Swordid business, really

I was at a party last night, and I sat down next to someone playing the new Pokémon.

We chatted a bunch. It was 4am, an ideal time for me to be chilling out, watching someone play. We started chatting about the games, and their evolution. I tried to chart where I stepped off from the franchise. I had Blue and Silver on my Game Boy/Game Boy colour. I emulated Sapphire and Leaf Green. I think I skipped Diamond/Pearl, then played White. X and Y, Sun and Moon and now I’m gonna skip Sword and Shield. I tried to track back how many consoles had existed and got lost. Apparently after the Game Boy Colour there was Advance, Advance SP (looked like a little make-up box), then Game Boy Micro. Did you come here to see me list things? I think I had a point, and largely it’s that I thought I was somewhat on top of things in the Pokémon universe, but I’m actually way behind. The games have continued to explode exponentially and I’m not with it. Cue the classic Simpsons clip. I used to pride myself on my insane Pokémon knowledge. I’d almost rote learned it by playing them so goddamn much. I knew what levels most Pokémon evolved, when they’d learn moves. I knew where most of the hidden items were in the game. I had all the puzzles memorised and could bust through Silph Co. in record time. I could easily finish the game without the Flash HM. Am I flexing? Only if you think this is all admirable behaviour.

These days, my knowledge has slipped into the realm of obsolescence. Things have changed, the world has moved on, and so have I. I still deeply love the franchise, but in a way that I understand is a relic. I don’t think I’ll ever truly play another Pokémon game, and I’m quite fine with that. I still get excited hearing about how the franchise evolves. I love learning about new evolutions, innovative features or spins in the game. That Alolan form thing was nifty, giving Pokémon new elemental types and designs. I did DV on an episode of Pokémon last night, and it was really neat to see just how expansive it’s all become. I was lost, with very few Pokémon I actually knew. It was kinda cool being out of touch, knowing that I had so much more to potentially learn.

It’s weird to think that this franchise is still a goddamn powerhouse. Between Pokémon Go, the aforementioned Sword and Shield, the (probably thousands of episodes by now) animated show still going strong, and Detective Pikachu hitting the screens this year, it’s kind of nuts. There are still toys, card games and apparel being churned out. As far as I know, it’s still massive in Japan, and Nintendo basically have a license to print money.

Yet Facebook, if you think I’m gonna follow the Bulbasaur Propaganda page that you suggested you’re dead wrong. I’ll heart react every post that comes across my news feed, sure, but I’m not giving you the satisfaction of being right.

Is there such a thing as a Nintendo Switch emulator yet?

Never without my kimchi

Y’know, I liked yesterday’s format. I feel like I’ve far from exhausted the subject of “here are some things I liked”, so I’m gonna keep on rollin’, baby.

Some more things I like:

  • Yesterday’s format.
  • Going to sleep with the blankets pulled right up to my chin.
  • Starting fun shared conversations with neighbouring tables at restaurants.
  • Videos showing moose doing awesome things.
  • Animals or soft toys with unusual colour schemes.
  • British spelling, as opposed to American.
  • When people use words I’ve never heard, then intentionally shoehorning those words into my conversations to get used to how they feel coming out of my mouth.
  • Dancing at weddings.
  • Making flippant conversation in places where that’s usually not the norm. Bathrooms, elevators, buses, etc.
  • The ritual of hand grinding coffee in the morning.
  • Eating a mince and cheese pie for the first time in ages.
  • That cool site where you can mix and match pokemon designs.
  • Having lemon juice and tomato sauce together, ’cause it reminds me of eating fish and chips at the beach.
  • Ordering the wrong thing by accident, and finding a new favourite food.
  • Eating kimchi from the jar with a fork.
  • Just how many of these happen to be food related.
  • When people make dresses out of CDs, and it has that neat rainbow effect.
  • Wearable art competitions.
  • Street art in Montreal (and probably other places too).
  • Colour schemes involving green/brown.
  • Surprising friends at restaurants when I pay the bill while they’re in the bathroom.
  • Being blown away by an immersive cinema experience.
  • Assigned seats at the movies, coming in late and skipping all the ads/trailers.
  • When you make a playlist, someone hears a song and is like “oh, I love this song and haven’t heard it in ages”.
  • Sitting down to tie my shoelaces.
  • Finding a comfortable model of shoe I can re-buy for years.
  • High fives that perfectly connect.
  • Eating leftovers on the same night, a few hours later, just ’cause it was that good.
  • Having leftovers the next day.
  • Putting leftovers into the freezer for the purpose of having them a day or two later.
  • Putting leftovers into the freezer, forgetting about them, then being surprised by an awesome pre-cooked meal.
  • Clothes that fit.
  • That photography piece with people 3 glasses of wine later. Just click the link.
  • Community S02E21.
  • Having an easy format I can go back to and just list things.

Please don’t expect me to be remotely objective here

Look, I know what you’re here for and I’m not one to pad for time. You want my thoughts on Detective Pikachu and you want them yesterday.

I’m gonna try my best to keep this spoiler free. Not because I think plot points were essential to the enjoyment of the film, but because don’t be a dick is integral to my being. Some people might care about this, and I’m not one to tell them not to. I got to see it in full innocence, and others should get to too.

This film was fine. I say this as someone who’s been an obvious franchise fan (fanchise?) for decades. There were a couple of twisty turns, but I don’t think any adults who’ve seen films before would be incapable of working out broad strokes. Things aren’t always what they seem, especially in a world of superpowered monsters where almost anything is possible. They have leeway, just saying. They don’t extend much of an olive branch to non-fans. They briefly explain pokémon technology and the premise. Sometimes they’ll double underline what a pokémon’s powers are, but mostly they assume you know your squirtle from your charmander. I can imagine that for parents bringing buzzing kids along, it’s mostly colourful noise, with a couple of fun lines. Entirely non-offensive.

That said, as a kids film it was probably pretty cool. While plotlines would be obvious to parents, likely less so for children without that tacit understanding of common narrative structures. There are some lightly touched-on lessons about not believing everything you see, skepticism of authority figures, etc. There’s some familial stuff, concepts of legacies and being the best you can be. The female lead isn’t perfect. She kind of gets shoehorned into a supportive position, but at the same time she’s confident, capable, hard working and ambitious. A positive enough role model for young girls. The lead guy was likeable, and while the pathos was generally tepid, he seemed a decent enough vicarious figure for kids to imagine themselves within the world of Pokémon.

Let’s go there next, to the pokémon. They did a great job. The animation was cute as hell, no nightmare Sonic scenarios here. It was neat seeing scale and perspective, which have always been kinda nebulous in the games, play out in a “real world” context. They nailed most of the pokémon’s characteristics, and it was truly a joy to see them within a societal framework. As a 32 year old male, I got a kick out of it, truly. They showcased a real assortment, and there may lie one of my central criticisms. We could’ve seen more pokémon. I’m sure they weren’t cheap to animate, and they probably got somewhere in the realms of 60-100 different types into the film. Still, there were large crowd scenes in which only a few types were around. If anything, the film focused so hard on narrative propulsion that it could easily have slowed down to fill out the world. It would’ve been cool for them to really dig into the Flintstones‘ “it’s a living” adaptation of pokémon using their powers to accomplish real world tasks.

As to my expectations, I assumed the film would either be a lot better or a lot worse. In my mind it was gonna nail the landing like Zootopia, or end up some woeful The Last Airbender adaptation. Instead the film was enjoyable. It wasn’t a challenging cinematic experience, nor was it transcendent. I had a good time. It zipped along and I never found myself bored. I’m not gonna say that the exposition was fantastically handled, but there were a ton of excellent one liners. It was genuinely funny, and the pokémon were without doubt the stars of the show. I had a blast seeing Bill Nighy crunch his way through the pronunciation of pokémon names, and I got the sense that the cast had a great time putting it together. Visually it was gorgeous, taking a huge lead from the original Blade Runner. Lots of purples, blues and neon hues atop a rainy backdrop. The Who Framed Roger Rabbit influences were abundant, and a sweet way to bring us along for the journey. Pokémon battles felt suitably engrossing on the big screen. At the end of the film I asked myself whether or not I’d see another live action Pokémon movie, given the chance.

Who am I kidding? Of course I would.

Oh shit, I forgot to shoehorn something in about Mother’s Day. Uh, pretend I said the word “pokémom”…

This is perfect.

It’s drizzly out, we have single digit temperatures in May, I’ve got nowhere to be until Game of Thrones tonight. A total lack of responsibility means that, yes, it’s finally time to watch Detective Pikachu. A fun and dumb blockbuster with no greater rumination on life’s meaning. Maybe at worst Mewtwo will wax philosophical on the pain of existence. Mostly though, it’ll have a shit ton of in-jokes that won’t make sense to casual scrubs. Maybe some Zootopia style analogues as to how pokémon would acclimate to society. The series walks the line on whether pokémon are just innocent animals or possessive of self-determinism. I don’t expect the film to overly clarify it. My only expectation is a broadly enjoyable, forgettable film experience that underlines “experience”. Just a silly fantasy narrative I can lose myself in. Perfect.

I’m sure more than once I’ll think back to the Pokémon Party I threw at the release of the first film. We were so damn young, maybe 11 or 12. At the same time, we were old enough that we felt slightly weird about going to a kid’s cartoon. Sorta on the edge of normie acceptability, y’know? We all met up at the movie. We were hyped. There was a big ol’ pikachu mascot wandering around, taking photos with fans. My friend’s little brother ran up and kicked it, which set us off laughing. We got too much candy, big cups of soft drink. We all got our special promo Pokémon TCG cards and I got the Mewtwo I’d been crossing my fingers over. It was fucking awesome. The movie was a blast, not because it was necessarily amazing cinema, but being in one place surrounded by so many other fans was a total thrill.

It was a sense of community before we knew how formative that could be. Sure, Pokémon was nothing niche, holding the throne of popularity that Marvel does these days. At the same time, it was the crux of stuff I loved. Anime hadn’t hit it big yet. Video games were still the domain of social rejects. There were cool monsters that had their own distinct personalities, and sometimes you identified with them. Everyone had a favourite for their own personal reasons. It came to form part of my identity during an absurdly transformational period. At this point, despite not interacting with it all that much, a love of Pokémon is hard baked into my DNA (which makes me better understand how Disney Brides are made).

And now, as a 32 year old adult, I’m going to go downtown to buy a bunch of candy and a ticket to see Detective Pikachu. I’m going to turn adulthood off for a few hours, and have a goddamn blast.

Just perfect.

There’s no chance I trust a politician more than a pokémon

I don’t get excited for blockbusters much anymore.

It’s not blockbusters’ fault. I’ve become a boring grouchmeister who hates fun. It probably has more to do with weird internal bias against these obscene media conglomerates (who, for the record have ALWAYS been making these movies), and a heavy dose of contratianism. If I tried just a little I’m sure I could whip up some kind of argmuent about paint by numbers scripts that shit the bed in the third act, and resort to a blue pillar of light splitting the heavens in lieu of compelling plot development. Maybe I’d throw something out there in general about the overreliance on CGI instead of effective but time consuming practical effects (see Mad Max: Fury Road for some ace practical effects).

Mostly though, I think I’m tired of the implication that franchises are something I’m supposed to give a shit about. I abhor the idea that I’m obliged to go to the cinema because I’ve seen 15 fucking Marvel movies and FOMO means that there’s any reason I need to see a three hour slugfest devoid of character development. Some of these movies just aren’t very good. But that’s okay, lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of people really like them, they’ll make terrifying amounts of money and it’s 100% fine for me to not get into everything. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them. They’re just not for me anymore. Something something 1 Corinthians 13:11.

Which is why it’s baffling how excited I am for Detective Pikachu.

I know that it’s a big budget blockbuster. I know that it’s an incredibly popular franchise. I know that at some point there’ll probably be a pillar of blue light splitting the heavens. Frankly, when I first heard the project announced my immediate thought was wow, unnecessary. I haven’t played the Detective Pikachu game. I don’t know what it is about Pikachu other than its popularity that would lend itself towards detective work. I’m not sure why they’d choose it as a plot for a major live action blockbuster.

It looks fun as hell though.

Make no mistake, I spent a ton of years OBSESSED with Pokémon. I even know the alt code for that little French “e” thing (it’s alt+130) by heart. I knew the pokérap by heart. I caught all 151 pokémon on gameboy. I kept playing the games up to Generation V (2010). I still know a ton about the franchise. But it’s been a while. Aside from getting heavily into Pokémon Go for a while there, I haven’t kept up, and that’s fine. There have been a few new games in the past nine years. There have been new animated movies, the TV show, etc etc. It’s been going strong and I haven’t. I’ve sorta left Pokémon behind.

Watching the trailer has stirred something in me, however. I’m not sure exactly what it is. It seems like it’s gonna have an irreverent sense of humour. I like Reynolds, and I’m sure he’ll nail the juxtaposition of hard boiled detective in a fuzzy yellow mouse. More than anything, I’m dying to see how they conceive of a society in which humans and pokémon co-exist. If you’ve watched Zootopia (and who hasn’t at this point? It’s delightful), it’s quickly apparent just how much effort they expended brainstorming the ways in which animals would adapt to a human style environment replete with technology. The games always double underlined that pokémon fit into the everyday lifestyle of the world, but the format was kind of limiting. I want to see pokémon walking the streets of a major intersection, faced by total nonchalance. I want to know about the societal structure. Is it capitalist? Do pokémon have jobs? What about status? Do they have the same rights as people? Are there elections and do pokémon vote?

Most of all, there’s an absurd amount of creative ground this film could cover. By this point there are a metric fuckton of pokémon. You could take almost any tack and still be within the bounds of this mythology. There’s almost any scenario in which certain pokémon’s skills or habits could be applicable. It’s frankly kind of surprising that there hasn’t been a live action Pokémon film yet, and I’m sure if Detective Pikachu is successful it’ll very quickly become a franchise I’ll get tired of.

Man oh man though, I’m looking forward to this one.

Nothing adventured, nothing gained.

I was thinking today, what would I do if a wizard popped up out of nowhere and said “Hey Leon, you like pokémon, right? Wanna live in a world of pokémon?”

In this scenario, I’d be transported to an alternate realm where pokémon roamed the land. I don’t need to deep dive into an explanation, right? The conceit rings true? Exploring, capturing and training pokémon, battling at gyms. A life of constant adventure, making friends and memories. Having a stable of pets to grow close with. Intelligent creatures who could learn, grow and evolve.

The caveat, of course (cause next to spells, those are wizards’ favourite things) is that I’d have to leave my existence behind. Friends? Gone. Loved ones? Poof. As if they never were. My girlfriend, the woman I wake up beside every morning? Nada. She’d be back here in this reality. The life I’ve spent years cultivating and crafting for myself? All that hardship and horizontal movement? My bank accounts? Possessions? Kaput. All given to the void so I could travel the land in a Hakuna Matata state of being.

It’s a harder choice than it first seems, because how can we not build attachment to the life we put our heart and soul into. Is love something that can simply be dropped at will? Of course it isn’t. The bonds of a relationship are forged through diligence and perseverance. You earn the people around you by virtue of giving back to them. Think about all that effort, vanished in an instant. Think about your feelings, cursed to still be tethered. Permanently unrequited. With time they’d fade, but imagine losing your everything all at once. Wouldn’t you be reeling?

But on the flipside, you’d get to form whole new attachments. I dropped most everything when I moved from NZ to Canada. Okay, that’s a falsehood of sorts. The internet exists. I still had contact. The fact that I’m useless at maintaining connections over geographical boundaries is a moot point. Others aren’t so dumpy when it comes to keeping in touch. On the other hand, I’d get to constantly see new sights. I’d be lost in a world where hard work could pay off through my devotion to training. I’d have the chance to discover new parts of myself. To really harness the opportunity to put myself out there. Because that’s what this really is. This whole scenario is simply weighing up the call to adventure against the comfort of security and attachment.

Out of the two, which pulls to me more?

Which is to say, I’ve entirely buried the lede. All this preamble and pokémon rhetoric was just a ruse to say that I’ve taken the call to adventure. Sorry fam. I’m auditioning for a friend’s play tomorrow. I think. Maybe. I put my application in awful late (like 15 minutes ago late). My girlfriend is too. We went out to an info night on Tuesday after I nudged her to audition. She’s a terrific performer and it’s been too long since she’s had stage time. I think she’d do a fantastic job and the whole production is right up her alley.

As for me? Going with her to the info night, it sounded like a really fun troupe. I used to adore acting and I’d low key been thinking maybe I’d try out for something small in Toronto eventually. Knowing the friend who’s directing/co-wrote, it’d be a great time. I remember so fondly the times I’d spend in high school or university hanging around with a cast. My social circles were swarming with theatre geeks and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. They’re generally pretty creative, spontaneous folks. Plus most of them are a blast to drink with. I’d be very happy to sacrifice my spare time to re-engage in that kind of environment. I guess we’ll see if I even get an audition before raising any kinds of hopes.

Adventure, I choose you!

So far away that a flock of seagulls couldn’t catch me.

A good day at work for once? How does that even happen? Most likely a decent sleep and great weather rubbed off on me. In truth, work has been unremarkable, but if the alternative is a clusterfuck, then unremarkable is excellent. It’s all relative. Like grandparents. Relatives.

The best part of the day was being able to get out and go for a run. “Whaaaaat?”, you might gasp and sputter. I ran. In Toronto. On my lunch break. Because today had a high of 14 fucking degrees. Fahrenheit? NO. CELSIUS, BITCHEZZZ.

*Ahem* Let’s try that again, but without the flagrant over-enthusiasm.

Today’s weather has been swell. Jolly. Righteous and filled to the brim with spiffiness. Being able to leave the building and go for a 5km jog was a highlight. Breathing in the air coming off the lake (except for the godawful smell of burning sugar from the refinery next door. How does a scent so innocuous sounding end up smelling like carrion?), feeling the sun soaking into my skin. My heart was thumping in my chest comfortably, a reassuring swell indicating that not only am I alive, but I’m really living. It’s like that primal sensation of having cut wood or the like. Calloused hands, worked muscles humming. You might be tired, but there’s an assurance that what you did was working towards a purpose. Going for a run made me feel lighter, like a gazelle leaping along the grizzled “urban jungle” of Toronto’s waterfront. Any lions dumb enough to chase me down would have to earn their meal. Dripping sweat in a light breeze gave me a sense of indomitably. Blame endorphins, but nothing was gonna bring me down.

Of course, nothing goes quite so hand in hand (or phone in hand, rather) with running as Pokémon Go. Continuing the theme of today being a great day, the app delivered with panache. Which is to say it still crashed every few minutes and immense tasks such as clicking on a pokestop was enough to throw the system into chaos and lag. Does everyone struggle like this? Maybe I need a new phone. Still, running along the waterfront was the perfect way to look out for rare pokémon, or at the very least trawl for Magikarp.

I found a super low cp one, but figured Magikarp candy is Magikarp candy. I threw pokeball after pokeball, but nothing was sticking. Maybe eight wasted pokeballs later, this was getting farcical. The thing had 49 cp for fucks sake. It was silly, more than anything. I figured why the hell not? It was giving me enough trouble that I wanted it all the more. I tossed a berry its way, then grabbed an ultraballs and tested the waters. One wobble. Two. Three. Settled. Finally. Then the screen darkened and the centre glowed white. What the hell was happening? I just wanted to get it appraised in case it was somehow special. As the screen came back to focus, I discovered it was special. In fact it wasn’t even a Magikarp. I’d finally caught the elusive Ditto. Surprise!

If that wasn’t neato enough, my 10k egg hatched me a Larvitar with decent stats. They’ve been pretty elusive so far, bring the initial component of 2nd gen’s rival to Dragonite. Speaking of which, I picked up a good Dratini today too. Maybe I’ll finally get that Dragonite I’ve been looking for. Do I really see myself getting competitive enough to start attacking gyms again? Who knows? I’ve got enough candy to evolve a Gyarados now, maybe I’m moving towards a workable team. Which in the end is silly, because if I really cared about decent battling I’d get the Game Boy game instead.

Who cares? The sun is setting on a brilliant day. I’ve got no responsibilities left before bed tonight. Hakuna Matata and all that jazz.