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Pokémon the Movie 15: Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice Anime DVD Review

11 min read

Kyurem CoverWhen a reckless Pokemon gets into trouble can Ash and friends help him out?

What They Say:
During a train trip, Ash and friends spot an injured Pokemon they don’t recognize. They’re planning a rescue when the train is attacked by the Legendary Kyurem! Ash and the others manage to get the unfamiliar Pokemon to safety, and they learn its story…

The mythical Pokemon Keldeo is on a mission to rescue its friends- Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion, the Swords of Justice- from Kyurem’s icy clutches. But Kyurem has other ideas, and when it transforms into Black Kyurem or White Kyurem for greater power, things look grim!

Can Keledo find the courage to stand up to this menace?

The Review:
The US release of Kyurem vs the Swords of Justice only features the English dub though it is present with both a stereo and Surround Sound 5.1 track. For the purpose of this review the 5.1 track was used and which not exceptional in any way it was competent with no drop outs or distortions noted during play back but the track also didn’t really make a lot of use of directionality, the sub-woofer or back speakers making it feel more like a bit of a robust stereo track than a full 5.1 track.

Originally appearing in Japanese theaters in 2012, Kyurem vs the Sword of Justice is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio. The film uses quite a number of bright colors during the presentation which show up rather well but sadly that is about the only above average part of the video on the release. The negative list is far longer and it includes quite a bit of dot crawl and noise being present much to most of the time, including instances where it goes from being a minor thing to rather strong. There are also issues with banding that appear, occasional ghosting, blurring of motion and the CGI used doesn’t always blend with the other animation well which can rob certain scenes of some of the impact of what is building when the lack of continuity forces a viewer to try to mesh the two rather than flowing along with the story that the visuals are helping create.

This probably won’t bother the target audience terribly, especially on a smaller or non HDTV but it certainly won’t help the disc win over the parts of anime fandom that want a decent looking presentation to say nothing of the crowd for whom visual presentation is a very important factor. Also of note, there are some shots in the closing where a black bar appears over almost half the screen with credits placed over it but some of the later credits don’t use this so I have no way of knowing if this was something the original film did as well or if this was a decision by VIZ to make certain credits stand out more.

The release comes packaged in an eco DVD case that has large pieces of plastic missing in the front and back in order to reduce the plastic used in its creation. While I believe I understand the idea behind this both from an environmental and economic standpoint it really leaves the cover much easier to damage and show creases unless a fair amount of care is shown, which seems counterintuitive for a children’s movie when young kids may be reaching for the disc frequently themselves.

The cover itself walks a fine line in giving an idea of just which Pokemon feature in the movie while also trying to keep a bit of continuity with the Pokemon Black and White Version 2 with Kyurem’s fire version in facing left in profile on the upper left of the cover and his ice version facing right on the upper right while a regular version is placed in the center of the cover. The other legendary Pokemon making its anime debut- Keldeo- is placed on the bottom center of the cover overlapping much of Kyurem’s body as Keldeo’s horn glows silver while Ash appears on his left as if running toward Keldeo on his left and Pikachu is shown doing something similar (or jumping, it is really an awkward pose) on the right.

The back meanwhile has a shot that focuses more on Kyurem’s head while Keldeo and the other Swords of Justice are kind of matted in against a canyon back ground with the copy written in white over this as the various copyrights and legal information is present in a black bar at the bottom of the cover. Altogether it is a cover that does what it needs to in showing it is a Pokemon movie and which characters are the lead but aesthetically it is a bit of a mess that looks far more clip art collage than a single piece of work designed to really speak for itself and draw people in based on its strength rather than relying on the large “Pokemon” branding to do that work.

The menu itself uses a large version of the front cover art for the screen with the left side getting expanded out to fill the rest of the screen, most with a red color though Pikachu is moved from the right onto the left and Ash is moved a bit further left to fill a bit of this space. The menu also uses a small box under the title (which has also been shifted left) that plays a number of scenes from the film quickly while a familiar Pokemon anthem blares in the background. The menu choices are listed vertically under this box as a red and white Pokeball is used to indicate which option is currently selected. The menu does have a Set up sub menu that features some different art that still looks a bit like it was clipped together but which fits the movie anyway with a Pokeball still appearing as the cursor. Overall the menu is quick to respond to changes and selections though there is a slight lag when the video/audio portion on the main menu reset.

The only extra present on the disc is a minute long trailer (more commercial really) for the film.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Not all Pokemon adventures need center Ash and his friends and Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice is a feature along these lines where Ash and company are more supporting characters in a story focusing on some of the other exceptional individuals that populate this fantastic world and this time the tale revolves around a young, brash and very headstrong Pokemon named Keldeo. This four legged Pokemon has been training with three other Pokemon (Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion) that together go by the title of the Swords of Justice as Keldeo desires to join their ranks and share that title as their newest member.

The final test for Keldeo will be a fight with an enormously powerful Pokemon named Kyurem and the impatient youth doesn’t want to listen to his three mentors about his lack of state of readiness as he rushes into a battle that he quickly discovers he is woefully unprepared for. As he is about to discover just how inadequate his current abilities are after confronting the legendary Pokemon while claiming to already be a Sword of Justice, his three mentors appear and save him from what looks like it might have been a final defeat but the cost to them is that they wind up frozen in blocks of ice. Unable to act to beat Kyurem or even having a way to save his mentors, Keldeo flees for his life with a giant load of guilt as his newest companion.

But Keldeo isn’t just going to be bearing the weight of what happened to his cherished friends in exile with that as the extent of the repercussions of his actions as Kyurem isn’t going to just let Keldeo flee the fight that Keldeo started. The super powerful Pokemon sends other crystal like Pokemon after Keldeo in order to track down the panicked Pokemon in order for the dominant being to finish this fight that he was challenged to. As Keldeo continues to run from Kyurem’s minions he by chance encounters Ash, Pikachu, Iris and Cilan as the friends continue their journey through this special world while attempting to become the best Pokemon masters they can.

In usual fashion upon finding a wounded Pokemon the group does what they can to help the injured youth but the continued pursuit by Kyurem’s forces place not just the escaping Pokemon and now these new allies in danger, but the chase also brings danger to all around them as they flee through a city that will find itself dealing with an invasion og ice generating Pokemon. Will this adventure finally end Ash’s training or is the scared and scarred Keldeo going to be able to face up to the consequences of his actions…whatever they may wind up being?

Pokemon is in a rather rare position for a media franchise in that it is approaching 20 years old with a continuous run and as such it is at this point old enough where the children of those who watched the show when it first aired are able to experience some of the same characters and the spectacular world they inhabit with their own children who are about the same age they were when the anime series first started. While some of the other franchises that have run so long have grown up and somewhat gotten older in target audience with their audience Pokemon continues to keep to roughly a similar age bracket for its core audience meaning that many of the adventures will likely not impress a more sophisticated –or cynical- audience in general. This movie probably won’t break that mold much either as it does have a rather youthful target audience aim but it isn’t hard while watching to see that the movie is playing to some larger literature themes as to help keep the morality tale at the center of the movie from being so basic that it bores adults as well as leaving all but the youngest audience feeling that they are being talked down and alienating them as well.

The film isn’t going to win over a ton of older people who aren’t already predisposed to give it a chance but those who are willing to set aside their preconceptions (and maybe as well a desire for a film with a really deep or complex core) may find that the film can still be engrossing as the themes that do appear are ones that are universal in terms of youth being eager to assume the responsibilities of adulthood while discovering that this quest they are on comes with a burden as well. The film also gave me a very Three Musketeer vibe, from the trio of the Swords of Justice as the main three Musketeer like characters while Keldeo feels like the eager to prove himself d’Artagnan, desperate to join with the trio he has come to admire. This part of the narrative helped the story to stay interesting when the film could have gone in a very heavy handed direction instead of working to have its target audience come to the same conclusion and understanding of the events of the climax as Keldeo does with a far more bludgeon like approach.

It honestly is also a bit fun to watch a franchise film that is willing to give the ‘new character’ in the story the ability to carry many of the events as the main series cast becomes a far more supporting one in the film than one might initially expect. It is a nice touch to be able to watch events play out but not always need for them to be completed by the same core cast and it does give a bit of a feeling like the underlying message is that anyone can make a difference rather than just a couple core characters who always seem to stumble into the wrong place at the right time and fix all the problems that have happened.

If the film has a weakness other than its visuals not holding up on a HDTV it is probably found in so much of the film being reactionary and much of the action involving running away. This came across to me as kind of a weak character piece where it is only at the end that the character puts all the pieces together rather than showing signs of growth along the way, but given the film builds to a major confrontation and dramatic moment I guess it is serviceable enough, especially given the target audience. Of course some of this may actually come from the editing of the film for US release as a search of the internet indicates that the US version is well over 20 minutes shorter than the Japanese version and there are places where a discerning eye can see some jumps that seem to indicate excised material as well as an opening song that covers some animation that looks to have had dialogue rather than just been a place for a theme to appear over leaving a bit of a sense of loss though somewhat ironically it helps to remove the importance of the series main cast by not giving them much to do for a pretty long stretch of the film.

In final measure the film is one that will likely keep the younger set entertained and also reinforce its positive message while not leaving any adult in the area wanting to stick something in their ears or fearing eye strain from constantly rolling them and to me that is a sign of success in a movie of this type, even if it isn’t a film I can blindly recommend to everyone.

In Summary:
Pokemon Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice is a movie that has enough action to keep a young audience focused on the screen long enough to absorb the message of the film while delivering that message in a way that probably won’t cause a slightly older audience to roll their eyes at the presentation or force any adult in the room to feel like they are being subjected to some form of torture along the way (other than trying to figure out what is going on with the franchise dynamics anyway). The movie has a heart and knows what moral it is looking to convey and it does so in passable fashion though the English release shortened run time does mean that the film is a bit battle heavy rather than really interested in deep character development. It is the kind of film that falls into ‘flawed but entertaining’ as long as its audience is already familiar with the premise or adaptable enough to cope with its mechanisms and it borrows enough from a larger cultural whole to be able to speak to a decidedly different audience than it was created for. While not great it is a film that sends a positive message in a not corny way and has the ability to entertain is not wow, which makes it not great but it is OK.

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: April 2nd, 2013
MSRP: $19.97
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50” LED 4K Ultra HD TV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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