Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution remakes the Pokémon franchise’s first film in full CG, and the trailer shows Ash and pals like we’ve never seen them before.

Earlier this week, we got our longest preview yet of the upcoming Western-made Detective Pikachu movie, which pairs live-action actors with computer-animated versions of the anime/video game franchise’s famous Pocket Monsters. But there are actually two movies with CG Pokémon coming out this year, and the second is a made-in-Japan full CG reboot of the very first Pokémon theatrical feature.

Sort of like how 2017’s theatrical Pokémon feature, I Choose You, went back to the beginning of protagonist Ash’s/Satoshi’s journey to become a Pokémon Master, Japan’s next Pokémon movie is a retelling of the events of 1998’s Mewtwo Strikes Back, titled Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution. But while the story of Ash going up against a genetically engineered Pokémon that rebels against its human creators will be familiar, the visuals, as shown in this just-released trailer, are all-new, as this is the first time for a Pokémon anime to be full CG.

For long-time fans of the Pokémon anime, the trailer can look a little jarring. Yes, the Pokémon video games abandoned pixel graphics quite some time ago in favor of polygons, but the more sophisticated models used for Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution mean fewer vague details for your imagination to fill in, particularly since they don’t seem to incorporate any of the sort of cel-shading used in the games to give them a more hand-drawn look. The result is that some of the Pokémon species are smooth in texture that they look a little plasticky, almost like figures or toys (at the other end of the spectrum many of the Pokémon in the Detective Pikachu trailers look more scruffy than fluffy).

▼ “Incredibly smooth and shiny” are descriptors that can also be applied to the hindquarters of Team Rocket’s Jessie/Musashi.

But it’s the designs for the humans in Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution that are going to take the most time to get used to. Whereas the CG Pokémon are an extended evolution of what’s been gradually happening in the games over the past few decades, Ash has strictly been part of the anime arm of the franchise, and his cohorts Misty/Kasumi and Brock/Takeshi only show up in certain games, making for bigger gap between how fans generally picture them and these extra-detailed CG models.

▼ Brock’s constantly closed eyes, for example, seem quite a bit stranger when they’re rendered in a more realistic 3-D space.

That said, fans will no doubt be happy to see the old gang together again on the big screen after Brock and Misty were replaced by new characters in the last two Pokémon anime movies. And while the CG Pocket Monsters, at least right now, might not look as cute as their hand-drawn predecessors, Mewtwo does look unsettlingly sinister

Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution opens on July 12 in Japan.

Images: YouTube/ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル
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