Ash and his Pokémon buddy Pikachu are traveling with their friends to Dahara City when they meet Hoopa. Hoopa is a mischievous little Pokémon with an amazing ability: it can pull objects, people, and Pokémon through its magic rings. It can basically summon anything from anywhere—a power that the high-spirited Hoopa uses to pull harmless pranks and obtain donuts.
Hoopa wasn’t always like this. One hundred years ago, it arrived in Dahara City as a much bigger and stronger Pokémon, Hoopa Unbound. It was reckless with its powers, showing off by summoning incredibly strong Pokémon and then battling them. These battles nearly destroyed the city before a hero trapped Hoopa’s destructive power in a magic bottle, rendering Hoopa the cute, mostly harmless Pokémon it is today. The hero sealed away the magic bottle, then took in the smaller, less-powerful Hoopa and cared for it, teaching it to be kinder and more responsible. The hero’s descendants still take care of Hoopa, and now that the Pokémon has lost its will for destruction, they wonder if it’s time to open the bottle and return Hoopa’s power.
But Hoopa’s power, stuck in a bottle for one hundred years, has developed its own identity… and it’s angry. When the nefarious Team Rocket steals its bottle, the mighty Hoopa Unbound is released and begins destroying Dahara City. Though little Hoopa fears Hoopa Unbound, it just might be the only thing that can stop the rampage; but, it’s going to need a lot of help from Ash and his friends.
This stand-alone volume has a plot similar to that of some other stand-alone Pokémon stories, like Zoroark: Master of Illusions and Pokémon the Movie: Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice. Ash and friends meet a rare Pokémon with the unusual ability to speak; this Pokémon is in trouble, and Ash and his buddies come to the rescue; and ultimately, the Pokémon—Hoopa, in this instance—finds the courage to solve its own problem. Like most Pokémon stories, this volume is big on friendship, bravery, kindness, and is packed with battles. The action is epic: Hoopa Unbound summons super-powerful Pokémon left and right to go after Hoopa, and the fate of Dahara City hangs in the balance. Of course, in true Pokémon tradition, the battles are exciting but not really scary. No one is visibly injured, let alone killed.
Ash and friends are straightforward, caring, and heroic—an easy team to root for, if not exactly nuanced. Hoopa has more character development, which is especially pronounced when we see how it used to behave in flashbacks. Being included in a family and treated kindly changed Hoopa from a careless, dangerous show-off to a Pokémon that faces its fears to save its friends.
The art is active and expressive, although some of the battle scenes are a little visually confusing. Between explosions, magic-ring-assisted teleportation, and over half a dozen giant, legendary Pokémon running around, there’s a lot going on—but mostly, the art is clear and easy to follow. The backgrounds are detailed but not distracting, with a Middle Eastern feel: Hoopa and Hoopa Unbound are clearly based on djinn, and Dahara City is a desert community where people wear turbans, scarves, and curly-toed shoes.
This upbeat adventure will have lots of appeal for Pokémon fans. Since it’s a standalone volume, it could be a good pick for people less familiar with the Pokémon universe, too. Being suddenly immersed in the complex world of Pokémon might leave them with some questions, but hey, that’s what all the other Pokémon manga is for, right?
Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages
by Gin Kamimura
VIZ Media, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages