Pokémon trainer Ash and his buddy Pikachu are on their way to see Azoth Kingdom, a city that is supposed to be a feat of mechanical engineering. Just as they arrive, though, they are almost flattened by a huge Pokémon falling from the sky! This is Volcanion and it is furious: a cruel human has kidnapped its friend Magearna and then pushed Volcanion off of an airship. Ash offers to help rescue Magearna, but Volcanion can’t stand humans and wants nothing to do with Ash. As luck would have it, though, the high-tech bonds that the kidnapper put on Volcanion have snagged Ash, and now they’re stuck together! It looks like Ash and Pikachu will be part of this rescue mission whether Volcanion likes it or not.

Alva is the minister of Azoth Kingdom. He wants Magearna, a doll-like mechanical Pokémon, because its “soul-heart” will unlock the mechanical city’s true power. Of course, this means taking the soul-heart out of Magearna, leaving the Pokémon a lifeless shell. Volcanion, Ash, and Pikachu aren’t about to stand for that. But Alva has a high-tech airship, a team of scary Pokémon, and a secret weapon: the city of Azoth Kingdom itself.

This volume has a simpler, more straightforward plot than many of the manga adaptations of Pokémon movies. For one thing, Alva is comically over-the-top as a villain. He actually says “Mwa ha ha ha!” at least five times, and is gleeful about controlling Pokémon and crushing any opposition. Ash and Pikachu’s heroism is just as extreme: they are willing to risk their lives to help Pokémon they’ve just met, and they instantly win the trust of timid Pokémon who have been abused and abandoned by humans.

Part of this volume’s simplicity may also stem from its unusually small cast. Most manga adaptations of Pokémon movies find Ash and Pikachu traveling with two human friends and their Pokémon, but in this volume, Ash and Pikachu travel alone. With the exception of a few nameless, nasty Pokémon poachers, the only other human with a significant role is Alva. The Pokémon supporting cast is more substantial: we have a teams of scary Pokémon that fight for Alva, plus a group of wild Pokémon that Ash and Pikachu befriend. Of all of these, however, only Pikachu, Volcanion, and Magearna are significant characters, and Volcanion is the only one that can speak.

The art is clear and slightly cartoonish, with lots of energy. A very young-looking and expressive Ash stars opposite a goggle-wearing, maniacally-grinning Alva whose villainous appearance is about as subtle as his cackle. A wide variety of Pokémon add lots of visual interest. The backgrounds rarely appear in detail, but we do get a sense of the woodsy natural sanctuary of Nebel Plateau and the mighty mechanical city of Azoth Kingdom. The action scenes are frequent and big, and are usually laid out clearly enough to be easily understood. As with other Pokémon manga, there is lots of battle, but no bloodshed. There’s also some physical comedy, usually slapstick jokes at the expense of Ash.

Like other manga adaptations of Pokémon movies, this volume is a feel-good adventure that stands alone. The straightforward, exaggerated nature of the good guys and bad guys makes Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel feel less complex than, say, Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice or Victini and Zekrom. Still, Pokémon fans—especially younger readers who may appreciate a simpler story—will enjoy seeing Ash and Pikachu once again meet new friends and save the day.

Pokémon the Movie: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel
by Kemon Kawamoto
ISBN: 9781421594194
VIZ Media, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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