So, I was not about to make the mistake of trying to read The Worldslayers
blind. Nope, nuh-uh, wasn’t going to happen. Instead I figured I’d just make a fool of myself reading this instead. I seem to have a nasty habit of leaving reviews after Cutlerine or Negrek which make them look pretty silly, but oh well. Let me start by saying that the only thing I could use to summarize this story is one word: surreal. Like, it wasn’t necessarily all that mindscrewy, but it felt to me like there was a such a large level of supernatural elements percolating through the entire story. Not to mention what feels like a sense of desolation and even abject horror. I am not a big horror movie guy. In fact, I never see them. But I enjoyed the creepy elements and overall unnerving atmosphere that just plodded along through the story. Like, there was a mass extinction event of some sort, and mentally I kind of envisioned a ruined/bad future type of world. But things aren’t actually that bad. The Pokémon have functioning communities with hospitals and vehicles. And nature is still present, as the chapters in the forest show. The biggest bizarro element for me is, of course, the fakemon tidbit. I couldn’t properly visualize what you were going for with the kwazai, so I ended up with some kind of Wobbuffet-colored xenomorph in my brain. But maybe that works to my benefit, because it made the creepy things like Esaax’s monstrous rampage read as even more creepy. Like something straight out of monster flicks.
Beyond that, there’s just how humanized (or anthropomorphic?) the Pokémon have become in the absence of people. I never really found myself questioning it throughout the story, since it’s not overly consequential to the overall plot. It’s just nice to see something like that in an actual fic because I’m fairly certain I’ve dreamed or daydreamed of something like that before and thought myself to be completely crazy. And all of this doesn’t touch on the fact that this story is following some canon anime characters. While not the central part of the plot, it was important because otherwise the character relationships and dynamics would’ve made absolutely no sense.
I don’t know if you intended this to read as supernatural/horror or not, but that was what was running through my head the whole time. And I enjoyed it more than I did most of the horror movies I’ve had to suffer through, so good job! Now, some individual chapter thoughts.
Quite the opening you have to start with. My personal visualization skills are not great, so I didn’t realize Esaax was a Wobbuffet until it was outright stated. But I like how vague things were to start. In a sense (or just call me crazy), it reads like a written equivalent of waking up and having all your senses slowly turn on and recalibrate and your brain shift from dreamscape (beta waves) to conscious thinking (alpha waves). It’s so subtle that it makes this wham line really stand out:
After all, once one gets over a thing like a spontaneous extinction, a little adolescent heartbreak is nothing…
Hit me like a ton of bricks, that’s for sure.
The rest of the chapter is interesting because of such a strong degree of – I don’t know how to say it – humanization(?) of the Pokémon. Almost as if a contigent of them are trying to pick up from where humans left off. I’m not entirely sure at this point, but it does the job of making me interested to find out. Also, the idea of a Wobbuffet (the original lethal joke Pokémon) working out to make itself stronger is extremely amusing and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take it seriously or satirically. I kind of went with the latter, but I may be reading it wrong.
There’s something so surreal about this opening scene. Quite frankly, this one bit sums everything up better than I possibly could:
A snorunt driving a car. No, nothing funny about that image…
Are you kidding? That’s hilarious!
As for what follows, holy smokes! So, Esaax basically has the Wobbuffet equivalent of an autoimmune disease, so to speak. It’s so strange to see, but it’s actually a very interesting explanation for how a Wobbuffet’s tail works (one of the questions that’s stumped everyone). It has this almost reflex-like connotation to it, where it takes copious amounts of active resistance to stop things. I don’t know if the neuroscience references were intentional or if it’s my job bleeding into how I read this, but that’s what I got from it.
So, I see you start with (correct me if I’m wrong) a male, shiny Gardevoir that’s acting like one part therapist and one part psychoanalyst (eat your heart out Freud). Anyway, Esaax backstory time. First off, it’s very odd for me to think of/imagine a nomadic tribe of Wobbuffets because they walk pretty funny. So, thinking of them walking about is kind of silly for me. But, eh, it’s unimportant. He was a Game Corner Pokémon. I feel like that’s an element you don’t tend to see pop up much, so credit where it’s due and…
Thus it was that he accidentally became a member of Team Rocket.
… I must look like suuuuuch an idiot for not realizing this earlier. This would make the Arbok one of Jessie’s Pokémon too, then? I’ve got to say, with the way the first two chapters went, I really wasn’t expecting this. Either I’m very gullible or your narration made the reveal all the more surprising. Or maybe it’s both. In any case, gosh an extinction plague is quite the 0-100 scenario. You make it sound like a bunch (or one) Darkrai did something really bad, but I’m probably wrong in that regard. So, in the end, Esaax was basically in a neurologic rehabilitation hospital/center. And now he’s getting discharged. Hooray!
There’s always something funny about arguments where one side is telling the other they can’t do something and it escalates until the realization sets in that they literally can’t
do what they want because of specific reasons. I mean, Pokémon driving cars is pretty funny in it of itself. But the meat of this chapter is way more serious. Mysterious Xatu aside, that is certainly quite a take on James’ Weezing after she was ditched in Hoenn or whatever. The idea of Weezing and Wobbuffet together seems really unusual at first, but somehow you make it work. It’s probably because the specifics are mostly glossed over in favor of a quick rundown. That’s how it feels anyway. I mean, good grief, you’ve gotta feel bad for Esaax with everything that went wrong there. I don’t blame him for totally breaking down.
So, immediately a few things are brought to mind with Faurur. The first, of course, being dying of old age and just the natural wear and tear that takes over the body. Maybe this is odd, but simply describing her as “deflated” is extremely effective without being overly-descriptive. Second, where she is just brings homeless individuals to mind. So it’s kind of chilling. And then we have this group of sky-worm-dwellers/deranics that are apparently planning to do something strange to the world. Maybe they’re responsible for the human extinction. It seems that, in any case, Esaax may have some sort of touch-related power(?) as Faurur ends up going poof via fireball exactly like Drasigon. At this juncture I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. Maybe it’s Esaax absorbing their pain and then involuntarily returning it in a lethal way? Or maybe I’m just stupid and ignore this. <.>;
Now Esaax is having a bit of a mental breakdown. I don’t know why, but there’s a bit of black comedy to calling him a zombie. Maybe it’s just how I read it. On a more serious note, it’s very interesting how the Pokémon have these apparent mental health centers. I only say that because I’m familiar with their makeup in our world, so it’s so unusual seeing it applied to Pokémon. I will say I’m not entirely sure who’s doing what with that bit with the ice tree. Is that Esaax, Jen, or some combination of them doing that?
Anyway, moving on to the Hope Institute, I see you’re going for more of a religious/spiritual healing angle. Which is a nice difference from the hospital Esaax started out in. Although, I was expecting some sort of group therapy thing but it quickly gave way toward something more suspicious with Solonn guiding Esaax into some sort of mysterious encounter, which is immediately addressed at the start of the next chapter, I believe.
So, being honest here, I’m not sure what to make of the start, personally speaking. Like, it’s clear that Esaax is troubled and DeLeo’s trying to help but that’s where I get uncertain. It’s just me reading too deep into it, but with how vaguely DeLeo gets described, it just somehow sets off red flags in my head for some reason. The chapter doesn’t go that way. DeLeo reveals he’s human and seems to offer Essax something that could help bring out his latent power. Though, again, some sort of weird, untested serum just creeps me out and makes me super skeptical. It seems like DeLeo’s just a genuinely nice guy so I’m not sure why I feel this way, maybe it’s just because of how unusual the setup to the encounter was. Like, if you get pulled aside by a stranger and taken back for some sort of surprise private session, you’d probably feel creeped out.
Welp, the serum made him sick. I guess I was right to be suspicious, then? It’s just so… ironic that the spiritual healing place ends up with a syringe that puts Esaax back into the medical hospital. Syr’s acting like a desperately concerned parent, which is kind of adorable and I suppose makes sense given he’s “adopted” Jen, so to speak. But that’s all quickly pushed aside for something very bizarre that I’m not sure how to describe. A Gengar drops some sort of shard and then I can’t quite tell what it does to Esaax but suddenly we’re in the past with Ntairow and a son that Esaax apparently had. And I’m not sure if this is time travel, or a dream, or some kind of fabric of reality shenanigans. But suddenly it feels like we’ve taken a turn toward supernatural horror. I must say, the zig-zagging throws me off with how sudden it can be, but dang if it didn’t continue to surprise me every time.
Holy body horror, Batman! Once again, my mental visualizing kind of fails me here. And it’s not like the evolution is a bloody/gory change or anything. But it’s extremely unsettling for me, and makes me feel like I’m in the midst of some sort of grotesque monster reveal in a horror flick. Not helping things is Anomaly, who’s just silently removing evidence of its deed from the room. This is only further exemplified by the creepy, shadowy hand trying to get Esaax while he’s unconscious. Then there’s the fact that he’s been completely restrained and is now exhibiting this threatening behavior. The only thing this makes me think of is xenomorphs for some reason, but I can’t put my finger on why. I’ll just say it’s really creepy, very unsettling, and if that’s what you were going for I’d say you totally succeeded.
Not letting up on the horror element at this point. Syr goes into a friend’s house only to find it ransacked and the guy lying conked out on the floor. Yeah, that gave me the chills. As did the whole bit with the mace. And then Karo just goes on the attack, like some sort of dormant suit of armor coming to life. The situation kind of resolves itself, but you managed to get a bit of a jumpscare out of me there (did I use that word right?). It’s pretty funny how totally lax Karo is, especially when you consider how tense everything’s been up to this point. Though, if you want creepy, take the stuff that follows. Madeleine, whatever made you thinking going into Esaax’s cell alone was a good idea? Well, in contrast to the evolution scene, this bit was far more visceral and, again, made me think of a monster movie. Like, it’s amazing how creepy things managed to get after Faurur passed.
Okay, so I finally get the revelation of just what it is Esaax has become and, hoo boy, as far as Fakemon(?) go, kwazai seem pretty darn terrifying. I stand by my xenomorph comparison; or maybe I’m just really stupid. The gym battle flashback was possibly the most intimidating uses of Bide and Counter I’ve read in a fic so far. Actually, I don’t really think I’ve seen them used much at all, so that’s cool, I guess. And, in the same chapter, we have a second kwazai’s introduction right off the bat. And said kwazai is Ntairow, which I guess makes that other scene from Ch 8 something in the present. For some reason I thought Ntairow was already completely out of the picture by this time. Of course, they discover the dead Madeleine and the decision’s made to go after Esaax. Which, I’m going to venture a guess might not go over too well.
YUP OKAY TOTALLY RIGHT THINGS GOING BAD. Jeez, was that eating scene totally primal. Like, I would think forebrain could override the primal instincts of the hindbrain but apparently in kwazai that is not the case and boy is it nasty. Though, there are bits like this:
Karo just grunted inconclusively in reply. “Stupid mud,” he griped to himself. “I hate that stuff…”
“Well, on the bright side, it did cover up the rest of that smeargle graffiti,” Syr said.
Where some of the snark and humor from the early chapters pops up despite how dark things have turned. It’s still fun and quirky and I like it.
Anyway, so you finally give the tidbit about Esaax’s mysterious rainbow glowing. I expected it had something to do with healing/life force. That just serves to make it all the more ironic that he’s ended up as something that’s quite adept at taking life away instead. I’m sure that was intentional. Oh, and poor Karo. Stuck in the first stage of grief about losing Red. Or maybe he’s just that dense?
Oh wow, that was a terrible joke.
I’m surprised the Smeargles managed to put a stop to Esaax though. Well, at least I don’t need to worry about him being too overpowered, then.
“You’re a hallucination!”
“I’m a damn good hallucination, though, you have to admit,” Travis said
certainly caught me off guard. Another one of those hilarious tidbits suddenly dropped onto us in the middle of all this dark stuff. But, looking past that, good grief is this one heck of a hallucination. So, Esaax is so screwed up that he’s basically a dead ‘mon walking now? That’s not depressing at all! On the other hand, I feel somewhat vindicated in feeling so dang suspicious of DeLeo back in Ch 7. I say somewhat because Esaax is gonna die or something and that’s not worth it. In fact, it appears that the hallucination was actually more like a manifestation of the primal predator lurking inside him being a kwazai now. And apparently it won out so this just got super depressing super quickly. Are we heading for an “everyone dies, no one’s happy,” ending? That’s my guess at this juncture, but we’ll see how right/wrong I am.
Okay, no subtlety this time, DeLeo is just straight up giving me a case of the mad scientist/spooky vibes. And that tidbit about a kwazai raising its human friend from the dead? Well, it makes me think of XY in some regards, only much more supernatural and containing a bit of mysticism, for what it’s worth. The whole legend does sound like some sort of classic mythological tale. This crazy creature has renowned powers and its kind gets hunted to extinction because the public fears what they’re capable of. And apparently, this is how Solonn factors into everything. If I’m reading this right, he was the one who knew of the kwazai’s existence and DeLeo (I guess) tricked him into revealing that information and then used false pretenses to get Esaax under his control. Yeah, I’d be pretty angry too if I figured out I’d been used like that. How interesting that after the last chapter built up Esaax as getting ready to tear DeLeo limb from limb, he’s actually done in in a far more subtle manner by Solonn. Normally I’d say that’s an anti-climax but given the horror overtones here, I think it’s actually pretty appropriate.
Oh, Karo, you’re such a delight bit of comic relief. Even though your situation with Ren is kind of tragic. The bulk of this chapter is one big, giant misunderstanding. But you definitely make Moriel out to be a very crafty Glalie in that battle, using trickery to overwhelm her opponents as opposed to the sheer, brute force that had been on display with Esaax and also with his friends a bit earlier on.
Nooooooo, Karo! I mean, he’s technically fine or, rather, as fine as you can get after using Explosion. Liked the explanation as to how a Pokémon like that could just bounce back from blowing itself up. Anyway, the group catches up with Solonn. Maybe I missed something that explains why the heck Syr’s so afraid of Glalies, because I’m totally unsure myself. Anyway, this all gets revealed as a misunderstanding of sorts. And it looks like we’re finally going to get the big reunion in the ending here.
The finale starts us off with a literal mind-battle of sorts between Esaax and his inner demon. And it’s clearly quite the struggle that’s also serving to put Ntairow completely on edge. Yet, somehow, there’s a brief moment of levity with that password tidbit because of course DeLeo would do something that stupid thinking no one could speak his language. And hooray, they’re able to get Esaax out and reunite him! But not hooray (and I kind of expected) there’s a big snag and his mortal coil’s unwinding rapidly. What follows is what I can only describe as the Pokémon version of some sort of twisted exorcism, only instead of bringing relief it just seems to literally (and maybe figuratively?) tear Esaax apart. Because he hasn’t had it bad enough already. And, while this isn’t everyone dying, it seems my intuition about this was proven right. It’s rather heart wrenching, especially since it’s basically a counterbalance of chapter 5. There, Esaax failed with the healing bit and his ex-lover dies. Here, he succeeds in healing a lover, but he dies in the process.
Now, for what follows. See, I had a sneaking suspicion that DeLeo wasn’t who he claimed to be, but I was willing to ignore it because of all the supernatural vibes this had going toward it. But good grief, that is certainly one way to depict the anime’s Meowth. It’s definitely the most unique interpretation I’ve seen ever. Things end off a rather somber note. It’s very simplistic, but I think it’s an effective way to ultimately bring everything to a close, given what had happened. The characters are basically left reflecting which, realistically speaking, someone might do in a situation where they lost someone they cared about.