From games to anime and manga, the Pokémon franchise is no stranger to recycling plots. Usually, there's no need to elaborate, as the origins of these adapted or derivative stories are crystal clear -- but with the 23rd movie, Secrets of the Jungle, could they be reaching back to recycle a plot from Season 1?
Everything we know about the movie so far has pointed to a very simple yet discernable plot: the boy Koko is raised in the wilderness from childhood by the Pokémon Zarude, growing up both wild, and apart from humans. To fans of the original run of the Pokémon anime, this plot immediately strikes a chord -- because Season 1, Episode 34, "The Kangaskhan Kid" did it first.
In this episode, Ash, Brock and Misty accidentally enter the Safari Zone and find themselves assisting Ranger Jenny in preventing the poaching of a herd of Kangaskhan by Team Rocket. At first, Team Rocket overwhelms them, until a cry sounds out from the forest! A young boy swings out of the foliage and using nothing but a boomerang and his ability to speak to the Pokémon, saves the day. It's quickly revealed that this young boy, Tommy was raised by the Kangaskhan, and is fiercely protective of them.
What's immediately apparent is the fact that both stories take heavy inspiration from Tarzan and other "raised by wild animal stories," with both young boys wearing what appear to be animal skin loin-clothes, having trouble speaking to humans and are shown as having a special relationship with the Pokémon. They're obviously both far more at ease swinging through the trees of the forest than around technology or other humans. Tommy even refers to the herd leader as "Mama Kangaskhan," similar to how Koko refers to the scarf-wearing Zarude as "Dada."
It is here, however, the similarities start to fall away. Unlike Tommy's peaceful herd, Dada Zarude and Koko live by themselves, with key art showcasing that most other Zarudes in the area are hostile. Not to mention -- there's no indication that Koko even has human parents. Tommy most definitely does.
The episode takes an unexpected twist when Tommy's parents show up in their helicopter, claiming to have been looking for the boy ever since he fell from their helicopter five years ago. Ash and co. attempt to help Tommy remember them, but it isn't until he gets a whack on the head from his Papa that he does. There's still one more unexpected twist left -- rather than forcing the young boy to choose between living with his human or Pokémon parents, his parents immediately abandon civilization and join the herd to live with their boy!
In contrast, it doesn't look like Koko will be getting quite as picturesque an ending, with trailers showing Ash introducing him to human civilization slowly. It's likely that Koko will have to make the hard choice of where and how he wants to live, as a Pokémon with his Dada, or as a human in the town. And this is to say nothing of any potential poaching that may be happening, riling up the other Zarudes.
So has Pokémon recycled the plot of a Season 1 episode to form their new movie? No, it doesn't appear as such. The two stories have enough differences between them to be two separate tales of two boys raised by Pokémon. If anything, both stories showcase the symbiotic nature of people and Pokémon beyond training for battle, caring for each other when hurt and showing kindness. While they're certainly taking the literal "wild child" concept for a second, much more realistic, go-around, Secrets of the Jungle is sure to take us to yet another unforeseen conclusion.