Monday, March 7, 2016

Subtext: Pokémon The First Movie

 Film: Pokémon: The First Movie
Year: 1998 (1999 English Dub)
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama

Pokémon is massive, although that cannot quite describe it. It truly is an iconic franchise of modern pop-culture.
At its core Pokémon is a video game series, although has spun off in many different directions in many different mediums, the anime (which started off as semi-direct adaption of the game) is among the most famous. It was here where Pikachu was established as the most iconic Pokémon.
This leads to the humbly titled Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (Yuyama, 1998), the western release (of which I will be looking at, which is important to note as there are plot differences in the two versions) is simply just Pokemon: The First Movie.

The film is about an artificially born Pokémon (Mewtwo) who goes rouge and seeks to rule the world with his “superior race” of cloned Pokémon.

The films core moral is “fighting is bad”, although I think the deeper message about how we view and respect each other.
Generally speaking there is a very clear hierarchy in the world of Pokémon (and our own as a parallel), we as humans are the top. We are the most important species on this planet, we control this planets future and we tame or killed other species for our needs, resources or entertainment.
In the Pokémon world, Pokémon are caught as trophies (“Gotta catch em’ all”), then trained for combat for the financial and ego benefits of the Pokémon Trainer (often refereed too as “master”).

Mewtwo at the start feels betrayed by humanity because of this, he was born by humans and not shown any respect.
He was simply to be used as an excrement for knowledge by the scientists and to be used as a weapon/tool by the criminal organization Team Rocket. Both lied to him about “Being equal”.
Mewtwo’s reaction to this was to destroy the place where he was born and to kill all those who made him.

Cursing humanity he made his own race of cloned Pokémon (using DNA) of which he declares to be better the original.

This is very clearly a case of “superior race” syndrome, of which he feels that his non-loving and mechanical approach to raising Pokémon is better.
This draws parallels with many historical moments, the most obvious being Germany under the reign of Adolf Hitler.
The idea of the “machine man”, while not literally machine, but of the concept of being built like a machine, part by part, unloving, though a rigidly controlled upbringing and life of education, society, roles, all of which are to be pre-determined. To make the best off the best. In order to create the most superior possible person.

However in the process of making the strongest, fastest and most efficient, you lose the emotion, the choice and the “core” of what makes life worth living.

The Pokémon themselves display this. The “cloned” Pokémon look identical to the organic ones, par slight visual changes (more black stripes on them). They walk in a rigid marching formation with each other, never stepping out of line. They obey Mewtwo’s command without question and they’re willing to fight to the brutal, bitter end.

They become machine Pokémon, blinded of logic or emotion. Unable (or unwilling) to think for themselves.
In the real world, this is not just seen under fascist regimes, but in cults. Specifically religious cults.
Where there’s a leader and the followers take the leaders word at face value, to build a better world.
As such is Mewtwo’s intentions as he outright wishes to destroy all humans and even kill off all the organic Pokemon as despite being innocent, Mewtwo considers them “weak” for obeying the humans.
This idea of natural selection, will of the strength is seen in fascism as well.

In response to this, the organic Pokemon fight back, one on one against their clone counter-part, but despite the physical and idealogical difference between them. They both do the same thing, resort to violence.
One doesn't become much better than the other as they both become the same thing.
As is the case with the human race in our own world. Our lust for revenge is constant, whenever someone attacks us we as a society feel the urge to attack back. To the point where it doesn't even matter who started it.
Did Mewtwo start the conflict or did humanity? Does it matter? The result is the same, death and brutality.

Two forces refuses to fight, Ash (the main character of the anime) and his partner Pikachu.
Pikachu refuses to fight back, letting his cloned self beat him up.

According to the English Bible (1611, Various), Jesus apparently said this "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also"
This is also known as "turn the other cheek", the idea being that you should "love your enemy".

In the film, this is exactly what Ash's Pikachu does. Despite being constantly beaten (literately on the cheek), Ash's Pikachu refuses to fight back, even in pure self-defence.

Every problem in the film goes back to humans trying to be gods, creating life, attempting to "perfect" life by the way of experiments and control. Demanding animals submit.

The film asks the viewer if it's all worth it, if that's what they desire. The film also dares to question who the viewer is more like. Is the viewer the kind of person who is willing to seek revenge no matter the cost, or are they the kind of person who refuses to lower themselves to the brutality of their opponents.

The film also has a message about prejudice, hating someone purely due to the nature of their birth.