Hey Pokémon fans, I’m back again reviewing another installment of the Pokémon franchise! This time I’m reviewing Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution. As a huge Pokémon fan and a lover of the original Pokémon: The First Movie, I felt obligated to check out the manga version of the movie.
So as you all probably know by now, I am a huge Pokémon fan. I started in Generation 1 playing the games and watching the movies as they hit the screens. And as you would expect Pokémon the First Movie used to be my all-time favorite, movie--so much that I had the soundtrack on CD and would blast the Pokemon theme song in my room. Childhood shenanigans aside, Pokémon the First Movie was the best movie to little Devlen. So diving into the manga, I had some pretty high expectations. I am sad to report that the manga didn’t capture those standards in a Pokéball, but instead, they ran away after the first ball…
There were several scenes that I believed to be iconic from the film that were barely touched upon in the manga. The first being the journey Ash and the gang took to reach Mewtwo’s island. I absolutely loved these scenes as a kid because you got to see just how hilarious Team Rocket’s schemes are in action as they try to “steal” Pikachu. Especially when the gang realizes it’s Team Rocket in disguise and their ride is torn apart from the storm. Instead, we received a quick half-page panel discussing this event with the gang already on the island. The next piece of criticism that zapped my childhood with a Thunderbolt was Pikachu’s fight and chase scene from Mewtwo’s special Pokeballs. In the original film, this is such a thrilling (and heartbreaking) scene as we saw Pikachu climb, dodge, and fight back countless Pokéballs trying to capture and clone him as Ash was bombarded with Pokeballs in an effort to protect Pikachu’s capture. Instead, we get barely half a page of this scene. That really put me in red health.
Top: Ash & gang remembering their encounter with Team Rocket while venturing to Mewtwo's island. Bottom: Ash trying to protect Pikachu from being captured and Pikachu's eventual capture. (Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution Manga).
The final blow that fainted me was the whole mystery surrounding the missing Nurse Joy from the harbor. First off, they barely explained that there even WAS a missing Nurse Joy or that they even visited a harbor BEFORE arriving on the island. But then they tried to sneak in a flashback of Brock lovestruck over the missing person photo of Nurse Joy from the harbor. I see what you did there, Pokémon, and I do not approve.
Brock recalling a flashback to when he was at the harbor and admiring Nurse Joy's missing persons poster. (Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution Manga).
Now there were some moments that helped me recover a bit like the huge fight between the cloned Pokémon and the originals. And you best believe it that “Brother My Brother” by Blessed Union of Souls was playing in my head. Another was Mewtwo’s time with Giovanni was captured well. Overall, this manga wasn’t my favorite Pokémon installment, mostly because the original film holds a very special spot in my heart. That aside, I am pleased that the film was adapted into manga form because it’s been a while since anything relating to the movie was produced (Netflix adaptation aside). Until next time, I’ll smell ya later!
The release of Pokémon: The First Movie in the late 90s was a huge event for Pokémon fans of the day. Unfortunately, but to the relief of my parents, our local, small-town movie theater did not receive the film. I did, however, beg my parents to take us to Burger King frequently to collect all 57 toys, 151 punch-out cards, and those 6 glorious 23 karat gold plated cards! Of course, a 7-year-old Chris failed to “catch ‘em all,” especially after there were reports that infants were suffocating to death on the Pokéballs that came with the Burger King toys. Shedding multiple tears over the trash can, a young Chris reluctantly threw away his Pokéballs since he had an infant sister, resigning the few Pokémon he received from the King to roam shelterless in his toy box. Full disclosure: An adult Chris with his own money has since become a Pokémon master by purchasing the complete sets of the Burger King toys, cards, and gold plated cards via eBay and Craigslist. My parents rolled their eyes, wondering how their man-child son never really grew up. “But it’s called collecting, Mom!”
I eventually was able to get the film on good ol’ VHS. Yes, I watched that cheesy, but AWESOME, movie over and over and over again on VHS. Despite all its flaws, I look back at the original 4Kids dub of Mewtwo Strikes Back with rose-colored glasses. So, imagine how delighted and nostalgic I felt when Mewtwo Strikes Back - Evolution, a modern computer-animated remake of the first film, was announced. With much anticipation, I watched it when it debuted to American audiences on Netflix on February 27, 2020. My opinions on the film? The Pokémon look pretty cool rendered in CGI, but for the human characters not so much. Also, it’s pretty hard for the English voice actors to dub over CGI characters effectively compared to the lip-flaps of traditional animation. But I’m not here to review the film. Instead, I am going to be deep-diving into the manga adaptation of Mewtwo Strikes Back - Evolution that was just released.
If you’ve seen either version of the movie, you know what happens in the manga. But, if for some reason you haven’t, here’s a quick synopsis. Our story begins with Mewtwo, the most powerful Pokémon of the first generation, waking up in a lab where he was cloned from a fossil containing an eyelash from the eternal Pokémon, Mew. Wondering what his purpose is, Mewtwo destroys the lab and his creators and escapes to seek answers. He then teams up with Giovanni, the leader of the villainous organization Team Rocket, until Giovanni suppresses his powers and tries to control him for his own evil purposes. Once escaping Giovanni’s clutches, Mewtwo states, “I will find my purpose and purge this planet of all those who oppose me. This is neither an attack nor a declaration of war. This is my retaliation against my creators!” And he...strikes back! We quickly meet our protagonists: Ash and his Pikachu, Brock, and Misty. They receive an invitation to the island of the “world’s greatest Pokémon trainer,” who just so happens to be Mewtwo. After arriving, he clones the Pokémon of our protagonists and some other trainers to prove in battle that the clones are far superior to the originals. We also see the original Mew join the fray to battle its clone counterpart. What happens next and the resolution of the story are memorable and literally tear-jerking for those who have seen either of the movies, but I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t for some reason. From here on, though, a SPOILER WARNING is in effect.
With story and art by Machito Gomi, the manga feels like a well-drawn storyboard for the movie rather than a fully-realized manga. Entire scenes from the movie are either missing or relegated to a few measly panels. For instance, the entire scene of our protagonists taking a boat ride with a disguised Team Rocket (Jessie, James, and Meowth) is presented by Ash in more of a “by the way, this happened” manner than presenting the scene as a whole. In fact, the Team Rocket trio appears in so few panels it makes me wonder why they even appear at all! On the last page, Jessie says, “I don’t have a clue how we got here, but who cares?” My thoughts exactly, Jessie.
The battles have significantly less panels than I would hope. And speaking of battles, the sound effects and Pokémon noises were often cringy. Although, this may be better in the original Japanese text than the poor translation. The traditional comic book sound effects like “Kaboom” or “Fwip” are fine, but it’s just weird when you use verbs as sound effects. You don’t need to include words like “float” or “glow” in big letters when it’s clear that the characters are floating or glowing in the illustrations! Also, I swear there is a panel with all the Pokémon standing around Ash’s frozen body with the sound effects “Ohhh” and “Ahhh.” That made me chuckle. Again, I hope this is a mistake on the translators’ end rather than the author’s.
Where Machito Gomi fails in the storytelling aspect, he makes up for with his art. I was disappointed this manga wasn’t printed in full color, as it would have been quite beautiful, but Gomi nonetheless uses shading and line details to great effect. Even though this manga is an adaptation of the computer-generated movie, its art is more akin to the 2D animation of the original. The Pokémon look almost exactly as they do in the anime, while the human characters’ eyes are a little bigger and more exaggerated (except Brock’s, of course). Again, with the manga being more storyboard-like, the transitions between the panels are a little choppy, but many of the splash pages look like they could be great posters had they been printed in color. I especially like the images of Ash and Mewtwo standing in front of the groups of original and clone Pokémon, respectively. Also greatly rendered is the heartbreaking image of Pikachu’s teary face after Ash has been turned into stone, followed by the two-page spread of him leaping into Ash’s arms when Ash is returned to normal. Finally, the image of Mewtwo and Mew facing each other with their profiles behind them and Ash and Pikachu in the forefront on the page marked “Part 3” would have made a much better back cover of the book in my opinion.
Left: Part 3's chapter image foreshadowing the battle between Mew and Mewtwo. Right: Pikachu crying because Ash was turned to stone due to Mew and Mewtwo's attack. (Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution Manga).
If you are debating on whether to pick up this book or not, I guess that depends on how big of a Pokémon manga collector you are. Personally, I still prefer the original movie over both the computer-generated remake and this manga. Luckily, we do have the original movie sold both individually or in a combo set with the second and third movies if you have yet to own it. I feel like this manga is more suited to a kid in upper elementary school or maybe middle school due to its very short and simple dialogue. If you’re an adult, the book most likely wouldn’t take you more than a half-hour to read. Regardless of how you experience the story of Mewtwo Strikes Back, whether it be in movie or book form, I hope you have the same joyful nostalgia I had as a child and still like to revisit to this day.
Adventure explodes into action with the debut of Mewtwo, a bio-engineered Pokémon created from the DNA of Mew, the rarest of all Pokémon. After escaping from the lab where it was created, Mewtwo is determined to prove its own superiority. It lures a number of talented Trainers into a Pokémon battle like no other—and of course, Ash and his friends are happy to accept the challenge!Add to CartLearn More