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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Movies

Mewtwo Strikes Back!

Movie Stats:

Japanese Movie #1:  "Mewtwo Strikes Back!"
American Movie #1:  "Pokémon The First Movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back""
Japanese Release Date:  July 18th, 1998
American Release Date:  November 10th, 1999
Important Characters:  Voyager (Miranda), Umio (Fergus), Sweet (Neesha), Sorao (Corey)
Important Places:  New Island (New Island), Pokemon Castle (Mewtwo's Palace), N/A (Old Shore Wharf), Masara Town (Pallet Town)

Mewtwo is an incredibly strong Psychic-Type Pokémon created from cloning the DNA of the Mythical Pokémon Mew. He has trouble coming to terms with the way in which he was brought into the world and is haunted by the question of who is stronger, the Originals or their Copies? To find out, Mewtwo invites a number of strong Trainers, including Satoshi, to gather at his Pokémon Castle on New Island. None of the Pokémon Trainers are able to stand up to Mewtwo or its army of Copies and so the challenger decides that the Originals are indeed inferior. Mewtwo takes everyone's Pokémon and makes his own "superior" Copies, prompting Satoshi to destroy his cloning machine and set all the Pokémon free. The Copies and the Originals meet face-to-face as the one and only Mew itself arrives on the scene! A long battle ensues between the Originals and their Copies, and things escalate to the point where Satoshi tries to stop it all by throwing himself in the middle of Mewtwo's and Mew's attacks! Satoshi is turned to stone as a result but is soon returned to normal thanks to the tears of the Pokémon gathered. Mewtwo, seeing both the Originals and the Copies unite to achieve a single goal, concludes that they're all living creatures and therefore all have a place in this world. Mewtwo leaves the island with its Copies and transports all the other Trainers back to the mainland, their memories of the events of New Island erased.

You've all seen this movie, right?  A lengthy introduction isn't needed, is it?

I'll just jump into what I think about the movie. Overall, I think it's...alright. It's not my favorite Pocket Monsters movie, and if I really sat down and thought about it I probably wouldn't place it in my top five, either. But that doesn't mean it's a bad movie or that it doesn't do a lot of cool stuff. I just think that for me, I find all the stuff that happens before the movie proper - The Birth of Mewtwo - to be way, way more interesting than the film itself. Mewtwo is a great character and is generally awesome, and oh-my-God Ichimura Masachika does an amazing job of voicing it. But if you take off the rose colored nostalgia glasses for a minute, you'll see that the plot of the movie is pretty bare. Our heroes get an invitation to go to New Island, which Mewtwo somehow rebuilt despite how insanely implausible that all is, and then get their asses handed to them. Mew shows up for some reason and fights off Mewtwo while Satoshi goes off and gets himself turned to stone. Pokémon cry, and then, pretty much, the end! The movie has some cool ideas behind it, don't get me wrong, but the majority of the film is spent with our heroes helplessly looking on as this super Pokémon shows off how amazing it is.  That's not really exciting to me.

Despite all this, there's a lot to like about the movie.  As I mentioned earlier, Masachika Ichimura is amazing as Mewtwo and I'd probably go as far as saying that his performance here is probably my favorite out of the entire franchise. Yes, even more than the trio of voice actors who perform the Rocket-Dan! I remember being flabbergasted at people when they heard Reiko Takashima's performance of Mewtwo in that trailer for The Extreme Speed Genosect and the Awakening of Mewtwo and were wondering if it had the same voice it had from the first movie because there are actually people out there, in the year 2013, who have never heard Masachika Ichimura's Mewtwo before.  I just can't wrap my head around that.

Shinji Miyazaki's musical score is also a highlight. The organ pieces that serve as Mewtwo's theme, the battle music that's remixed from the TV series, the music that plays when Mewtwo's Monster Balls fly through the air...the music is just fantastic. The movie's ending theme
Kaze to Issho ni, also deserves praise for being this lovely yet haunting song that also perfectly captures the spirit of the movie it's attached to. It's also a reminder of a time when animated movies from Japan would have ending themes that were actually related to the movies they were made for instead of just using some random pop song about love or something like that that.

So the English dub...*sigh*  I don't think I have the writing skills to express how much I hate it. And I don't hate it because it's a terrible, rage-inducing "adaptation," and I don't hate it because the Japanese version is vastly superior in every conceivable way. I hate it is because this poorly acted, poorly written, poorly scored piece of crap is what people associate with Mewtwo Strikes Back. They think of hypocritical morals and "Brother My Brother" and lame jokes and a music score that's just there and bland voice acting and think that what they see in the dub is all there is to this movie. I mean, I look at what all those film critics say about the movie back then and am shaking my head because, while they do have some valid complaints here and there, a large majority of the faults they find with the movie aren't there in the original version of the film. "You didn't see the real movie!" I think to myself. "You saw the 4Kids One Piece dub of the Pokémon franchise."

The TV series has these same problems, sure. But Mewtwo Strikes Back is such an important part of the franchise that its edits, though not as great in number as what you'd find in, say, your average 
Pokémon Chronicles episode, are much more damaging. This isn't a poorly dubbed side story about a group of kids protecting a Raikou from Team Rocket; it's a poor dub of one of the most important and influential entries of the entire franchise. If there was anything that needed to be done right, it was Mewtwo Strikes Back, and 4Kids' failure to recognize that has damaged the franchise in ways that are still being felt today.

On the plus side, Mew and Kairyu, among a bunch of other minor Pokémon, keep their Japanese voices.

Music Edit
The soundtrack to the TV series is a mix of the original Japanese music and music created specifically for the dub. It's not ideal, but some music is better than none at all, right? Unfortunately, when it came to this movie and the two that follow it, 4Kids decided that no, all the Japanese music is bad and must be replaced immediately.

So gone is Shinji Miyazaki's brilliant music score. It gets replaced because, in Norman Grossfeld's own words:


I cannot fathom why anyone would ever think that the music present in the Japanese version of this movie (or in any other piece of Japanese animation, for that matter) needs to be changed "to better reflect what American kids would respond to." Was there some focus group or something in which kids ran out of the room screaming because OH MY GOD FULLY ORCHESTRATED INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC? And it wasn't just 4Kids who was spouting this BS, either; so many of the dubbing companies in the late 1990s acted like there was just something so offensive about Japanese-produced instrumental music and that creating a replacement soundtrack was the only way American kids could stomach it.

It's most certainly more a case of "Hey, if we make our own soundtrack, we can charge royalties for it when our dub gets translated into other languages. Ka-ching!" than any artistic reasons, but hey, let's just use the "we changed the music because we're better composers than Shinji Miyzakiis" instead. That sounds better, right?

By the way, this music that American kids wouldn't respond to? It'll end up being kept in a lot of the dub episodes for years to come, because apparently kids are suddenly more receptive to this music when it's on the TV as opposed to in a movie theater. That totally makes sense.

Dialogue Edit
So here's how work on this comparison went:

1)  Listen to maybe five minutes of the Japanese version.
2)  Switch over to the dub track.
3)  "Oh, that's not right." Pause, rewind, transcribe what was said, write up a little blurb about it.
4)  Unpause, and then be forced to press pause again because the very next line is a complete rewrite as well.
5)  Rewind, transcribe what was said, write up a little blurb about it.
6)  Repeat steps 3 - 5 over and over.
7)  Look at the clock and realize that it's taken me half an hour to get through the first five minutes of the movie.

*sigh*  Let's get started:

Dr. Fuji:  "August 6th. Today my colleagues will reach the site where an ancient civilization may have created a shrine to Mew, the most powerful Pokémon to have ever existed, now believed to be extinct."

The English dub decides to get things started by having Dr. Fuji summarize what's going on via narration. He gives us an exact date and tells us that the building we see later may be a shrine dedicated to Mew, neither of which are said in the Japanese version.

In the Japanese version, Mew's introduction is conveyed through the dialogue of the "colleagues" we see on-screen, not through narration.

The August 6th date, by the way? If we want to give 4Kids the benefit of the doubt and assume that they didn't just yank that out of their asses (but really, there's a good 80% chance that that was the case), then I'd guess that it's a reference to how the modern spelling of Mew's name in Japan was supposedly trademarked on August 6th, 1999. But even then I'm not really convinced that that's the case.

The very next line!

Dr. Fuji:  "Giovanni is financing the expedition. When he learned of my work in the field of cloning, he agreed to fund my research. But only if I would try to create for him an enhanced, living replica of Mew.  I had to agree. All he wants is to control the most powerful Pokémon the world has ever known. I, of course, want something more. Much more..."

None of this is in the Japanese version. None. Instead, we hear the researchers continue to talk about Mew and how it's said to have the key to eternal life. They also talk about how rare it is to actually see the Pokémon and how there isn't so much a single photograph of it in existence.

It's tempting to write this off as 4Kids just making shit up for the sake of making shit up (and boy is there plenty of that in this movie), but I'll be nice just this once and assume that they added this in here to give American audiences some of that extra information that came from the undubbed The Birth of Mewtwo radio drama. 4Kids sure as hell wasn't ever going to dub it (And who can blame them? Radio dramas died out in the U.S. a good 60 years before this movie came out), so they probably thought adding this dialogue here would be the best way to give us English speakers this backstory. I of course would have preferred they just translate the dialogue that's there in the Japanese script, but I could see why they'd want to go this route instead.

Unfortunately, the result of all this is that the first minute of the movie bombards the viewer with a shit ton of backstory that's difficult for the non-fan to digest. Who is this Giovanni fellow? I guess he has some cash if he's able to finance expeditions out into some jungle and hire cloning scientists? Why did our unnamed narrator "(have) to agree" to work with him? Does his use of the phrase "of course" indicate that we're supposed to already be familiar with who he is? You and I know the answers to all these questions, of course, but I don't think it's hard to see why someone who isn't as invested in this franchise as we are would be confused by all this.

Right before the flashback to the scene with Mr. and Mrs. Fuji:

Dr. Fuji:  "Please...please let my theories be true.  I must see my little girl smile...again."

Originally, Dr. Fuji wonders what his daughter is saying to Mewtwo and the others.

After his wife leaves him, Dr. Fuji starts to awkwardly paw the chamber with his daughter inside:

Dr. Fuji:  "I'll do see you again."

In the Japanese version Dr. Fuji tells us that, at that moment, he decided to name this holograph "Aitwo."

In the hallway:

Dr. Fuji:  "So, how are they doing today?"
Assistant:  "You should be very pleased, doctor. The Pokémon clones are in stable condition and Mewtwo's getting stronger everyday. One of them is bound to survive. It looks like all our hard work is finally paying off."
Dr. Fuji:  "Yes, Giovanni will be very happy, I'm sure. He may soon have the most powerful Pok
émon in the world."

The English version makes it seem like the previous line - the "I'll do see you again" part - was the end of the flashback and that this hallway scene takes place in modern times. Not so! In the Japanese version, this hallway scene is still considered a part of the flashback and therefore takes place before Mewtwo is born. Dr. Fuji's assistant is telling the doctor that they've obtained a fossil of Mew, a Pokémon said to hold the secrets to eternal life. This gives Dr. Fuji, who had apparently not known anything about Mew's powers before this, the idea to try using this to see if he can give his daughter a full life.

The English dub also adds in a line about Giovanni that wasn't there in the original. In fact, no connection between Dr. Fuji and the Rocket-Dan is made at any point in the Japanese version; the radio drama is the only thing that even implies that the Rocket-Dan and Dr. Fuji are working together. The dub, on the other hand, sprinkles references throughout the movie to make this connection as clear as possible.

Amber takes Mewtwo back:

Ambertwo:  "I call this my Remember Place. This is where I used to live."

Aitwo doesn't give the memories of the place Ai was born and raised a special name in the Japanese version.

Ambertwo starts to fade:

Mewtwo:  "What are...these?"
Ambertwo:  "They're tears.  You're crying."
Mewtwo:  "Crying?"
Ambertwo:  "My daddy used to tell me a bedtime story that when
Pokémon are sad, and they cry, their tears are filled with life."

So this is part one of 4Kids' attempt to explain the climax of the movie proper where Ash is revived by the tears of the Pokémon around him. The whole "bedtime story" is completely made up for the dub.

Originally, Aitwo tells Mewtwo that Pokémon cry whenever they're hurt while adding that humans are the only creatures who cry when they're happy  Takeshi Shudo, the man who wrote this movie, explains in his blog that there are some people who believe that animals only cry when they're hurt and that they're not capable of shedding tears when they feel sad or happy. He sees Pokémon as being similar to animals and therefore believes that there are some people in this world who feel the same way about Pokémon as people in our world feel about animals.

All of this Amber stuff ended up getting cut out of the original theatrical release of Pokémon The First Movie, though, so this rewrite ended up not doing any good anyway. Whoops.

After Mewtwo's freakout is prevented:

Assistant:  "Its brain waves are going back to normal. Everything seems OK, doctor."
Dr. Fuji:  "Nothing is OK. My Amber is gone forever!"

Geez, melodramatic much? I mean...couldn't you just try cloning her again, the way your radio drama counterpart did, instead of throwing in the towel so easily?

Dr. Fuji doesn't say anything in the Japanese version.

Mewtwo:  "I have slept for so long. It seems like...forever. But I remember...something. Someone. 'Life is wonderful.' But...why?"

One of the big lies the English dub tells us (and there are quite a few!) is that Mewtwo still remembers Amber. This is actually the complete opposite of what happens in the Japanese version.

In the original, Mewtwo tells us that, as time marches on, it forgets all about "that kid" and the clone Pokémon.   No half memories, no quoting Aitwo's last words, nothing.  It just...forgets.  This happens in the original radio drama on which this short is based as well.

The dub makes it so that Mewtwo does remember, which is strange because just a few moments before 4Kids went to the trouble of adding in this "It mustn't remember this!" line that wasn't even in the Japanese version in the first place. So Dr. Fuji doesn't want Mewtwo to remember, but it ends up remembering anyway? And this memory of Ambertwo doesn't come up again at any point in this movie or in the sequel Mewtwo Returns? What?

And now, we arrive at the movie proper:

Narrator:  "Life: The great miracle and the great mystery. Since the beginning, humans and Pokémon alike have searched for its meaning. Many strange and wondrous legends evolved from the pursuit of life's mysteries. But none is stranger than this tale of the most powerful Pokémon of all."

One of the annoying things about the English dub is how much more talky it is. Something that's only one or two lines in the Japanese version will get turned into this big rambling speech, and the overwhelming majority of this dialogue doesn't add anything to the story at all. Can't see a character's mouth on-screen? Why not give them extra dialogue! It seems like there isn't' anybody in this movie who can go two seconds without rambling on about this or that.

Originally, Mewtwo starts to ask the questions that it's so well known for in Japan: "Who am I? What am I? Who brought me here?" There's no narrator here, no rambling on about the meaning of life, none of that; we're just left to listen to Mewtwo's thoughts. The English dub does include Mewtwo asking the "Who am I?" questions, but they have the Pokémon whisper them in a barely audible voice. And I know this wasn't the intention since this movie came out too early for this to be the case, but I can't help but look back on this part today and think that Mewtwo sounds like he's speaking Parseltongue from the Harry Potter movies. It's all really weird.

So anyway, the narrator is front and center in the English dub, not Mewtwo. That completely changes the tone of the scene.

There's also not supposed to be any music here, but the English dub thought it would be better to have some triumphant fanfare playing here even though nothing's really happened yet.

Mewtwo:  " I? This...this is not the same. Was everything before...just a dream? Why...?"

Mewtwo doesn't remember Aitwo or anything of what happened before, 4Kids. Stop trying so hard.

Mewtwo simply asks who it is again in the Japanese version.

Assistant:  "Doctor! Look at this!"
Dr. Fuji:  "What!?"
Assistant:  "Its brain waves...they're surging." (other scientists start to chatter)
Dr. Fuji:  "Let's run another scan."
Assistant:  "Its mind is racing!"

The scientists in the Japanese version have no idea that Mewtwo is about to break free. The ones in the English version, however, are apparently monitoring its activity before it wakes up. It's not a bad change or anything, but I still thought it was worth mentioning.

Sound Effect Edit
When Mewtwo breaks free from its test tube, the dubbers added an alarm noise to the background that wasn't there in the Japanese version.

Dialogue Edit
As Mewtwo wakes up:

Assistant:  "Radio Giovanni's helicopter! Tell him what's happened!"

No dialogue here in the Japanese version.

Also, did 4Kids think they were helping explain something here? That the lab assistants called Giovanni, and that's why he was just happening to fly by after the lab exploded? Because if you spend just a few seconds thinking about it, Giovanni would have had to have already been airborne and just about to arrive at the island for him to be able to make it there so soon after its destruction. You don't just "radio a helicopter" and then have said helicopter arrive less than two minutes later. 

Dr. Fuji addresses Mewtwo:

Dr. Fuji:  "That is Mew, the rarest of all Pokémon. From its DNA we created you, Mewtwo."
Mewtwo:  "Mew...two? Am I only a copy? Nothing but Mew's shadow?
Dr. Fuji:  "You are greater than Mew. Improved through the power of human ingenuity. We used the most advanced techniques to develop your awesome psychic powers."

When Mewtwo finds out about Mew, it asks the professor if Mew is its mother or father. Dr. Fuji replies that he could say "yes," but that it wouldn't be incorrect if he said "no" either. If Mew didn't bring it into this world, Mewtwo asks, then does that mean it was created by God? Dr. Fuji replies by saying that in this world, humans and God are the only ones capable of creating life and tells Mewtwo that it was brought into this world through the power of human science.

4Kids probably changed this because of the whole God angle (while having no problem with the references to Heaven in the Christina Aguilera song that plays during the movie's end credits, by the way), but they could have at least left the mother and father part in there.

As Mewtwo listens to the scientists:

Dr. Fuji:  "Oh, our experiment isn't over yet, it's just beginning! Now the serious testing begins!"

And later,

Assistant 1:  "Is the new tank ready?"
Assistant 2:  "No, we'll have to come up with a cage for it."

The professors make no indication that they're going to treat Mewtwo like a lab animal in the Japanese version. They just congratulate each other on a job well done.

I guess 4Kids wanted to make sure the scientists were clearly evil before showing them die on-screen? If that was the case, then I really think they could have gone further. Why not just throw in someone saying "let's put lipstick on it and spray perfume in its eyes!" while they were at it? I mean, really, if we can't imagine these scientists doing to Mewtwo what was done to the
Pokémon in that PETA game, then I don't know if I can believe that these scientist are irredeemable monsters for whom death is the only answer.

As Mewtwo looks at the flaming wreckage of Dr. Fuji's lab:

Mewtwo:  "Behold my powers! I am the strongest Pokémon in the world. Stronger even than Mew!"

Another one of the big lies the dub tells us is that Mewtwo is this cocky supervillain who thinks it's awesome. It's actually the opposite that's true.

Originally, Mewtwo asks if it's the strongest Pokémon, and then asks if it's even stronger than Mew. This uncertainty of its standing in the world is kind of what drives a lot of this movie so I don't really know why 4Kids thought it was OK to change it.

Giovanni arrives on the scene:

Giovanni:  "Those fools thought you were a science experiment. But I...I see you as a valuable partner."
Mewtwo:  "Partner?"
(Giovanni nods)

Sakaki tells Mewtwo that, while it does have great power, there is still something else in this world that's powerful. Mewtwo assumes he's talking about "humans," and Sakaki nods to let it know that it's correct.

At the Team Rocket headquarters:

Mewtwo:  "You say this armor protects my body, yet it surpresses my powers."
Giovanni:  "Your powers are not being surpressed, they're being focused. Learn to use them to accomplish your purpose."

Japanese Mewtwo knows that its powers are being surpressed, just like English Mewtwo does, but his reaction to this is different. In Japan, Mewtwo asks what Sakaki plans to let him do with its powers surpressed like this, and Sakaki tells it that it can do whatever. Fight, destroy, plunder, defeat strong opponents...whatever it is that everyone else does.

The English dub tries to make this the moment Mewtwo learns to gain control of its powers when, in the Japanese version, it already has a pretty decent grasp of what it can and cannot do by this point.

During the "Mewtwo works for Team Rocket" montage:

Mewtwo:  "So...this is my power? (a few moments later) I am in control now!  (a few more moments later) But why am I here?"

Japanese Mewtwo:  "Who am I?  Where am I?  Why am I fighting?"

I really like the simplicity of the Japanese version so much better.

Back at the Rocket-Dan headquarters:

Mewtwo:  "Now I fully perceive my power. But...what is my purpose?"
Giovanni:  "To serve your Master. You were created to fight for me. That is your purpose."

The "now I fully perceive my power" part is dub-only. Because, again, Japanese Mewtwo already knew what it was capable of.

Also, Giovanni tells Mewtwo that it was created to fight for him, something Sakaki doesn't divulge in the Japanese version.

Back on New Island:

Mewtwo:  "Who am I? What is my true reason for being? I will find my own purpose...and purge this planet of all who oppose me."

The "purge this planet of all who oppose me" part is dub-only.

Mewtwo:  "Human and Pokémon alike. The world will heed my warning. The reign of Mewtwo will soon begin."

The Japanese line here (だからこれは、攻撃でもなく宣戦布告でもなく・・・!私を生み出したお前達への、逆襲だ) is one that is quoted very often among Japanese fans.  It all translates to "But this is neither an attack nor a declaration of war...!  Against all of you who brought me into this world, I will...strike back."

The English line, on the other hand, is this really
clichéd evil villain line.  Blech.

I guess this is as good a time as any to bring up Philip Bartlett's Mewtwo voice. If I ignore how absolutely perfect Masachika Ichimura's voice is for a second and judge Mr. Bartlett on his own merits, I'd say that it's a good voice but oh my God does he give one hammy performance. He overacts pretty much every single one of his lines and makes Mewtwo sound more like a parody villain you'd see on The Simpsons than the genuinely badass villain he's supposed to be. If you haven't had a chance to listen to Masachika Ichimura's quiet, thoughtful performance then please, do yourself a favor and check out the Japanese version of this movie ASAP.

Oh my God we're only at the title screen KILL ME NOW.

After a few yuks at the campsite (haha, "Lazy Boy No-Chew Stew," what comedy gold!):

Pirate-Like Trainer:  "Hey! You there! I'm looking for a Pokémon Trainer named Ash from Pallet Town. Ya know 'im?"

The Pirate-Like trainer also adds that this Satoshi guy he's looking for already has eight badges, something his dub counterpart neglects to mention.

Music Edit
A version of Pokémon Theme plays during the opening credits instead of Mezase Pokémon Master '98, but that was to be expected.

During the opening theme, when Satoshi's Pokémon win, you can see his mouth move, but you don't hear him talking. In the dub, we can hear Ash. I guess 4Kids thought it would freak kids out too much to see Ash's mouth move without sound coming out of it and decided to make up dialogue for him to speak.

Video Edit
This one's strange. In the American version of the opening, we see Machamp come out of its PokéBall, and then we see the exact same footage played a second time. But in the Japanese version, we only see Kairiky come out of its Monster Ball once. So I'm thinking "Well, maybe 4Kids repeated the footage in the dub to make the video long enough to fit the new song." But then in the very next scene, 4Kids makes a series of cuts at the part where Ash throws his PokéBall to release Squirtle. They snipped off a few seconds from the end of each shot:  the shot of Ash throwing the PokéBall, the shot of the PokéBall in the air shooting Squirtle out, and the shot of Squirtle landing on the ground.

So 4Kids added a few seconds to the opening by repeating the animation of Machamp coming out, but then took away seconds from the shots of Squirtle coming out? They couldn't have made done any of this to lengthen the song, because they took away as much footage as they added, so there's literally nothing gained from them doing this.

Sound Edit
In the Japanese version, we don't hear Pikachu at all when it releases its attack at the end of the song.

Dialogue Edit
In one of the funniest lines in all of Pocket Monsters, the pirate trainer says, in English, "Oh my God!" But the G-word isn't allowed in the dub, so it's changed to "Oh no!"

After the battle:

Misty:  "Well that sure was a shocking ending."
Brock:  "Shocking that Ash moved so fast."

Originally, the two comment that the only reason Satoshi won was because his opponent was weak.

Skipping past some more bad puns,

Meowth:  "I'm starvin'."
Jessie:  "I can cook something."
Meowth:  "Thanks, but the last time you cooked ya wiped out eight of my nine lives."

Here, Musashi tells Nyasu that she has a frying pan, but Nyarth responds that without any meat or vegetables it's just a useless kitchen item.

Satoshi and his friends receive a letter from Princess Leia Joy:

Nurse Joy:  "You have been chosen to join a select group of Pokémon Trainers at a special gathering.  It will be hosted by my master, the world's greatest Pokémon Trainer, at his palace on New Island.  A chartered ferry will leave from Old Shore Wharf to take you to the island this afternoon."

Originally, Joy tells our heroes that the name of her master's castle is "Pokémon Castle" (ポケモン城). This information isn't given in the dub.

On the flip side, the dub decides to give the port where they meet Miranda a name ("Old Shore Wharf") while that same port doesn't have a name in the Japanese version. The dub also states that the boat is taking off "this afternoon," which, again, isn't in the Japanese version.

This also shows one of the tricky issues with English dubbing - you're able to get away with leaving out pronouns that reveal one's gender in Japanese, but it's really, really hard to do the same thing in English without it sounding stilted and awkward. In this instance, the English scriptwriters had to use a gender revealing pronoun ("he") to refer to the palace on New Island, which has the unfortunate side effect of more or less assigning Mewtwo a gender. Which isn't a huge deal since I think most of us see Mewtwo as a male anyway, but still.

Miranda gives a speech at "Old Shore Wharf":

Miranda:  "Listen to me. The prophets have predicted the return of the Winds of Water. For years I have prayed that mankind would never witness...that deadly storm ever again."
Officer Jenny:  "Isn't that just a legend?"
Miranda:  "The ancient writings tell of the storm wiping out all but a few Pokémon. And their sorrow - the water of their tears - somehow restored the lives lost in the storm. But there are no Pokémon tears today. Just waters that no one can survive."
Officer Jenny:  "And that's why your ferry to New Island's been canceled."

You probably know about this already, but this whole "Winds of Water" legend (which I guess is the same "bedtime story" that Dr. Fuji told his daughter, maybe?) doesn't exist in the Japanese version. Instead, Voyager tells the Trainers gathered there that in all the years she's lived there, this is the worst hurricane she's ever seen. She also tells us that the storm originates in the skies over New Island and that it's too dangerous to allow trainers to go there because of that.

Voyager also introduces herself in the Japanese version while Miranda does not.

The very next line:

Fergus:  "Well I'm going to New Island anyway. All my Pokémon are Water-Types."

Oh really?


I mean, I get that Nidoqueen is blue like a Water-Type, but come on - even the tiniest bit of research here would have told you that this is incorrect, 4Kids.

Originally, Umio says that his Pokémon will be able to make the trip.

Officer Jenny:  "...if you tried that stunt and your Pokémon got hurt, you'd be out of luck because we had to close down the Pokémon Center."
Ash:  "How come?"
Officer Jenny:  "Because the nurse in charge of the Center disappeared last month."

Officer Jenny says that Joy disappeared "last month," but the Japanese version doesn't give us a timeframe for thi

Ash runs to the pier after all the other Trainers leave:

Ash:  "The world's greatest Pokémon Master is waiting for me. Let's use our Pokémon to get to that island!"

Satoshi never refers to Mewtwo as a "Pokémon Master." He also isn't naïve enough to believe that his Pokémon are strong enough to make it past the storm.

In the Japanese version Satoshi says that the strongest Pokémon Trainer is waiting for him and that he's not going to let some storm get in his way. He doesn't know how he's going to do that at this point, but he's at least determined not to give up.

Sound Effect Edit
4Kids took away the noise of the oars hitting Team Rocket's boat. Originally, throughout the whole boat scene, you hear this "tunk...tunk...tunk..." noise, but you don't hear that at all in the dubbed version.

Dialogue Edit
Hey, we haven't had Ash say anything out of character for a while!

Brock:  "I didn't know Vikings still existed."
Ash:  "They mostly live in Minnesota."

Haha, I get it!  It's funny because Satoshi is this Japanese kid who wouldn't have any reason to know who the hell the Minnesota Vikings are, and so the fact that he would make a joke about it while in the middle of this terrible storm is just so whimsical, right?

(Also, I'm probably going to get messages telling me off for calling Satoshi Japanese since "Japan doesn't exist in the Pokémon World," but I say that if the U.S. state of Minnesota is allowed to exist in this continuity then so does Japan).

Anyway, in the Japanese version, both Takeshi and Satoshi talk about how fortunate it was for this boat to just conveniently appear in front of them like this.

Later, Brock refers to the Pokémon Center as the "treatment center," for some reason. Nurse Joy will refer to the facility as a "Pokémon Treatment Center" at the end of the movie as well.

Team Rocket plots to infiltrate Mewtwo's Palace:

Meowth:  "Bwa!  But Jessie!  How we gonna swim up dat t'ing?"
Jessie:  "Pretend you're a catfish."

There's actually a Japanese pun at work here. Nyarth says he's no dobunezumi (ドブネズミ), a word that can mean both "sewer rat" and "secret evil-doer."

4Kids could have played with the way "rat" and "cat" sound alike, but they went with the catfish thing instead. 

Back in the castle, Mewtwo is referred to as the "greatest Pokémon Master on Earth" several more times. Again, no one ever refers to Mewtwo as a "Pokémon Master" in the Japanese version.

Corey introduces his Pokémon:

Corey:  "Hurricane winds are a breeze for Pidgeotto here."

Pidgeot, 4Kids. Not a Pidgeotto.


Look, I appreciate that Pidgeotto and Pidgeot look an awful lot alike. I really do. But at the same time...4Kids has a copy of the original script right in front of them (Right?  This wasn't some sort of Samurai Pizza Cats-type situation, was it?). If they had been more focused on actually translating the script instead of trying to "Americanize" it, maybe they wouldn't have made as many of these embarrassing mistakes as they did.

Mewtwo talks down to the woman he dragged to its island in the first place:

Mewtwo:  "And now I have cleansed your tiny human brain of memories from the past few weeks."

"The past few weeks" part is exclusive to the dub.

The presentation of the computer telling the Rocket trio about Mewtwo is quite different depending on what version of the movie you're watching. First of all, Dr. Fuji is narrating the whole time; it doesn't switch from some random femme-bot to Dr. Fuji halfway through the way it does in the dub. Also, the dub adds in all these explosions and the sound of people screaming in the background to make it sound like Dr. Fuji was recording all this during Mewtwo's rampage that destroyed the lab. None of this is in the Japanese version, which tells us that this was all recorded before Mewtwo woke up and started killing everyone around it, not after.

But that's not all!  The dialogue is also completely rewritten, just 'cause!

Dr. Fuji:  "A year ago we discovered a fossil that proved to be the remains of the ancient Pokémon, Mew. There was sufficient genetic material to replicate Mew, but Giovanni, who funded our project, insisted we try to design super clones more powerful than any living Pokémon."

More Giovanni stuff that wasn't there originally. In the Japanese version Dr. Fuji just talks about how they found a fossil and used it to create Mewtwo. No mention of the Rocket organization at all.

Mewtwo addresses its audience:

Mewtwo:  "You humans are a dangerous species. You brought me into your world with no purpose but to be your slave. But now I have my own purpose. My storm will create my own destroying yours!"
Brock:  "So you hate all humans...and you're gonna destroy us to save Pokémon."
Mewtwo:  "No. Your Pokémon will not be spared."

Here, Japanese Mewtwo tells our heroes that there once was a time when it thought it could work together with humans (its brief partnership with Sakaki), but it was disappointed to learn that it could not. Humans are the lowest life forms on the planet, Mewtwo says, and are therefore unfit to rule the planet.  Takeshi asks if it thinks someone like Mewtwo - that is, a Pokémon - is qualified to rule the world, but Mewtwo says that
Pokémon aren't fit to rule the world either. 

Japanese Mewtwo doesn't think that any one species / person is fit to rule the world, while English Mewtwo thinks that it's the only one who can fulfill such a role. 

Mewtwo introduces the clones:

Mewtwo:  "Like most Pokémon Trainers I, too, began with Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. But for their evolved forms, I used their genetic material to clone even more powerful copies."

Mewtwo doesn't tell everyone that it started with a Hitokage, Zenigame, and Fushigidane; it just says that Pokémon Trainers start with those three. According to the radio drama, Mewtwo captured the Lizardon, Kamex, and Fushigibana as-is when it was working for the Rocket-Dan and then got its clones from those.

Toward the end of the Charizard vs. Charizard battle:

Mewtwo:  "Finish it."

Here, Mewtwo orders Lizardon to use Chikyuu Nage (ちきゅうなげ), which is "Seismic Toss" in the English version of the games.

After the battle:

Misty:  "What are you gonna do with those Pokémon?"
Mewtwo:  "I will extract their DNA to make clones for myself. They will remain safe on this island with me while my storm destroys the planet."

There is no massive world-ending storm.  Mewtwo's goal is not to destroy the world.

In the Japanese version Mewtwo says it will use the
Pokémon it captures to create clones that are even stronger than the originals.

This whole "destroy the world" thing is just so freaking stupid to me. Mewtwo wants to destroy the world, and then after it's destroyed it'll rule what's left? Which, according to Mewtwo, will just be the clone
Pokémon there on New Island? Pokémon who, as we see throughout the film, are already pretty much under its rule already?

Japanese Mewtwo is not nearly as ambitious. Who am I? Why am I alive? What value does my existence have? All it wants to do is answer these questions and decides that the best way to do so is to put its power to the test. Is it stronger than the strongest Pokémon Trainers it's able to find? Is it stronger than Mew?  Can Copies be stronger - and therefore have more of a reason to live - than the Originals? It's not trying to destroy the world, and while it does mention being qualified to rule the world several times in the radio drama, that's not its endgame. Mewtwo is just trying to figure itself out. Nothing more, nothing less.

Down in the lab, Team Rocket misidentifies a bunch of

Jessie and James:  "There goes...Alakazam!"

Or, as we know it, Scyther.


But that's not all!

Meowth:  "Sandshrew..."

Sandslash. I get that it's hard to tell in this shot, but like with the whole Pidgeotto / Pidgeot mix-up earlier, a simple reading of the original script would reveal what these Pokémon actually are.


This is all quite terrible and shows how little 4Kids actually knows about this series. But you know what? In the DVD commentary for the first movie, they apparently try to explain it away by saying that it's perfectly in-character for the trio to not know certain Pokémon. Which, ignoring the fact that it's not for a second (the Rocket trio can be absentminded at times, but they do know the difference between a freaking Scyther and an Alakazam), that still doesn't explain why Corey wouldn't know his own Pidgeot earlier in the movie.

Mewtwo offers to let everyone off the island:

Mewtwo:  "Humans, you have served my purpose. I am sparing your lives...for the moment. (Mewtwo opens the doors to the outside world) But you cannot escape your fate. The hour of my vengeance draws near."

Here, Mewtwo tells our heroes that it doesn't need their lives and tells them to hurry up and get out of there.  I also love the little smirk Mewtwo has on its face when it's all like "...if you can make it back through that storm, that is." The line, the, so perfect.

The English dub? "Whatever, I'm going to let you leave even though you're going to die in my storm anyway. Horribly clichéd dialogue? Why not?" 

After the clones break out, but before Ash arrives on the scene:

Mewtwo:  "Behold. With Pokémon and humans eliminated, the clones shall inherit the world."

Then why do you look so distressed, Mewtwo?

Not distressed

Originally, Mewtwo demands to know what's happening since it wasn't expecting there to be this big explosion followed by all of its clones just walking into the main area like that.

Mewtwo:  "Who will rule?  My super Pokémon, or your pathetic group of spineless inferior Pokémon?"

Didn't Mewtwo say, earlier in the movie, that
Pokémon aren't fit to rule the world? So why has it suddenly changed its mind? 

Japanese Mewtwo asks who is stronger - the Originals or the Copies.

Side Note
It's rumor debunking time!

Whenever people talk about the differences between the Japanese version and the English dub, one of the things that's brought up quite often is this exchange:

Meowth:  "Mew's got a good point."
Jessie:  "What's it saying?"
Meowth:  "Mew says you don't prove anythin' by showin' off a lot of special powers and that a Pokémon's real strength comes from da heart."

The rumor goes that in the Japanese version, Mew states that unnatural life - clones, basically - are inferior to the real things and must therefore perish. And that 4Kids mistranslated all that and changed it to the "real strength comes from the heart" thing instead to cover up Mew's desire to see other Pokémon die.

The thing is...all of this is just made-up nonsense.  Here's what's actually said in the Japanese version of this scene:

Japanese Dialogue
Japanese Dialogue Translated
Nyaruhodo Nya
"Oh, I see nya."
Nan datte?
"What is it?"
"Honmono wa honmono da.  Waza nado tsukawazu karada to karada de butsukareba honmono wa kopii ni makenai" itteru nya.
"It's saying "The originals are the real deal. They won't lose to the copies if it's just them street fighting each other without using using special attacks or anything like that"...nya."

With the famous "Ash's Butterfree dies in the Japanese version" rumor, it seems that someone misheard the word shison ("offspring") as shisou ("injuries and death") and went from there. But for Mewtwo Strikes Back? I have absolutely no idea what was misinterpreted in these lines to come up with the whole "Mew thinks the clones should perish" bull. Was there a shitty fansub out there that claimed that this is what was being said? Did someone mis-remember who said what and when? Did someone just pull this out of their ass? Or was this all some weird combination of all these things?

Whatever the case may be, rest assured that Mew is not the dick in the Japanese version that some claim it is.

Dialogue Edit
Before "that song" makes its horrible appearance:

Mewtwo:  "I will block all the Pokémon's special abilities using my psychic powers. Now we shall see who triumphs.  Go!"

The Pokémon decide not to use their special attacks on their own. No psychic block is placed on anyone during the battle.

Music Edit
So, Brother My Brother.

There's this vocal song in the middle of a battle in the first
Pokémon movie.  It is awful and extremely out of place and I hate it.  Here are the lyrics:

Brother, my brother
Tell me what are we fighting for?
We got to end this war.
We should love one another
Oh, can't we just pretend
This war never began

We can try...
Brother, my brother

We face each other from different sides
The anger burns, can't remember why.
It's kinda crazy to cause such pain.
Our foolish pride makes us hate this way

We watch our world fall apart.
Tell me what good is it
When you lose your heart?

Brother, my brother
Tell me what are we fighting for?
Isn't life worth so much more?
We should love one another
Oh, can't we just pretend
This war never began?

Tell me why....
Brother, my brother
We can try.....
Brother, my brother

So let's think about this for a moment. Here's this anti-war song used in a movie where every conflict up to this point has been solved by violence. In addition, some of the lyrics of said song are a bit difficult to hear because they keep being drowned out by the sounds of the
Pokémon beating the crap out of each other.

Does this make sense to anyone? At all?

Dialogue Edit
Oh, Brother My Brother was just the warm-up:

Nurse Joy:  "Pokémon aren't meant to fight. Not like this. It's useless. What can come out of it?"
Neesha:  "Nothing...but pain."
Brock:  "Why can't Mewtwo understand it's not right to force Pokémon to battle this way."
Misty:  "They're all living creatures. This just proves that fighting is wrong."
James:  "I was prepared for trouble, but not for this."
Jessie:  "Make that double for me."
James:  "Now I can see how horrible fighting really is."
Jessie:  "Even the best of friends'll fight sometimes."
James:  "I'll promise never to fight again if you will."

Pretty much all the critics who trashed this movie - and there were a ton! - pointed to the movie's message of "fighting is wrong!" as confusing and hypocritical. And can you blame them? Now Nurse Joy does say "it's not right to force
Pokémon to battle this way," implying that she recognizes the difference between the friendly sparring matches Pokémon are known for and this rage-filled beatdown unfolding before her, but then both Misty and James come out with these sweeping "all fighting is wrong!" lines that totally destroys any nuance the message may have had. Fighting is wrong, suddenly! 

Well, Dogasu, what does your precious Japanese version say here? Basically, everyone talks about how all the Pokémon there, be they originals or copies, are all living creatures. It doesn't matter if they were made by man or if they were born; the fact is, they're alive, and that should be enough.

But a tacked on anti-violence message isn't enough, you say?

Meowth:  "What am I doin'?"
Meowthtwo:  "Nya~!"
Meowth:  "Let's get something straight, copycat. You-owth aren't gonna push Me-owth around."
Meowthtwo:  "Nya Nya?"
Meowth:  "Y'mean...we don't have to fight wit each other? But how can I trust you? You was born different."
Meowthtwo:  "Nya Nya."
Meowth:  "I almost made a clawful mistake. But how do I know you're not gonna pull a fast one on me?"
Meowthtwo:  "Nya Nya Nya!"

Nyarth asks why the clone won't fight, and it says that it doesn't because it doesn't want to get hurt. It doesn't matter who's a clone and who's an original, it reasons; their claws will hurt either way.

Meowth, on the other hand, develops this sudden prejudice against those who are different that lasts for this scene and this scene only. Which, y'know, is totally in-character for a
Pokémon who was rejected by the love of his life because it walks on two legs and is able to speak human language. 

Meowth:  "Hmm? You're right, we do have a lot in common. The same Earth, the same air, the same sky. Maybe if we started lookin' at what's the same instead of always lookin' at what's different, well, who knows?"

Originally, Nyarth starts looking up at the moon and talks about how round it is, something that Japanese Nyarth does from time to time. You might think that the original line is something like "Oh, we're both able to look up at the same moon because we're both alive," but it's not. Just "oh look, the moon is round.  Isn't that great how we get to take the time to step back and philosophize like this?"

It's an old Japanese trope that most Western audiences wouldn't have any reason to understand, so 4Kids changed the dialogue to try to connect it to what was being said earlier.

Also, I thought Maddie Blaustein said "birth" instead of "Earth" the first time I heard this line, which is kind of funny because it completely changes the meaning of the line.

Nurse Joy keeps talking:

Nurse Joy:  "I'd rather risk my life out in Mewtwo's storm than watch these Pokémon destroy each other."
Misty:  "Me too."
Nurse Joy:  "I wish there was some way to stop them. I don't know what to do!"

Japanese Joy, displaying that knowledge of Pokémon that she was brought onto the island for in the first place, tells us that the Pokémon will continue fighting until they drive the other one out of their territory. 

Brock:  "I don't think they'll ever stop. Those Pokémon look like they're ready to fight to the death."
Misty:  "That's a fight...that nobody's going to win."
Ash:  "Someone's gotta take a stand. Someone's gotta say no...and refuse to fight. Just like Pikachu."

Takeshi and Kasumi repeat the "they're both living creatures" thing, which, I'll admit, is getting a little redundant at this point. Satoshi then says that everyone there - Mew, Mewtwo, Pikachu, that other Pikachu - are all living creatures.

I'm sure a lot of you are looking at how the Japanese version keeps cramming this whole "both the Originals and the Copies are living creatures" thing down our throats and are wondering why that's OK but the dub trying to be different and actually switch things up is so terrible. But isn't it obvious? The "Originals vs. Copies" is kind of the entire point of the movie and doesn't contradict anything that comes before it or after it while the "fighting is bad" message most certainly does. 

Side Note
American fans:  Ash dies in this movie!
Japanese fans:  Satoshi gets turned into stone.

A lot of dub fans will tell you that Ash dies in the movie and that he's brought back to life by the tears of the
Pokémon, and to be fair I can see why they'd say that. Ambertwo's "their tears are filled with life," Miranda's "And their sorrow - the water of their tears - somehow restored the lives lost in the storm," Mewtwo's "The human sacrificed himself" a few lines later...all of this "Winds of Water" stuff, basically, tells us that Pokémon tears can bring dead people back to life. And since these life-giving tears are used on Ash at the end of the movie, that has to mean he was dead, right? How can someone's life be restored if it isn't lost first?

As you know by now, none of this "Winds of Water" stuff is in the Japanese version, which also means that none of the implications about Satoshi being dead are there, either. And, well, Takeshi Shudo outright says that he doesn't die. He also goes more into what the whole tear scene means, but I think this comparison is already long enough without me translating huge blocks of Japanese text. 

So instead, I'll just point out that no, there's nothing in the Japanese version that implies that Satoshi bit the dust in this movie. 

Dialogue Edit
After Ash is "revived":

Mewtwo:  "The human sacrificed himself to save the Pokémon. I pitted them against each other, but not until they set aside their differences did I see the true power they all shared deep inside."
Mew:  "Mew!"
Mewtwo:  "I see now that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant. It's what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are."

This is the point in the movie where Mewtwo realizes that everyone, whether they be Copies or Originals, has a life worth living. The dub gets this much in, but it also adds this whole "
not until they set aside their differences did I see the true power they all shared deep inside" thing that wasn't in the original.

This is also the point in the Japanese version where Mewtwo says it'll make everyone forget what happened here (この出来事は誰も知らないほうが良いのかもしれない。。忘れた方が。。。良いのかもしれない。). The dub moves this line to when Mewtwo's flying away instead, probably to put less space between this line and the actual memory deletion.

Back at the wharf:

Trainer:  "Ya think they have enough pizza down there?"

Pizza! As an American, I can totally relate to that! Thanks 4Kids! *thumbs up*

Nothing is said in the Japanese version.

Brock:  "Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny are really great! They just keep getting more beautiful every time I see 'em."

Takeshi also says that Voyager is beautiful, but I guess 4Kids thought Miranda was too old for Brock to be hitting on or something and decided to change it.

James:  "Do you have any sunscreen?"
Meowth:  "Y'know I'd really like to go sailing in one of them catamarans!  Haha!"

Nothing is said in the Japanese version. Just silence. Wonderful, blissful, pun-free silence.

Music Edit
The movie's ending theme, Kaze to Issho ni, is an amazingly beautiful piece of music that ranks among the best this franchise has ever produced. So, of course, 4Kids replaced it.

They didn't just replace it with one song, either. Four songs, each of them playing for about 30 seconds before being interrupted by the next song in line, play throughout the two minute ending sequence. Those songs, for those of you who are interested, are We're a Miracle by Christina Aguilera, (Hey You) Free Up Your Mind by Emma Bunton, If Only Tears Could Bring You Back by Midnight Sons, and Don't Say You Love Me by M2M. And don't feel bad if the only name you recognize in that list is Christina Aguilera; none of us knew who the fuck groups like M2M were back in 1999, either.

It's tempting to rag on the English dub for using stupid pop songs for the movie's ending theme but that wouldn't really be fair since they pull that same shit in Japan as well. Is M2M's Don't Say You Love Me really any less appropriate than, say, Crystal Kay's One from the Giratina movie? It's a hard argument to make.

Of course, I would have preferred they either keep Kaze to Issho ni as-is or at least had an English translation of the song play in its place. But if 4Kids absolutely had to replace Kaze to Issho ni, then I think playing the entire Christina Aguilera song and only the Christina Aguilera song would have been the best way to go. I'm not a fan of the very American "let's cram as many songs into the end credits as possible" thing that 4Kids did here, and of the four songs they played I think We're a Miracle comes the closest to capturing the feeling that Kaze to Issho ni feel.

And that brings Pokémon The First Movie to a close. It saddens me to know that it's been more than twenty years since the movie came out and there are people out there who have still only seen it in English because they are honestly missing out. The English dub is an embarrassment, and I urge any of you who have not seen the Japanese version of the movie to do so as soon as possible.

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This page was last updated on March 7th, 2020




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