Pokémon Movie Review: The Manaphy movie

"No, but I will be..."

Written by ritabuuk and dubiousdisc
Posted on March 19th 2020
Japanese DVD cover
Pokémon Ranger and the Prince of the Sea: Manaphy

The Manaphy movie is a bit of an odd duck at this point in the series, because it makes sense. After three whole movies of half-baked plots with inexplicable premises, finally we get something that we can follow and enjoy. Instead of pitting mismatched Pokémon against each other while a crowd of barely-introduced human characters yell at them but don't do much else, this movie focuses on one plot and just a few main characters. And since this is the Manaphy movie, Manaphy is there, and it does what is expected of Manaphy, which is to be some sort of cute sea deity, with the plot even tying in with Manaphy's role in Pokémon Ranger.

Because this movie is called Pokémon Ranger and the Prince of the Sea: Manaphy. This movie was intended to promote the then-new Pokémon Ranger, the spin-off game series centered on the eponymous Pokémon Rangers, which we describe as an animal control squad crossed with your local crossing guard. The Rangers don't own any Pokémon and make a point not to, but they conduct themselves in such a way that wild Pokémon trust them and are willing to lend them their help. In-game, you bond with wild Pokémon by drawing circles around them, but that's just the Nintendo DS touchscreen gimmick. Pay no mind to the lasso of friendship.

Solana's opening cameo
Why isn't she in this movie any more than this?!

Though, very little of Pokémon Ranger made it into this movie titled Pokémon Ranger. The only appearance of a character from the actual game is during the opening montage, in which we see the female player character Solana and her Plusle friend putting out a forest fire. They're on screen for like three seconds before disappearing forever, along with the other cameos of characters of dubious canonicity, such as Kris/Marina, Basho, Buson, and Brendan. Strange that we see these characters in particular. Was this opening made of the last bits of animation created for the potential new Pokémon anime that never happened?

Jackie concept art
Concept art of Jackie, by Ken Sugimori

Rather than focus on any character from the actual game, instead, this movie introduces a Pokémon Ranger named Jack "Jackie" Walker, simultaneously Jack Bauer and Walker, Texas Ranger. He's both Kiefer Sutherland and Chuck Norris. These entirely overpowered origins probably explain why Jackie is more like a badass secret agent than the relatively mild-mannered Pokémon Rangers from the game. The only link he retains with the games is that his design seems vaguely inspired by the character of Spenser. Unlike Spenser, however, Jackie has absolutely no chill.

Although Jackie gets top billing in the movie's title as the Pokémon Ranger of the Pokémon Ranger movie, he is not even actually the main character. He does some cool flashy stuff here and there, but he's a secondary character to the main driving force of the plot, which is actually the relationship between May and Manaphy. The plot of the movie can be summed up like this: Ash and his friends encounter a traveling Pokémon circus troupe that are secretly safeguarding a Manaphy egg with Jackie's help. The egg ends up hatching in May's hands, and Manaphy considers May its mother. It turns out that the circus troupe are all descendants of the Water Folk, and they want Manaphy's help to find the underwater temple that their ancestors built. In the meanwhile, a group of pirates led by Captain Phantom also want to reach the temple and claim its treasure. May and Manaphy bond during this journey, but they will need to part after finding the temple, so that Manaphy can take on its role as prince of the sea.

It's a relatively coherent plot by Pokémon movie standards. Even better, beyond the list of events, this is a movie that's very focused on the bond that forms between May and Manaphy, with a major point being the good that comes from their relationship, even as they know that their time together will be short.

Which is almost the same plot as the Jirachi movie, which focused on May's brother and his important but short relationship with Jirachi. Except that the Jirachi movie never actually went into what's so important about Max and Jirachi's relationship beyond the barest clichéd signifiers for friendship, while the Manaphy movie does indeed explore the emotions that May and Manaphy have while they're together and while they grapple with their need to part.

Underwater temple, underwater pirates

The movie opens with Captain Phantom's pirate gang scooping up a Manaphy egg that was drifting through the sea and bringing it on board their submarine. Phantom's plan involves hatching the Manaphy egg and getting Manaphy's aid to find the temple which contains a mysterious treasure called the Sea Crown.

We were really surprised that this movie features a gang of pirates that are not Team Aqua. It's fine, it's not like there can only be one villainous team that likes wearing bandanas in the world, but this is during the Ruby and Sapphire arc, and it's strange to see a group that looks so much like Team Aqua, but is not. Especially in a movie in which Kyogre appears.

Phantom

Phantom, however, has nothing to share with the Team Aqua boss Archie. Instead, Captain Phantom is a big pirate with a big blue beard that he holds down with two belts, which is kinda hilarious. He has an obligatory parrot on his shoulder, which in this case is Chatot, serving as another Generation IV reveal. His catchphrase is "There are two kinds of people in this world: people who X and people who don't". You'll hear this many times during the movie. When we first watched the movie, we missed hearing his actual name, so we dubbed him Captain Binary, and we think it's a better name than Phantom anyway. This guy is not in any way a phantom. He's probably one of the most corporeal characters in the Pokémon anime. And just... Phantom... It makes Vicious in retrospect seem like an excellent name.

As Phantom and his gang are gloating over obtaining the egg, one of the pirate underlings grabs the egg and runs away, revealing that he was an undercover Pokémon Ranger. That's Jackie.

This is Jackie's shining moment in the movie. He does acrobatic feats, he tricks the pirates into knocking themselves out, he trips them up by unleashing potatoes under their feet, and generally messes with them without even laying a finger on them.

Jackie
"Bye!"
Judy

All during this mayhem, Jackie is actually on the phone with his mission contact, Judy, who seems to be his Operator, a concept introduced in the then-upcoming second game of the Ranger series, Shadows of Almia. In the English dub, Jackie and Judy talk to each other with this flirtatious tone in their voice, a la James Bond, which made us think that she was intended as his love interest, and given that she's essentially his secretary, that's gross. In the Japanese version, that tone isn't there, and we don't get the impression she's his love interest at all. In fact, she seems to be kinda fed up with his antics. We can't blame her, given how excessive Jackie is about everything.

By the way, this is the first Pokémon movie not to be dubbed by 4Kids. We would have thought that the translation problems would be over, but this movie's dub has lots of problems with completely changing the tone and meaning through poor word choice and strange voice acting. The new voice actors are trying really hard to sound like the 4Kids voice actors, to the point where they're not even sounding human most of the time. At best, most of them sound like they're chain-smoking Christian Bale impersonators.

After exchanging one-liners with Captain Binary, Jackie lassoes a Mantine out of the sea and leaps onto its back to make his dramatic exit. As we said, Jackie has no chill.

Jackie

And now the title sequence! Which shows molecular structures of what we think are diamonds and pearls, to create the most esoteric teaser of something the fandom already knew. Pokémon Ranger itself was first announced with the subtitle of "the road to Diamond and Pearl". We knew that the next games would be called Diamond and Pearl, without having to crack this code.

Diamond? Diamond Structure
Diamond: carbon atoms in a diamond cubic structure
Pearl? Aragonite Structure
Pearl: Aragonite (CaCO3)

The circus troupe

A veritable wasteland
If the rest of the movie is taking place around Capri, this means that the twerps were lost in the wilderness of southern Italy, and yes, Rosy can vouch that it is a veritable wasteland. So dry, lens flare, one lone tree, rocks, a thistle... Rosy went on this road every day.

Meanwhile, the twerps are dying of thirst in what the narrator refers to as "a veritable wasteland". Apparently all their Water-type Pokémon must be exhausted too, because all they have left is one drop of water in the canteen. They see strange bubbles of water floating over the horizon, and they're so desperate that they don't even pause to wonder if they are hallucinating, but run straight for them. Luckily, the water bubbles are real, and are part of the act of a Pokémon circus troupe, who give the twerps something to drink and also offer them a ride in their trailer to the next city.

And what is the next city? This time around, the animators took a trip to Rome, Naples, and, most importantly, Capri. The animators closely referenced real-life Capri for the shots of the town, and those backgrounds look fine, although nothing to write home about. However, this movie doesn't spend a lot of time in town. Most of the movie takes place on a boat... which sails on atrocious CG water. Why did they not bother drawing the sea in a movie about the sea? And if they really needed to make it CG for some reason, why is the CG so bad? It's like each movie felt the need to outdo the previous installment at looking worse and worse. They are using better technology to do a worse job. We've seen much better student projects than this abysmal CG.

Furthermore, the sea near real-life Capri is an unbelievable turquoise. It looks otherwordly in photos, and yet photographs cannot fully capture how amazingly blue it is. But this movie didn't even make the water look like water, let alone this gorgeous water. Once again, reality is more impressive than this fantastical animated movie.

Capri Not Capri
There's no comparison.
May's dream

Anyway, the twerps are traveling with the circus troupe. The Manaphy egg is hidden in their trailer, and Jackie, disguised as a clown, is also traveling with the circus troupe, to make sure the egg stays safe. One night, May has some sort of psychic link with the egg, and has a dream where she's swimming with the unborn Manaphy towards an underwater temple.

We can't help but notice that the scene of May's dream is very similar to what happens in the beginning of the Mewtwo movie. An unborn legendary Pokémon is dreaming of its past lives, swimming through the water, and accompanied by a young human girl. It's a good reference.

Lunch
At least, they showed the pizza coming out of the oven, but here the pizza seems to be mostly gone? They're having pasta and a basket of bread? And salad? How many courses are they having?

The next day, over a pizza which was cooked in a brick oven installed in the trailer (!!!), May tells the circus troupe about her dream. The circus troupe tell her that since she had this dream, she might be a descendant of the Water Folk, just like them. The Water Folk were an ancient civilization that lived in harmony with the sea, and built a special temple to commune with Water Pokémon, which is what she saw in her dream. The reason they are safeguarding the Manaphy egg is that they hope Manaphy will agree to lead them to this mysterious temple, so that they can celebrate their heritage and commune with the Water Pokémon as their ancestors did. Jackie is working with them to make sure that Phantom doesn't show up to kidnap Manaphy and spoil their family reunion.

This information is the core of the plot, but is not as easily followable in the English dub. The first time we watched this movie, which was in English, we missed on most of the motivations here. We weren't sure it was true that May might be descendant from the Water Folk too, and we had the sense that the circus troupe was up to something no good. However, we had no trouble following these plot points when we later watched the Japanese version, which makes it very clear that May, and therefore also Max, are almost certainly descended from the Water Folk, and that the members of the circus troupe have only pure intentions.

In the meanwhile, Jessie, James, and Meowth are sneaking around, and they find the Manaphy egg in the trailer. Because Phantom took out a want ad in the Team Rocket newsletter, James calls him to give him the tip and claim the reward money.

Now, we need to hold on a moment just to talk about the Team Rocket newsletter. As a former Team Rocket fansite owner, Denise is absolutely filled with glee over seeing this.

TR newsletter
Apart from Phantom's want ad, we can see an article with Jessie and James' official art on the facing page, and an ad for Meowth balloons. In the corner, you can even see a bit of the official art for the Ranger protagonists, maybe to warn about these goody-two-shoes.

Were Annie and Oakley reading an edition of the Team Rocket newsletter when they were in prison?

Also, Jessie and James and Meowth seem really excited about Phantom, like he is some sort of big-name villain. We wouldn't imagine he'd be someone with a fanclub. He doesn't seem inspiring or charismatic enough for that. But then again, there's his first mate Galen, who seems to adore him for reasons unknown - the movie offers no explanation. We can headcanon that Phantom saved Galen's mother from the avalanche at the orphanage, or that Phantom and Galen are dating, or whatever floats your pirate boat.

Team Rocket
"These earrings are just not me"

When Jessie, James, and Meowth try to steal the Manaphy egg, the unborn Manaphy uses Heart Swap on them, and each one's consciousness is switched into a different body. Jessie is inside Meowth's body, James is inside Jessie's body, and Meowth is inside James's body. Antics ensue. The motto is a disaster. Jessie complains about how short Meowth's legs are. But they manage to run away with the egg, at least until Jackie directs the pointy beak of a Fearow towards their balloon, recovering the egg and causing them to blast off again.

But the egg is not safe yet. Having been alerted by James's tip, Phantom shows up and chases everyone around, attempting to get the egg. During the commotion, the egg hatches in May's hands, and Manaphy is now imprinted on her. Phantom is very disappointed. He wanted to be a mommy.

Jackie's plan seems to have been that Manaphy should have been imprinted either on him or on one of the circus troupe, so that it would be happy to guide them to the temple. Phantom had about the same plan with Manaphy imprinting on him. But now, Manaphy won't be happy with anyone but May. Brock even mentions that he's familiar with baby Pokémon hatching and imprinting on the first person they see, and we know he's totally thinking about Misty and Togepi.

Manaphy crying
Look at Phantom in the background!

The Water Folk ruins

Door

Now that Manaphy has hatched and Phantom is after them, the circus troupe needs to somehow lose him. They go into ancient Water Folk ruins, which are only accessible by those with the jewelry of the Water Folk. Deeper in, there is a chapel that conveniently has murals depicting the story of the underwater temple.

As we already established, the Water Folk built the temple to honor and commune with Water Pokémon. However, thieves were after the Sea Crown inside it. So, the Water Folk made the temple invisible, and set it adrift in the sea, so that no one would be able to find it. Only Manaphy, who spawn where the temple was originally built, are able to find the temple, because they have some instinctual homing skill. The temple is also temporarily visible during a lunar eclipse, so the circus troupe's plan is to ask Manaphy to guide them to the temple, and arrive in time for the upcoming lunar eclipse.

Mural of the Lunar Eclipse

The English dub, once again, did a very shoddy job of explaining all this. The biggest problem is that they explained the invisibility of the temple as, "the temple is not visible to mortals". Using the word "mortals" implies that there are immortals involved in this story. Coupled with the gruff way in which the circus guy is explaining this, we once again got the sense that there was something shady and dark going on with the Water Folk and this circus troupe. Are they deities? Elves? Vampires!?

But, actually, the problem here is the translation. The original Japanese version has him say that the temple is not visible to humans, which completely changes the entire tone of the story and removes 80% of our confusion of, who even are the Water Folk and what is this creepy deal. There is nothing creepy here. The temple is just some sort of high-tech and/or magical Atlantis, but perfectly in line with the Pokémon universe as we accept it.

Mural of Manaphy

But mortals or humans aside, there's still something that doesn't make sense here. The explanation goes that the Temple was originally built in the place where the Manaphy would spawn, and since the Manaphy have homing abilities to return to where they were born, they can always tell where the temple is as it wanders the sea.

Born on a cold seafloor, it will swim great distances to return to its birthplace.
Pokémon Diamond

But this makes no sense. Wouldn't Manaphy only be able to home in on that spot where the Temple was first built? How would it know the updated location of this temple that has nothing to do with its spawning location?

It would have been a lot easier to make it so that no one knows there the temple is, but Manaphy has the power to find it. Maybe because the temple always returns to the same location during the lunar eclipse, or, nevermind, the temple doesn't move at all but still no one knows where it is. Honestly, even handwaving this plotpoint would have been better than botching a scientific explanation.

It also would have made the next part of the plot a lot clearer if the circus troupe had mentioned that the next full moon will indeed be a lunar eclipse, which clarifies how much time is remaining for them to find the temple, and gives meaning to the shots of the waxing moon.

Anyway, everyone is having their wonderful exposition moment in the safety of the ruins, unaware that they are not so safe after all. Phantom has a Water Folk bracelet too, and is able to open the door to the secret ruins with it.

Sugimori concept art of Phantom

We wonder if this implies that Phantom is one of the Water Folk, too. He has a Water Folk bracelet, and he has dark blue hair like the members of the circus troupe. We do know that this design element is not a coincidence: in Sugimori's concept art, Phantom has light silver hair, but the anime team felt the need to change it specifically to dark blue. Was this choice meant to be a hint?

In any case, even with the bracelet, the path to the ruins is underwater, and Phantom apparently can't swim, and neither him nor his entire pirate crew have one single Pokémon that knows Dive. So he has to retreat for now.

Blocked by Water
Atlantean doors, no problem. Water, impassable.

The twerps, the circus troupe, and Jackie exit the ruins through a sea cave that is directly referencing the real-life Blue Grotto, but once again, with only half the sense of wonder. While they're going through the cave, Jackie gets all sullen, and informs the twerps that they'll need to part ways soon.

Capri Not Capri
There's still no comparison.

Stop that boat!

Soon ends up being really soon. As soon as they exit the cave, they get to a town. The old man in the circus troupe owns a boat, which some friends of his have been taking care of. They get the boat ready for their journey with Manaphy. The twerps and the old friends are not invited. It's strange that the old friends can't go, given that they have the blue hair too so they're probably also Water Folk, and they know how to drive a boat. They beg the old man to let them come, and he's all, no no no. Why not?

Old Guys
These old guys deserved a bigger role in the movie

So the boat sails away, and the twerps get to watch it go from the pier. While May is dissociating from being parted from her newborn, Ash is all, aw man, I really wanted to spend more time with Manaphy. Ash, this is not the time. The old guys watch all this sadness, and tell the twerps that you will have more regret for what you don't do than for what you do, seemingly urging them to find some way to follow the boat. Ash takes that as a cue to start running down the pier screaming like a fool, followed by the rest of the twerps.

Meanwhile, on the boat, Manaphy is crying uncontrollably. It then uses Heart Swap to switch Jackie with Ash back on the shore. Realizing what has happened, the boat has to return to pick up Jackie's consciousness. The circus troupe understands that Manaphy will keep doing this, and they can't just sail away while someone is heartswapped on the shore, because no one knows what bad things will happen if heartswapped people get too far from each other. They understand that this is Manaphy's way of saying that it won't let them leave without May.

If Manaphy wanted to be reunited with May, why did Manaphy swap Jackie with Ash? May was right there next to Ash, and the point was for Manaphy to be reunited with May. The circus troupe promptly justifies this with, Manaphy just reached for anyone on the shore and anyone would have worked for its plan to force the boat to go back to get Jackie, on threat of ripping his soul apart. But why would Manaphy, a baby of one day, know these legalities of its power? Why would it plan that hard? And even if it knew these things and could concoct such a diabolical plan, its plan hinged on the people on the boat knowing not only that Manaphy has this power, but also the clause of how the swapped people can't get too far apart. Why would Manaphy think that they know that, and assume they will understand its threat? Why would a baby be issuing such a complex threat anyway? It's a baby!

It would have made so much more sense if Manaphy simply reached for May for its own immediate benefit. It was unhappy by being held by someone who wasn't May, swap that person with May, problem solved. Or, nevermind Heart Swap, Manaphy could have just kept on crying and simply refused to cooperate until they went back for May.

Swapped Jackie

We suspect that this scene was rewritten mid-development like ten times, resulting in this mess. Our biggest tip towards that is the face Manaphy makes after swapping Jackie with Ash. It looks very happy and stops crying. But it's been established that Manaphy will cry unless it is held by May. Was this scene originally animated with the thought being that Jackie gets swapped with May, and it was changed later because it was kinda weird to swap May into a grown man's body and vice versa? And to give Ash more of a reason to exist in this movie?

And, by the way, after Ash spends those three minutes inside Jackie's body, he's suddenly acting like a five year old who wants to be a Ranger when he grows up. He spent ten anime years trying to become a Pokémon Master, but a few minutes in that bod, and he wants to be a Pokémon Ranger. We get it, Ash, we get it.

Another weirdness of this scene is that the old guys urge the twerps to act now, don't miss this chance, avoid regret! It seems like this scene should have ended with the twerps running down the pier and jumping onto the boat, or following with their Water Pokémon, or in some way arriving and May's presence stops Manaphy's crying, and so they decide to all go together. But instead we have this weird Heart Swap threat.

Heart Swap
That is pretty Psychic.

This is also a good moment to point out that this portrayal of Heart Swap is really weird. In the game, the move switches Manaphy's stat changes with the opponent's, but here in this movie, it swaps other people's consciousnesses and bodies, and later it does long-distance telepathy, and later it conveys Manaphy's will. Basically, it does whatever the plot needs. Also, this is not the fault of the movie, but it's weird how Heart Swap is a Psychic-type move, specifically said to employ the user's psychic powers... and Manaphy is a pure Water type, and not Psychic. In fact, Manaphy is the first illusory Pokémon not to be part-Psychic. That's probably a good thing, for the sake of variety, but if they were going to design it to have psychic powers anyway, they should have made it just Water/Psychic and nevermind.

Jackie is nothing if not needlessly extreme

So, the twerps get to come along after all. They sail across the sea with Manaphy, they see all the wonderful Water Pokémon, May and Manaphy bond, and all is cute and good. Manaphy is even learning to speak from May. In the Japanese version, May has a verbal tic of ending her sentences with "kamo", which roughly translates to "kinda". Manaphy picks up on this tic, and uses that to refer to May. "Kamo, kamo!". And the rest of the twerps can be all, yep, it means you, lol. Max then tries to get Manaphy to say his name (in Japanese, Masato). Manaphy says its usual "mana mana", which Max interpretes as being his name, and Brock has to shatter his dreams and tell him, ...that's just what Manaphy sounds like all the time. Brutal.

Meanwhile, once again, Jackie feels the need to do everything in the most needlessly excessive way possible. He wanted to check if anyone was trying to follow their boat, so he went up in a parasail to get a bird's eye view around, thereby broadcasting the location of their boat for miles like a handsome flag, just for the sake of looking cool.

Parasail
"There's not a single bad guy in sight". Except me. I'm totally bad.

Between stuff, Jackie shares his origin backstory to Ash. Apparently, when he was about Ash's age, Jackie spent his time dying in snowstorms alone, and he sought shelter in a cave where he was saved by a flock of Altaria and Furrets. That was the event that inspired him to become a Pokémon Ranger, so that he could return the favor to the Pokémon that saved his life. By continuing to die in snowstorms alone.

But wow, could he have stumbled into a better cave to be saved in? He could have fallen into the cave of sumo-wrestling scorpions from the DuckTales movie, and instead he got the cave of benevolent living scarves. Lucky fucker.

Scorpions from DuckTales Cave of Fluff
Cave of scorpions, cave of fluff. Choose wisely.

But what was Jackie doing out in that snowstorm in the first place? Well, he was there to get his overdramatic tragic backstory, of course. You don't get this kind of shit by staying home.

Speaking of overdramatic and tragic, Jackie has noticed that Manaphy and May are growing close. Too close. So, he warns May that, one day soon, Manaphy will have to leave. That will be hard, and the closer the two of them are, the harder that day will be. He tells May that she should think of Manaphy's feelings, and break up with it now. So that she can hurt its feelings now, instead of later, and lose this time they could have together. Because that will be better. Somehow.

So, May tragically tries to shun Manaphy, who does not understand what's going on. On the night of the lunar eclipse, Manaphy goes missing entirely, and May worries that it was because of her excessive shunning. The twerps and the twerps of the day go out in a submersible to find Manaphy, and it turns out that it was actually searching for May's lost scarf underwater, and it had retrieved it for her. May cries, Manaphy smiles, they touch through the glass of the window, Denise is crying, and goddammit Jackie, this was all stupid.

Scarf

The submersible goes off course, and Manaphy leads the twerps to the safety of the underwater temple, which is now becoming visible under the eclipse.

Little do they know that Phantom is following them.

The Crown of the Sea

Crown of the Sea
Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...

In the heart of the temple, Phantom opens the way to the so-called Crown of the Sea, which appears to be a wedding cake lava lamp fountain of giant crystals. Phantom starts removing the crystals from their proper place, and the temple begins to flood and sink. But Phantom doesn't care and keeps taking the crystals, even as he starts drowning.

We infer that the crystals are actually the power source that keeps the temple inside an air bubble and floating in the sea, and that their beauty, value, and arrangement in a crown shape is completely coincidental to their actual purpose. We think that Phantom stealing these crystals is akin to an alien thinking AA batteries are precious and worth stealing out of a remote control.

Crown of the Sea

As Phantom is harvesting the temple batteries, Jackie arrives and has his moment of cool as he flippantly steals the crystals back from Phantom and puts them back into place. It's funny, but we thought Jackie would be more important in the climax. After this, both he and Phantom get washed away, and are no longer really relevant. Instead, Ash, Pikachu, May, and Manaphy are left there trying to put the rest of the crown together... until they realize that they're missing one last crystal.

They run through the temple searching for the lost crystal and they do find it, but because the temple at that point is half-flooded, Ash's idea is to lock Pikachu, May and Manaphy in a metal pod for their safety while he will swim all the way back to the crown to put the last crystal back in place.

Why did Ash lock Manaphy in the air capsule? Why didn't he bring Manaphy to help him find the crystal? Manaphy is a sea creature who can swim, presumably breathe underwater, and it has arms which are convenient for carrying crystals!

Pikachu's Vacation?
The last time we saw Ash's Pokémon, they were having the Pikachu's Vacation moment of the movie.

For that matter, Ash is alone as he does this recklessly heroic act, because he has no Pokémon on him. Why did Ash conveniently leave all of his Pokémon behind when he went for a ride in the submersible? In the Pokémon world, that's as dangerous as going outside without clothing. Apparently his Pokémon were out having a good time playing in the water, but why did Ash not recall them and carry the Pokéballs on his person before he went in a submersible to the depths of the ocean?

And why couldn't he have let May also help him? She can swim, too. It's just so he can have the brave moment of sacrifice of locking the door behind so that you can live! Except all this does is cause Ash to almost die. Because he's all alone carrying this heavy object underwater, when he runs out of air, he ends up dropping it to the bottom of the flooded room, where it gets wedged into the architecture. He needs to use all of his strength to get to the bottom and unwedge the crystal. If May had been there, she maybe could have caught the crystal before it fell all the way to the bottom. If Manaphy was there, it could have done something to help too.

Instead, Ash almost drowns several times over, and only survives because he's the main character. Apparently, Manaphy uses Heart Swap to let him hear May and Pikachu cheering for him to not give up, and that's what gives him the final burst of strength he needs to save the day. As if cheering for him will make him not drown, and as if he doesn't already know that they're hoping he won't die. Oh, ok, people are counting on me, so I won't drown. Sorry about that moment of weakness I had by drowning.

Pod
The stuff of nightmares.

Of course, Ash's motivation for all his plan is so that Pikachu, May, and Manaphy will survive no matter what, but um. Actually, his plan dooms them to death in almost all outcomes. If Ash doesn't make it, now Pikachu, May, and Manaphy get to die of asphyxiation in a metal pod deep underwater on the floor of the now-invisible secret temple that's sinking to the bottom of the ocean where no one will ever find them. Even if Ash does make it, there's no guarantee that putting the last crystal back in place will reverse the flooding. It's really only because this is a happy Pokémon movie that nothing terrible happens. Children, do not try this at home.

Temple

But yes, when Ash finally puts the last crystal in place, everything is good, the temple unfloods and unsinks, bursting out of the surface of the water for all to see even though the eclipse is over. Ash is given the power of the Crown of the Sea... which apparently makes him a Super Saiyan who can breathe underwater and fly over the surface of the ocean. That was the last thing we ever expected, and it was pretty dumb.

Did Phantom know that this was the power of the Crown? We think not. It doesn't seem in his style to seek something so dumb. He just wanted the pretty crystals to make himself some snazzy giant earrings or something.

Jewels
"Remember, there are two kinds of men in this world of ours: those who look good with rare jewels, and those who do not." (Actual quote).
Vicious
This seems to keep happening to cute legendaries.

When May, Pikachu, and Manaphy get out of their underwater coffin, Phantom bursts out of the surface of the ocean and wrangles Manaphy with his giant man hands. He says that, as long as he has Manaphy, he can get to the temple any time he wants, but the temple is already right there in plain sight... why isn't he stealing what he wants directly, right now?

Zoom

After a long and drawn out sequence of Ash chasing Phantom with his newfound stupid power, and all the Water Pokémon coming to Manaphy's aid, eventually Manaphy uses its song and Heart Swap powers to lead the assault against Phantom, culminating with Manaphy directing Kyogre to use Hyper Beam and destroying Phantom's submarine.

Kyogre
Ready, aim, fire!

This movie seems to be implying a connection between Manaphy and Kyogre. Are Manaphy baby Kyogre? How do Phione fit in this? Why are there zero mentions of Phione in this movie? Why does Phione even exist anyway?

Cyborg

It is revealed that Phantom's superhuman strength is actually because he's wearing a mechanical suit. This plotpoint puzzled us for a long time, because it doesn't add anything to the understanding of his character. We think it only exists to be a reference to the cyborg pirate in Treasure Planet.

And what about Phantom's parrot? The traitor just switches sides and goes with Jackie when shit goes down. What a little fucker.

The end

End

So, all is good after all, Phantom's submarine is sunk, the descendants of the Water Folk get to commune with the Water Pokémon as their ancestors did, and Manaphy has to leave to take his role as Prince of the Sea, whatever that entails. May and Manaphy have to part. They say "I love you", and Manaphy swims away.

Max asks a crying May if she's okay. May's answer is "No, but I will be".

The first time we watched this movie, that line made us laugh too hard because of how unexpectedly honest it is, but actually, it's a good way to put it: acknowledging that this does suck right now, but it will be okay eventually, not denying the pain, but trusting that it's not forever. We've taken to say it in situations that call for it. Sometimes after stubbing our toes.

Jackie's whole fear was that May and Manaphy would have to part and that would be painful, and that it would be better for them to cut their relationship short to dodge that pain, without considering that it would be worth it to have shared such a beautiful time together, and that their pain would heal. May's line of "No, but I will be" is in a sense a reply to Jackie.

In conclusion

Atlantean writing

This movie reminds us of Studio Ghibli's Castle in the Sky as well as Disney's Atlantis and Treasure Planet smushed together, because no one can remember which is which. The similarities are good, though. Personally, we prefer this movie much more over the latter two.

Overall, we like this movie. It's cute. It's not perfect by any means - it could look better, there are still some wrinkles in the plot that could have been smoothed out, and towards the end it kinda drags on with irrelevant drama bullshit - but it's cute; it has an overarching plot that comes to fruition, and it made us like the featured Pokémon - and that's more than can be said for most of the Pokémon movies.

If we were in charge of giving this movie one more editing pass, we would want to tighten it even more down to the core plot, and make sure all the side points more fully connect back to that core plot.

Phantom stealing the Crown of the Sea

For example, it's never really said clearly if Phantom knew what the Crown of the Sea actually did, and he's too busy revealing himself to be a cyborg to react to seeing its actual purpose. We would have wanted him to have a scene in which he realizes that this is what being King of the Sea was about all along, and maybe one of the side characters can remark that it was only his greed that made him think it was all about monetary value and supreme power; the Water Folk were peaceful and valued their bonds with Water Pokémon as the most important thing. And maybe Phantom can think about that, especially if he was indeed intended to be a descendant of the Water Folk himself. Perhaps he can realize the error of his ways and maybe even have a scene where he gets to swim around with everybody too, promising that in the future he'll use his submarine to make sure only those with good intentions can approach the Water Temple.

Jackie and Jenny
The real tragedy is that his life consists of flings.

In addition, Jackie's tragic backstory is a complete non-sequitur. It would have made more sense if his tragic backstory had something to do with needing to leave behind someone he cared about - explaining why he has a complex over this, and why he gives May such bad advice. Given that he is a Pokémon Ranger, always on the move, traveling the world alone without a Pokémon companion or a human companion because of how dangerous his missions are, the hooks are all there. He probably does spend his life trying to intentionally avoid forming deep relationships with the people and Pokémon he works with. And that's much more tragic than randomly dying in a snowstorm. Jackie could have learned from May that, even if his relationships have to be short, they're still worth having. And the ending with May and Manaphy parting could have had Jackie be the one who asks May if she's okay, to which May can answer, "No, but I will be", tying up both of their arcs.

But all of these musings aside, it's still a cute movie, and we would recommend it to a Pokémon fan.

Ending

References