Adi Shankar has a long history of rebooting our favorite childhood franchises with new adult twists. Prior to his hiring on Netflix’s Castlevania series, Shankar made a name for himself by creating his own one-shot shorts that reimagined Mr. Rogers as a war hero or the Power Rangers as former child soldiers – each film a part of a larger “Bootleg Universe.” Now, the Indian-American filmmaker has set his sights on the Pokémon franchise.
Since its inception in the late 1990s, the popular media franchise has come under some criticism for its violent depiction of the super-powered creatures. Originally, Pokémon served no greater purpose than to be captured and collected, used only for fighting other monsters for status climbing and monetary reward.
The Pokémon anime did a great job of further exploring how the little critters affected the daily lives of humans, establishing their role as partners and friends to trainers, who would still use them for battle. This was taken an extra step further in this year’s live-action Detective Pikachu film, set in a city which banned fighting the creatures, which of course resulted in underground Pokémon battles.
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Now, Shankar’s latest Bootleg project takes that idea and ramps it up to the max. Examining Ash Ketchum’s world after Pikachu’s death, the explicit cartoon finds Pokémon after Pokémon meeting their viciously gory end. The battles featured within are too grisly to describe in detail, but it’s all a part of Ash’s larger plan to free all the monsters from their oppressive trainers.
It’s pretty obvious that The Pokémon Company would never, ever take its family-friendly franchise in such a direction, and honestly, it’s for the best. It’s unsettling to see characters we know and love decimated so brutally, for no other purpose than to shock. It’s safe to say most people don’t want to think about Pokémon as anything other than cool and cute little creatures that enjoy battling because it’s fun. But I guess if you do want to see a more adult take on the property, you can always hold out hope for that R-rated cut of Detective Pikachu.