Aug 6, 2020
When I say I love Pokemon, that's an understatement. I LOVE Pokemon. It's been an integral part of my childhood, and to this day, I still buy the games, watch the anime (even with its rough patches), read the Pokemon Adventures manga, and I'm currently writing a super long fan fic for Pokemon, which is my current pet project. It's a franchise that's had a lot of staying power and even now, Pokemon continues to have an iron grip on the world because of the sheer joy it brings to everyone of all ages. But many, like myself, feel the TV anime that focuses on
Ash and his adventures could benefit from either taking more risks or focusing on a different protagonist. So when a new studio called Colorido was announcing that they were making their own short anime based on the Sword and Shield games at the end of 2019, titled Pokemon: Twilight Wings, many were shocked. What in the world brought this on? Each episode would be seven to nine minutes long, released monthly, focusing on not just the prominent characters in the games, but featuring new protagonists. It was very well received, and now that I've seen the whole thing in its entirety, I can agree wholeheartedly that this is the Pokemon anime we really need.
Twilight Wings markets itself as primarily an ensemble drama, with the majority of its runtime focusing on episodic stories centered around various members of the cast, but the two real main characters are two young boys, John and Tommy, who are huge fans of the Galar champion Leon, but are stuck in the hospital because of unspecified illnesses. John in particular really wants to watch one of Leon's battle, and when Chairman Rose visits his hospital, he begs him to give Leon a drawing and a letter he wrote for him. The two kids really only appear in three episodes, the first one and the final two. Episode 2 focuses on the gym leader Bea training with her Pokemon, episode 3 focuses on Hop and his Wooloo and their quarrel, episode 4 is about Nessa learning to balance her modeling job and her duties as a gym leader, and episode 5 details Oleana's time with Chairman Rose. Episode 6 brings back Tommy and John, with the former reaching out to the ghost-type gym leader Allister to ask for his help. The only real overarching plot is John's wish to watch Leon battle, and that doesn't happen until the end, understandably, and a recurring character who always appears in each episode is a Corviknight taxi driver, who is always taking the protagonists of each episode to their specific destinations. The "Twilight Wings" portion of the title comes from the fact that Corviknight is a flying type Pokemon, and sometimes it's prominently shown during the twilight hours.
Studio Colorido has made a name for itself with their first feature film, Penguin Highway, and while I saw their movie A Whisker Away and didn't like it for a variety of reasons, I did genuinely like the animation. Twilight Wings is given the same care in the animation department, and I have to say, it looks gorgeous. Everything about it bursts with bright colors, from lush backgrounds to character animation that's as smooth as butter, really bringing the characters to life. But it can also be cartoony and zany when it wants to be, an example being episode 3. I also love the smaller details the animators put into every episode, such as various Pokemon performing little tasks in each episode, like Pumpkaboo serving as streetlights, or Mr. Rime doing a street performance, or an Alcremie sleeping on the counter in a cafe, a Sudowoodo sitting in a big PokeBall shaped pot, among other things. It really shows that the people who worked on this really cared about making Galar and its locales feel as alive and lived in as possible, and that they care about Pokemon's lore (Example from episode 6, a Pokemon called Lampent appears at a hospital, and the game's lore explains that they hang around hospitals to absorb the spirits of the fallen, able to sense when someone is about to die). I don't have much to say about the music, but it does sound nice, with airy woodwind instruments, energetic violins, soft piano tunes, and a whole array of versatile tracks that all stand out in their own way. There aren't any actual songs with lyrics and vocals, though.
Now, when it comes to characters, you're not really going to find much in the way of actual development here. Nobody overtly changes over the course of the stories, nor are they particularly complex or three-dimensional. Seeing as all the episodes are 6-9 minutes long, trying to flesh out a character in that timespan is really tough. Nobody has layers upon layers to discover, but then again, every episode focuses on one or two characters, giving them their own time in the limelight, gradually and slowly showing us what a day in their lives is like. Again, the show markets itself as a low-key, grounded ensemble piece, content to just show the characters in certain situations, how they deal with it, and let the animation speak for itself, giving the audience a small peek into their everyday lives without trying to be more ambitious than is necessary. I think the characters, from what little we see of them, are perfectly fine, with just the right amount of background and personality to them that they're stil engaging. They're not particularly nuanced or multi-faced, but at the same time, the show doesn't go too over-the-top with their quirks or personalities, so in a way, they still feel like people, and I commend the writers for that.
All of the stories contained in each episode are low-key and grounded, but still heartwarming and nice, guaranteed to give you the fuzzies. The final episode decides to up the epic a bit, since it has a Pokemon battle and all, but that's to be expected. So, no, Ash Ketchum ISN'T the center of the universe like the TV anime tries to convince us he is. The Pokemon universe is open to so many different stories and interpretations, and many people's first exposure to it was the anime, and with it being notorious for focusing on just one thing, compounded with the anime itself being notorious for running way too long, dragging things out, and focusing on pointless side stories that diluted the experience, it's understandable that Pokefans would want something different. Twilight Wings picked the best parts of the game, the setting and the potential for character exploration, and brought it to animation. Pokemon deserves stories that aren't solely aimed at little kids, even though that's it's main demographic, and I think the creators are starting to realize this. We got the Pokemon Black and White games, which really pushed the boundaries of its storytelling, drama, character development, and the amount of genuinely disturbing things it could get away with, Pokemon Generations animated various parts of the games and added their own interpretations of important events in said games, and now, Twilight Wings offers a nice, standalone slice-of-life piece focusing on the people of the Galar region just living their lives. I'm not counting the Pokemon Adventures manga here, as it was made by different people outside of Nintendo, and that manga already pushed a lot of boundaries even as the anime was running. Considering how many people like Twilight Wings currently, me included, I think GameFreak/Nintendo could benefit from allowing content creators a lot more freedom with making their own stories in the Pokemon universe. Hell, they greenlit a video game entirely about working in a cafe, so I think they can afford to do that!
It's not going to bring the house down, but Pokemon: Twilight Wings is a breath of fresh air for the animated Pokemon canon, and I hope more like it will be made.
What did you think of this review?