Friday, April 26, 2013

Episode N Retrospective

From January to April of 2013, the Unova saga of the Pokemon anime, contained in the "Best Wishes" series, finally came to the conclusion it had been set for since day one. The last stretch of episodes before Ash, Iris, and Cilan all boarded a ship from Unova to Kanto, gave us a story that in Japan goes by "Episode N." If Operation Tempest was the (fantastic) climax to the saga and the Unova League tournament was the (horrendously underwhelming) finale, then this arc can be seen 
as the epilogue phase and it feels like something else altogether. It mirrors the Mewtwo saga from "Indigo League", but with two major differences. One being that it's all after the league rather than prior to it but with a conclusion coming way later after it, and two being that it's built around a myth arc that was part of this series from the start - the arc of the Black and White heroes of truths and ideals. So naturally (pun intended), this is where they finally bring in the character of N, and along with him we see the resurfacing of the evil Team Plasma, who now finally get their own operations for their own arc. Since that's something that I and I think just about everyone wanted to see, I was delighted when this arc was announced. I was majorly hyped, even more so when I saw the opening. This looked to be one of the most epic things that the Pokemon anime had ever attempted. But then 
I remembered the letdowns of all the past evil teams not named Rocket, especially when it came to their arc's climaxes and finales. Then again, this is the series that gave us a great Team Rocket arc and a satisfying finale for that, so maybe this would follow suit? Well now that it's over, this entry will mostly cover the finale, but also recap the entire story that built to it and detail my personal thoughts.

By far the best advantage of the story of "Episode N" is that it IS a story. It's got a beginning, middle, and end structure that goes through five different phases, each episode picking up where the other left off in some way. This may well be the most tightly serialized, continuity-heavy string of episodes that this anime has seen yet. Phase 1 has our main group embarking on the start of their journey through western Unova and meeting the mysterious N. Phase 2 has them running in on Team Plasma's nefarious plots and working with Looker to help fight against them. Phase 3 has N joining the group as a guest travelling companion and even learning some lessons and new experiences. Phase 4 sees Team Plasma's evil agenda accelerated and the big shit really starts to go down. And Phase 5 is the climax and finale at the White Ruins, culminating in the release of the legendary Pokemon of ideals, Reshiram. Regardless of your views on the episodes' quality, it cannot be denied that every episode (except for one episode that can rot in Hell and will not be referenced in this post) makes some sort of advancement to the overall arc. This is why I said it feels like something not quite seen before on the show - it's almost like a continuous film that you have to watch to the end. 

On top of that, the pacing was well done too. Yeah, we could have used some more episodes and could have done away with the more filler-y plots in this arc in favor of some more important ones, but overall it sticks firmly to the map of Unova in regards to where our heroes are traveling, from Nuvema all the way to Dragonspiral Tower and back again. It really feels of a well paced adventure.

Now to recap the storyline before we can reach the climax and conclusion:

After the Unvoa League, Ash decided he'd stay in Unova for just a little while longer for more experiences with Iris and Cilan. No sooner did he make this decision did Professor Cedric Juniper, the current Professor Juniper's doofus dad, call to say he's leading an archaeological expedition at the White Ruins of Iccirus City in search of the famed Light Stone. According to legend, inside the stone is the essence of Reshiram, who can be called into the physical world with it's power. Thinking this sounded neat, Ash and his friends agreed to travel to the White Ruins in order to see Reshiram.

They went to the docking bay near the P2 Laboratory to board a ship that would ferry them to West Unova. But wait...who's this mysterious figure coming down the stairs? Is he...holy shit, it IS! NATURAL HARMONIA GROPIUS!

In a flashback, we see what this strange young man was doing at the P2 Lab. The place has been trashed and he examines a program report on one of the still working computer screens, one that details the creation of some kind of super technologically advanced Pokemon. What's going on here?

On board the ship, N met Ash, Iris, and Cilan, though he didn't express too much interest in any of them. Pikachu is the one he hit it off with immediately. After pleasantries were exchanged, N explained he hears the inner voices of Pokemon and communicates with them through their hearts.

Sitting down to lunch, our heroes told N of where their headed and why. This sparked a discussion about how Ash and Pikachu had encountered Zekrom in the past, and a flashback shows us that N encountered Reshiram some time ago in his past, though he doesn't reveal this. N goes on to exposit the legend of Unova's heroes - the Black and White heroes who bonded with the two legendary Pokemon representing truth and ideals. Through all this, N acts shady as heck and even makes a reference to how he believes he has to change things between Pokemon and humans in this world.

Then Axew started acting like a dumbass again and wound up in the clutches of...TEAM ROCKET? That's right, they're back - reciting their original, first ever motto and traveling in a modified Meowth faced hot air balloon! So why did they return to Unova? Well the outcome of Operation Tempest gave their fixation on Ash's Pikachu validity, so now they're more determined than ever to steal it for the Boss as a way of avenging their great loss. But don't worry - they're still hardcore and awesome!

With N's help, TR was driven away. Unfortunately, Pikachu took a blow from their new Amoongus. 
N used his empathetic powers to call upon Pokemon friends from the sea to help heal Pikachu up, earning Ash's immense gratitude. The ship made a stop at Castelia City, which is where N let himself off. As the ship departs, N thinks that it might have been destiny that he and Ash crossed paths.

But somewhere between Aspertia City and Sangi Town, evil was lurking in the dark. A young researcher named Dr. Colress was performing terrible experiments on Pokemon, putting them under mind control and forcing them to emit a frequency that spread the control to all wild Pokemon in the area, making them lose their senses and attack humans. As it turns out, Colress is in charge of Team Plasma, but he's no interest in the team's goals - he just wants to test Pokemon strength!

When Ash and co. heard of the wild Pokemons' strange behavior, even having experienced some of it firsthand, they went to investigate. But soon their own Pokemon, Pikachu and Axew, fell under the ray's control and turned on them! But a random hiker saved the day, throwing out special tech to create a special zone that neutralizes the Pokemon and snaps them back to normal. The hiker was, in actuality, Detective Looker of the International Police, back on the case in Unova! THE LOOKER!

Looker briefed the group on what's going on. Their current enemy is Team Plasma, the Unova-based secret evil organization that plots to take over the region. When we encountered them before they were dressed up like white knights, but now they've revealed their true colors and their true purpose. 

Meanwhile, Colress had finished the first round of experiments and was preparing for an even bigger encore when who should make a call via hologram than Lord Ghetsis, founder and leader of Team Plasma! After Colress gave his progress report, Ghetsis stated that Team Plasma's vision is not merely conquering Unova, but domination of the entire world. They will do this through controlling all Pokemon. Just then, Team Plasma got word that the International Police was on to their plans!

The lead Plasma grunt, Angie, came out with her two comrades. She announced to our heroes that as agents of Team Plasma, they are the eyes and ears of their lord, Ghetsis, before ordering their Pokemon to attack. After a quick skirmish, the grunts retreated into the lair, luring Looker and the rest in until they're face to face with Colress, who let all his controlled test subjects loose on them!

Pikachu's abilities intrigued Colress, so he put him under mind control using his system. It truly is Pikachu Re-Volts all over again! Eventually, Ash was able to urge Pikachu to shake the control through sheer willpower, which got Colress geeking out over it. Then the day was saved by Team Rocket of all people, who hijacked Team Plasma's system in order to steal it's mind control data, blowing the system up in the process, which also initiated a self destruct of the base. Everyone made a safe getaway, including Team Plasma, who shot TR down to keep them from using that data!

After parting ways with Looker, Ash, Iris, and Cilan went to Sangi Town just to go see this really lame and ridiculous sheep ranch where Mareep are herded and raised in order to generate electricity.

While this is mostly a generic filler episode, we get two redeeming aspects in it. One is the plot between Iris' Dragonite and the ranch's lead Ampharos, in which we're reminded just how rough Dragonite can be. It showcases traits of this Pokemon that will come back into play later on.

And while Team Rocket's part in this is mostly pretty throwaway, Meowth has a moment of counting the Mareep they're rounding up, getting drowsy as he does so. Believe it or not, this has a purpose.

That night, on the route to Virbank City, two Team Plasma grunts were hauling a rare Braviary that they're to deliver to Colress for his new experimental testing. But N snuck in the back of the truck to set this proud beast free only to be caught by the Plasma grunts and attacked by their Seviper and Zangoose, getting both him and Braviary injured. Fortunately they escaped and found their way to the nearest Pokemon Center, which just happened to be where Ash, Iris, and Cilan were for the night.

The rest of the episode sees N and pals trying to keep Braviary safe and away from the two Plasma grunts, Nero and Blanco, after they cut the power at the Pokemon Center and pursue N through the woods. And to be honest, training Seviper and Zangoose to get along is probably the only thing these two did right, seeing as otherwise these guys are morons. They make the Jessie and James of the earlier series' look credible! But that's part of what makes this fun. And their voices are awesome!

Finally, with Nero and Blanco beaten and sent running, our heroes were able to set Braviary free back into the wild during a beautiful sunrise scene. Afterwards, N realized that working together with other humans rather than just Pokemon friends wasn't so bad, so he decided to join the group awhile.

The group reached Virbank City, where they had a misadventure with an inept member of the Pokemon Harbor Patrol who trains a team of Watchogs specifically for fire fighting. N, of course, saw this as a human forcing Pokemon to do his labor for him and got very self-righteous in his defiance of this idea, to the point where he actually got up in the guy's face about it when he'd seen enough!

Team Rocket turned up to make a REALLY weak effort at stealing Pikachu but only wound up indirectly setting off a bigger problem, namely a fire. Knowing it's the twerps' mess to clean up now, TR got out their jet packs and fly off...WAITAMINUTE! They still have those jet packs? Then how come they never used them in their four prior appearances, where they blasted off the usual way?

Well anyway, after that got taken care of and N learned another lesson, the group came to Driftveil City where a Kanto Pokemon fair was being held. A performance by a Charmander got Ash nostalgic for his own Charizard. So after recounting his entire history with that Pokemon, Ash asked Professor Oak to send him on over to Unova! Charizard soon arrived and met his new friends...except he and Dragonite almost instantly took a disliking to one another, to the point where they simply had to duke it out in order to earn each other's respect. So they battled and, well, Dragonite got clobbered!

But then we cut to Team Plasma's hidden Desert Resort base, where Colress had modified his mind control system significantly to fit the new and improved Pokemon Control Device! He went into this enthusiastic and downright nerdy explanation for how it works, but Ghetsis doesn't want to hear talk - he wants to see it at work and get good results! Thus Colress and Angie got to work on their task.

We also got a bizarre and sort of unsettling scene at Ghetsis' hidden castle in which we see that Ghetsis has Team Plasma agents deployed all over Unova, working on various projects. One unit is out looking for N, whom Ghetsis wants found for reasons unknown. One unit is searching for the targets of Project G. One unit is starting work on Project F over in East Unova (it stands for either "freeze" or "frigate", a BW2 reference that we never get any follow-up on). And one unit is at the White Ruins, spying on the archaeologists. Oh crap - Ghetsis wants the Light Stone to be found!

Our heroes are held up in reaching where N wants to be dropped off at because of a crisis in a nearby filler town which is clearly made from models of Castelia City's interiors. Apparently some trainer's Haxorus had randomly gone insane and is assaulting the town, terrorizing civilians. Iris insisted they go check this out due to her naive belief that there's no such thing as a bad Dragon-type. Once there, they met up with Looker again. Alarmingly, Looker seemed to recognize N!

Iris sent Dragonite out to beat some sense into Haxorus. Watching from a nearby rooftop, Colress saw the opportunity to bring out the full strength of another worthy test subject, so he used his decive to control Dragonite's mind and ordered him to join the rampage! By the way, Colress is easily the star of this arc. He's just stealing every single scene he appears in with his exuberant madness!

After Dragonite got incapacitated, Colress noted that N is among this group of enemies, so he, along with Angie and the other two grunts, flew their plane down onto the street for a confrontation. In the dialogue exchanged by Colress and N, it's revealed that N has a history with Team Plasma and Ghetsis, who has been hunting him for quite some time now. N considers Team Plasma to be traitors to their original cause, but Colress justifies his position - his work is truly beneficial for Pokemon!

Right at that moment, Team Rocket jumped down from where they'd been watching the crisis this whole time in order to recite their motto and lay the smackdown on Team Plasma, hoping to derail their plans and steal Colress' device for themselves! So Angie called out her Liepard, but ordered a wreckless attack that ended up blasting the prototype device, causing it to malfunction. Nice going!

But a bit earlier, N had attempted to stop Haxorus and Dragonite's continuing onslaught by standing in their way, getting critically injured as a result. Just then a strange fog enveloped the city and N seemed to disappear in it. Two young women had taken his unconscious body away. Our main trio, as well as the TR trio, tried to follow them but wound up in a mysterious forest seemingly in nowhere.

The two girls laid N down in a magical pool that miraculously healed his wounds. They're relieved to see him alright, and he addresses them as Anthea and Concordia. They're N's surrogate sisters and only human friends before he met Ash, Iris, and Cilan. While they seem distrustful of humans and asked the trio to leave the forest at once, N told them these humans are alright. The girls reluctantly agreed to take our heroes to their home, a cottage where the two of them and N have been living in.

It's then time for N to explain his backstory, which confirms that this arc is gradually going deeper into incredibly dark territory. N revealed that for as long as he can recall, he spent his childhood days confined to a solitary room in a castle, his only friends being Anthea, Concordia, and a bunch of random Pokemon who'd been abused by humans. Who imposed this lifestyle on him? His father, Ghetsis, who was raising him specifically to lead Team Plasma in their stated mission of liberating Pokemon from cruel and selfish humans, but of course this mission was just an elaborate ruse.

On the night N was to be crowned king of Team Plasma, the coronation ritual was interupted by none other than Reshiram, who seemed pissed at how Team Plasma was obscuring the truth. It set fire to the castle and caused the Sages and many grunts to flee in terror, all while Ghetsis roared out in indignation. N had tried to read it's heart but fell unconcious. His sisters took him away into the wild and determined that they had to live in hiding from Ghetsis, who had only sought to use their gifts.

Speaking of, we saw Ghetsis back at his castle communicating with Colress and Angie, expressing anger that they let N slip through their grasp. Colress asked Ghetsis why he wants N at all, since he really isn't needed for anything: recovering him shouldn't be an issue. Ghetsis didn't give any real answer, but it seems he wants N out of his way. But the dark lord told Colress that his focus should be on perfecting the Pokemon Control Device for the completion of Team Plasma's master plan.

We see that Angie's two grunt comrades were now following the lead of another grunt named Brad, whom I suspect is Angie's twin brother. Following his sister's direction, he located the hidden grove and tracked N, Anthea, and Concordia to their home. Ash, Iris, and Cilan called out their Pokemon to battle Team Plasma's Pokemon, while giving N and his sisters a chance to get the heck out of there!

Eventually, Anthea and Concordia used their fog technique to get the main trio to safety, leaving Team Plasma to search the woods in confusion. N has learned that having Pokemon battle each other can be okay if it's done out of the same love for Pokemon friends that he has. However, his words before vanishing in the fog imply he doesn't believe humans and Pokemon can truly co-exist.

While the twerps made it to Iccirus City, Team Plasma was having a dispute in one of their bases. Colress was making the finishing touches on his complete device when suddenly, Team Rocket appeared! They stood against Team Plasma, declaring that this time the device would be their's, which got Brad and Angie angry. It looked as if a fight would break out, but TR ran away instead, prompting those dumbass Plasma grunts to give chase, leaving Colress all alone with his work.

While Jessie and James had run off, it turned out that Meowth stayed behind so that he could talk to Dr. Colress personally. Meowth stated he'd like it if Colress could quit Team Plasma and join Team Rocket instead. To his surprise, Colress considered, since Meowth had correctly guessed that he's not happy with his current situation in Team Plasma. But Colress' agreement came with a condition: his first experiment for TR would be to work the device on Meowth in order to bring out his strength.

Outside, Team Plasma faced Team Rocket once again. But they'd walked right into TR's trap, said trap being a force-field barrier that they can't bypass. With the Plasma agents trapped, TR ran back towards their base to rendezvous with Meowth. The grunts were at a loss until Angie brilliantly had their Magnezone set off a chain reaction among the wild bug Pokemon that broke down the barrier!

Jessie and James came back to find Meowth willingly participating in Colress' experiment. He'd mastered a technique to prevent his mind from getting controlled...mentally counting Mareep! But alas, his mind isn't strong enough to withstand the waves and he passed out. When he came to, he was under the device's control. Angie and her grunts, who'd returned, ordered him to attack Jessie and James, which Colress allowed, revealing that he's not dissatisfied enough to quit Team Plasma!

Elsewhere, N came upon the wreckage of Team Plasma's oldest castle. Two random Pokemon friends tell him what occurred here - Team Plasma's secret creations, the Genesect army, had torched the place with their powers before making their escape. N realizes this could spell disaster.

Back at the Plasma base, Meowth went feral and unleashed strength no one ever knew he had and trashing the place. Colress was ecstatic, stating that this test subject has been pushed to it's limit! Jessie and James eventually calmed him down by using a wake-up technique - counting Noctowl backwards. And before Team Plasma could retaliate, TR blasted off on their jet packs once again.

When Ghetsis called back, he noted how Angie and her grunts cannot seem to get anything right. But he was in a good mood because everything for Team Plasma's plan is set and the Light Stone has been found! It's off to the White Ruins, where Colress can take control of the ultimate test subject - Reshiram! But it turns out that Jessie and James had put a tracer bug on the control device while Colress wasn't looking, so they know where Team Plasma's headed and what they're up to! 

With all parties headed towards one destination, we reach the climax and grand finale of our tale...

The White Ruins are located just beyond Dragonspire Tower outside of Iccirus City.

A strange looking archaeologist offers to be our heroes' transport to the ruins.

They're unaware that Brad and his cohorts are spying on them from a distance.

And they are in turn unaware that Team Rocket is spying on them from a distance!

Cedric leads the ruins expedition in his usual gung-ho yet totally inept way.

At last, the group reaches the chamber of the Light Stone!

Like all Unovan treasures, the stone rests upon a pillar.

But when Cedric goes to pick it up, a burst of flaming energy erupts from it!

N sees the energy burst, so his says farewell to a random friend and goes to investigate.

Team Plasma lies in wait, now seeing that the Light Stone has been found.

Once outside, Cedric takes time to exposit the legend of the White Hero and Reshiram.

A voice from out of nowhere finishes the story for the professor. It's N!

With N on the scene, the Plasma grunts contact Dr. Colress, who's on his way over!

Upon hearing Cedric's plans, N swipes the Light Stone from him, claiming that using it for study will only upset Reshiram and bring devastation upon the entire region, the very thing N hopes to prevent.

In their struggle, both Ash and N end up falling through a deep hole in the ground, with the stone!

A large Plasma unit surrounds Cedric, Iris, and Cilan, announcing that they've taken over the ruins.

While underground, Ash and N engage in an actually really mature philosophical discussion.

Angie meets with Brad only to be cornered by that archaeologist, who turns out to be Looker!

But then Colress shows up with his perfected Control Device, which he unleashes on the ruins!

All Hell is breaking loose. Can the heroes make it back in time to stop Team Plasma now?

Holy shit, this has turned into some sort of Poke' Lord Of The Rings battle, and it is EPIC!

Liepard is still Team Plasma's signature Pokemon and there's a lot more of them now!

Team Rocket watches as the destruction ensues but choose to continue biding their time.

Eventually Team Plasma makes Iris, Cilan, and Cedric relent, and then they take them captive.

Looking to Cedric's "rules of adventure" for guidance, Ash finds a way out from underground!

Angie orders for the ruins to be bombarded in order to lure N out. Oh shit, did it work?

Hallelujah! The two heroes are out, standing side by side and ready to kick some Plasma ass!

In the ensuing battle, Ash's entire current team of Pokemon get to take down the attacking armies!

Colress threatens to put them under his control. And there's one that Ash can't recall into a Poke'ball...Pikachu!

Looker tries to stop this by charging at Colress...with a PIPE. Oh, we got ourselves a real badass!

But alas, Pikachu gets mind controlled again, and since the technology has been totally perfected, 
it seems that nothing can shake it off this time!

Ash tries his luck anyway. He literally throws himself onto the crazed Pikachu, risking his own life 
in hopes of getting his friend back to normal!

Not wanting to see Ash meet a grisly demise at that hands of his own best buddy, N surrenders 
the Light Stone to Colress in exchange for turning off the device.

A large Team Plasma plane then arrives at the ruins. Lord Ghetsis has finally made it here!

With the Light Stone secured, everything is soon put in place for the Reshiram revival ceremony.

N warns his father of attempting this again, but Ghetsis reminds him that they have Colress' 
Control Device specifically to control Reshiram, so N's abilities are no longer needed. Ouch!

In a tense moment, Ghetsis walks past self-lighting torches and casts magic from his cane.

The chamber's floor then lights up with a red, Satanic looking ritual circle that covers the entire area!

Ghetsis speaks to the Light Stone, beckoning Reshiram to materialize into the world once more!

As the Light Stone begins to rise and glow, it seems nothing can stop Ghetsis' nefarious plans now!

As N panics over Reshiram's revival, a strange fog appears. Anthea and Concordia are nearby!

Angie has her Pokemon expose the sisters' Pokemon, who are then mind controlled by the device!

Now under Team Plasma's control, Gardevior and Gothitelle turn on their trainers!

Meanwhile, fire from the torches are getting drawn towards the levitating Light Stone!

Ghetsis then commands Reshiram to break from it's confines and show itself at last!

The stone explodes. The moment that Ghetsis has desired and that N has feared is upon us!

The majestic Legendary Pokemon of Truth, Reshiram, appears in the sky!

Ghetsis declares that he shall be Reshiram's master now and Colress takes that as his cue.

Reshiram is hit with the Control Device's ray, putting even it under Team Plasma's total control!

Amusingly, Colress cannot help but gush and bask in narcissistic glory at the brilliance of his work!

Then Ghetsis orders Reshiram to begin his conquest by incinerating everything and everyone here!

Reshiram opens fire on the ruins, endangering all people and Pokemon present, even Team Plasma!

Even TR is shocked at this callous display of selfishness. Ghetsis has no concern for his own team!

Colress is eager to see how much power he can draw out of Reshiram, so he starts giving orders too!

Soon our heroes are scattered, with Ash and N finding themselves facing a whole army of Liepard!

Meanwhile, Looker approaches TR from the hiding spot, and asks for their assistance. TR accepts!

While N tries to hold off the Liepard, Ash and Pikachu go out to face Colress and his device.

Just then, Meowth enters the fray, and uses his newfound strength to trounce several Liepard!

TR and Looker are working together in order to ensure that the heroes can set Reshiram free!

Speaking of Reshiram, that's the big letdown here. It stopped doing anything and is just...staying 
put along with Ghetsis. Dammit, where's the Reshiram VS Charizard fight we were promised?

In any event, Pikachu rushes past Team Plasma's Pokemon, with Iris, Cilan, and TR assisting him.

TR takes this moment to recite their badass motto and it's set to their original Unova motto theme! 
The hardcore secret agent rock tune that hadn't been used since episode 24! AWESOMENESS!

But Ghetsis has Reshiram stop Ash and Pikachu in their tracks. Oh that's right, Reshiram was here!

With Pikachu right where he wants him, Colress hits him with the Control Device AGAIN!

But this time, Pikachu's ideals prove strong enough for him to send messages to Reshiram...
even while both of them are still under the device's control!

Thinking something went wrong, Ghetsis orders Colress to zap Pikachu a second time!

Yet Pikachu's heart refuses to waver like his mind, which confounds the Plasma bosses.

Thanks to their hearts' communication, Reshiram and Pikachu both fire at the device, blowing it up!

All Pokemon on the battlefield are snapped out of their trance. It seems like the day has been won!

Colress is mortified. His mind control tech was perfect and yet it STILL failed him in the end!

Reshiram, however, is infuriated. And he needs to take his anger out on all these humans!

Colress is shocked to see that Reshiram's true strength exceeds it's power when under control!

It's time for N to face his destiny head-on as he shouts for Reshiram to calm down and spare them!

Ghetsis roars that "this is UNACCEPTABLE!" in a villainous breakdown that comes out of nowhere.

Before Team Plasma can try anything, including retreating, Ash, Iris, and Cilan 
command their Pokemon to entrap the villains in a prison of ice and stones!

N then continues his pleading with Reshiram, going into a speech about how he seeks an ideal future for both humans and Pokemon to exist in, and one day hopes to make this future the truth.

Heeding N's heroic words, Reshiram departs for the shining heavens just like the Kami Trio did!

N tells his sisters that he wants to travel the world in order to learn more from Pokemon and people, and he wants them to accompany him. And they're both comfortable with that idea now.

Thrown into a police van, Colress bemoans the failure of his grand mind control experiment.

As Team Plasma is hauled off to prison, Colress decides his future lies in Pokemon communication!

Looker thanks Ash for assisting the police in the capture of these criminals and with that, he departs.

Cedric is upset about losing the Light Stone, 'til he hears of a discovery in the Frozen Ruins! Uh Oh!

TR feels both validated in their beliefs on Pikachu and happy to be finally rid of Team Plasma!

And N thanks Ash, Iris, and Cilan for this life changing experience before finally saying goodbye.

A nice, heartwarming close to a great story, but, NO. Your parting words to your new friends SHOULD have been "By the way, there's an army of insane metallic bug Pokemon on the loose and they're probably pissed off at humanity, so watch out for them, okay?" That would have been nice!

Unfortunately, he gave no such warning. And the Genesect army just so happened to be advancing towards Castelia City, where the trio's ship would have to stop on their way back to Nuvema Town. The army's leader, the shiny Red Genesect, feels robbed of his home and resents humans for taking everything from him, so he directs his army in a mission with two end goals: reclaiming their home by turning the city's central park into a giant nest, and exterminating all humans and Pokemon there! 

The true wrap-up for the Team Plasma arc shall play out in the 16th anime movie, in which our heroes must fight against the Genesect army for the fate of Castelia City and possibly all of Unova. And what legendary Pokemon shall come along to fight the Red Genesect? *drumroll*...Mewtwo! That's right - the main featured Pokemon of the first movie, the central figure of Indigo League's Mewtwo saga, the original "most powerful Pokemon of all", is returning to close out this story arc. And supposedly, his fullest potential shall be awakened, and his divine power shall be unleashed. This also brings everything full circle: a legendary Pokemon created by Team Rocket doing battle against a legendary Pokemon created by Team Plasma in Castelia City 100 episodes past 23 & 24.

So overall, what verdict do I give "Episode N?" To put it simply, I really, really liked it. The arc felt like an ongoing cinematic film, ultimately leading up to an actual cinematic film, and felt worthy of being the final phase of the Unova Saga. While I still favor the arc of BW's initial 25 episodes (the Meteonite arc) and the first arc of BW2 (the Meloetta arc), this comes in close third. N wasn't as compelling a character here as he was in the games, but that had more to do with role than characterization. On his own merits, he was better than I'd thought he'd be - I definitely prefer this incarnation to that dreadful one in "Pokemon Adventures." Team Plasma was by far the most well handled non-Rocket evil team this anime has seen yet. Their look, demeanor, methods, goals, and ultimate plan was all from the sequel games, but their ties to N's story and attempted use of Reshiram was taken from the originals. And while it would be easy to make them all interchangeable heartless stormtroopers like was done with Aqua, Magma, and Galactic, the animators actually made every grunt distinct and the writing characterized them as being human despite their evil ways. Anthea, Concordia, and especially Colress were actually better used and stronger characterized here than they were in the games - they really left more of an impact. And the other characters were good too - Ash, Iris, and Cilan all feel like true heroes at this point, Looker was pretty cool, Cedric was still fun to watch, and Team Rocket was amazing at how even they kept the playing field between them and Colress' unit of Team Plasma. While they had their odd moments in the arc's first half (brought about by the writers clearly not having thought of how to work them back into the plot post Operation Tempest), they really got their shit together in the second half and I couldn't be more proud of them. The weakest link here would be Ghetsis. As a villain he was used well enough and was fittingly depicted as the wannabe evil overlord that he is, but it's still watered down compared to the games, in which he's a truly horrifyingly vile bastard rather than the generic bad guy he is here, his character is more boring than any of the past evil team bosses due to having no standout features, and worst, he did next to nothing - he just either sat or stood around giving orders while Colress did all the real work. The fact that he and N are father and son, a BIG part of their characters in the games, is barely even touched upon in the anime. They glance over it so much that you probably wouldn't be able to tell they're related! And seeing as this is supposed to be the saga's ultimate villain, that's a pretty huge problem for me. Oh well, not much in this anime is perfect to start with and at least everything else was still well realized.

And what verdict do I give the finale? Well, it was no "Mewtwo Returns" or Operation Tempest, but thankfully it was no "Scuffle Of Legends" or "Battle Finale Of Legend" either. The biggest failing were the padding in the first part, Ghetsis' inactivity, the immensely disappointing lack of Charizard VS Reshiram, the absence of Zekrom in any way, shape, or form, and of course, recycled plot beats that we've seen before. But those aside, it was a satisfactory conclusion to the story arc. And capping it off with the Genesect movie was sheer brilliance, especially since the Genesect army was a plot point that got built to within the show itself, which is the first time since Mewtwo that this has been done, making it all the more fitting that this arc is like Mewtwo arc for this series and that Mewtwo's actually to be featured in the film. All in all, it was a fun, engaging, and often exciting ride, definitely worth watching and certainly worth being the closing to the best saga the anime's seen since Kanto.

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