Released in Japanese theaters in December 2020, the latest licensed Pokemon film is hitting our borders via the Netflix platform almost a year late. Without his friends, Sacha embarks on a new adventure to introduce a new, highly anticipated pocket monster.
For this twenty-third feature film, Sacha and Pikachu head to the Okoya forest, an exclusive place for the film that protects a plant capable of healing any wound. But most of all, this forest is home to Zarude, a new pokemon that Pokémon Sword & Shield players can get this year (unless they fail to keep up with game news as the writers of this line).
The film is set in the continuation of the movie Pokémon: I Choose You! which in a way, serves as a reboot for the 2017 saga. The very young trainer and his little electric furball meet Koko, a boy his age who doesn’t speak human language, but understands all pokemon. Also, the introduction of the film cleverly confuses us by letting us think that jungle pokémon talk like humans, but no, the film just uses the same process as Tarzan and the Book of the jungle. Given Disney’s popularity in Japan, comparisons come naturally.
As other films under license have done, most notably Mewtwo vs. Mew with existentialist questions and its anti-species causes, Secrets of the Jungle tries to tackle rather mature themes like deforestation, greed for capitalism, the relationship between a father and his children. children, tolerance and mutual cooperation. Everything is of course presented in a mature way and for all audiences with a very predictable plot from the first fifteen minutes of the film.
Despite the presence of Zarude, an excellent eighth generation Pokémon, we still have the impression of seeing a long episode of this series. This criticism (which isn’t really one) can clearly be made with most animated films taken from shōnen, but when we think back on the first three Pokemon films whose stakes and intrigue allowed them to stand out fully and be considered cinematographic masterpieces in their own right … Studio OLM can make an effort for The Secrets of the Jungle. But without the presence of a true legendary pokemon, we can understand that the film was relegated to the “long episode” rating.
The script has the audacity to ignore Sacha and Pikachu to make way for Koko and her father (and Rongourmand) who are the actual protagonists of the film. Sacha doesn’t release any pokemon from any of his poke balls, which means that his skills as a trainer don’t really matter in the plot.
On the other hand, there is a bit of dialogue that catches our attention: Sacha talks about his father to Koko. We’ve looked at the extract multiple times and in multiple languages, just to be sure, but Sacha totally evokes her father’s presence as if nothing had happened. All this to tell us that thanks to his father, the hero of the saga still hasn’t given up on his dream after 24 years.
And like Sacha, Team Rocket is wise. Jessie, James and Meowth (and Qulbutoké) are still on top of their game, still funny and very clever, but their importance in the film is lacking. Granted, it’s thanks to them that the authorities put the antagonists in jail after the climax, but that’s nothing compared to the help they provide the heroes in other films. We have to admit that their sub-plot remains the best written from the film. Respect these shadow heroes who no longer have a reason to be villains (and the Pokémon Company knows it).
As for Doctor Zed, the film’s real antagonist, it’s hard to think well of that. The character is indeed an ugly villain who kills Koko’s biological parents in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the forest… But the problem is that we see him coming from miles away.
Unlike the (equally generic) villain from Pokémon 2, the power is within you, Zed uses a massive destruction machine that chases after pokemon because he is convinced to act for a good cause. His point of view and intentions are, sadly, too little developed to be able to prove him right in one way or another (we’re not in Attack on Titan). And on the charisma side, the poor guy is far from the ankles of Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket.
Another somewhat disturbing aspect is the fact that Zarude is not considered an extraordinary or legendary pokemon by humans. However, like Tyranitar, Zarude has everything to become the culmination of one of the first two pocket monsters envisioned by Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori in 1990, when the two young menhaven’t thought about the title yet. inspired by two of the most famous kaiju in pop culture: Godzilla and King Kong.
Most of the budget obviously went to designing the Okoya Forest (derived from the Japanese “oyako” meaning “parent to child”). We say that, because this setting is what is most amazing in film, it’s where the light works the most, well-exploited 3D creates a real feeling of depth, the textures are varied, the healing spring tree is amazing, etc. Besides, you never have the impression that different places are the same. We dare not imagine how many hours of overtime the artist does.
Animation, meanwhile, is not to be outdone.Here, even the slightest action scenes flow and are done well enough that we understand everything that’s going on.
The soundtrack of the good old Shinji Miyazaki (which is not alone) is effective to realize, but lacks the ambition to make a contemplative film as is the case with other films. Pokémon (or some anime episodes). Yes, we’re thinking of the Lugia theme in Pokémon 2, which to this day is still one of the most beautiful compositions of Japanese animation (no, no nostalgia speaking).
We’re going to stop talking about movies now because Netflix annoys us so much, it’s time to ramble on. Despite the fact that the platform prevents people (including us) from seeing certain movies in theaters, it makes us miss the original versions. No, the platform’s audio options do not allow you to view Secrets of the Forest in Japanese, the original language. On the other hand, we reserve the right to the “English [OV]” option, because yes, they dare to claim that English is the original language. This is already the case with other works from the Pokémon universe like Les Voyages, Je te vous choice! and the power is within us. It is with these kinds of “careless little mistakes” that cultural appropriation begins to wreak havoc.