The Legend of Thunder Review

Note

At the top, my reviews usually have a note about how even though I'm using the English name of characters and so on, I was watching the movie in Japanese. There is not one in this one because this time I am actually going to use the Japanese names of the characters.

Why is this? Well, if you read About the Movie Reviews, you will know that the reasons I use the English names of everything in my reviews are, one, that they are what the English-speaking fans visiting my website (and myself) are familiar with; two, that there is nothing wrong with the English names so much as sometimes with the translation of the English scripts or the voices; and three, that using the English names allows me to be more consistent.

As it happens, this special wasn't dubbed until three and a half years after it was originally aired in Japan, and before this time, the English-speaking fandom - including me - knew the characters, and got used to thinking about them, by their Japanese names. As it happens, this special's dub was pretty terrible and, among other things, made the deepest-voiced character in the entire thing into a woman for no discernible reason - while the name doesn't scream female, it is a little awkward to refer to a male character by a name created for a dub in which he appears to be female. And as it happens, somebody at 4Kids really screwed up and forgot that the main anime series had already included characters from this special (well, one character and references to two others) under completely different names in the Johto League episode "Tie One On", and that Eusine is a character from Pokémon Crystal who already had an official English name - in short, it seems to have almost gone out of its way to throw the "dub names are consistent" argument out of the window.

So, though it bugs me to be inconsistent with my own established pattern, I am going to use the Japanese names of the characters (but not Pokémon, moves, concepts, etc.) in this review, save for Eusine, who has a perfectly good otherwise consistent English name that we're all familiar with (and which is scarily similar to the name used in this dub, "Eugene", anyway). If you have only seen the dub, here's a quick guide with silly mnemonics that I hope make it easier to follow the review:

  • Kenta: "Yoshi" (Tie One On)/"Jimmy" (Legend of Thunder dub), the male player character from G/S/C. Just remember it.
  • Marina: "Dani" (Tie One On)/"Marina" (Legend of Thunder dub), the female player character from Crystal. Same as her dub name.
  • Junichi: "Jackson" (Tie One On)/"Vincent" (Legend of Thunder dub), the green-clad kid with the Meganium. Starts with the same letter as Jackson.
  • Bashou: "Hun", the long-haired Team Rocket agent who is female in the dub. Sounds a little like "bishounen" (a Japanese term for androgynous-looking pretty-boys such as him, if you didn't know).
  • Buson: "Attila", the bulky blond Team Rocket agent. The one with "bus" in his name is the big muscly one. Because buses are big. Yeah.

Thoughts and Synopsis

Seeing this special for the first time, years ago, was a bit of a revelation for me. Like many fans of the Pokémon games, I found the anime rather bland, the characters flat and the storylines mostly nonexistent. But I figured, oh, well, the point of the anime is to show off the world on a continuous basis; it's not a plot-based work of fiction and doesn't want to be, and it works at what it's trying to do, right?

Since watching The Legend of Thunder, I have fantasized about a Pokémon anime that would do the same thing as the current one - just better. This special just manages to feel like this should be what the anime would normally be like. But more on that in "The Good", below.

The plot of this special revolves around two Team Rocket agents, Bashou and Buson, who plan to use a machine fueled by the so-called 'Miracle Crystal' to capture the legendary Pokémon Raikou. This crystal has several properties: it attracts Electric Pokémon towards it somehow; it draws in and absorbs Electric attacks used nearby; the energy it absorbs creates a translucent purple force field; and within this force field, all Electric attacks are reflected towards the Pokémon that uses them. These properties seem kind of weird and arbitrary, but since they're not lazy tickets out of the plot, I wouldn't really mind if they were used consistently. Unfortunately, however, they aren't quite; more on that later.

Meanwhile, since The Legend of Thunder doesn't even mention Ash or any of the other lead characters of the main anime series, we start with character introduction. We see our starring trainer Kenta battling with and caring for his Typhlosion and immediately get the feeling they're close partners just like Ash and Pikachu. The opening credits show us him receiving it as a Cyndaquil from Professor Elm while Marina gets Totodile and Junichi picks Chikorita, and we see them split up to go their own separate ways. This sets up for Kenta proceeding to meet Marina during a visit to a Pokémon Center and briefly talking to Junichi on the phone. We get a bit of a feel for all three of them and their interactions: they were childhood friends; Kenta has hidden feelings for Marina, Junichi not-so-hidden ones; Marina fangirls Lance; Marina and Junichi have been talking regularly but haven't met Kenta since they set off. Marina aspires to be a "Pokémon Idol", which is not as inane as it sounds: it appears to be pretty much the same as being a "Pokémon master", except with more singing and dancing (but not less battling to compensate, as she makes sure to point out to Kenta).

Eventually, Marina challenges him to a battle and he accepts, but just as the battle is heating up, it is cut short by a roar of thunder as ominous, purple clouds gather overhead. They're going to get inside, but their Pokémon suddenly bound off towards the forest; they manage to recall Typhlosion and Croconaw, but Marina's Misdreavus is too far away by the time she manages to get out its Pokéball, and they have no choice but to run after it.

The cause of this strangeness, of course, is the Miracle Crystal, which Bashou and Buson have set up nearby. Buson has a mecha type of thing with mechanical octopus arms from which he can control and monitor the crystal; currently he is monitoring the signals of the Electric Pokémon in the area, who are being drawn to the crystal by its power. A little crowd of mesmerized Electric Pokémon has already gathered around the crystal, and while they're waiting for Raikou to show up, Buson uses the mecha to seize the Pokémon; they try to retaliate, but the crystal attracts their attacks and, in the first inconsistency with what we were shown in the crystal's introduction, it reflects the attacks back on them instead of absorbing them to expand the force field.

Now, this is where Marina's Misdreavus was running off to, of course, allowing Kenta and Marina to arrive at the scene in time to witness this and be horrified. Just as they're going to do something about it, however, another vortex of clouds appears above a nearby mountain, signifying at last the appearance of Raikou.

Raikou quickly arrives at the scene, tears off two of the mecha's octopus-arms with its teeth as the Pokémon run for it, and finally aims a Thunder at the main body of the mecha, but the Electric attack is of course redirected towards the Miracle Crystal. This time it actually is nullified and expands the force field around the crystal, like it was supposed to. Raikou looks at it contemplatively and then tries again; again the attack is absorbed, and the force field expands to envelop Raikou. It fires another attack at the force field wall, which is redirected back at it, and then continues to attack the crystal with similar results until the redirected blasts cause it to collapse on the ground.

Bashou comments that Raikou was foolish, and as he orders Buson to take the legendary, Kenta runs forward and yells at them to stop and let Raikou go. He releases Typhlosion, and Bashou and Buson let out their Steelix and Skarmory (though Steelix seems more Buson's type, it's the other way around: Bashou owns Steelix and Buson owns Skarmory). Typhlosion is summarily defeated, and Marina, in desperation, orders her Misdreavus to use Perish Song. As Skarmory and Steelix are immobilized by pain, Kenta sends out his Beedrill, it destroys the remaining arms of the mecha with Pin Missile, and Bashou and Buson are forced to retreat after using the mecha's convenient smokescreen generator, leaving the injured Raikou behind.

Raikou stands up weakly and turns away, and Kenta tries to convince it to come with them and get medical help, but it just attacks him with weak electric shocks to warn him off. After a few of those, Typhlosion heroically steps up to help its trainer by deflecting the attacks with its own, but Kenta tells his Pokémon to stop; Raikou is just warning him, not trying to hurt him. He walks slowly towards Raikou with his hands spread, trying to explain that they're not its enemies and only want to help. Raikou fires another attack, but Kenta doesn't budge and it flies past him, showing it wasn't intended to hit; it looks into his eyes for a while, and then... faints.

Kenta and Marina take it to the Pokémon Center, and Kenta insists on staying by Raikou's side, even as the curious crowd that wants to see a legendary Pokémon is warded off. When Raikou has fallen asleep after receiving treatment, Marina brings Kenta a drink, telling him he has to eat something, and asks him about Raikou's state; they talk a little about what happened earlier before Eusine suddenly barges into the room, thrilled to get the chance to see Raikou (which, after all, is related to Entei and Suicune). Because he has a cape (just like Lance!), Marina immediately fangirls him and it's pretty hilarious. A guy named Kudo who is Professor Elm's friend is also introduced, but he doesn't really do anything in this special except make one of its best jokes at the end.

Eusine explains that Raikou feels for Electric Pokémon; that's why it came to help them. Long ago, Raikou got along with humans, but eventually greedy people wanted to abuse its power, and it never trusted humans again. Marina is concerned that it may have been wrong to bring it here against its will if it feels that way about humans, but Kenta is still convinced it was the right thing to do even if Raikou doesn't appreciate it.

The next morning, Raikou wakes up refreshed at full power and proceeds to blast a hole in the wall and bound off towards some familiar-looking purple clouds, before anyone has the chance to do anything about it.

Eusine immediately arrives in a car, yells for Kenta and Marina to get in and come with him, and they follow after the legendary. The source of the purple clouds is of course again the Miracle Crystal, which Bashou and Buson have set up on top of a nearby mountain after repairing their mecha. When Raikou arrives, Bashou comments that it came because it's just a Pokémon and, like those Mareep, Magnemite, Voltorb, etc. that gathered around the crystal the first time, it simply couldn't resist its call. Raikou, however, immediately begins to attack the crystal again, and Buson realizes that it wasn't called here by the crystal: it came specifically to destroy it.

Bashou sends out his Steelix; Raikou tries to attack it but of course the attack is drawn in by the crystal, and this time it's back to redirecting the attack back upon it instead of expanding the force field. Steelix uses Dig, throwing Raikou aside, but just then Eusine's car arrives and Kenta runs out to order the thugs to leave Raikou alone. Bashou and Buson tell him that, well, it's a wild Pokémon, and he's a Pokémon trainer who catches wild Pokémon himself; what's his problem? Kenta counters that the problem is with their methods, that to legitimately catch Raikou they would have to battle it fair and square instead of cheating with electricity-absorbing crystals that don't give it a chance. Bashou responds that Pokémon exist for humans to use, and that they want to use Raikou's power to achieve their goals, just like Pokémon trainers want to use their powerful Pokémon to win battles. Kenta tells him he has it all wrong, that Pokémon training is about growing strong with the Pokémon and winning or losing isn't the point, and that Raikou lost its trust in humans precisely because of people like him who think of Pokémon as tools to be used. Finally, and here he points an accusing finger at them, people like them don't deserve to have Pokémon in the first place.

But of course, a Kirk Summation isn't going to magically redeem the bad guys, so they simply brush it off and warn him not to try to interfere if he knows what's best for him.

By this point Raikou has gotten up again and leaps towards the two men, and Buson makes the crystal fire bolts of lightning at it; it dodges at first, but eventually one hits home, and Raikou crashes into the ground where the machine continues to shock it. Kenta takes out a Pokéball, but Bashou is ready and sends out his Steelix, ordering it to simply use Rock Throw on the kids.

They are saved by a bright beam of energy, coming from a Meganium that stands on a nearby rock with a mysterious caped figure - who turns out (much to Marina's disappointment) to be their friend Junichi. He orders his Meganium to fire another Solarbeam, but is as puzzled as the audience when it does almost nothing and Bashou explains that Grass-type moves are not very effective against Steel Pokémon. (Steelix is, of course, also a Ground-type, making Grass-type attacks neutral against it, but I suppose the writers of this special didn't get the memo, because in addition to this we see it affected by an Electric attack later, too.) The Steelix proceeds to lay attack after attack on them, rendering them unable to help Raikou as it is blasted with more and more electricity.

Finally, Raikou collapses in a daze, and Buson promptly makes the crystal force field expand in order to envelop it. However, just as it reaches the claws on its feet, a Flamethrower from Kenta's Typhlosion hits the barrier. Though it doesn't destroy it, it stops it from advancing, as the crystal cannot absorb any kind of non-electrical energy. Furthermore, when Marina's Misdreavus and Junichi's Meganium join in with Psybeam and Solarbeam, the field simply explodes and Bashou and Buson are forced to resort to picking Raikou up with the mecha and throwing it into their airship's cargo hold before flying off.

Eusine, Kenta and Junichi stand there for a moment before realizing that Marina isn't there anymore.

Turns out she somehow also got into the cargo hold - with her Misdreavus with her, no less. I'm guessing she somehow snuck in, but it doesn't seem to make much sense that she'd do that, especially when Raikou wasn't put in there until literally just before they took off. We see her banging on the wall of the ship while Raikou stands up and experimentally attempts to fire an electric shock at the wall; it does absolutely nothing. Raikou, not one to give up, starts tackling the walls instead, looking for a weak spot. Marina tries to get it to calm down because there might be another way out, but she's barely finished the sentence when Raikou's paw happens to loosen the covering for some wires in the floor. She frantically rips all the wires, and this opens the hatch, only for her to realize that they're flying. It seems odd for her to not have noticed that when they were actually taking off, but okay.

Naturally, Bashou and Buson are immediately alerted of this by a warning light in the cockpit, and it seems that some of the other wires Marina pulled did something important, because engines of the ship are failing. Bashou tells Buson to switch to the alternate circuit. Meanwhile, Marina tells Raikou to jump out, realizing that it would survive the fall even though she wouldn't, but it hesitates, staring at her, even as the door begins to close again. She tries to push it out physically, and in the end it does jump after a lingering look at her, but this leaves Marina still alone and with no way out. She collapses helplessly on the floor, realizing she's done all she can for now.

Meanwhile, Junichi flails around hilariously screaming about his poor darling Marina and how he should have arrived earlier to rescue them but took too long eating breakfast and packing lunch. Kenta, trying to be useful, asks Eusine if they can't just follow the airship on the car, but they don't know where they went and a car can't exactly just follow directly behind an airship that's flying over mountains. Eusine has, however, contacted the police, they're getting an emergency team together, and the best they can do is wait for that to get more information. As Junichi continues to flail in the background, however, Kenta suddenly realizes that Marina told him way near the beginning that Junichi has her Pokégear number: why don't they just call her?

Junichi recovers his normal self instantly at the suggestion and they give her a call; however, by this point Buson has gone down to the cargo hold to check on things and grabs Marina's Pokégear the moment she answers it. Junichi screams threats and insults at him as they realize what's going on, and Buson responds by shouting "Shut up!" before simply crushing the Pokégear in his hands and walking ominously towards the defenseless Marina. As Kenta frantically tries to maintain contact with her, however, Eusine comes along and tells him that the Pokégear's call log can tell them where the last signal came from, thus pointing them to where they're taking her.

Bashou and Buson land on a desolate rock somewhere and start to set up the Miracle Crystal yet again. Marina is bound and gagged up by the airship as a hostage, but as the purple clouds begin to rise yet again, she wishes desperately that Raikou will stay away. It's not long before Buson's sensors pick up something approaching them, but it's non-electrical and turns out to be a familiar Beedrill - Kenta's, naturally. It looks around, locates Marina and then zooms back to report, and Eusine's car arrives only moments later.

The boys demand to know where Marina is, and Bashou calmly shows her to them, assuring them that she is fine. Kenta then asks about Raikou, but Eusine points out that since they're using the crystal again, that has to mean Raikou escaped somehow.

Buson tells them that yeah, Marina let Raikou escape, and Bashou asks why they are putting so much effort into helping a stupid animal who hates humans and won't even thank them for it. But as Kenta is triumphantly telling them Raikou won't be tricked again, guess who appears. Yup, Raikou is back, this time with a plan: it attacks Bashou and Buson using the Miracle Crystal, by blasting electricity at it so that it shoots amplified lightning bolts all around. Unfortunately this attack plan isn't very precise; Marina gets knocked down off a cliffside as a bolt of electricity hits the rock near her, but Kenta sends his Beedrill to save her (miraculously, suddenly Beedrill has grown big enough to carry a human girl). Buson sends out his Skarmory and orders it to attack Beedrill, and as the boys run to meet them, Beedrill is struck and drops Marina. Junichi trips on a rock and lands flat on his stomach, Marina falls on top of him and is unharmed, and Kenta gets to be the one asking her if she's all right and undoing her bonds. They share a few moments looking at one another until Junichi interrupts to point out that hell-o, he's the one who heroically saved her with his body. Then our heroes realize that, oops, the villains are sort of still there, and Bashou is ordering his Steelix to attack them with Iron Tail.

As they're running for it, however, suddenly Raikou leaps into Steelix, knocks it into the ground, and takes a defensive stance in front of them. Kenta and Marina both urge it to run because it should never have come back here, but it ignores them and charges back towards Bashou and Buson. Even as Buson makes the crystal fire more electricity at it, Raikou dodges it in the air and jumps straight at the mecha. Buson narrowly manages to jump out, but Raikou furiously attacks the Miracle Crystal control system, which destroys it and causes the mecha to explode (because everything is better with explosions!). The crystal powers down at last.

Kenta realizes suddenly that Raikou wasn't just being stupid and gullible when it kept coming back; it just wanted to destroy the crystal and punish the men who would torture defenseless Electric Pokémon. (The dub, bizarrely, decides that Raikou came back specifically not out of concern for the Electric Pokémon, but because it has totally come to view Kenta, Marina and Junichi as its friends and wanted to save them. Yeeeeah.) Now that the crystal's control system is broken, Raikou furiously blasts a Thunderbolt at Bashou and Buson where they're standing, but they stand unmoved, and Bashou smirks, probably the first facial expression he has ever shown. That's not a good sign. Indeed, at the last moment the attack swings back around to hit the crystal, which blasts it back towards Raikou.

Bashou and Buson explain triumphantly that destroying the control system doesn't destroy the crystal; it's set to automatically accomplish their mission no matter what, and furthermore, Raikou has now given it enough power to activate the final capture mode. As they speak, light begins to gather around the crystal, and suddenly it turns black and begins to forcibly suck out Raikou's electricity. This not only absorbs its power, but in fact drags Raikou itself towards it like a magnet, culminating in pulling it into a helpless state of levitation above the crystal as more and more of its power is stripped away from it. Buson says that the crystal in this state can suck in energy from an Electric Pokémon until it has none left at all, leaving it completely helpless and easily captured, and Bashou finishes by reiterating that Pokémon are made to be controlled by humans, and Raikou is no different.

Of course, Kenta, Marina and Junichi immediately send out Typhlosion, Misdreavus and Meganium to attack the crystal like they did last time; however, this time Raikou is inside the force field, and Eusine points out that if they use the same strategy as then - bombard the field with attacks until it explodes - the weakened Raikou will be caught in the middle of the explosion and probably won't survive it. The only way it can be rescued is if the Pokémon were to use direct attacks on the field and then manage to carry Raikou to a safe distance away in the seconds between the breaking of the force field and the subsequent explosion.

Of course, the sheer danger of this scenario is not lost on our three trainers: it means putting their Pokémon in harm's way too by having them be so near when the explosion occurs. Kenta stares at his starter and knows that even though he wants to save Raikou, he could never bear to lose Typhlosion - but then Typhlosion nods, faces the crystal with a roar of challenge and darts towards it. It is followed by Meganium and Misdreavus, and the three trainers realize that their Pokémon want to see this to the end no matter the danger to them.

Bashou and Buson are quite surprised by this turn of events and send out Skarmory, Steelix and Buson's Muk. However, Eusine sends out his Alakazam, and it and Misdreavus help keep them off Typhlosion and Meganium's backs as they attack the force field (with Flame Wheel and, bizarrely, Light Screen). Bashou orders Steelix to attack the kids instead, telling the Pokémon their trainers will suffer the consequences if they continue, but Kenta and Junichi quickly tell their Pokémon not to worry about them as Alakazam and Misdreavus try to distract Steelix. In the meantime, Muk and Skarmory attack Typhlosion and Meganium, but instead of fighting back, the two of them just endure it and keep focusing on the barrier.

Steelix Iron Tails Alakazam and Misdreavus and then turns towards Kenta, who has situated himself on the edge of a cliff. He taunts Steelix to attack him (with a most delightfully lame Japanese pun: "Baka-nail") and then calls out to Beedrill as it prepares to Dig him into oblivion: Beedrill picks him up and carries him away, while Steelix's weight crashing down on that dangerous outcropping of rock just sends the whole thing collapsing into the river below.

Buson desperately orders Skarmory and Muk to attack them, but Misdreavus and Alakazam stop them with Psybeam. Steelix rises up again, and Bashou orders it to Crunch Typhlosion and Meganium (I love the expression on his face in this bit; earlier he started to smirk disturbingly when the black hole crystal was activated, but by now he's taken to grinning madly with this positively lunatic glint in his eyes). Kenta, Marina and Junichi all jump in front of the Pokémon, and as Eusine frantically yells that that's a really stupid and dangerous thing to do, something changes in Raikou's eyes. Probably realizing just how devoted they are to their Pokémon, it makes one last effort to help with an attack, and lo and behold: the crystal has been damaged so badly that the Electric attack actually breaks through the force field and hits Steelix (which is of course a Ground-type and shouldn't be damaged at all, but hey, if Pikachu can do it, I guess Raikou can do it too). The crystal starts to crack, and Bashou and Buson make a hasty retreat as they realize there is nothing more they can do now, leaving the crystal behind.

Raikou faces the cracked crystal and fires a last Electric attack at it, shattering it. It looks at them before it leaves, and they conclude it probably has at least a bit more trust for humans now than it did before. Then everybody punches the air and is happy as the clouds begin to part.

Later, we see the kids exiting the Pokémon Center and waving goodbye to Joy, Jenny, Kudo and Eusine. As they head off, Eusine says a really cheesy and ridiculous line about the star of passion that shines in their hearts and Kudo, hilariously, asks him if he doesn't ever realize just how embarrassing that is.

Kenta, Marina and Junichi reach a crossroads, reminisce a little bit about when they first set off on their journeys after getting their starter Pokémon, and then split up just like they did then. Or rather, Kenta leaves first, Junichi promises to talk to Marina on the Pokégear later before heading off another way, and Marina lingers behind a little to look after Kenta...

After the credits, we see Kenta walking through a forest when his Pokégear suddenly rings: it's Marina, who got his number from Junichi. She tells him this is the first call she makes on her new Pokégear (remember Buson broke the other one), and Kenta pretends to be less excited by that than he actually is. She offers to tell him her number in case he ever gets in trouble, and he pretends to be a whole lot less excited by that than he actually is. We pull out as Marina starts rambling about her adoration for Lance. The end.

The Good

As I touched on at the beginning of this review, this special is in my opinion the epitome of what the regular anime series could have been. Within the space of an hour, it managed to completely convince me that I would much rather watch hundreds of episodes about these characters than about Ash and company, and I'm usually not even that hard on Ash.

The thing is that Ash and company's interactions aren't very interesting. I say this with the reservation that I've only seen the first fifty-two episodes and the movies and thus my idea of it might be a little skewed, but mostly my impressions have been that the characters tend to do their own thing (such as the whole running gag of Brock flirting), which can be nice and all but mostly they're just generic friends who happen to travel together.

That's not the case in this special. Kenta, Marina and Junichi immediately feel like characters with a history. Because they don't actually travel together, they have more defined individual identities and goals and can actually surprise one another and have interesting interactions when they do meet. Then there's the love triangle, which, while a very typical device that I generally can't stand, actually manages to just make this special better: it makes for more interactions, more humour and more character development in general without getting in the way of the actual plot.

This has made me propose what I think would be a more effective formula for a Pokémon anime series which would still stick to the same ultimate goal of exhibiting the world: Each regional arc would introduce three trainers who pick the three starter Pokémon of that region. These trainers would then generally split up, and the episodes would follow all of them: for a hypothetical Johto series about these characters, some episodes would be about Kenta's adventures, some about Marina's, and some about Junichi's. Their stories would then regularly intersect, with the characters meeting and interacting in mini-arcs which might involve events adapted from the games or completely original stories like The Legend of Thunder. Because they wouldn't be together all the time, their interactions wouldn't just go stale immediately, and all three of them would be able to have more focused character arcs of their own when they're not together. All evil teams would be used sparingly in order for it to be possible to take them seriously when they do appear. The trainers' Pokémon would instead take on the role of supporting cast while they're alone, getting more developed personalities of their own and interacting both with one another and their trainers, and of course, they would meet various other people on their journeys, some recurring. Each regional arc would culminate in the regional league, where the three main characters would be participating and have their individual arcs wrapped up (for now, at least); we would see what they plan to do next, and finally we'd move on to the next region with new characters. Maybe there would be specials or crossovers revisiting old characters during the later regions.

Of course, none of this is actually going to happen, so this is just my hypothetical if-I-were-suddenly-put-in-charge-of-the-Pokémon-anime idea. Regardless, the point is The Legend of Thunder has much better, funnier, more interesting character interactions than the main series, and this fact is, I think, the key factor that makes it so enjoyable to watch. It also does a good job of setting up these characters so that we care about them and have a feel for who they are.

Bashou and Buson, in general, are pretty good villains with individual personalities and enough competence and capacity for villainy (e.g. their willingness to make their Pokémon attack the kids directly) to be threatening. I also just love Bashou's gradually cracking sanity in his progression from stoic to smirking/gloating to psychotic grin. We don't get to know the reasons behind it or anything, but it's very fun to notice on repeat viewings.

Another thing I really love here is that it gets to the core of what Pokémon is all about with the exchanges between Kenta and Bashou and makes the distinction between capturing them at any cost to exploit their power on the one hand and challenging them fairly in order to grow alongside them on the other. Waxing poetic about love and trust being what lets kind trainers win is all well and good, but it's nice to see someone directly challenge the nice Pokémon trainers' claim to the moral high ground, and likewise to see the hero subsequently articulate exactly why they're wrong. It's quite satisfying and a pretty awesome moment in general. The dub rewrote most of this conversation, but I suppose the very basic gist of it got across (just please, for the sanity of all, remember that Bashou never actually said that "you don't get to run the world by being fair; you get to run the world by being nasty!", and I really liked that Kenta originally finished with "You don't even deserve to have Pokémon!" rather than a generic "We won't let you take Raikou!").

I also love the humour in this special; there are moments that are absolutely priceless and plenty more that are quite amusing. Largely, as I said, this is a direct result of the interactions of the main characters, but there are also delightful gags like Marina's adoration of Eusine's cape and Kudo's final line.

The Bad

As so often, there is some patchy logic, though not that outrageously so. The Miracle Crystal is introduced as i) by default, absorbing Electric attacks used nearby and using their power to expand the force field, and ii) reflecting any Electric attacks used inside this force field towards the user. However, then we go on to see the crystal reflecting attacks directly without producing a force field at all, and still later Buson actually has to press a button to make it expand the force field. In fact, throughout the special, the crystal is generally used as if it can simply be set to any of a few different "modes" through the control system and these are merely two of the possibilities (with the black hole crystal being another), but that's not at all how it was explained to Bashou and Buson at the beginning. Another inconsistency with the crystal is how the attracting-Electric-Pokémon factor is completely ignored after its first appearance; even though Bashou and Buson still believe it's the pull of the crystal that's attracting Raikou (so clearly they haven't just turned that feature off), no other Electric Pokémon are seen gathering in the vicinity. I suppose this might be a testament to the different locations they chose (more mountainous areas instead of in the middle of a forest), but it could still have done with at least a mention.

In a similar vein, some of the things Bashou and Buson do (or don't do) don't quite make sense. For instance, the second time they use the crystal when Raikou has collapsed, they go through all the hassle of trying to make the force field expand around Raikou and only do the more obvious thing - to simply pick Raikou up and make a run for it - when that has failed, for no discernible reason. If Marina hadn't been there, Raikou certainly wouldn't have gotten out of the cargo hold, so it's hardly that they desperately needed to weaken Raikou more to make sure it couldn't escape.

And speaking of Marina being there, what on Earth was up with that? They didn't pick her up with Raikou, and only moments before they fly off, we see her Misdreavus still attacking the barrier, while it's suddenly with her in the cargo hold the next minute. It works as a plot twist to raise the stakes, but the reasons for it appear to be nonsensical. There is no reason for her to have snuck into their cargo hold before Raikou was put in there.

The main characters are also not immune to missing golden opportunities: why didn't anyone ever think of attacking the crystal with ranged non-electrical moves when Raikou wasn't in harm's way? Most glaringly, they could have attacked the crystal immediately when they got there for the third encounter, but no, they just stand around talking until Raikou comes along and gets suspended inside the force field. They could also have attacked the crystal at any point during the first and second encounters, but for some reason they just don't appear to think of it until the force field is expanding towards Raikou at the end of the second one.

Then there's where the writers seem to have been convinced Steelix is a pure Steel-type, what with the apparent resistance to Grass and vulnerability to electricity. If you're writing for Pokémon, you need to get Pokémon types straight, damn it.

Other than these plot issues, though, I have little but praise for this special. The one final nitpick I have is just that Raikou's voice bugs me; it sounds very conspicuously like a guy going "RUOORARR" rather than an actual animal growling, and this actually seriously detracts from some scenes, like when Raikou is supposed to be in horrible pain but all you can think of is that this job must have given the voice actor the worst sore throat of all time. Many other Pokémon throughout the series have a similar problem, but those are usually the ones that speak in syllables of their names and can thus be forgiven for having human-sounding voices. Raikou, however, only communicates in roars and snarls and growls so there is no reason for its voice to sound human at all, and because it does a lot of roaring and snarling and growling, it would really benefit from having a voice actor who can actually roar convincingly.

Conclusion

The Legend of Thunder is one of my favorite Pokémon movies and specials, primarily because of its great character introduction and interactions, interesting themes and hilarious comedy. There are parts in the plot that don't really make sense, but the rest is easily good enough to make up for it. Go watch it if you haven't already. Or, more specifically, go watch a fansub, because the dub is terrible.

Page last modified August 12 2016 at 22:34 GMT