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Dogasu's Backpack | Movies & Specials Guide | Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon Planetarium

Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon Planetarium

The Pocket Monsters planetarium shows have been a thing for years and years and yet next to nothing is known about any of them.  The fact that they're released during a very short window of time in Japan before disappearing forever, never to see a home video release, combined with how the few people who actually do see these things aren't running to the Internet to document what they saw makes it very difficult for even Japanese fans to find out anything about these. For fans outside Japan, finding out about these specials is, in comparison, next to impossible.

Let's put an end to that, shall we?  I recently had the chance to see the newest planetarium show, Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon Planetarium - over at the
Hamagin Space Science Center near Yokohama and would like to share with you what it's like to watch a Pocket Monsters planetarium show.

The Venue

The show took place at the Hamagin Space Science Center, a children's science museum located near Youkoudai station. The station is about 20 minutes away from the more famous Yokohama station. Once you get off at Youkoudai the children's museum is about a ten minute walk from the station.

Outside the museum

When you enter the museum you have to line up to buy your tickets. I went on the last day before the end of New Year's break and so the place was packed with families taking their small children for one last outing before everyone has to go back to school / work. And when I say small children, I mean small; I don't think I saw any child over the age of seven during the entire time I was at the museum, with most of them falling with the preschool age range.

A schedule for the planetarium's shows was displayed on the wall to the right of the entrance while a TV was set up in a back corner playing advertisements for the character shows currently being played at the planetarium; basically, Pocket Monsters and Doraemon. Unfortunately the trailer for Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon Planetarium doesn't seem to be online anywhere so I don't have access to any images from the actual episode itself.

Schedule
Poster

After paying the entrance fee (400 yen for general admission and 600 yen to see the show...so about US $10 altogether) I moved over to the line of people waiting to be let into the theater to see the show. As we were ushered into the theater the "World of Pokemon" music from one of the recent movies (I assume) could be heard playing through the auditorium's loudspeakers. After settling into our seats, the lights dimmed and the show began.


Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon Planetarium

The opening theme, Alola!!, starts things off.

The special begins inside the Pokemon School on Melemele Island where Satoshi is asking Mamane what a "solar eclipse" is. In Japanese the word for "solar eclipse," nisshoku (日食), has the word for meal in it (shoku) so Satoshi assumes that a nisshoku must be related to food somehow. Mamane mutters that a glutton like Satoshi would come up with an explanation like that before telling him that a nisshoku is when the moon covers up the sun. A total eclipse of the sun is scheduled to take place tomorrow and if they don't go to see it then it'll be another 300 years before another one can be seen from the Alola region! Satoshi starts to panic, saying that he'll be an old geezer by then! He invites himself to tag along with Mamane to Eclipse Island (エクリプス島), the only place in the Alola Region where the solar eclipse can be viewed. Mamane had hoped to spend a quiet day looking at it by himself but he guesses it can't be helped.

Meanwhile, the Rocket trio are inside Kiteruguma's nest trying out the solar eclipse viewing glasses they recently picked up
. Nyarth tells Musashi and Kojirou that they won't work inside a dark cave and tells them that they'll need to wait until the actual solar eclipse comes to be able to use them. Once the eclipse occurs, the trio reasons, some super rare pokemon is bound to appear and so they're determined to be ready to get it. As a side note, the solar eclipse glasses the Rocket trio are using have the Skull-Dan mark on them; in a flashback, we see that the glasses were bought at a solar eclipse glasses stand run by the same three Skull-Dan grunts we've been seeing throughout the series.

Skull-Dan grunts

Later, Satoshi, Pikachu, Mamane, and Togedemaru all hop aboard a Laplace - one per Trainer - and set off for Eclipse Island. As soon as they reach land they're greeted by the sight of an older man being attacked by a wild Yungoose! It seems that the Yungoose is upset at the man for wandering into his territory so Satoshi and Mamane decide to jump in and help. After the Yungoose runs off the man introduces himself as Fred (フレッド), an astronomer and "Solar Eclipse Hunter" who's come from the Houen Region to see the total eclipse of the sun scheduled to occur tomorrow. To thank the children for their help Fred offers to let the boys camp out with him that night.

In some bushes nearby, the Rocket-Dan are eavesdropping on our heroes' conversation. If they follow Satoshi, Mamane, and this "dandy" (as Musashi refers to him) then they'll definitely be led to where the rare pokemon are sure to appear. Suddenly, Nyarth screams out in pain after his tail is bitten by the wild Yungoose from before. Musashi and Kojirou jump to stifle his screams to prevent him from giving away their position.

That night, Fred tells the children all about solar eclipses in the big educational portion of the program. As a computer generated solar system fills the planetarium dome, Fred explains that the sun and moon don't actually rise and set the way Satoshi thinks but that this planet is actually just going around a giant star called the Sun. When "this planet," the Moon, and the Sun all line up just so then the sun is covered for a few moments by the moon. Satoshi wonders why solar eclipses don't happen more often since you would think that the celestial bodies would line up like that rather often but Fred explains that there are a number of reasons why they're so rare. The earth's axis is tilted, making it difficult for the celestial bodies to properly line up. About 70% of this planet is covered in water and so even when everything is in position the eclipses are only visible from someplace nobody actually lives. Clouds and other weather patterns often get in the way. And so on and so on. However, thanks to the work of scientists over the centuries we humans able to more or less figure out when and where solar eclipses can be viewed. Mamane also adds that there are several types of solar eclipses; partial eclipses (部分日食), total eclipses (皆既日食), and annular solar eclipses (金環日食). The eclipse that will occur tomorrow is a total eclipse.

The different types of solar eclipses

Fred also brings up the legendary pokemon Solgaleo and Lunaala, describing Solgaleo as "the beast that devours the sun" and Lunaala as "the beast that calls the moon." He doesn't really go into much detail about the pokemon but it is worth noting that Satoshi doesn't act like this is the first time he's ever heard their names before.

That night, everyone except a nervous Mamane is fast asleep. His Togedemaru notices how scared its Trainer is and lights up the area with its body like a night light, enabling Mamane to finally rest easy.

The next morning, everyone wakes up to find that it's exceptionally cloudy out! Satoshi asks Fred if this means they won't be able to see the solar eclipse after all but the Solar Eclipse Hunter reasons that if they climb to the top of a nearby mountain they should be able to see above the clouds.

Meanwhile, the Rocket-Dan are riding in their balloon toward that same mountain when they realize that they left their solar eclipse viewing glasses back at their base! If they turn around to go get them they won't make it back in time for the eclipse so they decide to just steal Satoshi's glasses when they attack him later to get his Pikachu. Two birds, one stone!

As Satoshi, Mamane, and Fred walk toward the mountain a huge net appears suddenly and traps Pikachu! The Rocket trio appears in their Nyarth balloon with two metal arms attached to it and, after reciting their motto, demand that Satoshi hands over his solar eclipse glasses in exchange for his Pikachu! Satoshi knows they don't actually have any intention of returning his pokemon so he orders his Mokuroh to use Leafage to free his Pikachu. Unfortunately for him, the Rocket trio is able to sucker punch Mokuroh with one of their balloon's arms!

Satoshi doesn't see a way out of this jam so he asks Mokuroh to carry his backpack up to the Rocket-Dan. Mokuroh flies the bag over to Musashi and, as soon as it's opened...Mamane's Togedemaru pops out! Mamane's pokemon runs around inside the balloon and shocks the trio while the net holding Pikachu breaks free and sends Pikachu falling toward the earth. Mokuroh swoops down and rescues Pikachu from becoming a pancake before Pikachu turns around and uses Thunderbolt to power up Togedemaru's Zing Zap. Togedemaru's attack fries the Rocket-Dan but the trio proves to be extra resilient today as Musashi sends out her Mimikyu to continue the fight. Satoshi counters by having his Pikachu use its Z-Move, Sparking Gigavolt, on the trio. After the dust from the resulting explosion clears we can see that Kiteruguma is now carrying the Rocket trio underneath its arms. The pink bear pokemon hops away with the Rocket-Dan in tow.

Sparking Gigavolt

Now that the trio has been taken care of, Satoshi, Mamane, and Fred make it the rest of the way up the mountain to see the solar eclipse. It looks like they made it just in the nick of time! Our heroes look up as the moon passing over the sun makes the sunny sky turn dark.

Elsewhere, Kiteruguma is carrying off the Rocket trio when Musashi tells it to stop. The Rocket-Dan all look up at the enchanting view and declare that this is a great feeling (いい感じ~!).

Once the eclipse is finished, Satoshi and the others make their way down the mountain and thank Fred for showing them just one more reason why the Alola Region is so great. As the scene pans up, we see the real Solgaleo and Lunaala looking over our heroes.

After the credits roll, the house lights come up slightly to prepare the audience for the next segment of the show.

Stray Observations

Here are some miscellaneous notes I took while watching the special:

  • There was no PokeProblem segment.
  • The version of Alola! used was the very first one from when the series debuted in November 2015. It was  a creditless version with the song's lyrics being the only text visible on-screen. At the end of the opening the word "Planetarium" was added under the Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon logo.
  • Mamane is the only one of Satoshi's human friends who appears in this special. Lillie, Kaki, Suiren, Mao, and Dr. Kukui are all missing with no explanation whatsoever. The Rocket-Dan's Sonansu doesn't show up either.
  • During Fred's explanation of solar eclipses he conspicuously avoids using chikyuu (地球), or "Earth," and instead refers to their world as kono hoshi (この星) or "this planet." However, all of the facts he gives about "this planet," such as the fact that it's on a titled axis and that 70% of it is covered in water, are all applicable to Earth as well.
  • When Fred is talking about the scientists whose research helped the people of today determine when and where solar eclipses can be seen, realistic looking black and white sketches of four scientists are shown on the screen. One is definitely meant to be Galileo Galilei, but because the others flash by so quickly and because my knowledge of what different astronomers look like isn't all that great to begin with I'm not sure who the other three are. Regardless, this shows that, at the very least, these four real world scientists also exist in the Pokemon World.
Galileo Galilei
  • This special has a rare appearance of the Rocket-Dan's Nyarth balloon.
  • The special's ending theme is just white text against a black background set against a version of the games' Title Screen background music.
The special has a runtime of approximately 30 minutes, about the same as a regular episode of the TV series.

After the show

After the Pocket Monsters show there was a 15 minute program dedicated to showing off which stars are expected to be visible at around 9:00pm that night (nevermind the fact that the light pollution in the Tokyo area is so bad that you can't see the stars even when the sky is clear...). The night sky was projected onto the dome while a woman speaking into a microphone pointed out constellations such as Orion, Aries, Gemini, and Taurus. Children were encouraged to shout out the answers as the guide talked.

Orion

Oddly enough, music from Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation started playing about halfway through the lecture, prompting one kid sitting near me to remark "Eh? Are they gonna start playing Pokemon again?" The Title Screen music, Pokemon Contest theme, and the Magma-Dan theme were the songs I remember playing. I don't know why this music was used either.

Presentation

In my review for
Pocket Monsters XY The Space Debris, I lamented the fact that these planetarium productions seem to be done on a low budget and that the visuals, which are supposed to be the main draw here, were actually pretty terrible. While the same is true this time around as well there are at least some notable improvements.

For starters, the ugly CG backgrounds of the former special have all been replaced with hand-drawn backgrounds, just like in the Sun & Moon TV series. The backgrounds are fairly simple and they rarely ever make use of the real estate offered by the larger screen (the only time I remember feeling like they even tried was with the campfire scene) but they at least fit in with the animated characters more this time around.

This year I was fortunate enough to sit directly in the middle of the auditorium so I didn't notice the weird scene distortions that bothered me so much the last time around. Something that did bother me, however, is just how dark the whole thing looked. Someone turned the brightness down on the visuals waaaaaay too much and it was so bad that I felt like I was looking at the screen through a pair of sunglasses the entire time. For a show that you have to pay actual money to go see this is pretty unacceptable.

The parts of the program that used recycled footage - the opening theme Alola!, the Rocket-Dan motto, and the sequence of Pikachu using Sparking Giga Volt - are all displayed in a tiny rectangle in the middle of the screen while all the footage made specifically for this special takes up the entire planetarium dome. The same thing was done the last time around so I expected it going into this special as well.


Rocket-Dan motto

Voice acting wise we get the usual cast, though a lot of the pokemon like Yungoose and Kiteruguma were conspicuously quiet in this thing. It seems like maybe they only wanted to use the bare minimum in terms of voice acting for this thing? As for the new character of the day, Fred, he's voiced by Katsuji Mori (森攻至). He's a veteran voice actor of over 50 years with credits that include Go Mifune in Mach Go Go Go, Ken the Eagle in Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Nail in Dragon Ball Z, and Nephrite in Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon. He was also the voice of Dr. Orchid in Pocket Monsters The Origin.

The music used in the special is the same background music from the Sun & Moon TV series, with remixes of themes from the Alola games getting the most play time though some movie music was used throughout.


Final Thoughts

I feel like I had more fun with Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon Planetarium than I did with its predecessor. It's a special aimed at the franchise's youngest of fans, with its simplistic plot and super low stakes battle, but the solar eclipse explanation in the middle is enough to keep the kids' parents entertained. With that said, it's 100% fluff and I wouldn't feel too bad about the fact that this special has absolutely no chance of ever crossing the Pacific. You're not really missing all that much, to be honest.


Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon Planetarium is playing exclusively in Japan until the end of March 2018.

 

 

 

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