Pokémon: The First Movie
Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama
Produced by Tomoyuki Igarashi
Takemoto Mori
Choji Yoshikawa
Written by Takeshi Shudo
Starring Veronica Taylor
Rachael Lillis
Eric Stuart
Ikue Ootani
Phillip Bartlett
Maddie Blaustein
Michael McGaharn
Ted Lewis
Music by Shinji Miyazaki
Hirokazu Tanaka
Cinematography Hisao Shirai
Editing by Toshio Henmi
Yutaka Itō
Studio OLM, Inc.
Distributed by Nintendo Pictures (All versions)
TMS version:
Streamline Pictures
ITC Entertainment
4Kids version:
Screen Gems Pictures (1999-2006)
Carolco Pictures (2007-present)
Optimum version:
Universal Pictures
Manga Entertainment, Inc.
British version:
Manga Entertainment, Ltd.
Release date(s) Japan
July 18, 1998
North America
November 12, 1999 (original release)
April 13, 2007 (IMAX release)
Running time 100 min.
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Gross revenue $85,744,662 (domestic)
$77,900,000 (overseas)
$163,644,662 (worldwide)
Followed by Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns
Pokémon: The Movie 2000

Pokémon: The First Movie, known in Japan as Pocket Monsters Mewtwo no Gyakushū (ポケットモンスター ミュウツーの逆襲 Poketto Monsutā Myūtsū no Gyakushū?, lit. "Pocket Monsters Mewtwo Strikes Back") is a 1998 Japanese animated film directed by Kunihiko Yuyama, the chief director of the Pokémon television series. It is the first theatrical release in the Pokémon franchise.

The title Mewtwo Strikes Back is a direct translation of the movie's Japanese name, Mewtwo no gyakushū, which can also be interpreted as Mewtwo's Counterattack.

As Pokémon were extremely popular when the film was released, it was a box office hit worldwide. It primarily consists of three segments: Pikachu's Vacation, a 20+ minute feature focusing on the most popular Pokémon character Pikachu; Origin of Mewtwo, a 10-minute featurette that functions as a prologue to the main feature; and Mewtwo Strikes Back, the main 75-minute movie feature. However, the United States dub version by 4Kids Entertainment omitted "Origin of Mewtwo" from the package before its U.S. theatrical run due to its dark nature, as the target MPAA rating was a G; it was partially restored in the movie's release on VHS and DVD. The featurette was eventually dubbed and restored as a special feature in the U.S. release of the direct-to-video follow-up movie sequel Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns.

The film was re-released in IMAX by Carolco Pictures using the DMR process and was re-released on VHS in March 2008 in widescreen by Carolco Home Video. All Carolco releases include "Origin of Mewtwo" in full, and this version was re-rated PG "for some tense moments". The film was also re-released on DVD on April 7, 2009 by Carolco as part of a two-disc release called Pokémon: The First Three Movies.


Pikachu's VacationEdit

Pikachu's Vacation (ピカチュウのなつやすみ Pikachū no Natsuyasumi?) is a 21-minute short movie that is shown before Mewtwo Strikes Back in both the theatrical and the DVD version of the main movie. It is the first of the “Pikachu shorts” in what would be a traditional process of hosting a 20+ minute mini-movie before the main Pokémon feature that would last up until the 6th movie. Pikachu's Vacation, like the five Pikachu shorts that would follow, focuses primarily on an action-packed affair involving solely the Pokémon seen from the anime as they take part in a scenario that eventually illustrates a moral.

In Pokémon fan communities, Pikachu's Vacation was noted for introducing the never-before-seen Pokémon character Snubbull (albeit spelled Snubble), as well as the first primary anime appearance of the already popular Marill. This became a tradition for all Pikachu shorts, as they were used to introduce new Pokémon from the upcoming “generations” of Pokémon games, cards, and anime material.

When Ash and his friends stumble upon a Pokémon-only vacation resort, they decide to let their Pokémon have a day of fun and relaxation and let all their Pokémon out as the trainers go relaxing on their own. Pikachu and the Pokémon (Bulbasaur, Charizard, Squirtle, Pidgeotto, Geodude, Onix, Vulpix, Zubat, Staryu, Goldeen, Psyduck, and Togepi) go off into the resort and immediately contend with an unhappy Togepi, which they succeed in doing. Soon, a group of border-ruffian Pokémon comprised of a Raichu, Cubone, Snubbull, and Marill come along and immediately cause trouble for Pikachu's group. The ensuing standoff soon becomes a series of competitions such as a swimming race. Their increasingly passionate rivalry soon comes to a standstill when Pikachu's companion Charizard finds its head stuck in a tight storage receptacle. Putting aside their squabble, Pikachu and Raichu's groups join together to release Charizard, and they soon find themselves as friends for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, Pikachu and his fellow Pokémon leave the resort with fond memories and new friends and rejoin their trainers.

Mewtwo Strikes BackEdit

The Pokémon Mewtwo was created in an island laboratory from the DNA of Mew, a rare Pokémon believed to be extinct, recovered from fossilized remains. Displeased with the concept of being nothing more than a mere lab experiment, Mewtwo destroys the laboratory. Shortly afterward, he meets Giovanni, the head of Team Rocket, who proposes a partnership with the Pokémon in exchange of helping him control his powers. Mewtwo is "trained" over the next few months, being pitted against challengers in Giovanni's gym and restraining Pokémon for Team Rocket to capture. Mewtwo eventually realizes that Giovanni is merely using him as a tool and destroys his headquarters. Mewtwo flies back to the island where he was created and begins plotting revenge against humanity.

Meanwhile, Ash Ketchum and his friends Misty, Brock, Pikachu, and all their Pokémon companions receive an invitation to a party hosted by the world's "best Pokémon Master" on New Island. Ash and his friends are excited and rush to the docks in an attempt to catch a boat to New Island, but a storm is mysteriously formed and all boat rides to the island are canceled. Undeterred, several trainers make their way out to the island by riding their Pokémon, though neither Ash nor his friends have any Pokémon of their own that can help them safely navigate the stormy sea. Disguised as a pair of Vikings, Team Rocket offers the trio a lift to the island, but their small wooden boat is destroyed by a wave. Ash and his friends manage to reach the island with their aquatic Pokémon (Team Rocket also washes up there), and are escorted inside the palace on the island.

Mewtwo reveals himself to Ash, his friends, and three other trainers who braved the storm to be the "best Pokémon Master," and that he had created the storm with his powers to test the trainers’ will. After being berated by Mewtwo for the relationships they share with their Pokémon, Ash and some of the other trainers challenge Mewtwo, who pits their Pokémon against clones of Charizard, Blastoise and Venusaur, which easily defeat the trainers' Pokémon. Mewtwo proceeds to steal everyone’s Pokémon, including Ash’s Pikachu, with a special set of Poké Balls.

Ash pursues his Pokémon as they are taken deep into a cloning facility on the island and rescues them while they are being cloned. The clones join with Mewtwo and the cloning machine explodes, releasing all the captured Pokémon. Mewtwo announces his intentions to overthrow humanity with his army of Pokémon and rule the world. Ash is saved from Mewtwo's wrath by Mew, the rare, playful Pokémon having appeared periodically before, who engages Mewtwo. A brutal battle between the trainers' Pokémon and their clones erupts, although Pikachu refuses to fight with its own clone.

The trainers are unable to bear this senseless violence, even while the two sides grow fatigued and Mew and Mewtwo continue fighting (even causing Team Rocket to renounce their evil ways). In an attempt to put an end to the ordeal, Ash throws himself in between Mew and Mewtwo while they attack, turning him to stone. In their grief, Pikachu and the other Pokémon cry and mourn for Ash, though their tears revive him. As everyone rejoices, Mewtwo has a change of heart over the relationship between humans and Pokémon and leaves the island with his cloned Pokémon, erasing everyone else's memory of the horrifying incident, knowing it's for the best (though this means Team Rocket ends up turning bad again). Ash and his friends find themselves back on the docks with no idea how they got there. Ash looks up to the sky and spots Mew flying away, and recounting to his friends how he saw a rare Pokémon on the first day of his journey.

Voice castEdit

Character name Voice actor (Japanese) Voice actor (American English Streamline/TMS) Voice actor (American English 4Kids) Voice actor (Canadian English Manga) Voice actor (British English) Voice actor (Latin American Spainsh)
Satoshi ("Ash Ketchum") Rica Matsumoto (松本 梨香) Lara Cody (credited as Deanna Morris) Veronica Taylor Susan Roman Susan Sheridan Gabriel Ramos
Pikachu Ikue Ōtani Ikue Ōtani Ikue Ōtani Ikue Ōtani Ikue Ōtani Ikue Ōtani
Kasumi ("Misty") Mayumi Iizuka Barbara Goodson (credited as Barbara Larsen) Rachael Lillis Katie Griffin Toni Barry Xóchitl Ugarte
Takeshi ("Brock") Yūji Ueda (上田 祐司) Rupert Grint (credited as Ian Thornton) Eric Stuart Ron Rubin Alan D. Marriott Gabriel Gama
Togepi Satomi Kōrogi (こおろぎ さとみ) Satomi Kōrogi Satomi Kōrogi Satomi Kōrogi Satomi Kōrogi Satomi Kōrogi
Musashi ("Jessie") Megumi Hayashibara Edie Mirman Rachael Lillis Jennifer Gould Liza Ross Diana Pérez
Kojirō ("James") Shinichirō Miki (三木 眞一郎) Steve Kramer Eric Stuart Kevin Lynd Garrick Hagon José Antonio Macías
Nyarth ("Meowth") Inuko Inuyama Robert Axelrod Adam Blaustein (†) Roland Parliament Allan Wenger Gerardo Vázquez
Sakaki ("Giovanni") Hirotaka Suzuoki (†) Stephen Apostolina Ted Lewis Dennis Akayama Sean Barrett Alejandro Villeli
Junsa ("Officer Jenny") Chinami Nishimura Rebecca Forstadt (credited as Reba West) Lee Leigh Sarah Lafleur Anne Marie Lawless
Nurse Joy Ayako Shiraishi Wendee Lee Megan Hollingshead Emilie Barlow Briony Glassco
Mewtwo Masachika Ichimura
Showtaro Morikubo (Radio drama)
Fujiko Takimoto (Radio drama, young)
Steve Bulen Phillip Bartlett Tony Daniels Eric Meyers Enrique Mederos (†)
Mew Kōichi Yamadera Kōichi Yamadera Kōichi Yamadera Kōichi Yamadera Kōichi Yamadera Kōichi Yamadera
Fushigidane (Bulbasaur) Tony Oliver Tara Jayne Eduardo Garza
Zenigame (Squirtle) Eric Stuart
Doctor Fuji Yōsuke Akimoto Bob Bergen Alexander Davis Vince Corraza Allan Wenger José Manuel Rosano
Narrator Unshō Ishizuka John Fiedler (†) Ken Gates Tony Daniels Don LaFontaine (†) Gerardo Vázquez
Lizardon ("Charizard") Shinichirō Miki Shinichirō Miki Shinichirō Miki Shinichirō Miki Shinichirō Miki Shinichirō Miki
Kamex ("Blastoise (Shell Shocker")) Tesshō Genda Greg Snegoff Michael McGaharn Sean Barrett


Kunihiko Yuyama directed the original Japanese version of the film, while Choji Yoshikawa served as that version's producer and Takeshi Shudo served as the writer. Norman J. Grossfeld then the president of 4Kids, served as the English-language film's producer. Grossfeld, Michael Haigney and John Touhey wrote the English adaptation, and Michael Haigney served as the English version's voice director. The English version editors translated various Japanese texts, including text on signs and on buildings, into English. Shogakukan digitally altered the backgrounds for the U.S. English version.

Grossfeld said that the English-language producers rescored the music since the new music "would better reflect what American kids would respond to." John Loeffler of Rave Music produced the English-language music and composed the music with Ralph Schuckett. Loeffler collaborated with John Lissauer and Manny Corallo to produce the English-language "Pikachu's Vacation" score. Grossfeld said that the English version of the film "combines the visual sense of the best Japanese animation with the musical sensibility of Western pop culture."[1]

Box officeEdit

For the movie's theatrical release, select theaters would give away exclusive Pokémon trading cards, to capitalize on the success of the trading card game. The cards featured likenesses of Electabuzz, Pikachu, Mewtwo, and Dragonite, and were dispensed in random order for each week it was in that particular theater. The subsequent releases of Pokémon: The Movie 2000 and Pokémon 3: The Movie featured a similar marketing campaign. For the 2000 VHS/DVD release of The First Movie, a limited edition Mewtwo card (different from that used for the theatrical release) was packaged with the video.

The film was a box office hit, making $10,096,848 on its Wednesday opening day, an impressive tally of $31,036,678 over the Friday-to-Sunday span, and a stellar total of $50,754,104 since its Wednesday launch, in at the time, in an ultra-wide 3,043 theaters, averaging to about $10,199 per venue over the three day span, and ranking as the number one film at the box office for that weekend, however collapsed 59.72% in its second weekend to $12,502,869, but bringing the 12-day cume to a still impressive $67,372,092. It closed on Thursday February 27, 2000 making $85,744,662 in North America, and internationally it made $77,900,000. All together, the film made $163,644,662, making it the highest-grossing anime film in the United States and the third highest-grossing animated film based on a television show worldwide. It was also the highest-grossing film based on a video game at the time, until Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001.

When the film was released in North America, it briefly held the record for the largest opening weekend for an animated film. The record was broken two weeks later with the release of Toy Story 2.


Though the movie was praised by viewers and fans of the show at the time of its release, the film was panned by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 15% "Rotten" approval rating, with the consensus being, "Audiences other than children will find very little to entertain them." On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 35 out of 100, meaning "generally negative reviews".

Both Pokémon: The First Movie and the short Pikachu's Summer Vacation received generally negative reviews. Anime News Network's review of Pokémon: The First Movie called it "contradictory", saying that "the anti-violent message that is pretty much crammed down our throats works directly against the entire point of the franchise" and criticized Pikachu's Summer Vacation for being "incoherent, pointless and fluffy". Patrick Butters, of The Washington Times, accused Pokémon: The First Movie of taking ideas from other movies such as Star Wars and being "just another cog in the mighty Nintendo machine".[2] Michael Wood, of England's Coventry Evening Telegraph said that Pikachu's Summer Vacation "can only be described as a mind-numbingly tedious piece, with no discernible storyline and lots of trippy images and silly voices". Wood did note that Pokémon: The First Movie had a "mildly intriguing premise", but said that the rest of the film "was like a martial arts movie without the thrills".[3]


Main article: Pokémon: The First Movie (soundtrack)

Pokémon: The First Movie Original Motion Picture Score
Soundtrack by Various artists
Released 1999
Recorded  ?
Genre Orchestral, Film Soundtrack
Length 46:12
Label Koch Records
Varèse Sarabande (reissue)
Producer(s) John Loeffler
Various artists chronology
Pokémon: The First Movie
Pokémon: The First Movie Original Motion Picture Score
Pokémon World

Tracks 11 to 13 are from Pikachu's Vacation. Some versions of the CD come with a 14th bonus track, listed as the theme to the first Pokémon series, when on the CD, it is the theme to the second series. The US score was released by Koch Records, and when Carolco re-released the film in IMAX, the soundtrack was re-released by Varèse Sarabande.

Purchase of the soundtrack also came with a special edition Jigglypuff Pokémon card.

Differences between the Japanese and English versionsEdit

  • According to the director's commentary, the American edit of the film contains CGI effects that weren't included in the original Japanese cut. These include realistic-looking clouds, and smoother animations of the doors on New Island. (The original doors can be seen briefly in the North American DVD animation.) Those CGI effects can also be seen on the Japanese DVD.
  • In the original Japanese, Mewtwo is angry because he was created by scientists and not God, and attempts to fight back against the world to prove he should be alive. In the American dub, the references to God were removed and he is taking over the world for the benefit of his cloned Pokémon. They cut 8 minutes out on the origin of Mewtwo because it showed human cloning: this footage was later added as an extra feature in the American DVD release of "Mewtwo Returns" and reinserted into the IMAX re-release.
  • The original Japanese soundtrack was removed, and an entirely new soundtrack was composed for the American dub. This was due to the soundtrack being too dark for American audiences, since the rating was G. The soundtrack featured many melodramatic chorus music scores that gave the atmosphere a more ominous sound than what the U.S. version had. The film was eventually re-released with the original Japanese soundtrack in IMAX and was re-rated PG "for some tense moments".


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Pheonomenon
  2. Butters, Patrick. "Lame Script, Wooden Characters Make Pokémon a Joke, Man; The Washington Times. 10,November 1999. pg 5.
  3. Michael Wood, "Cinema: Okay Pokey; Go2," Coventry Evening Telegraph (England) 14 Apr. 2000.

External linksEdit