a luchador. And he's definitely portrayed as a dominatrix. In one scene, Ash is struggling to keep the Dark Ball away from him. Vicious, completely unfazed, just steps on Ash's fingers with his giant boots. He grinds his heel into Ash's fingers until he literally passes out from the pain. Yikes!

Vicious stepping on Ash's hands
Crunch (the newly unveiled Dark-type move).

Vicious has a cool design. He talks cool. He's got cool Pokemon. He's a Team Rocket member. And he's ambitious in a smart way. He's a hunter. He's successful. And he's a badass. He's got all the makings of being our favorite villain. But somehow.... we can't care. Why?

...Because he has nothing more than that. He is cool and badass, but we don't know anything else about him. What are his motivations, what is his backstory, why is he doing this, why should we care? We don't hear him really have a conversation with anyone, except to threaten the old hunter or to monologue at Jessie.

Based on his design, we wanted to like this character. But there's nothing to like, so we can't.

Besides, once again, the reason why Vicious is the villain is hypocritical. Just like Lawrence III, yes, Vicious is a sick fuck. But that's not why he's the villain. He's the villain because he catches Pokémon. Unlawfully, apparently. Because he uses machines? Machines that aren't standard Pokéballs?

  1. Vicious

    I have shocked Celebi with electricity and caught it with the Dark Ball, which makes it super strong and totally my slave.

  2. Ash

    No, that is terrible, you can’t do that. If you want to catch a Pokémon, you have to do it like I do, which is to... shock it with Pikachu and catch it with a PokéBall which makes it... not any stronger, but my... well, my friend, right????

Sammy yelling at the hunter
Pokémon should not be bought and sold! They should be traded, with held items!

Why are Pokémon Hunters portrayed as bad guys, when every Pokémon Trainer is in some way a Pokémon Hunter - they are on the hunt for rare Pokémon in order to catch them. Perhaps the objection is that the hunter says that he intends to sell Celebi to the highest bidder. In the Japanese version, Sammy specifically objects to the hunter seeing Pokémon as products. So if he was trying to catch Celebi as the centerpiece of his own collection, would it have been better?

Vicious, however, is an extra level of bad because he is not just a hunter, but also a high-ranking Team Rocket member. Vicious does not just catch wild Pokémon, he steals the Pokémon of others, too.

The unnamed hunter, Scyther, and Houndoom
The unnamed hunter with his Pokémon

Note that all of Vicious's Pokémon are kept in Dark Balls. In the beginning, we only see for certain that Vicious has a Sneasel. He then steals the Tyranitar from the old hunter and uses it to destroy the old hunter's base. Later, we see Vicious also send out a Scizor. Forty years ago, the old hunter was shown with a Scyther. Has that Scyther since evolved into a Scizor? What is the lifespan of a Scyther anyway? We know Tracey had an old Scyther, but we don't know how old it is exactly. Maybe this was the offspring of the Scyther at the beginning? In either case, we think Vicious stole this Pokémon from the old hunter too.

Scizor and Sneasel
Bye.

At the end of the movie when Vicious is defeated, his Pokémon are freed from the Dark Balls. They just shrug and leave. They all presumably were stolen. And certainly none of them are loyal to Vicious. Why would they be loyal to someone named Vicious.

Hopefully the Scizor made its way back to the old hunter, and the two of them started a new life. And hopefully the Sneasel made it back to whoever its original owner was as well (maybe that guy in Cianwood).

Anyway, what were Vicious's motivations? It seems almost like Vicious keeps changing his mind as he goes along and realizes he could have more. At first he talks about catching Celebi as a great heist, for the personal glory and bragging rights. He also presumably was going to bring Celebi in as a catch for Team Rocket. However, once he has Celebi, that's not good enough anymore. Why should he hand off such a powerful Pokémon to Giovanni when he can just keep it for himself. He wants Jessie to be a witness to the fact that he has Celebi so that she can report back to Giovanni so that he can know and fear Vicious's might. Soon, Vicious has amped it up more and is setting his sights on world domination. We're sure that if he had Celebi for a bit longer, he'd be talking about destroying the Milky Way and ruling the universe. In the meanwhile though, he has Celebi, the forest guardian, form itself into a giant monster to destroy its own forest, just so that he can get off on how twisted that is (and to once again rip-off Princess Mononoke).

It is interesting how Vicious sees no value in Celebi's time travel powers. Just its psychic basket-weaving powers. Celebi's time-travel abilities will instead be the plot of another movie with a villain with more forethought. But, as for what concerns Vicious, he's just standing on top of the giant Celebi-monster with a raging boner and not enough blood to the brain to make a better plan.

Vicious standing on top of the Celebimonster
So horny right now.

Strange injuries

Pinned Celebi
This is the worst that happens to Celebi in the beginning.

For some reason, this movie seems to feature a lot of strange injuries that don't make any logical sense.

In the beginning, Celebi is attacked by the hunter. When it time-travels away, it is very hurt and barely conscious. But why? We never see the hunter actually hurt it beyond his Pokémon pinning it to the ground at one point. Did it get mauled off-screen? Does time-travel take that much energy out of Celebi?

Sammy, too, gets hurt. The hunter didn't even lay a finger on him. Does time-traveling cause you to pass out and need medical attention?

Twisted knee
And we thought that the doctor was Brock.

Then, later, Misty falls and gets up and runs some more and then later falls down and says, "Brock, I twisted my knee". Either Misty is a fearsome being who is capable of running uphill for some time with a twisted knee, or she's full of shit and making up a horrific-sounding injury so that Brock will carry her on his back. Note that in the Japanese version, Misty simply says that she hurt her leg, without a full medical diagnosis.

Before we mentioned how Vicious broke probably every one of Ash's fingers with his boot. After Ash comes to, he is shown clutching his stomach in pain. He never got hit in the stomach. The bones of his hands are broken, why is he clutching his stomach?

And then Celebi spontaneously dies.

Celebi is dead

Dead Celebi
D:

At the end of the movie, Celebi is dead. Graphically so. There are no anime bruises or scratches. Celebi is not turned to stone. Celebi does not fade away into sparkles.

Celebi is a desiccated corpse of a long-forgotten onion from the back of the refrigerator. And you get to watch Ash trying to put those berries into those long-dead, dried up lips. If he tried any harder, the lips would have flaked off into crust. Jesus fucking Christ. They can't show Ash die, but they can show Celebi utterly dead. They even dubbed Ash and Sammy saying the word "die", twice, in reference to Celebi. Why is there such a double-standard here? Is it because Celebi is a plant that it's okay to show it dead and talk about it dying? We're not complaining that they did this hardcore and very emotional scene, but it's just weird next to all the censoring of death that 4Kids is known for.

There are three attempts to save Celebi at this point. First they try the lake, but it's been corrupted by all the forest-trampling caused by Vicious. Suicune does its thing and purifies the lake, but it doesn't work, because the writers wanted more drama. Then Ash has a last ditch attempt of getting the berries out of his pocket and attempting to feed Celebi, but of course that doesn't work. It just makes us all cry. Now that Celebi is absolutely dead, how are they going to save it?

Many Celebies
A hundred more Celebies.

By deus ex Celebi. Literally, the sky breaks and a bunch of other Celebies from the past and the future come to save Celebi. Somehow. Honestly, they looked more like the angels that had come to take it to Heaven, but actually they revived it by a magical glow of some kind.

The old lady says that these are the other Celebies from the future and the past that had come to save the current Celebi, but we are not sure that they are actually not the same Celebi. Why couldn't it be the same Celebi? If Celebi can time-travel, it can save itself at any point in time, amplifying its power.

Wrangle Celebi
What kind of person wrangles a Celebi?

After Celebi is revitalized, there's a long scene of Celebi flying around and everyone cheering and the happy music playing and surely the credits are about to roll and -- VICIOUS BURSTS FROM THE SURFACE OF THE LAKE AND STRANGLES CELEBI WITH HIS GIANT MAN HANDS. The camera shows the cheering crowd all dropping their smiles as they watch this sudden and unexpected violence against Celebi. It's kinda hilarious.

The cast's reaction to Celebi strangling
Yay! Nooo... Yay! Nooo!

Honestly, making the crowd's reaction into this eternally looping gif is the perfect illustration of this entire drawn out sequence of false endings. Ash and Sammy saved Celebi, yay! But now Celebi is dead, noo! But we'll put Celebi in the healing lake, yay! But it doesn't work, noo! But Suicune can purify the water, yay! But it doesn't work, noo! But Ash still has the berries in his pocket, yay! But they don't work, noo! But the Celebies come from the sky and resurrect Celebi, yay! But Vicious bursts out of the lake and strangles Celebi, noo!

By the way, this means that Vicious has been sitting in the lake, underwater, biding his time, for the last twenty minutes. He watched the entire false ending marathon and the Celebies from the sky and waited until Celebi was doing a victory lap to grab it.

The camera then shows us Vicious's crotch in extreme detail as he rockets off into the sky. He got another boner from that and you know it!

Vicious's crotch
They drew his Dark Balls.

But don't worry, Vicious gets his comeuppance for his evil-doing. Actually, he gets much more than his comeuppance. He doesn't just blast off and sparkle into the sky. He falls off his jetpack and into a tree, falls, falls, hits a branch, it breaks, falls, falls, hits the ground, rolls down a hill, onto the rocks, and then, finally, at the bottom, he looks up to see he is surrounded by all of Celebi's Pokémon friends, and the old lady, and the girl, and the dude that looks like he could be Ash's dad, who is there cracking his knuckles and the Spinaraks and the Weedles and so on tie him up, and you know when they pan off screen, they are all beating the ever-loving shit out of him. Jesus. This is revenge porn.

Vicious's end
By the way, during this entire sequence Vicious's mask falls off, dramatically revealing... he has a face? And?

The end

Sammy leaves
See you in thirty years, when you're a baby!

So everything is okay now, Celebi is not dead after all, Vicious is beaten into a pulp offscreen, Suicune is still useless, and Sammy can go back to the past, with Ash crying over needing to say goodbye to his new boyfriend.

Ending Ending
Tracey learned something about Professor Oak on that day.

In the Japanese version, Sammy poofs back to the shrine in the past, meets the old lady who is still a young lady at that point, and comments that maybe it was all a dream. In the credits, Tracey is shown finding Professor Oak's sketchbook, which is the confirmation for the audience that this really did happen. It's not entirely clear if Professor Oak still just thinks of it as a dream, but it's also possible that he's figured it out since then. After all, he'd only have to open the sketchbook to see his drawing that he supposedly made in a dream to realize that it was real.

This scene of Sammy's return to his own time was cut in the 4Kids dub. They probably decided to do this just to further their "improved" narrative, but there is also a time-travel flaw in this scene that is rectified by the cut. When Sammy first disappeared, the old lady, who was a young lady at the time, discovered that he was missing. She found the sketchbook he had left behind and kept it. When she meets Sammy again forty years later, she says that he's been missing for so long, and she gives him his sketchbook. To preserve the timeline, when Sammy goes back to the past, he needs to not encounter her. But he does. Which means that, in her mind, Sammy was never missing, and she never finds the sketchbook. But if she never finds the sketchbook, she can never give it to Sammy in the future, so... actually this scene breaks things. But we doubt that's why 4Kids cut it. After all, these are the brains that didn't even get the point when watching the movie, can we really expect them to spot the time-travel inconsistency?

Instead, 4Kids added a new scene in which Ash and his friends call Professor Oak to tell him about how they saw Suicune and Celebi. Ash mentions being sad about his friend leaving, and Professor Oak says that, even if they're apart, Sammy will always be his friend. As the twerps walk away, Misty notes that Ash never mentioned what was the name of his friend to Professor Oak... Brock comments that Professor Oak knows everything!

Added scene: Professor Oak with the sketchbook
Let me wave around the plot-important sketchbook just to make sure 4Kids gets it.

To really hammer home that Professor Oak is Sammy, then there's another added scene of Professor Oak looking through the sketchbook, just in case someone missed the previous fifteen minutes of the movie. The scene in the credits where Tracey sees the sketchbook is kept, which creates a different mild continuity error because, if Professor Oak was just looking at the sketchbook, why is it then buried amid all the other books later? But to be fair, we don't know how much later the credits scene is happening, and Professor Oak might be that messy.

During the credits, the Japanese version plays a lovely melody about traveling with your friends with a tone that isn't outright romantic but almost is. Of course, this means that the 4Kids version had to replace that with pseudo-rap in which the lyrics are CELEBI-R-A-T-E, which, as we all know, is much better received by American children.

Ending
During this lovely scene, you hear fake record screeches and CELEBI-R-A-T-E shouted over and over.

In conclusion

Celebi: A Timeless Encounter is a movie with some interesting aspects and lots of things to headcanon about, but a very naive plot otherwise, with some serious flaws. In the end, Vicious, Suicune, and all the random side-characters are not made important enough to warrant being there at all, and their presence just takes time away from exploring the meat of the movie, which is the relationship between Ash and Sammy (and Celebi), and the experience of time-travel. Ash and Sammy really only get one early morning to talk about all the plotpoints and sit in the tree, and then they spend the rest of the movie screaming at Vicious and admiring the uselessness of Suicune.

As you can tell from the length and the depth of this article, we enjoyed thinking about all the wrinkles of this plot, but as a movie, it's not very good. If you're a fan of the Pokémon anime and like to build headcanons and think about the interactions of the human characters, you could consider watching this movie. If you don't know anything about Pokémon, you're not going to care. This movie is for fans, not newcomers. And even there, only fans who partake in certain types of fanning.

Celebi bop
Bop!
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Notes

  1. The association of Lugia with the Three Legendary Birds of Kanto is only because of the movie. While it is clearly very much adopted into popular fanon -- for one, Bulbapedia dubs Lugia the so-called trio master of the Legendary Birds -- this idea is not present in the Pokémon main series video games at all. At the time, Lugia doing anything with the Legendary Birds of Kanto was a complete non sequitur.
  2. Though, this couldn't have been intentional. Professor Oak is Professor Orchid in Japan. But we can giggle.

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