This was easily one of the best announcement from Manga Entertainment earlier this year. Both the US and Australia have already seen a similar release, from Viz and Beyond Home Entertainment respectively. The UK release is available on Blu-ray as a trilogy Steelbook, while the DVD version is available as a trilogy in a standard Amaray case. Unlike the old Warner Bros. DVD releases, these releases are sourced from the new HD masters from the blu-ray box released in Japan a few years ago.
There’s hardly much point in explaining the plot to any of these three movies in too much detail at this point, most people, me included, have seen, and loved the early Pokemon movies to death. This trilogy is made up of the three movies for which Takeshi Shudou was the writer; he did also write the Mewtwo Returns TV special. These three movies are Pokemon at its best, and it’s also these movies that were the only ones to receive theatrical releases in the UK back in the day.
Pokemon The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back, the film which partially takes place alongside the original series, focuses on Mewtwo as he struggles to understand who and what he is. Created by humans, and merely a clone of Mew, Mewtwo rampages and takes over the lab where he was born, inviting trainers to battle him, so he can clone their Pokemon to make beings superior to the original. We’ve all cried during the scene in which Ash gives his life, albeit temporarily, and is revived by the tears of Pokemon.
Pokemon The Movie 2000: The Power of One sees Ash, once again saving the world, this time by collecting three orbs from islands within the Orange Archipelago. It starts off as part of a silly festival, but fate intervenes – when a collector starts imprisoning the legendary birds, the balance of nature is ruined, and Ash’s quest is given an actual meaning. Team Rocket are even around to lend a hand in this movie, which is a nice change.
Pokemon 3 The Movie – Spell of the Unown: Entei allows Ash to be the hero once again, when his mother is abducted by Entei, well, a fake Entei anyway. When a young girl’s father disappears, the mystical Unown grant her wishes – Entei is her father, Delia is her mother, and she gets to be a trainer in her crystalline palace. Ash and friends journey into the dangerous expanding palace in order to rescue his mother and stop the expansion.
These blu-rays use an all-new transfer, rather than the one used for the old Warner Bros. DVDs and Apple TV 720p streams, though not always to the benefit of the viewer. For the most part, however, it’s a massive improvement, and it’s great to see them on Blu-ray in the UK. Unlike the old DVD releases, we finally get to experience the movie as we did in the cinema all those years ago – without any PAL speedup ruining things. There were no problems with the video in this set – each movie looked stunning in HD, though it is a rather soft transfer, to begin with. The image is colourful; none of that depressing dullness from the ancient WB DVD releases. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem that anyone has gone overboard with their DNR – you can see imperfections in the source film, which always makes me smile when watching traditionally animated media. Being self-authored, the menu matches that of their movie 18 release from last month. Manga’s blu-rays are at least as good as those in other regions visually, with the only really noticeable visual issues being present on the releases of other regions as well.
The original video masters for the dubbed movie 3 were based on the Japanese theatrical masters; meaning the end shot with the zoom out of Molly’s house was beautiful and traditionally animated. The Japanese home video release was updated and made to look unrealistic and obnoxious with CGI; while Warner Bros. old HD version kept the traditionally animated footage, the TPCi version uses the Japanese CGI version. Weirdly, rather than use the credits video from the Japanese HD remaster, it seems an upscale of the old master was used with a less-than-flattering font being used for the credits. This awkward font issue also affects the second movie, though the first movie is perfectly fine.
Just like the US and AUS releases of this trilogy, there are no extras present on the discs; no music videos, no Pikachu shorts. Seeing as how Viz, Beyond, and Manga all authored their own releases, I’m assuming the lack of extras is down to TPCi rather than the distributor. Unfortunately, though, unlike the Australian release, the UK release lacks a Pikachu trading card. On top of this, while the Australian release featured 5.1 audio for the first two movies, Manga’s release is entirely stereo, much like the US release. Issues aside, I’ll be hoping Manga can follow this release up by bringing us the Diamond & Pearl movie quadrilogy blu-ray steelbook that has been scheduled for release in the US.
Manga's blu-ray release of the first three Pokemon movies, the Takeshi Shudou helmed trilogy, is long overdue. Although the release is technically worse for Region B viewers than the Australian version, the UK release is definitely the best value for money with all three movies on blu-ray and the steelbook, for around two thirds the cost of the Australian standard edition Blu-ray. I cannot emphasise enough that this trilogy Blu-ray is worth picking up; these three classic movies have never looked better. For the first movie especially, it's the first time it has been made available in widescreen outside of cinemas by the looks of it.