Earlier this year, back in July, Toho and OLM released the twentieth full-length animated movie of the massively sprawling “Pokémon” franchise. Subtitled “I Choose You!” the film is an alternative retelling of the original start of the multi-season-spanning journey of the anime’s main character Ash Ketchum (Satoshi in Japanese), and how he forms a strong bond with his starter Pokémon, franchise mascot Pikachu. For longtime fans of the anime, the endearingly cute sound of Pikachu saying its own name is synonymous with the franchise itself, which is why Western audiences were flabbergasted to hear Pikachu seemingly talk coherently in one scene of the movie, according to tech website The Verge.
It’s not entirely impossible for one of the franchise’s various Pocket Monster creatures to talk like human in the anime. One of the recurring bad guys is a smart-mouthed Meowth after all. But for the most part Pokémon are supposed to communicate just by saying their names over and over in different intonations to create nuances. When “Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!” got a limited screening in US cinemas this November however, moviegoers were bowled over to hear Pikachu talking in a cutesy voice to his trainer Ash, causing a stir on social media.
During the film’s climactic act, when a dark Pokémon has driven the other Pokémon in its surroundings to go berserk and attack nearby humans including Ash, the young trainer gets walloped trying to protect Pikachu, who is unaffected by the mind-control. When the wounded and nearly delirious Ash tries to protect Pikachu by storing him in a Poke-ball (something the electrical creature has hated all throughout the anime run), he asks why the lightning rodent doesn’t want to get inside it. Here Pikachu suddenly blurts out that the reason for his quarrel with Poke-balls is that he wants to be outside always, with Ash.
Reactions of audiences that have posted on social media have expressed opinions tilted slightly against the notion of a talking Pikachu. Some even went so far as to suspect it was an unnecessary addition to the English dub used for the short US release of “I Choose You!” though it has been confirmed that the talking line exists in the original Japanese dub. Pikachu’s voice is provided by notable vocal actress Ikue Otani, whose “Pikachu” sounds are oft reused in non-Japanese dubs of the “Pokémon” anime. Voice actress Kate Bristol dubs the spoken line in English for the film.
Strangely enough, there already exists an alternative version of the Pikachu character who can talk like a human. A 2013 Pokémon spinoff on the Nintendo 3DS has a Detective Pikachu sporting a deep Japanese voice. Legendary Entertainment even got US film rights to make a live action/CGI movie adaptation of the game, and is discussing the possibility of having Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson become Detective Pikachu’s English voice actor.
Photo courtesy of theguardian.com