Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"One" - Pokemon Fanfic Review

Following the previously reviewed Pokemon fanfics "Everything Changes" and "Making My Way" is the sequel/spin-off "One", posted November 30th, 2000--February 14th, 2001 by Dragoness. It's significantly shorter than the previous fanfics, less than half as long. While "Making My Way" ends with Ash managing to avert a dark prophecy, "One" supposes he doesn't and explores the version in which Ash becomes a tyrannical warlord.

"One" is primarily about Ash being evil. He kills people; he enslaves people; he tries to take over the world. That's pretty much it. There's some stuff about Ash being conflicted as he feels some lingering sway from his good side, but it's pretty much just an exercise in torturing the innocent Pokemon characters.

Whereas "Making My Way" had Ash's dark side come out of nowhere, "One" at least tries to explain it as "the Disease", an evilness similar to Eli's vampirism in Let the Right One In that got into him through a psychic experience in "Making My Way". It still doesn't have any decent explanation of where it came from and why it's attracted to Ash besides that there is a prophecy that says a Dark Mew tries to destroy the world. Mewtwo was supposed to be the Dark Mew, but Mewtwo's motivation was clearly laid out in Mewtwo Strikes Back, while Ash is just evil because evidently the author found that interesting to write about.

Because Ash is no longer a Pokemon trainer and all battles are fights for survival, the fights are a lot more interesting to read than in the previous fanfics. Ash is the Pokemon fighting, so all battles have him right in the thick of it. Even though it's a foregone conclusion that Ash survives at least until the end of the story, I found a big fight between Ash and the Legendary Birds and Nekiro in Chapter 7: And Then There Was... to be quite engaging.

I like stories about evil overlords that explore the twisted relationships between the overlord and his or her subjects. "One" does this a bit with Ash enslaving his mother and former love interest Misty, but it doesn't go into nearly as much detail as I'd like. Ash just feels a touch guilty but an evil overlord's got to do what an evil overlord's got to do, with (again) not enough explanation as to why he does anything he does.

There is some exploration of identity issues. As the Dark Mew, Ash calls himself Ashura. In the "Everything Changes" universe, Ashura was what he was formally named, but his mother started calling him Ash after comparing him to an ash tree. Giovanni and Nekiro then called him Ashura when he preferred to be called Ash, and then when the Disease got into him, he had a vision of his human self claiming to be an Ash that died upon his evolution to Mew. In "One", the villain protagonist asserts the name Ashura against several previous friends who insist on calling him Ash. When an enslaved Eevee evolves into an Umbreon, he wonders if that means that the Eevee is now dead and a new being took his place. This can be thought of as an equivalent to the Ship of Theseus conundrum.

The problems with representing the different modes of communication are still there. Normal telepathy is rendered in text that looks no different than normal narrative text. You kind of just need to have an eye for it. Italics are primarily used for translations of Pokemon dialog, or Ash's internal thoughts. I think that could be handled simpler, though, such as through having italic text within quote marks to indicate what Pokemon are saying without the meaningless "Pikapika." Italics could then be used for telepathy, while internal thoughts could be represented within the simple narrative text.

By the way, I have to point out just how odd it is for a Pokemon to call the protagonist Ash through "Pikapika" and then have him respond with "Don't call me that!" Is "Pikapika" really that distinctive?

In general, "One" is just okay. It's a nice dark changeup in what you'd expect from a Pokemon fanfic, but nothing that special. I prefer the "Making My Way" ending, in which Ash commits suicide to keep the Dark Mew from coming out. "One" requires a spontaneously introduced character to get stuffed in the refrigerator before Celebi-ex-machina helps defeat the Dark Mew. How Celebi actually helps makes an intriguing end to the fanfc series, though. I really liked this series a decade ago, but I think it doesn't hold up well enough to continue to count "Everything Changes", "Making My Way", and "One" among my favorites.

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