"please... won't you listen to my song?"
my favourite Pokémon ever, and the star of today's show. fire-borne Entei is one of three legendary dogs and, by defintion, "scary." it is 2 meters tall and just one of its paws weighs enough to flatten a car. plus, because it "embodies the passion of magma," it's so strong and powerful that it could turn the world to ash in an instant. to make matters worse, that bubbling-hot power is hard to control. so Entei puts the lives of others ahead of its own, choosing instead to endlessly wander the Earth, never staying long enough in one place to hurt anybody. i think that's very noble, but also very sad.
on the contrary, Spell of the Unown recasts Entei as the caregiver to a lonely little girl. they are alike in that way: sharing a sense of reclusion and longing. under normal circumstances, Entei would be too volatile to watch over something so fragile as a child, but in Molly's fantasy world, Papa's extraordinary power can only be used in her service. thus, he cannot hurt anyone precious. although Papa is only an illusion, not a real Entei who until now has been roaming far and wide, i still believe he was ecstatic at the opportunity to love and be loved.
while this movie has a compelling story and elegant visuals, it is foremost an advertisement for the Generation II games. as such, all of Molly's team are Johto natives.
when i was a little girl, i related to Molly a lot. because i knew my parents loved me, it was even harder to deal with what felt like their neverending busyness. they just didn't have time for me when there was more important work to attend to. consequently, my earliest memories revolve around being quiet. not invisible, no. just unobtrusive. it felt taboo to ask for anything— even food— unless i got the timing just right; so i'd go hungry.
that's not to say i was starved, unwashed, and left wholly unattended. obviously, someone paid enough attention to preserve my life, or else you wouldn't be reading this! the problem, really, was loneliness. to fill the void, i invited myself into imaginary worlds where everything was exciting, where i was free to be exceptional and, most importantly, i was well-loved. meanwhile, Pokémon, still riding the high of its late 90's popularity boom, played on our TV every Saturday morning. Advanced Generations was in its heydey, and those stylish Pokémon coordinators fascinated me. so, as naturally as a little ducky takes to water, i slipped into its vibrant world. Hoenn became the setting of my first daydreams.
funnily enough, by the time i was old enough to have actual friends, i was so accustomed to solitude that real-world socialising felt unimpressive. though i courted friends, i rarely invited them over. my rendezvous out of the house were limited to academic projects and little else. i attended zero sleepovers. in fact, for my entire schooling career, i held a strict policy: no hanging out with friends over summer break. "it's nothing personal," i explained, "it's just that i have better things to do." nowadays, it seems to me that human connection was little more than a time-kill while waiting for the final bell to ring.
taking in Spell of the Unown's themes of isolation and fantasy, it makes perfect sense that i would continue to relate to Molly well into my adult life. not only does the film itself bring me great nostalgia and warmth, but i see both my past and current selves mirrored in its protagonist. it's very telling that Molly never intends to cause harm or cast blame. in her own words, she only wants to live in peace with her family— magic substitutes or otherwise. when she wonders, "where are my parents?" "am i not important to them?" "why would they leave me behind?" she doesn't expect answers. instead, she's seeking comfort that will eradicate the need for questions.
rather than explosive, untouchable magma, Molly's Entei embodies that comfort. Papa is big and powerful, strong enough to defend the daydream against attacks of any kind. at the same time, he depends on Molly; his strength correlates with her belief in him. it's fair to say his entire existence rests in her hands, because he manifested from a wish for unassailable love. "if that is what you wish," he says as he and the Unown carry out Molly's fantasies. where a real father has boundaries and obligations, Papa is at once playmate and protector, servant and spearhead.
in effect, Entei's truest appeal is his singleminded devotion to Molly and Molly alone. at last, Molly is free to be selfish, to ask for what she wants and receive it, unequivocally, because Papa does not have needs of his own. he tells her, "i am happy that you are happy," and that's enough. there's nothing left to worry about. can you imagine a relationship where time and attention are so freely given that all you have to do is smile in return? i couldn't. that's why Entei, the legendary lap dog, became my instant favourite.
and without fail, Entei's final lines make me sob uncontrollably. as he fades from existence, already aware that Molly's request to destroy their fantasy world would destroy him too, he assures her that he was "happy and proud" to be her Papa. proud. Molly offers him affection, gratitude (occasionally), and little else— she's only 5 or 6 years-old, after all— so what is there to be proud of? nothing, really... except for the intrinsic worth held in the heart of every child. to love unconditionally, and to be satisfied with that station in life, is to say "you are enough for me. there is always room for you here. come exactly as you are." realistically, i know it's just Dan Green bellowing into a studio microphone with a bit of reverb slapped on, but that doesn't stop the tears from flowing.
what else can i say? for me, watching Spell of the Unown reignites intense feelings of childhood longing: the wish for company, for protection, for significance, and to have my needs met. i cry through all 74 minutes because it's not just a movie. it's a silent plea: i wished my parents would see why i loved the story and treat me accordingly. it reminds me that daydreams cannot subsitute reality, even if that person in my head loves me as thoroughly as Papa does. now, i'm one of the lucky ones. my Twelve is always with me, a wonderful, tangible woman devoted to my happiness. i feel grateful every day for her gentleness and generousity.