Pokemon Continuity Is A Goddamn Nightmare
I’ve just hit my breaking point with Pokemon’s disastrous continuity, and I can’t keep the frustration to myself any longer. I wish I could enjoy it for what it is and not worry about what is and isn’t canon, but the way Pokemon handles its own history is so absurdly convoluted that I just can’t let it go. It would be one thing if there was just no continuity between movies, episodes, and seasons, but the way it picks and chooses what did and didn’t happen in the past is nonsensical, and often negatively impacts the story. It’s always bothered me somewhat, but watching Genesect and the Legend Awakened has pushed me over the edge.
In Genesect and the Legend Awakened, Ash meets a Mewtwo. It’s not the same Mewtwo he met in the first Pokemon movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back, thanks to an issue with the IP rights to the character, it looks just like the Mewtwo he knows. Ash, however, doesn’t acknowledge his history with Mewtwo, comment how weird it is that there’s a second Mewtwo (it is) or make any indication that he knows what a Mewtwo is.
Related: IP Rights Ruined Pokemon: Genesect And The Legend Awakened
You might think this makes sense – after all, Mewtwo erased everyone's memories at the end of Mewtwo Strikes Back, so Ash wouldn’t remember his time on New Island. But Mewtwo Strikes Back had a TV sequel called Mewtwo Returns. At the end of the movie, Mewtwo intends to erase Ash’s mind again, but Ash convinces him not to, promising to keep the location of Mewtwo’s Pokemon sanctuary a secret. The movie ends with Mewtwo telling Ash “I will remember you always.”
Okay, so maybe the TV show isn’t canon to the movies. There are plenty of examples of Ash meeting Pokemon on the show that he doesn’t remember meeting in the movies and vice versa. After Pokemon 2000, Ash met Lugia several times on the show but never mentioned his first adventure with a Lugia, so maybe the Mewtwo sequel isn’t canon since it was part of the TV series. Unfortunately, this theory doesn’t work either, as Genesect and the Legend Awakened itself had a prequel episode on the anime which is essential to understanding the plot of the movie. To take this a step further, Ash and Goh ran into the original Mewtwo again in the most recent season of Pokemon Journeys, and once again Ash showed no recognition at all for Mewtwo.
There are no rules. It’s infuriating. Continuity does exist, but selectively. When Cynthia and Dawn returned to the anime this year, Ash recalled their adventures together from the past. The Diamond & Pearl trilogy of movies are all connected too, but then other movies seem to ignore everything that came before them. The worst part is that we know they’re just making it up as they go along. The first trailer for Genesect and the Legend Awakened shows the scene where Ash meets Mewtwo. He says “Wait a minute! You’re Mewtwo!” and Cilan responds “You know this guy?” For me, that’s all it would have taken. Why did this need to be removed from the actual movie? It feels like a decision specifically designed to upset me.
The problem with erasing the past is that it takes so much of the weight away from every big moment. When Lucario sacrificed itself in the Mystery of Mew, Ash ended the movie by explaining that Lucario isn’t actually gone because its Aura will always be with him, but this isn’t true. As soon as the movie ends, Lucario is completely forgotten. Ash has encountered other Lucario several times since then and has even raised one himself in Pokemon Journeys, but never once acknowledges Mystery of Mew’s Lucario or the sacrifice it made. Maddeningly, Ash has demonstrated the ability to sense the Aura of others multiple times on the show – an ability he gained from Lucario. You can’t have it both ways, Pokemon. I don’t know why you even want to.
There are countless examples of major moments that lose all of the weight the moment the movie or episode ends. In Pokemon 2000, Jesse and James discover that heroism feels a lot better than villainy and vow to be good guys from now on, but of course they forgot this lesson immediately. Ash has now had three different adventures with Celebi (Pokemon 4Ever, Zoroark and the Master of Illusion, and Secrets of the Jungle) but each time has acted like they’ve never met before. It’s painful to see Ash staring glassy-eyed at a Pokemon that should have made a huge impact on his life, and it’s a little creepy, too. Beyond the fact that he hasn’t aged in 25 years, the way he forgets almost everything that’s ever happened to him makes it seem like he’s trapped in a never-ending series of dreams – or nightmares.
I understand that Pokemon needs to maintain a status-quo so that kids can jump right into the series and never feel lost or confused, but that doesn’t mean every single movie and episode needs to get thrown in the bin the second it's over. It’s okay for Ash to acknowledge people and Pokemon he’s met before and even reference their history without the show becoming too complicated for newcomers. It’s a lay-up in terms of fan service, and it shows respect for the long and wonderful history of Pokemon. I’m not asking for a 20-year interconnected saga like One Piece, but when Ash sees his old buddy Mewtwo, he should probably at least say “What’s up?”
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