My Review of
the Special

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Dogasu's Backpack | Movies & Specials Guide | Tenth Anniversary TV Special

Pokémon fans love to whine about things.

I've noticed lately how Pokémon fans will overreact anytime ANYTHING semi-negative happens in the fandom.  And in a way, I can sort of see why. We fans have been spoiled rotten these past ten years; the majority of the video games end up being translated and brought stateside, the anime aired on a non-cable network with a minuscule amount of edits, and the card game, while not at the levels it was during the franchise's fad stage, is still going strong. Pokémon fans just haven't had to put up with the same amount of crap that fans of other franchises have to endure. So to us, something that wouldn't even make a blip on the radar of, say, a One Piece fan (i.e. a rice ball being changed into a cookie) is turned into a huge deal when it happens with Pokémon

Team Rocket"The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon" is just another example of fans blowing stuff WAY out of proportion. People heard about a special being co-produced by Americans (whether it's 4Kids or PUSA is anyone's guess, though I assume it's the former) with an all-new voice cast and flipped the hell out. "Oh no, everyone will sound horrible!" "The special's going to butcher the show's continuity!" (as if the continuity hadn't been mucked up by the Japanese producers already). "This special is going to suck so bad!" Everyone had these doom and gloom expectations for the special and pretty much decided they hated it weeks before it even aired. And, as expected, these people started to female dog about how terrible this special was once it actually aired.

The thing is, the special really isn't bad at all. In fact, I thought it was one of the better animated Pokémon products released. The new voice actors weren't that bad, and they're sure doing a much better job of imitating the previous voice actors than the guys who took over during Season Three of the Dragon Ball Z dub. The storyline was also decent, with a rather unique idea (holographic Pokémon meant to "fix" the flaws Dr. Yung found with real world Pokémon) and some truly clever moments. There was some great dialogue between Dr. Yung and Professor Oak, and all the pseudo-deaths (Mew, Mewtwo, Dr. Yung) gave the special a sort of mature edge sorely missing from most TV episodes. Sure, there were problems, but it was far from being "worse than 'The Legend of Thunder' dub" as many fans would have you believe.

Extracting memoriesFor those of you who haven't seen the special yet, the story starts out with Ash being invited to see Dr. Yung's mysterious "Mirage Pokémon." After the travelers arrive at the doctor's castle/laboratory, they are surprised to see that both Misty and Professor Oak had received invitations as well. They soon learn that they were summoned to Dr. Yung's place to battle his Mirage Pok
émon, creatures created from various data collected through time. The pokémon can be programmed to learn attacks it normally wouldn't be able to learn, making battles against these creatures unpredictable. As Ash battles one of these pokémon to test its strength, a mysterious masked individual called "The Mirage Master" appears and kidnaps Professor Oak! As Ash and the others attempt to rescue the professor, the Mirage Master coerces his prisoner to allow him access to his computer system. By doing this, the Mirage Master gains access to every piece of Pokémon data ever recorded, enabling him to create a Mirage Pokémon without any weaknesses! How can our heroes stop such a powerful opponent?

The majority of the reviews I've read consist of about 80% discussion on the new voice actors and maybe 20% on the actual special itself. People are too busy trying to think of clever similes to describe the new voices ("Ash sounds like ____ and Misty sounds like ____ and May sounds too ____ and...") without realizing how totally inaccurate they are. No, Ash doesn't sound anything like dub Luffy and no, May doesn't sound like she's 40. Some of the comparisons people have come up with are completely off, but that's to be expected when the majority of the reviews are nothing but one knee-jerk reaction after another.

MistyI won't do that here because, quite honestly, I don't think the voices were that bad. Sure, a lot of them needed some fine-tuning, but that's natural considering that this is the first episode these people have ever worked on. It takes time for voice actors to get accustomed to their roles, and I'm confident that once they do, people will forget about how "horrible" they supposedly sound now. I mean, look at how much Veronica Taylor's May improved from "Get the Show on the Road" to any of the Advanced Battle episodes. Same thing with Max, who sounds totally different now than he did back in "There's No Place Like Hoenn." Or, going back to the Dragon Ball Z comparison; look at how much the VA's improved from the first Season Three episode to, say, the first Season Five episode. To think that these voices won't change as the series progresses is a rather naive and uninformed assumption to make, especially when there's plenty of evidence that says otherwise.

The only two voices I don't like are, oddly enough, the two characters Eric Stuart voiced: Brock and James. Brock's new VA sounds like he's imitating Stuart's Seto Kaiba voice more than his Brock voice, and the acting just isn't all that great. Apparently his voice actor has been going around to Pok
émon message boards and asking for fan input, which is a lot more than any of 4Kids' voice actors did, so you have to give him props for that. James, on the other hand, has this nasal issue that, if eliminated, would help his performance a lot better. It's certainly not the worst James voice we've heard (Ted Lewis' version is still at the top for me), but it's not as good as Stuart's, either.

The Mirage FieldOne thing that's really been bugging me is the extremely unfair comparison fans have been making between the old voice actors and the new ones. I mean, how is it fair to compare VA's who have been with the show for eight years and have therefore had the ability to play their characters in many different situations to people who have only been working with these characters for one special? You just can't realistically expect these new guys to come in and perform everything perfectly, ESPECIALLY with the number of restrictions the new guys faced. They were hired as sound-alikes, meaning they didn't have the freedom to interpret these characters and portray them the way they may have wanted. In addition, these guys dubbed this special on a very tight schedule. According to a message board post made by Brock's new voice actor, they only had three weeks to dub this special. I don't imagine retakes would be a luxury afforded to the new actors very often, so it's perfectly reasonable that some of the acting would be a little off. 

When people weren't complaining about the new voices, they attacked the special's plot. So maybe people can argue that the plot is a rehash of "Mewtwo Strikes Back" (replace "clones" with "Mirage Pokémon"), but you can honestly say that about half the episodes in the series. Isn't "A Hole Lotta Trouble" just a remake of "Forest Grumps?" Or "Rough, Tough Jigglypuff" a remake of "Snubbull Snobbery?" Pok
émon recycles its own plotlines all the time, so why start complaining now? 

Mewtwo attacksFans have also tried to find plot holes in the special where there aren't any, saying that Dr. Yung shouldn't know who Mewtwo is or that Pikachu shouldn't know Volt Tackle yet. Fans complain that Dr. Yung shouldn't know about Mewtwo because only Giovanni and the twerps should even know it exists, yet he could have easily found out about it from looking at Pikachu's memories. "But Dogasu, he didn't see Mewtwo in Pikachu's memories...he skipped over the first movie entirely!" Dr. Yung also didn't see an Articuno or a Zapdos on-screen either, but he was able to create mirage versions of these Pokémon later in the special. If Dr. Yung can look up data about these two Pokémon off-screen, based on Pikachu's memories, who's to say he didn't do the same thing in regards to Mewtwo (looking at memories from "Mewtwo Returns")? The Volt Tackle thing can also be explained very simply: the special takes place after the episode where Ash's Pikachu learns the attack.  Sure, it sucks that Kids' WB! would air it out of order like this, essentially spoiling a (minor) plot point, but it certainly isn't any worse than the plethora of spoilers American fans got when the network aired the Deoxys movie last year. 

Music-wise, the special used only Japanese music, which was great to hear. It's nice to see that PUSA doesn't believe that kids are too impatient to last twenty seconds without music playing, and I hope they continue to use the Japanese score in Season 9. It would certainly make the dub a lot more watchable than it is now.

People also complained about the opening theme, but I really don't think it's that bad. Sure, something that sounds like it was produced by M.C. Chris (of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021 fame) doesn't really fit with Pokémon, but neither does the horrible "song" 4Kids used as the opening for Pokémon Chronicles. The only thing I didn't really like was the whole part about going to Kanto, then Johto, then Hoenn because every trainer doesn't travel around the world in the same order Ash does. But that's a minor nitpick at most. I can think of at least five anime dub openings that were worse than this one.

The animation was a sort of mixed bag, with some scenes looking better than others, but it still wasn't as bad as "The Scuffle of Legends" or "We're No Angels." Especially when you consider the guys who animated this special had never worked on Pokémon before.

When all is said and done, "The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon" was a fun special that showcased a cast that has a lot of potential. With a little fine-tuning here and there, PUSA's dub could easily topple 4Kids' dub, something that would benefit all Pokémon fans. Unfortunately, too many people are stuck in the "new = bad" mentality, but I guarantee that by this time next year, these "horrible" voices won't sound so bad to these same people. It happened with Dragon Ball Z, and it'll happen here as well.




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