Pokemon Sun and Moon – Episode 33

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. You all okay with some leisurely Sun and Moon today? I’ve been scrambling to catch up on work this week, and I could personally use a dose of unconditional Good Feelings. Sun and Moon has been remarkably effective at lightening my mood over these past few months, and considering I’ve started to get cranky comments whenever Saturday isn’t accompanied by a Pokemon post, I assume I’m not the only one.

When we left off, Lana had once again proven her clear supremacy over her classmates, by defending a savage Stoutland with such courage and distinction that it had no choice but to reward her with a Z-ring. Lana now joins Kaki and Ash in her wielding of Alola’s nuclear-grade Pokemon accessories, but I have hopes that Mallow and even Lillie might one day join them – though Sophocles is probably asking a little much. We’ve also gotten a better grip on Olivia’s teaching style, which reflects her own personal pokemon magnetism by encouraging students to develop a closer relationship with their critters. What we have yet to see is a whole lot of Akala Island, so that’s what I’m hoping for as we return to our crew. Let’s see what adventures await on Akala!

Episode 33

Oh man, speaking of seeing more of Akala. We open on a pan into a beautiful set of descending pools, with emerald green water and vegetation poking out of furrows in the water-carved stone caverns. Exactly the sort of marvelous visual setpiece I was hoping for

And Team Rocket are here! What more could I ask for

Jessie’s Ekans fishing lure is a sort of morbid reminder of all the pokemon these leads have ditched over the years. I know that’s just sort of the deal with Pokemon, given each new season of the show is intended to advertise all the cool new pokemon from the game, but I hope we actually get confirmation that, say, Nyabby is happy and secure in his new home when Ash leaves Alola

They’re attempting to catch the Lord of the Lake, a creature that James has been assured exists by a fisherman who’s definitely sleeping

Meowth catches a Wishiwashi, and rudely tosses it back. I feel like Wishiwashi’s schooling ability is another of Pokemon’s most weirdly terrifying conceits, so I like where this episode is going

Terrific cut for Jessie yanking out this massive catch. Ash gets a lot of this show’s best cuts because he’s Ash, but I feel like after him, the staff demonstrate a clear bias towards Jessie, Lana, and Kaki, each of whom embrace distortions in an interesting way – Jessie through her grotesquely exaggerated expressions, Lana through how her simplicity facilitates fluid movement, and Kaki through how his dramatic features can be further distorted into JoJo-style macho variations

“Little Wishiwashi Isn’t Lacking, It’s the Lord of the Lake!” Yesss, let’s scare the bejeezus out of some children

Ah, they saved the full pan down this Wild West town for this episode, when we actually explore it. Makes sense – an establishing shot is a dramatic resource that naturally builds the audience’s sense of anticipation, but you need to actually follow through on that. It creates a sense of expectation, so if you pan down an alluring new venue and then just go somewhere else, the audience will feel disappointed, or even mislead. That itself can be a useful dramatic tool (like if you’re building up anticipation through repeated near-approaches to some dramatic event), but if you’re not intentionally creating that effect, you’ll just end up jerking the audience around, and potentially losing the crucial degree of faith they’re putting in the storyteller. Stories can trick audiences, and audiences actually enjoy being tricked in some ways, but getting the sense a story is not respecting your feelings or time is a different and generally investment-sapping experience

Meanwhile, Pikachu is bouncing in Popplio’s bubble, because they are perfect darlings

Lana says she’s fishing for Mega Gyarados, then claims it’s a joke, but I don’t really believe her

They’re really going all-out for Ash’s expression shifts here, as he jumps from cubism to turning to dust to shifting into marble as he talks with Lana

I like how they actually separate the party this time, and explicitly mention how the rest of the group are headed to Kaki’s farm. It gives the world a bit more sense of solidity to know the rest of the cast are off doing their own thing – though of course, this might also just be setting up cuts between the two ongoing narratives as the episode progresses

Ooh, excellent smear-eyes as Olivia falls off her ride

Olivia is exactly the kind of person who’d call Ash and Lana’s outing a “date” just to mess with them

Lana’s competitive spirit is ignited by mention of the Lord of the Lake. Here we go

The lake’s “Master Fisherman” claims he’s been attempting to catch the Lord of the Lake for forty years, which… doesn’t really inspire confidence?

Their first task is to catch a Feebas

“I have been a Master Fisherman for fifty years, and it took all my efforts to barely catch one.” He keeps throwing around these numbers like they’re supposed to impress us, but dude, I’m pretty sure you just suck at fishing

Welp, Lana’s already done it. The contrast of her mild smile and the fisherman’s intensity is very good

The fisherman claims they’ll need a boat to fight the Lord of the Lake, which I actually agree with, if only because fishing battles are way more intense when our heroes are getting dragged around in the middle of the lake. Fishing isn’t the most naturally storytelling-friendly form of conflict, but creating a sense of danger by placing the heroes in the lake, and potentially at the mercy of their target, is a great way to start

Lana puts a bandaid on a goddamn fish, which I assume is some kind of special pokemon bandaid, because otherwise I have several questions

Popplio and Pikachu doing the Titanic pose is not a reference I was expecting

The smooth jazz accompanying track really accentuates the carefree tone of this episode. Though every episode of Sun and Moon has both comedy and narrative, the balance can shift dramatically from one episode to the next – last episode’s treasure hunt was largely narrative-driven, whereas this episode is proceeding more as a series of comedic setpieces, given just enough focus by the Lord of the Lake conceit

Now that I think of it, comedy and horror are actually a bit similar in that way – less driven by plot, and more centered around tone and individual scenes. Comedy and horror share a ton of similarities, but I hadn’t considered that one

Lana can shift from laughter to Game Face at a moment’s notice. Her warrior’s instinct is sharp

As expected, the Schooling power is illustrated using ominous horror imagery, as the Wishiwashi swarm into a black mass beneath the surface

Ahaha, I love how Ash is just sort of stuck between Lana and her terrifying opponent. “Let’s go fishing with Lana” sounds like a fairly low-stress activity, but you don’t know how Lana fishes

Meanwhile, Kaki and the others are having a decidedly peaceful time over at the farm

Hot damn. Incredible cuts as we return to the battle in progress, with roiling waves and spinning camerawork, ambitious choices that set us right alongside Ash and Pikachu as they attempt to survive Lana’s fight

The fact that they’re on the water, with the shoreline maintaining a static shape relative to their movements, facilitates some remarkable cuts of movement into depth here. The water surrounding them is relatively easy to redraw to account for the camera’s movement – but at the same time, the character acting and perspective redraws for the cast themselves still make this an incredible feat of animation. Sun and Moon’s Lana bias is in full force yet again

The boat actually crashes against an island, sending Ash and the pokemon flying, while Lana nimbly lands on her feet, rod in hand. She’s a goddamn superhero


Even Pikachu looks like a dork this episode, as he awkwardly splashes back towards the shore. I like how they make his ears a little more malleable and shapeless for this sequence

Popplio, being the goodest boy, gathers his courage to face the Lord of the Lake directly. What a loyal, courageous seal he is

Aaand then Popplio immediately eats it, as the Lord’s Alomomola ally is revealed. Well, I guess Ash needs something to do in this episode

Okay, “I’ve been a fisherman for 99 years and one month” actually got me. They looped the joke around

The way this “battle” manages to shift the tension between the different members of this group is brilliant. You’d expect a “fishing battle” to be a strictly one-on-one thing, but they’re doing a terrific job of keeping Popplio, Ash, and Pikachu relevant

And at last, Popplio strikes the decisive blow, learning a new attack just to spear through the Lord in mid-air

“Even a tiny Wishiwashi becomes this strong when in a school, huh?” Let’s just underline that cooperation theme, there we go

And so Lana earns an actual Z-crystal, this time bestowed by the Lord of the Lake. Will her powers ever stop emerging!?

And Done

Well goddamn, that was everything I was hoping for and more. We certainly did get to explore a beautiful new area of Akala, but with Lana and Ash taking center stage, this also turned out to be one of Sun and Moon’s most exciting episodes yet. Lana’s battle with the schooling Wishiwashi was a terrific fusion of crisp storytelling and animation prowess, and there’s just a simple joy in watching Ash and Pikachu get owned while one of their friends plays the hero. And having acquired both a Z-crystal and new power for Popplio, Lana has clearly upped her power level over these past couple episodes. Her classmates have got some catching up to do!

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