The latest Pokémon movie opens with a fundamental crisis, with the future of The Diamond Domain in peril. The Carbink, a tribe of peaceful, rock-like creatures have relied on a huge glimmering gemstone to keep the land flourishing. But now the diamond is showing signs of decay, thus sending their underground cavern careening toward cataclysm. Hope lay in Diancie, the realm’s resident princess, who as an evolved Carbink has the potential to create a new energy source, saving the community from disaster. But when her attempt to create a new diamond fails, she sets out on a journey to find the Legendary Life Pokémon Xerneas, who might be able to help her fulfill her destiny.
The avoidance of stagnation isn’t just a thematic device for Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction, it’s also a metaphor for the predicament faced by the Pokémon Company. After more than sixty games, seventeen films, and a Pokédex that’s reached 718 Pocket Monsters, the franchise faces a Diamond Domain-like dilemma, as it struggles to maintain momentum across the globe. In Japan, the July release of a Pokémon movie frequently breaks box office records, but stateside, the films have lost a bit of their theatrical luster. While the first five motion pictures were shown in cinemas, subsequent movies have gone the straight to home-video route, save for the Pokémon Black Version and White Version Mall Tour and limited screenings of White—Victini and Zekrom. While the DVD release of Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction might not be capable of single-handedly rekindling Poké-fever in the U.S., it’s still a worthwhile purchase for both young and mature Pocket Monster enthusiasts.
First, the good news: this is the unabridged, ninety-minute version of the film, without any of the cuts intended to free up commercial time when the movie was premiered on the Cartoon Network. Beyond the main film, the disc also contains a five- minute prequel which shows Diancie’s departure from her overprotective kin. While it’s not an indispensable addition, the short helps to develop the likable character.
Princess Diancie’s desire to break free from the colony of Carbink and enjoy more typical experiences like going shopping or the camaraderie of a group of friends are concepts that are continued in the main film. Following a brief prologue, the compassionate and consistently well-mannered royal befriends Ash, Serena, Clemont, and Bonnie, discovering the joys of a plebian life. Wisely, Cocoon of Destruction never rests too long, with scenes of light-hearted antics punctuated with trainer battles at regular intervals. These stem from the movie’s abundance of antagonists. Beyond Team Rocket, Marilyn Flame, Ninja Riot, Millis Steel and her father Argus all attempt to capture Diancie in the hopes of exploiting her diamond making capability. During the final act of the film, the threat of the Legendary Destruction Pokémon Yveltal lingers over the plot- with the formidable creature casting a particularly perilous shadow over the proceedings.
With such a sizable roster and an effort to keep battles shorts, many of Cocoon of Destruction’s foes are enfeebled. Most offer little in the way of menace as their given a diminutive amount of screen time, with Marilyn and her companion seemingly remarkably weak. To even out the odds, Diancie’s been undermined as well, with her hovering ability transformed to a clumsy hop that always put her in reach of her captors. While it endows the film with tension, the decision to debilitate the character might not sit well with viewers hoping to see an animated representation her exclusive Diamond Storm technique.
Fortunately, everyone’s favorite canary-colored, cherubic is given plenty of screen time, mending an oversight from previous Pokémon films. Here, Pikachu is given a significant role, whether adding comic relief when he’s perusing the dessert buffet or showing his raw potential with an astounding Thunderbolt. Wisely, Cocoon of Destruction’s writers utilize the Pikachu’s range, leading to a number of scenes that illustrate the bond between Ash and the loveable character. As such, the film’s level of tension can escalate, but the movie never becomes too intense for younger viewers. For adults, there’s plenty also plenty to enjoy- from the showdown hinted at by the Pokémon X/Y box covers to the humorous reference to confining tentacles.
Woefully, there are a few drawbacks to the release as well. When the film was released overseas, it was preceded by Pikachu, What’s This Key?, a charming short that didn’t make it on the disk. When the Pokémon anime first aired in 1998, an English dub was understandable, as many audiences were accustomed to animation accompanying by Japanese dialog. But in the ensuing years, viewing habits have broadened. As such, it’s puzzling to see why Pokémon releases still don’t have the option for multi-language viewing.
Visually, Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction is competent, offering consistently clean picture quality and a reasonable amount of fluidity in the animation. While dissonance emerges when the traditional cell-based animation is used alongside liquefied CG-assets, it’s a minor transgression and one that many viewers will forgive. Characters are pleasingly drawn, but it’s the backdrops that are often the highlights of each screen, showcasing lush forests, shadowy caves, and the attention grabbing displays of a shopping mall. Nicely, VIZ Media’s encoding reveals no artifacting, even in the darker subterranean settings.
Although Pokémon movies have lost a bit of stateside status, Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction demonstrates continuing to evolve. While it may not be one of the best full-length features (Both Pokémon: The First Movie and Genesect and the Legend Awakened trump it) it’s still easily recommended to franchise fans. What’s more, the movie can be enjoyed by a variety of audiences, making it ideal for Pokémon-adoring parents hoping to share their enthusiasm with the next generation.