Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Making My Way" - Pokémon Fanfic Review

Well, the next fanfic in my old favorites list is the Pokémon fanfic "Making My Way" by Dragoness, sequel to the previously reviewed "Everything Changes", also by Dragoness, posted June 18th, 2000--February 13th, 2001. Despite having evolved into a Mew, Ash is still determined to become the very best Pokémon Master that no one ever was; however, the changes done to the universe in "Everything Changes" put Ash in the middle of a prophecy that could have disastrous consequences.

The fanfic focuses on Ash's difficulties fitting in with human society as a Mew. The fic addresses one of the things I have difficulty accepting in the Pokemon world, which is that the Pokemon are treated as tools by the humans despite many displaying equivalent or even superior intelligence. Even Mewtwo Strikes Back doesn't address this issue, though it had perfect opportunity to with Mewtwo. The "Everything Changes" backstory (gone into in the sidestory "The Legend of Mew") has it that ancient humans regarded Pokemon as cousins but became arrogant and lost the ability to evolve. Nowadays, Ash has it tough, not knowing if he'll be respected as a Pokemon trainer or considered simply a Pokemon to be captured and trained by humans, and so he hides in a fake human form created through the Mew's Transform ability. I wish "Making My Way" would explore the issue more than it does, but at least it brings it up, and I know of another fanfic (Farla's "Pokemon Revolution") that really addresses the issue.

The Ash/Giovanni conflict continues, with Giovanni both in the role of evil mob boss and jackass absentee father. He is truly wicked in his actions toward Ash, but at the same time he wants to resume his domestic role. Given that he is such a scumbag, I kind of resent the idea that we're supposed to feel sorry for him as a guy who wants to be Ash's father but has no idea how to do it properly. Characters suggest to Ash that he not hold a grudge against him, but he's so abusive that Ash is perfectly jusified in not wanting to reconcile with him--obviously! Ash's slight feelings of forgiveness ought not to be considered the duty of a son, but something above and beyond the call of duty and an indication of his god-like Mew status. To err is human; to forgive, Legendary.

The prophecy element of the plot, saying that Ash has a potential for great evil, is intriguing but poorly handled. The Mews have a prophecy that the last Mew to come into existence will be the Dark Mew, who will try to destroy the world. It's implied that Mewtwo would have been the fabled Dark Mew if fanfic author Dragoness hadn't changed reality by making Ash a Mew after Mewtwo's creation, but Mewtwo has a motivation that makes sense even if it is deluded. It's essentially the same problem as Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader, in that it's too jarring a transition between Ash's caring and power-hungry sides. At least in Star Wars, though, there's a bit where Anakin seeks power to help people, which then slips into him wanting power for power's sake. It may not make much sense, but George Lucas at least tried to put in a transition. In "Making My Way", Ash's dark side seems to just want power because... prophecy says. It may not be set up right, but I at least like the way the plot is resolved.

One thing that I like about the fanfic is that it takes violence seriously. Whenever something really brutal happens, it's treated like it's brutal. There's realistic physical and psychological damage, with Ash having PTSD flashbacks long after he's injured. Even the violence he commits that is perfectly justifiable has a negative effect on his psyche, the way one would expect a kind boy like Ash to react.

The fanfic continues its problems about differentiating telepathic communication and simple lines of thought, though it's a little better with its inconsistent use of italics to indicate internal thought and inconsistent use of lowercase to indicate projected thought. In Chapter 20: Gathering, there is a scene with several psychic characters having a dialog consisting of unstylized lines alongside Ash's unstylized narration. It's very confusing.

The Pokemon battle scenes are a tad more interesting but are still skimable. Ash's struggle to become Pokemon Master just isn't given much effort. It's a given that he'll succeed because he's Ash. As with "Everything Changes", the fight scenes with Team Rocket are considerably more detailed and interesting to read.

One of the biggest problems is its lack of characterization. The fic has a huge collection of characters, but the only ones given any decent focus are Ash, Giovanni, and Gary. There's a love triangle where Misty and Mayo are competing for Ash's affection while he's too ignorant to notice, but only Mayo really has a presence. Because I know Misty from the show, I can fill in with what I understand about the character, but she isn't represented particularly well. Opportunity is missed where the characters could go into how they feel about Ash's transformation and how it affects their desire to get with him, which is what should be on most people's minds. There's also a Dr. Grey, formally of Team Rocket (kind of an exported Prof. Fuji), who we're supposed to care about as a person now victimized by Team Rocket, but he's so flat that I can't care about him at all.

In general, "Making My Way" presents some interesting ideas, but it doesn't hold up particularly well. It's greatest strength is its Ash angst. Though the other characters have characterization issues, the Ash of "Making My Way" is an interesting character, going beyond the Mary Sue of the show. If Dragoness put the same effort into building up the minor characters, the fanfic would be much improved.

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