Warning: SPOILERS for Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! are ahead!
The Pokemon franchise launched in 1996 with the release of the first Game Boy video games, and the anime adaptation debuted a year later. That means 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Ash Ketchum's adventures across TV and numerous movies. To commemorate that landmark, Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! was released in Japan this past summer and finally hit U.S. theaters earlier this month. I Choose You! is a loose adaptation of the Pokemon TV show's first season, so it was to be expected that some creative liberties would be taken. However, the weirdest twist of this new movie is that towards the end of the story, Ash's Pikachu talks like a normal human.
Like every other Pikachu, Ash's Pikachu in the anime only ever said "Pika!" or a straight-up "Pikachu!" Not so in Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! In the movie's climax, Ash protects Pikachu from being attacked by a possessed Pokemon. Before dying (not to worry, he returns to life soon after), Ash asks Pikachu why he won't get in his Pokeball. The electrically-charged mouse creature responds in the same squeaky voice we've been familiar for over two decades:
It's because...it's because I always want to be with you.
In the Pokemon world, almost every Pokemon solely communicates either by saying some variation of their name or just making weird noises. There are a few exceptions to this rule, as Meowth on Team Rocket, some of the Legendary Pokemon and the Slowking in Pokemon: The Movie 2000 could either speak or telepathically communicate like a regular human. But hearing Pikachu, the mascot of this franchise, speaking in such a way is a bizarre twist, and that's saying something for a franchise that's been running non-stop for 20 years. As you'll see if you watch the video from Buzzfeed editor Ryan Broderick, the crowd at his theater was particularly shocked to hear those words come out of his mouth in Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You!, and it's doubtful that this was the only crowd that reacted in such a way.
However, this won't be the last time we hear a Pikachu talking like a human on the big screen. Last year, It was announced that a live action Pokemon movie is in the works, which is being written by Alex Hirsch and Nicole Perlman, and will be directed by Rob Letterman. But rather than adapt the long-running anime, it will be based on the Great Detective Pikachu video game, which follows a young boy going on adventures with his Pikachu, who isn't as powerful as a standard Pikachu, but makes up for that by being super intelligent and solving mysteries. This one, however, won't have a squeaky voice, as the production is reportedly looking for a big-name actor to vocally perform him.
Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! is still playing in limited screenings, while the Great Detective Pikachu movie will begin filming early next year. Take a look at our 2018 premiere guide to see what other cinematic offerings will fill next year.