Hello everyone, and welcome the heck back to Wrong Every Time. This week I surged ahead on projects and actually improved my buffer, inching myself back towards that “one full month of prepped articles” that I try to maintain. And with my Why It Works articles for the next three weeks in various stages of prepping, I’m feeling exceptionally on top of things at the moment, almost like I’m a genuinely mature adult or something. And as a genuinely mature adult, it is my privilege to spend the rest of today writing about Pokemon, where I’m sure Ash and his friends are already embarking on a new adventure.
Last episode was a barn-burner, as Ash at last faced off against Akalan Queen Olivia, and completed the next stage in his Island Pilgrimage. Considering the last two episodes were both dominated by high-tension battles, I’m expecting we’ll be slowing things down a bit this week, and leaning back towards the show’s slice of life model. Fortunately, Sun and Moon tends to actually be at its best when things slow down, and it can indulge in the plentiful pleasures of the Alolan peninsula. Whatever comes, I’m sure there’ll be charming character moments and beautiful animation cuts aplenty. Let’s dive back into the world of Sun and Moon!
Hah! We actually start with a rare “last time on” cold open, detailing the highlights of Ash’s battle with Olivia. Sun and Moon generally does its best to avoid harsh episode-to-episode continuity, as it’s explicitly designed to be watchable even if you’re just flipping channels and happen to catch an episode. I don’t think this cold open is a reflection of any need for continuity – rather, I think the show just wants to show off last episode’s action highlights twice, in case anyone missed them. The actual cutting of this cold open supports that reasoning – we explicitly run through the three best sequences from last episode, including Olivia’s Z-move, Ash’s Z-move, and Rockruff’s final attack
The one purely narrative flashback is to Olivia mentioning Rockruff’s potential evolution. I guess we’ve found today’s subject!
“Rockruff and the Guardian Deity from the Ruins of Life.” Seems like we might be wrapping up our trip to Akala altogether. Meeting the guardian deity was the last item on our to-do list
Yep, we’re returning to Melemele tomorrow. It’s always a pleasure to see the pokemon at rest, all lounging across each other as they sleep. Like a basket of weird pointy kittens
Pikachu is so good at communicating! I will never get over how many distinct words he’s able to create out of his three syllables, and the variety of tones he can accompany them with. A masterfully minimalist vocal performance
The guardian spirit arrives, impressed by Rockruff’s private training. Weirdly, the guardian spirit talks exactly like one of the baby fairies from Ojamajo Doremi
This is an interesting take on a martial arts movie classic; a far more experienced master humoring a fiery upstart, as they fail to make one solid hit on their superior. I like how the show is able to convey this dynamic purely through their expressions, and the tone of their voices
The deity beats the shit out of Rockruff and floats away, laughing all the while
Pikachu’s look of joy at sparkles falling from the sky, and waving his stubby arms to catch them. My heart. Pikachu is one of the most valuable aesthetic resources of any show in history, I swear
Rockruff bites Ash, but then immediately remembers striking Rowlett during the match. WHAT HAVE I BECOME!?
Oh wow, gorgeous shot of the coastline as morning dawns
This exhausted Pikachu face is horrifying
This “Rockruffs get aggressive prior to evolving” conceit is interesting. It could serve as a lesson regarding how to treat your pets – to not take their aggressive behavior personally, and to carefully pay attention to what they might be trying to say through behavior changes. Then again, it could also apply to sibling relationships, as a reminder to be considerate to young siblings who are growing through changes as well. Generally speaking, children do need to learn that not all negative behavior they see is a reflection on their own actions, and to try and look deeper into the root causes of others’ abrasive actions
As Ash’s friends set out, Rockruff continues its grand journey, braving cliffs and ravines in order to Kick That Guardian’s Ass
Gladio’s Lycanroc hears the call of Rockruff. Nice dash of characterization here – Gladio wonders where Lycanroc is going, but as someone who passionately values independence, he doesn’t pry
Nicely minimalist palette for this cave Gladio enters. The importance of a complimentary yet limited color palette is a hard thing to internalize, and a much harder thing to actually master. Using too many colors results in a discordant, overly busy image where you ironically can’t really appreciate any individual hue – by sculpting a consistent, limited palette, your backgrounds gain a sense of cohesive beauty, as well as a clear emotional undertone. KyoAni are very good at this; Hyouka wouldn’t be the same show without its burnt, late-afternoon color palette, while Chuunibyou is defined by its deep violets and blues
Oh wow, Gladio’s got some kind of monster pokemon with him. The creature looks clearly “wrong” – its parts don’t fit together at all, and it seems like it can’t even really breathe through its face mask. An unusually horror-adjacent image for Pokemon, and also a reflection of how good most pokemon designs are, which makes it easy to see the “wrongness” of this creature
Something vaguely unsettling about seeing Dark Lycanroc walking around on his hind legs
I always really enjoy the pokemon-driven episodes. This isn’t an Ash episode, this is a Rockruff episode
I also love how Kapu-Tetefu is… kind of an asshole? They beat up Rockruff for no reason, casually smack Lycanroc into the woods, and then get mad at Rockruff for failing to be healed by their powers. I like the idea of the Guardian Diety as a genuinely capricious spirit – more a powerful trickster than a reliable leader, who grants boons or curses according to their whim
Once again, Pikachu loves glitter. Give him a round of applause, folks
Yeah, Olivia specifically calls out Kapu-Tetefu’s “childlike and cruel” nature. With their impulsivity and limited appreciation for how their behavior hurts others, children are particularly good at being cruel. If you never really grow up, you can carry that cruelty forward to a successful career in online demagoguery!
Ash throws himself between Rockruff and Kapu-Tetefu
Kapu-Tetefu is amused by this choice, and then effortlessly knocks out both Lycanrocs and Ash with a kiss. They’re doing an effective job of conveying that Kapu-Tetefu is on a completely different power level than all of our heroes
Kapu-Tetefu is essentially doing the pokemon version of a blood transfusion for Rockruff, draining the others to save him
I don’t know if it’s just me, but Kapu-Tetefu looks and sounds so much like a Doremi fairy that it’s hard to believe it’s a coincidence. It’s even a fairy-type pokemon! It’s got Dodo’s hair!
Evolving right at the line of twilight, Rockruff becomes a Lycanroc that’s neither fully Midday nor Midnight form. HELL YEAH
A lovely postcard snapshot for the team congratulating Lycanroc. One of Osamu Dezaki’s clearest contributions to anime’s dramatic vocabulary
Olivia is so overjoyed she can’t stop sobbing. I’m gonna miss her once we leave Akala
THE TEAM GROWS IN STRENGTH, YET AGAIN! Ash’s force is really starting to come together now, as he finally acquires his first evolved pokemon. This episode turned out to be far more action-packed than I was expecting, but rather than focusing on a pokemon battle, we followed Rockruff on an outright Evolution Quest. The animation was unsurprisingly a little conservative, but the background art design was terrific – and we also witnessed a glimmer of larger continuity, in the form of Gladios’ mysterious creature. Not bad for an alleged cooldown episode!