Pokémon: The Arceus Chronicles – Review

Pokémon: The Arceus Chronicles is interesting because, at first glance, I thought I was preparing myself for a very different type of story. Everything from the promotional images to the opening and closing credits made me think I was about to watch some abridged adaptation of the Pokémon Legends Arceus video game. It opens up with an almost calligraphy-style animation, and we even get to see the main character from the Arceus game in animated form at the end. Ash, Goh, and Dawn all visit an exhibit that looks like a recreation of what Sinnoh looked like in the past, and it is almost a one-to-one recreation of the main village hub in that game. This “movie” is really an hour-long special that’s edited to combine four separate episodes used to promote the game…while defaulting to a story that has little to do with the game and honestly feels like it was just plucked out of the main Pokémon: Journeys release cycle. Seriously, I can’t help but feel like I was led to believe one thing only to be shown another.

Pokémon: The Arceus Chronicles can best be described as a brief follow-up to the Team Galactic plotline from the Diamond and Pearl series. We even have Dawn and Brock reappear rather conveniently to ensure that the three main characters who helped stop Team Galactic’s plans are here again to confront its members. The leading generals of Team Galactic (Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars) are trying their hardest to open up a dimensional rift in an attempt to find their boss Cyrus who disappeared during the events of Diamond and Pearl. I have no idea why they’re trying to bring him back, considering that he made it very clear that he did not care about them during the events of that series, but it’s also implied that they’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid a little bit too much, so I digress.

Unfortunately, their plan involves using the Legendary Pokémon Heatran, who ends up going on a rampage. Thus Ash, Goh, Dawn, and Brock have to work together to stop Heatran from burning down everything in its path and arrest Team Galactic. Overall, it is a straightforward plot. In fact, it’s so simple I questioned why this needed to be a special in the first place. Not to give too much away, but the good guys win in the end, and there aren’t any lingering events or plot points that impact anything. On the one hand, you could argue that the inconsequential plotline is to ensure that Arceus Chronicles does not affect the rest of the Pokémon: Journeys anime. But if that’s the case, this could have easily been inserted somewhere in the middle of the series, and no one would’ve batted an eye.

That said, Arceus Chronicles does attempt to present a theme regarding Arceus’s involvement in the larger Pokémon universe. Arceus is basically a god and the creator of all things, but it prefers to take more of an observational role. In fact, it’s so devoted to that stance that it only does the bare minimum to help out the main characters without directly influencing events, which I guess is one way to write around having an omnipotent presence in your show. This…only goes so far when you consider that Team Galactic used a piece of Arceus in their plans, and I’m left wondering…why doesn’t Arceus take it back? Also, how did Galactic find that missing piece? Did Arceus even know it was missing? I feel we’re not supposed to think about it too much.

I’m not saying the theme doesn’t work. It feels tacked on, especially since the idea of Arceus trusting people to make their own decisions would’ve tied pretty well with what Team Galactic is doing. With their boss gone, they should have moved on and tried acting for themselves; instead, they were so desperate to get him back that they almost caused untold death and destruction. Arceus Chronicles could easily have presented such a theme much more strongly, but it exists more in the background than anything else.

As such, what we’re left with is an OK continuation to the Team Galactic storyline filled with various callbacks to the Diamond and Pearl series. We see Ash, Brock, and Dawn interact as a team again after so many years. I would say it’s nice to see Brock in particular since his real appearance in the Sun and Moon anime didn’t explore his new career path as a doctor. Here we see him training to be a Pokémon doctor, complete with his own Blissey. There is sort of a celebratory “getting the gang all back together” feel to the special, and that’s probably why I think fans of the Diamond and Pearl series, in particular, will probably get the most out of this.

After all, even animation-wise, the special isn’t anything…special. It’s pretty standard with the rest of the Pokémon: Journeys anime, which was already above average in its presentation. I will give special mention to the way that Heatran was portrayed with the almost demonic, mutated lava coating it. It did give the sense that the Pokémon was in pain and confused. The dubbing is also pretty standard for Pokémon. However, I will say that it was a little awkward hearing Lisa Ortiz as Mars, considering that I watched the special in the middle of rewatching Pokémon: Journeys, where she plays a recurring character there. It’s not that her performance is bad by any means; it’s just that Lisa has a very distinct voice, and Mars is a very different character from who she plays in the original series.

Overall, Pokémon: The Arceus Chronicles is superfluous. I don’t know why it exists outside of the obvious marketing reasons. Still, considering that those marketable elements are so small and inconsequential to the story, I feel let down. If you’re already watching the Pokémon: Journeys anime or a fan of the Pokémon – Diamond and Pearl series, then I think Arceus Chronicles is a fine way to kill an hour of your time. But aside from that, there isn’t much special about this special.

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