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Dogasu's Backpack | Movies & Specials Guide | Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution

The official world premiere of Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution took place at Anime Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. on July 4th, 2019. The event was significant for being the first time in the history of the franchise that the Japanese version of Pocket Monsters with English subtitles has been officially shown in the U.S.

This page documents the lead-up to the event, the English subbed version shown at the event, and everything else involved with Anime Expo and Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution.

The Lead Up

Anime Expo 2019, the Japanese culture convention held in downtown Los Angeles, announced on June 10th, 2019 that they would be hosting an exclusive screening of Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution. The premiere was scheduled for Thursday, July 4th, 2019 at 3:30pm.

We’re excited to announce an exclusive screening of the 22nd film in the Pokémon franchise, “Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution,” to be held at Anime Expo 2019!

Joining the event for their first overseas convention appearances are directors Kunihiko Yuyama and Motonori Sakakibara. Additionally, voice actress/singer Rica Matsumoto (Ash) will participate in the event! They will also participate in autograph sessions (schedule TBA).

Event Details

    Date: Thursday, July 4
    Time: 3:30 PM – 5:45 PM
    Room: LACC / Main Events (Hall B)
    For information about lining up and room entry, please see the Program Room Policies.

Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution wouldn't be hitting Japanese theaters until July 12th, 2019, making this Anime Expo showing the world premiere of the film.

As mentioned above, the showing was accompanied by directors Kunihiko Yuyama and Motonori Sakakibara as well as voice actor Rica Matsumoto. Here's what Anime Expo had to say about each guest:

About Kunihiko Yuyama
Kunihiko Yuyama is best known for his work on the Pokémon series, having directed 21 films so far, from Pokémon: The First Movie to the upcoming Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution. His other works include Magical Princess Minky Momo and The Three Musketeers Anime. Yuyama is also the general director of the Pokémon animated television series.
Yuyama Kunihiko
About Motonori Sakakibara
Motonori Sakakibara co-directed Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution, overseeing the CGI for the film. Sakakibara also co-directed Rudolf the Black Cat (2016) with Kunihiko Yuyama. In addition, he directed BBC’s Tinpo series (2019) and Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (2013), and co-directed Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001).
Motonori Sakakibara
About Rica Matsumoto
Japanese voice actor, actor, and singer Rica Matsumoto has played Ash, the main character of the Pokémon the Series, since 1997. She is also the singer of many of the theme songs for the series. Her fifth single, Mezase Pokémon Master, which includes songs from the first season of Pokémon the Series, is the best-selling single ever released by a voice actor, having sold over 1 million copies in Japan. Additionally, she has appeared in various stage plays such as The Wizard of Oz.
Rica Matsumoto

A Pocket Monsters film making its world premiere in the U.S. accompanied by members of its cast and crew would have been big enough news in and of itself, but then Anime Expo went and confirmed that they would also be showing the movie in Japanese with English subtitles.

It is impossible to overstate how much of a big deal this was. For the first time in the franchise's more than two decade history the Japanese version of Pocket Monsters was finally getting an official, legal showing in the U.S. Personally, I would put this right up there with the 1998 premiere of the 4Kids dub in the U.S. as far as important moments in the animated franchise goes!


While attendance to the film itself was free (with an Anime Expo ticket, of course), fans were required to register for the wristbands needed to attend the event in advance. Anime Expo opened registrations on June 25th at 18:00 PDT.

Once registration was open it only took 22 minutes for the wristbands to "sell out."

In the lead-up to the premiere Meg Tsuruda, the organizer for Anime Expo 2019, made sure to tell CBSN Los Angeles that this premiere "will be the first time shown in Japanese in the U.S. We're really excited about that." Anime Expo did their part to make sure fans knew that they had something special on their hands.

The guests arrive in the U.S.

According to a report posted on the official website for the film, the three guests -- Kunihiko Yuyama, Motonori Sakakibara, and Rica Matsumoto -- visited the TCL Chinese Theater (also known as the Grauman's Chinese Theater) on July 3rd, the day before the first day of Anime Expo. The theater is notable as being where 4Kids' version of the very first movie, Pokémon The First Movie, premiered nearly 20 years before.

Each of the guests gave their impressions in the lead-up to the premiere:

一緒に観るお客さんの人数も多くて、聞いただけでも鳥肌が立ちますね。ゲームもそうですし、映画もそうですし、いろんな人に愛され続けるポケモンワールド を繋げながら、みんなで笑顔の輪ができればいいかなと思います。笑顔ゲットだぜっ!

Ms. Matsumoto:
I get goosebumps just hearing about the huge number of people who watched this with us. A lot of different people continue to be connected by their love for the Pokemon World, whether it's through the games or the movies or whatever, and I'll be happy if we can all come together smile. Let's go out there and GET some smiles!

第1作目が上映された時、アメリカに実際の上映を見に来たのですが、オープニングやサトシが登場する時にお客さんが「イエーイ!」と声をあげたりするのが 新鮮でした。

Director Yuyama:
When the first movie was released I made the trip out here to America to see it for myself and getting to see the crowd go "Yeah!" when Satoshi first appears during the opening was really something else. I'm really excited to see how this year's movie will be received now that I'm back in America 21 years later.

アメリカでは3DCGアニメが本流なので、どんな風に受け止められるのか反応が楽しみです。僕はちょうど第1作目の公開当時、映画の制作をしていて、日本 のコンテンツでこういった映画が大ヒットするのを目の当たりにして、いつか自分もこんな作品を作りたいと思っていたのが、20年経って参加することになっ て驚いています。

Director Sakakibara:
CG animation has become mainstream in the U.S. so I'm looking forward to see how this movie is going to be received. Right when the first movie was coming out I could witness how a film from Japan with this kind of content could become as big a hit as it did and so the fact that I'm sitting here now, 20 years later, helping to make this film is absolutely shocking.

As mentioned earlier, there were three main events: an autograph session, a showing of the movie Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution, and a live stage show.

The Autograph Session

The first of the events was an autograph session. Some fans dressed up as Satoshi and took pictures with Ms. Matsumoto. Others brought merchandise for her to sign. And still others, reportedly, camped out the night before to attend the autograph session.

There were limits placed on the number of guests who could get autographs (apparently each guest was only allowed to give out 25 autographs apiece) and so unfortunately not everyone who wanted an autograph was able to get one. Vouchers for Rica Matsumoto's autograph, in particular, ran out about 10 minutes after being made available.

The Movie Screening

Next up was the main event, the world premiere of Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution.

As audience members made their way to their seats Mezase Pokemon Master and Kaze to Issho ni were apparently heard playing over the venue's speakers. Once everyone got seated the bilingual emcee worked to hype the crowd up in preparation for the movie.

I won't go over the contents of the movie itself -- check out my review of the film if you want to see what I think of Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution -- so instead I'll spend this section going over the English subtitles based on reports from fans who were able to attend the premiere.

According to the official site, audience members were entranced by Mewtwo's proclamation that he will "strike back" at the beginning of the movie. The Rocket trio's song caused fans to erupt in laughter while the scenes toward the end of Pikachu crying for its paralyzed comrade caused audience members to tear up as well.

The English Subtitles

Unfortunately I was not able to attend this event in Los Angeles and so everything you see below is secondhand information.

The subtitles used the English dub names and terminology. That means "Ash" instead of Satoshi, "Pallet Town" instead of Masara Town, "Poké Ball" instead of Monster Ball, etc.

The subtitles were reportedly more in line with the Japanese script than the 4Kids dub, except for the times when it wasn't. Apparently the subtitles were maybe like 70% - 90% accurate but then, every now and then, the translator would randomly swap out actual translations of the Japanese dialogue for one of 4Kids' rewrites. The two examples I've seen reported the most are from 1) the scene where Nyarth translates what Mew's saying and 2) right before Mewtwo and Mew fly off at the end of the movie.

Japanese Original
4Kids' English Dub
Anime Expo Subtitles
"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."

(「本物は本物だ。わざなど使わず体と体でぶつ かれば本物はコピーに負けない」...といってるニャ)
"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." "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."
"It might be better if nobody knew what happened here today. It might be better if they forget"

(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)
"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." "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."

Other things like the Team Rocket motto were subbed with the dub rewrite instead of accurately reflecting what's being said in the Japanese dialogue.

Mewtwo's line "Was I created by God?" was rewritten to something like "Was I created by Nature?" Later in the film, Takeshi flirts with Sweet in a new scene added for the remake. In the Japanese version he tells Sweet that he wants to eat onigiri (おにぎり) or "rice balls" with her but this gets localized to "jelly-filled donuts" for the English subtitles.

This all sounds very much like what TPCi would eventually do with the English dub of the film. Did TPCi already have their dub script prepared before the Anime Expo airing, and then used that as the basis for their subtitles? Who knows!

The Live Stage Show

Once the movie was finished it was time for the special guests -- Kunihiko Yuyama, Motonori Sakakibara, and Rica Matsumoto -- to take the stage.

The three started off with some comments:

ポケモンが始まった時の最初の頃のことが走馬灯のように思い出され、その頃のみんなにこんな日が来るんだよと教えてあげたかったなと思いました。みんなが ポケモンを愛していて、歓声が上がったり、リアクションを見て、涙が出ました。

Ms. Matsumoto:
There's a ton of images that flood my mind when I think about the time Pokémon first started but we never thought in a million years that a day like this would ever come. I teared up when I saw how much you all love Pokémon, when you all cheered, and when I saw your reactions.

Rica Matsumoto worked on the Japanese dub of Beverly Hills, 90120 back in the day (she played the role of Kelly Taylor) so she was reportedly excited to finally get the chance to see the city for herself. She was also excited to see how much fans in the U.S. seemed to love "Satoshi" since she's very much aware that they'd be more familiar with "Ash" instead.

ポケモン映画を20作以上も作っていながら、初の3DCGということで、今回、デビュー作のような気持ちでドキドキしながら、反応を見ていました。皆さん いかがでしたか?(会場からの大きな拍手)

Director Yuyama:
While I've been making Pokémon movies for 20 years now this is my first all CG (Pokémon) movie and so I feel like I'm a newcomer all over again. And so I was on the edge of my seat watching how you all would react. So, how was it? (everyone applauds)


Director Sakakibara:
From your cheers we can really feel your love for Pokémon and I'm so happy we made this movie. This is the greatest.

After the staff made their comments the floor was opened for a question and answer segment. The three questions they reportedly answered were:

Q:  Will there be any further opportunities for fans in the U.S. to see the Japanese version of Pokémon?
A:  Mr. Yuyama confirmed that they do have plans to have more showings like this in the future, yes. Ms. Matsumoto chimed in and told the audience that they could "count on it."

Q:  What's with that old Movie 1 trailer featuring what seems to be an adult Misty? Why was it scrapped?
A:  The trailer the fan's talking about is, of course, this one. Mr. Yuyama says the girl in the trailer isn't Kasumi but concedes that the hair is pretty similar and so he can see how people could make that mistake. Ms. Matsumoto added that there are so many girls in Pokémon that it's easy to mix them up sometimes.

Q:  Why did you redo the first movie in CG?
A:  Mr. Sakakibara told the audience that they had had actually wanted to do a CG Pokémon movie for a while now and thanks to their partnership with the L.A.-based Sprite Animation they were able to make their dream a reality.

After that, Rica Matsumoto gave a live performance of
Mezase Pokémon Master. Ms. Matsumoto reportedly got the audience hyped up by initiating callbacks; "when I say "Pokémon," you say "GETTO DA ZE!"  "Pokémon" ("GETTO DA ZE!")) Fans also, apparently, sang along to the song.

At the end of the event, the approximately 2,800 fans in attendance were asked to come together to take a big group picture.

Rica Matsumoto had this final comment to give:

いろいろな物事が思い出されて、感慨深く、やはり 21年なんだなと思いました。あまり他の人が感じられない、体感できない、そういう経験をさせてもらって感謝しています。LAのファンの皆さんに歌や思い を届けられて幸せです。
I've been reminded of so many things today and really get the feeling that it's been 21 years after all. I'm so thankful to be able to experience something that most people don't get the chance to go through. I'm so happy to receive the thoughts and music from the fans here in L.A.

The rest of the show

The event ended with a promotional video announcing that "Armored Mewtwo" will be appearing in Raid Battles in the smartphone game Pokémon GO from July 11th to July 31st. The trailer for Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution featuring that one song from Rita Ora was also shown off to the audience.

And that's a wrap on Anime Expo 2019! Hopefully this is just the first of many opportunities like this to be made available for fans in both the U.S. and the rest of the world. It sounds like the event had a lot of interest behind it and so hopefully it won't be long before fans get another chance to watch the Japanese version alongside the people who helped make it.

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