Two of the characters in the Pokémon anime’s original trio of travelling friends have been replaced in I Choose You.

The upcoming Pokémon movie bears the subtitle I Choose You, which long-time fans will immediately recognize as a reference to series mascot Pikachu. It’s a fitting subtitle, since the movie will be going back in time to once again show the very first meeting between Pikachu and human protagonist Ash/Satoshi.

The timing feels right, as this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon anime franchise, and I Choose You is also its 20th theatrical feature. Retelling the story of Ash’s first steps towards becoming a Pokémon Master in a condensed format is a great way to let younger fans see how the series got started, and for long-time fans, it’s an opportunity to relive some happy memories with a fresh coat of paint.

But while I Choose You is tapping into those memories with its setting and a newly recorded version of Pokémon’s original Japanese theme song, don’t expect to have your nostalgia receptors activated by seeing Ash meet up with his pals Brock and Misty, because the latest trailer shows that neither of them are in the new movie.

Previous previews focused solely on Ash and Pikachu, so the absence of Brock and Misty (or Takeshi and Kasumi, as they’re called in Japan) wasn’t quite so noticeable. But as the new video shows, Brock and Misty aren’t just missing – they’ve been replaced by two new characters.

▼ Makoto, an energetic and stout-hearted Trainer who harbors a secret.

▼ Soji, a cool and collected boy who dreams of becoming a Pokémon scientist

Making things especially vexing for Brock and Kasumi fans is that Team Rocket members Jessie and James (a.k.a. Musashi and Kojiro), as well as Nurse Joy, still get to be part of I Choose You.

While anime movies adding new characters is par for the course, it’s unusual to see major cast members get entirely scrubbed and have substitutes inserted in their place. Perhaps producers thought that introducing Ash, Brock, and Misty would leave them with no space in the script for new friends.

It’s also possible that the decision to ax Brock and Misty has something to do with the way anime is distributed in its native country. TV series are broadcast at a pace of on episode a week, and reruns are far less common in Japan than they are in the U.S., and Brock and Misty were cycled out of the regular Pokémon anime cast quite some time ago. Without repeated five-times-a-week reminders of their contributions to Pokémon lore, one could argue that Brock and Misty just don’t have as strong a hold on fans’ interest in Japan as they used to, and so Makoto and Soji will get their chance to leave a lasting impression when I Choose You opens on July 15.

Source: Polygon
Images: YouTube/ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル