Yup, here it is, the massive end-of-fic review I promised you! Although I'm really only going to be focusing on the stuff post-League arc. At this point I'm sure your plans for the earlier chapters are so different anyway that there wouldn't be a lot of point in talking about them in their current form.
Let's begin by talking 77 before broadening things up to consider the whole. Like I said earlier, I thought it was an appropriate wrap-up to the story, and it covered most of what I wanted to see. I must note, however, that there were ZERO hugs for Tyranitar, like none whatsoever, and that was disappointing! It was implied that there might possibly be hugs for Tyranitar in the future, though, so I guess there is some
All in all I don't think the chapter suffered too much from not having as many rounds of proofreading as you might have liked. Only thing that stuck out to me was that there seemed to be quite a lot of semicolons--looks like it's around thirty? That might be a bit much, but I also somehow doubt pretty much anybody else would have noticed or cared. However, a couple small things:
A strange mixture of emotions bubbled up within him at the request, something warm and nostalgic coupled with empty sadness and regret.
Probably want to start off with "Mark" instead of "him," since it's been a while since he's been referred to.
Molzapart’s eyes glowed; the metal of the safe in the corner warped and twisted, and with a sweep of his wing, the door tore off its hinges and crumpled together into a lump on the floor.
The "together" is weird in this sentence, and it would work at least as well without it.
I was kind of surprised the possibility of Mark taking Spirit never came up. Obviously he doesn't intend to be a trainer, but some of his pokémon are planning to hang out with him anyway, and it's not as though May's dad is one, either. Likewise Stantler or any of May's other pokémon that might not want to go back to being wild. At least for a start to things.
All in all there isn't a ton to say about this chapter, really. Again, it pretty much did what it needed to do. There were a lot of plot threads to wrap up here, but you managed to touch on all of them, and none of the scenes were too brief or felt unnecessarily lingered-over. A lot of new beginnings here, which is appropriate for the quest kind of story this is: Scyther returning to his swarm, May turning herself over to the police, Mewtwo2 going out to explore the world, and so on. You would have ample material here for extras or spin-offs following one or more of the characters post-War, but leaving them where they are works perfectly well in terms of actually ending this fic. I don't know if you have any interest in writing more for this setting or these characters besides the anticipated revision(s), but the hooks are definitely there.
If anything were missing, I'd say maybe a little more reaction to Mew, Chaletwo, and Mitchenor's deaths. Mark definitely had a nice moment after May asked him to draw Chaletwo, but nobody else really talked about it, and there was no attempt to have any sort of, you know, funeral or remembrance or anything like that. Obviously there are no bodies to bury or cremate, so there's no real practical need
for them to do anything, but it's maybe a little weird that there weren't, you know, any words said, or any kind of tribute.
On the other hand, Mark did have the most intimate relationship with Chaletwo out of anyone, which is kind of easy to forget since we see things from his POV and Chaletwo is literally on his mind all the time. But the other characters weren't actually privy to a lot of the conversations between Mark and Chaletwo, and I don't think any of them would particularly call him a friend... I don't know that even Mark would call him a friend. I kind of got the impression that he was supposed to be friends with Molzapart (and Chaletwo did make that final request of him), but it's not like we actually saw them interact much, and it might just be that Molzapart happened to agree with Chaletwo and want to help with the legend-capture plan because he thought it was necessary without there being any personal connection between them. And I suppose Mew kind of kept people at a distance, and Mitch had been isolating himself for a long time; nobody in Mark's party was close to either of them, for sure. But they did sacrifice themselves to save the world, and it's a bit sad to think that only a tiny handful of people will ever know, and that their deaths are going to go unremarked upon even by those people. Not sure if that was intentionally sad or commentary or what! (Also kind of weird to me that Mark doesn't think at all about Mitch. They obviously weren't close, but Mark seemed to be genuinely worried about him after that visit to his gym and, I thought, kind of liked him in general, so no reflection on the fact that he got taken over by a legendary and then disintegrated struck me as a little odd.)
That wasn't something that bothered me while reading the chapter, though, and only occurred to me while mulling it over in hindsight. As for what I liked, my favorite scenes were with Mewtwo2 and Mark, going home. I've been rooting for Mewtwo2 to get his freedom for ages, so it was very satisfying to see him released here, and how eager he is to enjoy his new life. I would love to be able to get to know his character better, but this is one of those scenes where you don't want to linger, so realistically I was never going to get everything I'd hoped for here.
I also really loved the moment with Mrs. Grodski. I totally wasn't expecting it, whereas a lot of the other scenes were ones that pretty much had to happen, like something with May either going to the police or otherwise making some gesture at what she was going to do next, Scyther returning to the swarm, etc. It was a great surprise! Mrs. Grodski has kind of been off-and-on mentioned even in later chapters, but I wasn't expecting an actual on-screen appearance. It was a great way to bring things full circle while also showing how much has changed for Mark, both in him as a person and in terms of his situation. Simple little scene, but I think it had a lot of impact.
And of course, the very final scene, with Gyarados at the beach, sent everything off just the way it should have. It's a bittersweet ending, and appropriately so, and quiet and peaceful after all the frenetic action of the previous chapter. You get the sense that a chapter is closing in these characters' lives, but that they're ready to move on, and that at least in the near term they'll have the opportunity to relax... They've done their job, and now they can move on into much more peaceful lives. Very satisfying and a great way to wrap things up.
So all in all I think you stuck the landing with this chapter. The last couple lines in particular are great; really encapsulate that bittersweet feeling of new beginnings and old things being put to rest. Nicely done!
From here I'm going to kind of work backwards, starting with the climactic chapters and then broadening out a bit into some overall themes and comments on elements of the story as a whole. You already know I had more to say about 75/76, so we might as well get it out of the way.
I think the climax suffers somewhat by hingeing largely on several characters that readers barely know. Some of them were even introduced within Chapter 75 itself
. Mark and Chaletwo get some good moments in the final fight, but for the most part the focus is on characters that I don't have any strong feelings for. Mew and Chalenor's story and deaths are sad in an abstract way, but I haven't gotten too attached, you know? I mean, I know you knew this, but just a reminder that that's rough stuff, and maybe instead of trying to do that really difficult thing, consider restructuring so you don't have to worry about it in future versions?
Mitch's scene at the beginning of 75 is a good example of the minor character thing. Mitch had a very small role up until 75; he shows up even less than Sparky, I think, and while it's been clear that he was important to the plot, that was more as a plot device than as a person
. It's cool that we get to see inside his head here, but the unfortunate side effect of that fact is that you have kind of a combination of an info-dump and a load of tell-don't-show going on here. Like, I could have totally gotten behind a few scenes of Mitch's slowly-degrading mental state as the voices in his head get louder and oppressively louder! Mitch desperately visiting psychic practitioners for help, then even more desperately paying them off not to talk about what happened in their session and having to worry about his position at the Gym on top of
thinking he's going insane! Mitch lying on the couch and rather lucidly working through everything that's brought him to this point is markedly less interesting to me.
Like, I am here
for Mitch "clinging to the last vestiges of his sanity inside his locked Gym." I just didn't think that the scene particularly delivered. Like I said, for someone barely keeping it together, Mitch seems to recollect pretty accurately and extensively what's happened to lead him up to this point. He even takes deciding to commit suicide, essentially, well in stride. Which may be his personality, I don't know; maybe he's not tremendously emotional by nature. Wouldn't be surprising. But after being ravaged by months of worry, poor sleep, and literal head-voices, I'd imagine even pretty stoic people are going to be a bit emotional, and getting the idea that they need to die to save the world and also like, now, please, thrown on top of that, seems like it would be a bit difficult to just roll with. This, again, is something that would have worked a lot better if we'd gotten to see some of it going on beforehand: this "fake, troubled" life that Mitch says he had and he isn't concerned with leaving behind. That's kind of not a normal reaction, you know? It could be super interesting! But it's not really working for me here.
Was he really doing this? Dying for the voice in his head, this companion that – even if it didn’t seem that way – he’d only actually known for a matter of minutes?
I mean, this rather lampshades it, doesn't it? I can buy somebody doing that, even rather calmly and without much remorse, but you're going to have to sell it harder.
Part of the problem here might be that the physical description is a little lacking. It gets better as the scene goes on, I think; I liked bits like "his own sticky, drying mouth" or "It tasted faintly sweet and sticky, distantly reminiscent of blood, leaving a cold, tingling feeling on his tongue and the inside of his mouth." And this whole paragraph is lovely:
With a shaking hand, he lifted the vial towards his faint reflection in the glass door of the cupboard. “Cheers,” he said, chuckling – he looked like a lunatic, he thought – before he let it clink softly against the glass, raised it to his lips and poured the contents into his mouth in one swift gulp.
I just wish there were more like it! But again, there's quite a bit of Mitch being pretty lucid and doing things like sighing and rubbing his temples, which is the sort of behavior I expect from somebody who has an annoying headache, not terrifying auditory/sensory hallucinations. All in all Mitch came across to me as being in better
shape than he was when Mark last saw him, which I don't think was the effect you wanted to give! This chapter should be giving you free rein to amp up the suffering to a ridiculous degree, and I was disappointed to not see you go there at all.
The pokémon venom idea was clever, though. Worked perfectly for this situation!
So that's Mitch. As for Chalenor himself, I don't have a great deal to say, which I guess is part of the problem. The other
part of the problem is that he's a character archetype I just don't much care for. Obviously I enjoy characters with issues... I don't at all shy away from angst! But after a couple thousand years, I think self-pity is a bad look on pretty much anyone.
My primary issue with Chalenor, I guess, is that there doesn't seem to be much to him but
his angst. Which isn't surprising--it's his major motivation in the story, and given the lack of space the most important character trait to bring home. But me, personally, looking over Chalenor's parts in the story, he just doesn't seem to have much of a personality
, much going on besides
his issues. He strikes me as generally inoffensive, a nice guy put upon by circumstances who's convinced himeslf he's not worthy of love. But inoffensive doesn't make for a compelling character... This particular fanfic has no shortage of woobies, and Chalenor simply didn't distinguish himself from the rest of them, to me. To be honest, when I was first reading through 75 and got to the "it's all my fault no please" bit I went, "Oh no, not another one." (There's a big difference between "please no" and "it's all my fault!") For most of the other characters in this fanfic, you had plenty of time to build up their insecurities and self-loathing; it was usually a major part of their respective arcs. For Chalenor you didn't have that, and so to me you got all the angst without any of the interesting.
In Chapter 76 he also didn't strike me as being a particularly ancient. Again, I enjoy me some issues, but the dude's had literally thousands of years to get over his angst. He really doesn't behave like it. Mew gets a pass because she really is young here, without any memories left over from her previous incarnations. But Chalenor? I don't mean that his issues need to be resolved
, by any means, but I would tend to expect that his handling of them, and the way he would deal with someone trying to get close to him, would be different than someone with a mortal-scale life. But I could easily see him as a teenager or twentysomething struggling with his life circumstances, no problem. And that's... about it.
For Mew, see what I said about Chalenor, more or less. We don't see much of her outside her angst, although unlike Chalenor, who literally did nothing wrong because he was MADE to be the Destroyer and can't even control the whole death-rampage thing, Mew actually has done some pretty terrible things, and we even get to see some of them, or their results, in 75/76. But we also don't really see anything of her but her failure. (She does at least appear a few times earlier in the story, which would give you an opportunity to give her more characterization.)
At the intersection of Mew and Chalenor is Chapter 76, which is the one-shot not previously included in the story, right? It was definitely a good idea to bring it into the main part of the narrative! Without it, Chalenor would really be extremely thin, and I just wouldn't understand why Mew cared about him so much at all. I imagine you would have moved some of that info over to the main story anyway, but it's important; it makes sense to spend more time/an entire chapter, at least, on that relationship!
It does seem strange to me that it comes after
75, though. As in after the characters involved are already dead. Surely you'd want us to get attached to them, give us some hope that they come back from their mistakes and their fear and be happily reunited, and then
kill them off? If you'd already introduced us to them, if we already were invested in that relationship, had been happy to see them reunited and sad for what it had to mean, then going back and showing some of these scenes from their earlier, happier life could have been a real stab in the heart, you know, a reminder of how much has changed, and not for the better. But in this version 76 is pretty much where we're introduced
to their relationship
This is one facet of what I think might be a broader issue with the ending chapters. You've obviously been waiting on Chapter 75 in particular for a long, long time. You wanted to get to those reveals and show everybody what's been in your head for all these years! But... is this story really about the reveals? Or is it more about the characters and their relationships? If it's the latter, it might work better to structure the story in such a way that those relationships get more focus, rather than being secretive about them. Doesn't mean introducing "what's up with Chalenor" way back at the beginning or in, like, Chapter 30 or something, but perhaps building it up over a little more time, and letting some of the information come out earlier, rather than compressing it all into Chapter 75.
So, anyway, back to the actual content of Chapter 76 itself. I thought it was, like Chalenor himself, pretty inoffensive. But the issues I had with the characters involved meant that I didn't get as much out of it as you might have hoped. Again, to me, Chalenor in particular felt pretty generic, and that meant that the relationship between him and Mew struck me as pretty generic. (It also read pretty damn romantic to me, rather than platonic, if that's what you were going for. The extent of Mew's obsession with Chalenor definitely read more like a crush than "oh you're cool let's be friends.")
Like, what does Mew see in Chalenor? He's a tortured soul, unfairly rejected by the world and also by himself, and only! Mew! Can see him for who he really is! Describing it like that, it sounds like approximately every angsty teen love ballad in existence, and, honestly, it kind of read that way to me, too. I already mentioned that I thought Chalenor didn't feel very old
here, which is definitely also true of Mew. Mew has the excuse that she's very young, of course; no problem with that. It's Chalenor I have issues with there. I could 100% see the two of them bonding over their favorite band, except I don't think bands as such actually existed at the time.
By far the most interesting thing about this chapter, to me, was how Mew was projecting her issues all over
Chalenor. She really seems more in love with the idea
of him than him as a person, which if that's not what you were going for I would recommend you focus on some more concrete details that illuminate what, specifically
attracts her to him. Right now, what I'm seeing is that he's a nice guy but with a bit of that actually-harmless bad-boy edge, he's nice to cuddle, and he'd make a way better Preserver than her. Which definitely has the breathless quality of a teenage crush to me, not a serious and nuanced relationship that would last long-term.
I'm also not sure whether you intended for their relationship to be kinda ****ed up? I mean, it's you, it wouldn't be out of character by any means, but those elements didn't seem as prominent to me as I'd have expected if you'd meant for it to be kinda ****ed up. However, there's definitely an element of obsession there, with Mew increasingly isolating herself from the other legendaries and apparently not having any friends or life, really, outside of Chalenor. And while Chalenor's insecurities are on full display, Mew actually seems to have similar problems herself, where she's kind of got this idealized image of Chalenor in her head, you know, this picture of a tragic, misunderstood person who is so much better than her
, and she really just wants to make him happy. At first what seems to attract Mew to Chalenor is curiosity, and then the fact that they have fun when they go off to see the world together, but then there's the part where Mew realizes that he likes helping people, whereas she's kind of indifferent to (especially?) non-legendaries, and that makes her feel inadequate, so she tries to emulate Chalenor, tries to become more like him and more worthy of her role as Preserver. The impression I get, though, is that she does this because she wants to make Chalenor
happy, because him being happy makes her happy, and because she feels like she ought to, but she also feels like she's doing it out of obligation rather than because it genuinely makes her happy the way it makes Chalenor happy, which makes her think she's a bad person. She constructs this fantasy of them being heroes, and she tries to live up to it by helping other people, and neither of those are really bad things as such, but I get the impression that she's doing it to try to avoid some underlying issues rather than because they really bring her joy. And then of course towards the end she's obviously in denial and clinging to Chalenor and the possibility of actually ending the war, being a hero, except of course she doesn't actually want either of them to die. There may have been some element of denial and fantasy and not wanting to think about the inevitability of death in the relationship from the start. I don't know, I'm having trouble putting it into words here, but Mew's interest in Chalenor reads a bit more like obsession than love, and strikes me as having some destructive elements.
Sooooo to me that was interesting, but like I said, my impression was that you didn't actually intend for it to be read that way. Once again, what I'd suggest is a little more focus on what Mew liked about Chalenor in terms of his personality and not how he fit into some kind of tragic hero narrative, and maybe a little more on what she enjoys in life besides Chalenor and making him happy.
Part of this may be the pacing. In under 7,000 words you've got these two meeting, falling in... like?... and having their tragic falling out, and even then the bulk
of the words are actually devoted to things falling apart. There just isn't a lot of space to establish what they actually see in each other and what their relationship is like before everything combusts. To me things seemed to happen just a little fast
, like Mew and Chalenor meet, and then they are best friends!
Again, this is definitely influenced by personal preference. I do love angst, but it has to be done just to my taste, and this really isn't. And it obviously worked for many people! So this is really more a question of audience, and what your
vision is for how this all ought to play out.
Now, moving on from 75/76, let's talk about the fic's endgame a bit more broadly.
The pacing of the post-League stuff felt a little funky to me. Some of it may have been a result of the big slowdown in posting these chapters, and a chunk of text that comes out almost a year after the last one naturally feels a bit disconnected and out-of-place, since it's being experienced out of context. Going back over what actually happens after the League, for the most part I think it does work the way it is, and it makes sense that there would be a period of lull after the League Finals as that arc gets wrapped up and the next one starts. It works better when the chapters are read back-to-back than when they're released months apart.
In some cases it's a little odd to see things brought up and resolved after a substantial number of chapters has passed and where they don't have a great deal of relevance to what's going on at the time. Scyther meeting with old friends in Chapter Fifty-something is one example; as you mention in the author's note, we're dealing there with issues that haven't been touched on in >20 chapters, and it's a somewhat contrived chance meeting that brings them back up again. It's tricky, because of course you want to wrap that little arc up at *some* point and not leave Scyther hanging, and you can't do it much earlier because the point is his perspective's changed as a result of the experiences he's had over those twenty-some chapters. Ideally I'd say you'd want to have done a little more to keep that conflict on readers' minds in the intervening time, but I'm not sure there really is an elegant way to get this meeting to happen... it just doesn't connect neatly with the surrounding narrative. Similarly, the revelations about Alan kind of come out of nowhere, which I think I talked about earlier when I reviewed that chapter. There I think focusing a little more on Alan earlier on would probably help; his scene comes out a bit more naturally as result of stress from the increasingly imminent war plus the whole thing with May. It'd be easier to make it feel natural than Scyther's bit.
I'm also still not totally sold on the Waraider chapters. Having read to the end of the story, I understand at least some of why you wanted to summon up all these characters again; a lot of them have at least some kind of role to play in the final chapters. So if you want to leave that untouched, then having all these "recruitment" scenes would have to happen at some point (for the most part). Maybe! I'm not sure they're all that necessary.
I think Chibi mentioned going back and still not seeing the foreshadowing with Victor in his little bit, and I agree. He seems kind of weirded out that these people he barely knows showed up and started going off on this story about legendaries killing each other and needing his help to find Waraider, but not particularly wary of them
or even particularly reluctant. If you want to back up his later "I always knew there was something off about you two!" I think you really ought to sell it here; maybe a question like, "So, uhhh, how's that letaligon of yours doing?" and Mark brushing it off with a casual answer and Victor seeing unnerved would help a bit with that. As it is, though, I don't think the scene actually makes his sudden but inevitable betrayal seem any more inevitable; returning to it after the fact doesn't make me see it any differently than I did the first time around.
But, ultimately, do you really need Victor? Maybe Robin wouldn't have had the initiative to off and tell Rick about May if she didn't have an accomplice. It's also nice that you managed to give a minor recurring character a somewhat larger role towards the end of the story. And obviously I'm here for Carl and Sparky, and that one guy's tracking system (Ryan?) was cool, but was it worth the time spent on it? Leah--she shows up earlier to introduce the truth about the soul gems, and it's logical
that she'd return to help with this, and she's a fun character, but... do you really need her? Or perhaps, do you really need to spend so much time with her? This part is where I think the end section really starts to feel a little crufty. It's a lot of fun to see these characters come back and have greater significance--that kind of neat, "Oh, so that's what that person was about!" is part of what make stories so fun in general. But there's kind of a lot of it in this section, and tbh I kept having to go back and look up who all was there and who they all were, and it could be hard to keep track of everybody in a scene and they weren't necessarily all that relevant to the Waraider fight itself. Perhaps consider cutting down a bit on the introduced/reintroduced characters, or bring some of their roles down to "brief cameo" level rather than having as much interaction as you do between them and the main cast. Again, I know your stated reason for wanting to e.g. show the actual meeting with Mitch, but it isn't really working for me.
On the other hand, the "final stretch" chapters work quiet well, I think. Obviously most of the actual action/revelation happens all together in Chapter 74 and especially 75, but the preceding chapters do a good job of building up
to those events. You ramp up the tension before releasing it at the climax, so the crazy stuff going down feels like the inevitable conclusion of what came before, rather than "oh **** gotta wrap this thing up, here's the part where they all fight I guess." Things are more loosey-goosey from ~53-65 (the Waraider part DOES feel self-consistent and all, it just seems a little odd placed where it is), but the ending arc draws things together nicely. I already talked about some reservations with the climax itself, but as far as the lead-up goes, no serious complaints.
RIGHT. That's Chapter 75/76 and the general structure of the climax. Let's move on to some aspects of the story that I thought were really done well, shall we?
Which means that we're going to be talking about the characters. The plot, setting, and structure of the story do show some "I thought this would be awesome when I was twelve" flaws, but the characters have for the most part escaped that, and are probably where you've shown the most growth as a writer over the course of the story.
For whatever reason I feel like talking about Alan first, so let's do that. Alan is kind of the odd one out in the main trio. His primary role for most of the story is to oppose May, and it feels like he spends more time off-screen than on. You do introduce some interesting ideas with that heart-to-heart he has with Mark in Chapter Sixty-I'm-Too-Lazy-To-Check, and if you go back and bring those elements more to the fore in a rewrite, then I think he'll be more interesting (and also that that scene'll feel a bit more natural instead of coming out of nowhere, haha). But I also don't think his place in the character pantheon in this version is bad
, either. He's part of the main trio, but he also kind of isn't, and that's okay. With apologies because I know it would inflame all his inadequacy issues, some people just aren't destined to be main characters, and that, too, is okay.
On the other hand, I think May is perhaps the best character in this story. She goes through what is probably the most intense and dramatic character growth, and it's interesting how it initially isn't really connected to the plot, but then in the end becomes VERY important to the plot, and is actually one of its major drivers in the later chapters. May's basically a rival archetype but not actually used the way a rival would be in most trainerfics, as she shares her goals with the protagonist, they mostly travel together, and so on. It's rare to see a character portrayed as a "good trainer," in that they're effective in battle, and on the protagonist's side, while also being a "bad trainer" in that they achieve good results through poor methods. What I really like most about May's arc, though, is that she really gets to experience consequences! So many negative things come out of May's attitude towards her pokémon, but ultimately it takes someone literally DYING to finally make her step back and truly reevaluate her behavior. She isn't someone who does a bad thing but who can be brought around to ~seeing the light~ after a stern speech from the protagonist or whatever, or even after having friends leave her over her behavior! She has a great deal of trouble accepting the truth even after things completely blow up in her face, and she's thrown into a situation where there are no good options, and all of them carry serious
consequences, if not for herself then for others.
In some ways May's journey is the toughest out of any of the characters'. I mean, Chaletwo literally dies, and he worries a lot and is under a lot of pressure especially towards the end of the story, but in the end he doesn't have a lot of time to angst over his decision. On the other hand, May has a ton
of time to angst. She tries to hide what happened, then has to deal, repeatedly, with other people's revulsion when they find out about it. She nearly gets killed by the guy who went nuts after his brother died! She knows even her friends are judging her! It's one long walk of shame and self-doubt and uncomfortable reflection on everything she's done in her time as a trainer, and having to come to grips with just how badly she's screwed up. On top of potentially getting annihilated by some crazed legendary pokémon in a few months, of course, but that had to be a welcome distraction from everything going on in her head! You were incredibly hard on May for an extended period of time, and you really needed
that time to show just how badly this was affecting her, as well as to give her some time to process it and try to figure out a way forward. Someone as stubborn as May doesn't just admit to having screwed up, and it would have felt cheap if she'd been able to shrug the issue off or had immediately repented and tried to set things right. You did a great job of showing the complexity of the situation, how there were no easy answers even though there's one very clear morally correct
one, and how difficult it is for May to come to terms with what she knows she has to do. It's definitely good that she eventually chose to do the right thing, though really your only other option would be to leave her as a villain, essentially. It's a little frustrating to not get a final word on her fate (or Tyranitar's), but it's another of those things where you really couldn't have devoted the space you'd need to do it justice. Even now that May's decided to turn herself in, it's a complicated and uncertain road towards whatever the ultimate result of that decision is, and having a pat wrap-up with her ending up free and clear or whatever would have felt cheap after all the work put into making her situation messy and very not-easy overall. May's arc is painful and messy and slow-moving but also heartbreakingly real and, ultimately, hopeful. May starts out vain and stubborn and a bit mean, but it takes a lot of courage and a lot of humility to own up to something that big and that bad, not because you're being forced to, but because you know it's the right thing to do and you ultimately can't let someone else take the fall for what you yourself did.
I mentioned in my last large review that I wished the relationships between the trainers and some of the pokémon had been beefed up a bit, and that still stands. I think you do the arcs for Scyther and Letaligon well, though, and obviously there are too many pokémon for you to reasonably give all of them much development. (Convenient that you can use May's personality as justification for why we see so little of her mons, heh.) It is really great that you showed a bit of trainers actually having issues with their pokémon and legitimately needing to work with them to help them learn and grow. And those pokémon have their own goals in life that don't revolve around humans, and they're allowed to think and act independently of the trainers. It's fantastic! And something that was, as I understand it, mostly an accident, but definitely one of the fortunate ones! Scyther and Letaligon's arcs provide some structure to the story when it's otherwise mostly going around collecting badges (or league battles) and keep things grounded in the "trainer's journey" thing rather than flipping everything over into the "catching legends" thing. They interact well with Mark's own arc; he learns important things from both Letaligon and Scyther, and they're relevant to his own growth. And, finally, they don't take up an undue amount of time (although I guess Scyther got quite a bit of focus in some of the earlier chapters). All in all, they're minor characters (though again, I know your opinions on Scyther
), but memorable ones and definitely positive assets to the overall story.
Gyarados' arc with Suicune is interesting, but I kind of feel like we missed something in the resolution, especially because Gyarados figures so prominently in the final chapter. The last time he had any significant screentime was twenty-two
chapters ago, and at that point he was apparently still reeling from having learned what Suicune had done to him. Like, he was just rampaging around trying to break the crystals and has refused to speak human (is he still refusing to do so in 77?), and although he doesn't break the crystals in 55 after promising Mark that he won't, my impression was that he still had a lot of hatred towards Suicune and was holding onto resentment over what the legendary had done to him. To see him seem so calm about things at the end, then, felt like I'd missed the bit where he works to get over his issues and come to terms with the situation. Obviously, quite a bit of time has passed between those two scenes, so it's totally possible that such a reconciliation could have happened, but since Gyarados gets just two single-sentence mentions during that intervening time, it definitely wasn't remarked on by the narrative.
Other than that, there are a host of other minor-ish characters that contribute to the story. Like, lots of them! And I don't think there are any that are bad. They liven things up even if they don't do a great deal, many of them are memorable and likable in their own right, and a lot of them, I think, you could plausibly write stories about and have those be interesting and worth reading on their own merits. They have minor roles in this
story, but they have enough depth to carry their own
story if they need to, which is no mean feat. I guess that means even poor Chaletwo gets relegated to the role of "minor character," but if I sat around giving my thoughts on everybody remotely significant to the narrative I'd never finish this thing. So I'll just say that the cast is definitely the highlight of the fic, from the most inconsequential people on up.
Although I feel like I might still be missing something... Hmmm... Like possibly the actual protagonist of almost the entire danged story?
I said May is probably the best character in the story, but Mark probably ended up being my favorite. Which is definitely interesting, because he didn't make much of an impression on me for a long time. I don't know that I ever really disliked him, but he did have a bit of that bland-protagonist syndrome, where everybody else manages to be more colorful and engaging than our viewpoint character. He's not a flashy character by any means; if anything, he's kind of a straight man surrounded by dramatic characters with outsized lives and outsized problems. He develops, too, but it's in a way that's much more subtle than most of the other characters. He didn't really have any big, obvious problems that he needed to overcome. He was a little unsure of himself, and a little passive, but he mostly seemed okay with himself and just excited about getting to have the adventure he'd been wanting for so long. He had flaws, but they weren't anything on the scale of "exiled forever from my people" or "obsessed with growing strong so I can kill abusive father" or even "hyperfocused on success to the point where I use other people to obtain it." He's honestly really... normal. But that doesn't end up being the same as boring, at all.
Mark is in a lot of ways a subversion of the usual journeyfic protagonist. In most stories, the main character overcomes hardships in order to become an incredibly strong trainer, often mastering one or more supernatural abilities along the way. They become ~the very best~ and get the fame and glory they were looking for. Mark does get better at battling as time goes on, but he's never spectacular at it. In the end he accomplishes the super difficult thing he was setting out to do, but only maybe a dozen people or so will ever know about it. It's practically the opposite of a power fantasy, where he has to go through all the hard stuff, but it stays hard
instead of becoming trivial, and in the end the only reward is his own knowledge of what he's accomplished and less-than-sexy powers like "self confidence" and "compassion." He started out wanting the same thing as all the other wanna-be master trainers, but in the end what he got wasn't fame and glory or The Girl, but the things he really needed to live a better life.
I guess you could say that Mark is kind of Ash Ketchum done right? Mark's never as much of a dumbass as Ash is, though he is a bit of a dumbass to start out, but otherwise they're pretty similar characters. Ash is never allowed to actually grow or mature or significantly advance as a character, but when he's at his best, he really embodies what the Pokémon franchise is supposed to be about: friendship and respect and self-sacrifice, more than simply doing whatever it takes to be the strongest. And that's really Mark, isn't it? His pokémon are powerful, but battles are really more about them
. He tries to solve problems without violence where possible. His actual strengths are more about listening--not even giving good advice, but just listening and actually caring about the person he's listening to--and understanding other people. Like, empathy, man. And he does it all without becoming a smarmy goody-two-shoes cariacature, the kind of cartoon character who shows up in media aimed at teaching kids not to fight
and to talk about feelings
and whatnot. (It probably helps that talking about feelings doesn't actually always work or solve all the problems in the story.) In the end he's just kind of a really good guy? Like, someone who does his best to help other people, even at cost to himself, but not a saint, a hero but not the kind of hero you see in stories supposedly about
heroes, who usually do a lot of punching other people or are actually kind of reprehensible but better than the alternative in a gray-on-gray world. Just a good-but-ordinary guy trying to do his best and do best by other people, even when it seems like there's no hope, that there's no choice but to fight. And isn't that the kind of hero we really need to see right now, someone ordinary who manages to be extraordinary simply through the power of being a decent person and not giving up in the face of bleak odds?
Anyway. Mark. What a good protagonist! Okay, other things...
One thing I'd liked to have seen more of throughout the story was description of the environment. Since this is an original region, you don't have the advantage that everybody's already formed a vision of what e.g. Lavender Town looks like and already has a sense of its atmosphere and what setting a scene there might mean. It doesn't feel to me like you could have dropped Ouenn places into Kanto and have it work out, necessarily; like, the anime has Ash travel to a bunch of random towns that don't appear in any other canon when he's traveling around, and they usually
feel appropriate to the setting, just somewhere they didn't include in the games. What stand out in my mind as "major locations" in Ouen, like the Lake of Purity or the Black Desert, don't feel like places that would really work in Kanto or Sinnoh or Kalos or whatever, maybe because they're a bit more dangerous or wild-feeling than a lot of pokémon locations are. So that's good; I think Ouen does feel sufficiently like a different place
than any of the canon regions, and on a macro level I think it works as somewhere separate from anywhere we've visited in canon.
On the level of individual scenes, though, I think a lot of the region doesn't have much character to it. I think I mentioned it in my review of Chapter 74 or so, but the characters venturing through Rainbow Woods felt like they were just wandering around in A Forest, not any specific
forest. Likewise many of the other locations felt like there wasn't much to them; May's training spot where Taylor was killed, for example, is as far as I'm concerned just A Field, and the Waraider fight also took place in A Field, and there were usually only one or two important buildings in towns/cities that got any sort of mention, and other than that the places are pretty interchangeable.
It's tricky because it's not like I think you want big hunks of lavish description by any means, and because it's often fine to have scenes take place in pretty generic locations; returning to the Waraider fight, holding it anywhere but in A Field would probably just have distracted from the action. However, I think it would liven up your scenes a bit and help to make Ouen feel more distinct and authentic as its own region to locate the characters more strongly in their environment. You also leave a lot on the table in terms of mood and atmosphere by doing a minimal amount of scene-setting. Returning to the Rainbow Woods chapter, you could have really amped up the miserableness with having to hack through overgrown, pathless underbrush, or contrasted the characters' anxiety and discouragement with pretty flowers and butterflies, or even done the classic "make them even more miserable" with a bit of driving rain. As it was the setting didn't hinder
the narrative in any way, but it didn't enhance
it, either. You could have had Mark and May search some mountains, or a grassland, or an island chain, and not much would have been different. And certainly if Rainbow Woods weren't given a name I wouldn't have any way to identify it as distinct from any other forest the characters went through.
It's not a big issue and not one you need to worry about if you don't want to; this isn't a story that really lives
its setting by any means. If you do want to try to add some more description, though, it might help to try working outward from the emotional core of the scene, rather than thinking like, "How am I going to describe this place?" You probably don't want a thorough detailing of the environment, just a couple of quick details to give it more definition, and the feel is more important than the look. Since your strength is in character interactions and drama, maybe instead think about what the mood is in the scene, and then what in the characters' surroundings might reflect that mood. Like, maybe Mark is feeling pretty lost in this scene, so some mention of unfamiliar plants or animal calls he doesn't recognize might increase the feeling of unease and reinforce how disconnected/confused he feels. Or, rather than playing with the characters' emotions, instead consider how the environment might reflect on the characters themselves. Carl's super minimalist home is an example of this done well, so in turn, how might Mitch's house look (or smell?) after months of him hiding out there and not really taking care of himself? Or it could be something as simple as Mark noticing deep gashes in tree trunks in the area where he meets Scyther, as a result of the local scyther/letaligon marking their territory.
That took up more space than I was expecting. In any case, another thing that I thought this story did well was really integrate the "trainer's journey" aspect with the "saving the world" aspect of the story, which is something that's very rare in journeyfics. Usually when the big-deal B-plot shows up it kind of eclipses the normal trainer stuff to the point where, if the trainers even keep going with the normal journey, it feels kind of weird and inconsequential alongside everything that's going on. But here, despite the legendary-catching save-the-world stuff, a lot of the big problems the characters deal with are just... normal trainer problems. (Or, well, "My monster-child stepped on a guy I didn't like and he died" isn't a normal
trainer problem, but it has nothing to do with the End Times.) The trainers and their pokémon are all people trying to grow up and figure themselves out while on a big crazy quest together, and that leads to all kinds of conflict and mistakes and personal growth. It's one of those things that I'm sure is accidental--a lot of it is down to the major threat being kind of nebulous and not directly impacting the characters. So what needs to drive the story forward is internal conflict rather than an external force attacking the protagonist's group, which is what you have when Team Whatever keeps jumping in to try and steal stuff or fire their god-weapon or whatever.
Like I think I said earlier, this makes the story feel very grounded
despite all the frankly weird **** going on, and in part this is what allows it to stay strong despite the excesses of your preteen plotting and worldbuilding. You really nail the "ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances" thing, and this makes the more trainer-ly chapters feel like they really matter, because they're actually where a fair amount of the conflict and character moments come from. The gym battles, for example; some of them are relevant because they're directly connected with the legendary plotline (Carl, Rick, Sparky), but then there are those that are simply character-relevant, like that one where Mark tries to double battle with Scyther and Charmeleon (Charizard?), and even the more plot-relevant ones have important character stuff surrounding them. I think a couple of the later gyms, in particular, felt a little more perfunctory, like we just need this badge so we can move on to the League (and catch Polaryu), but the early stuff is still really important and relevant to the overall arc of the 'fic, and for more reasons than just a lot of the early characters end up showing up again later.
All that to say, I think that this is one of the better journey fics out there if only for the fact that the journey is so important! I think if you didn't have the whole legendary war going on, this would still be a solid and enjoyable story, although obviously you'd need to restructure things to have them make sense and whatnot. You say it's really slow, you say the plot doesn't start until the Pokémon Festival, and to some extent that's true, but even though the story's about the War of the Legends, what I think it's actually really
about, at the heart of it, is all these people who happen to be involved in this big crazy conspiracy, and how they deal with it and deal with having to just live their lives despite all the wackiness going on, and that's something that was working from much earlier on in the story. I guess it's kind of funny that although what the story is probably known for is the whole legendary-catching thing, what it might actually do best is what so many other fanfics that transition to world-saving shenanigans struggle with, which is the actual trainer-journey elements.
On the other hand, if you have the option of including a mind-controlled super-super clone, time travel, and sarcastic head-voices, why wouldn't you? I'm not saying the story would be better
if none of the War of the Legends stuff happened, only that even without it, this would be an enjoyable story.
Kind of struggling with how to wrap things up. This review is hellaciously long, but I feel like I didn't actually talk about that much in it? Uhh. I've always enjoyed this story, though like you (I imagine) I appreciated it in different ways at different times. A long time ago it was one of the first fanfics I'd ever read, and certainly one of the longest and most complete--it gave me a real chance to experience the wonder of a written trainer's journey beyond the usual lab chapter and maybe one more that most journey fics got through and a chance to appreciate pokémon characters who actually did things other than come out of their pokéballs to fight now and again. The early chapters are imperfect, but they still bear your own mark on them, and even way back then, you had your own vision of the pokémon world that came through in your work. Now, of course, I can enjoy the more complex character motivations and the interactions between them, plus some greatly improved action sequences and fun worldbuilding that's a little more thought-through. There's a reason that this story has resonated with so many people over the years, and it's not because we all have really terrible taste when we're fourteen. Even though you didn't start out being able to articulate them that well, your work has always been full of good ideas
, not to mention a lot of heart; it's something only you could have written, and you've always had a voice worth listening to.
Thanks again for working so hard on this story over the years, for sharing it, for getting us all the way to the end. It's been amazing to be able to follow this story for such a long time . It's worth reading and enjoying despite its silly bits, and as the chapters go on there are fewer and fewer silly bits and more and more truly interesting and affecting explorations of character and what it's like to be caught up in things larger than yourself and have courage despite the very real possibility of defeat. It's worth being proud of, both for what it's become in its final stages and what it was when it began, a very ambitious project--more ambitious than you realized--and a project that grew up with you and taught you a great deal along the way. I know this is your "big project" and you don't expect to devote as much time to writing now that you've completed it, but I hope that you will continue to write and share your work in the future. You definitely have an audience in me! If there's anything else you'd like me to comment on or if you'd like me to expand on anything in this review, just let me know! This is a big story, and there's tons to unpack, even in what's more or less just the final third of the fic.