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"The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon" premiered today 15 years ago on Kids' WB! Most notably Ash was voiced here by Jamie Peacock (Kayzie Rogers)


Battle Dimension Pokémon!
Feb 16, 2021
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The special premiered in the United States on April 29, 2006
Here's a link to the song Pokémon Go! wich was used as the opening and ending theme of the special, and later as the ending theme of Season 9 - Battle Frontier.
Here's a clip from the original Kids' WB! airing, as the version available in DVD is the redubbed one with Sarah Natochenny as Ash's voice in place of Kayzie Rogers.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpruswHr1ro
Oh yes, the great divide over the voice actor change. Feels so long ago now, with most people either accepting it or just not discussing the anime anymore. I rarely see anyone hating on the new voices anymore, usually it's just Meowth and James but even that is rare. Ironically, I thought Kayzie Rogers did a better performance as Ash than Sarah Natochenny in this special, but luckily the latter improved greatly by mid-DP. Might actually re-watch this tonight, was definitely one of the better specials they did.
I think what's even more egregious than the shoddy voice work in the dub is just how bad the art looks in this. They couldn't have gotten Iwane or Tamagawa to do the freaking tenth anniversary special?? Shameful.

It's too bad a lot of people think of this special and the Battle Frontier arc as the baseline of TPCI's voices because all of them have greatly improves since then. I actually caught a brief clip of Journeys and Sarah Natochenny's Ash was actually pretty good. She doesn't quite match Rica Matsumoto, but neither did Veronica Taylor. And really all of the characters who have stuck around long enough since this aired have really gotten more enjoyable (except Jimmy Zoppi's Meowth but I think that's just a lost cause at this point).
As someone who grew up with Veronica Taylor, Eric Stuart, Rachel Lillis, and Maddie Blaustein I will always prefer them to what we have now. That being said, Sarah Natochenny is still terrific as are the current VAs for Brock, James, and Meowth. I don’t care for Misty or Delia’s new voices. There are also some notable Pokémon that have changed that I’m mostly indifferent toward, but some of them stand out as meh occasionally.
As someone who grew up with Veronica Taylor, her voice work for Ash regressed considerably in the advanced saga. As did Eric Stuart's James. The problem was, Cathcarts James was even worse than what we were having by the end part of advanced battle. Sarah's Ash is actually quite good, in fact, it's better than Veronica Taylor's Ash (after Johto).
As someone who grew up with Veronica Taylor, her voice work for Ash regressed considerably in the advanced saga. As did Eric Stuart's James. The problem was, Cathcarts James was even worse than what we were having by the end part of advanced battle. Sarah's Ash is actually quite good, in fact, it's better than Veronica Taylor's Ash (after Johto).
I respectfully disagree with all of this, honestly. I never noticed much of a difference in VT’s quality and Cathcart’s interpretation of James is something I enjoy even if I liked ES’s better. And as I said, I still prefer VT to SN even if they’re both terrific. That’s just my own opinion.
I respectfully disagree with all of this, honestly. I never noticed much of a difference in VT’s quality and Cathcart’s interpretation of James is something I enjoy even if I liked ES’s better. And as I said, I still prefer VT to SN even if they’re both terrific. That’s just my own opinion.
Fair enough, but it's worth jumping into the series again. I recently caught the first 60 episodes through the twitch marathon, then the last 20 episodes of Advanced Battle and the difference was huge. Veronica Taylor's Ash sounds almost like a completely different person while Eric Stuarts James did sound like a new VA was voicing him, even though stuart was doing the role. Also, Stuart tended to yell everytime he speak later in the series for some reason.
Got use to all aside from James and Meowth, but they're still okay. I think Lillis should have been allowed to reprise her role as Misty from BW and as unlike with Natochenny or even Rogers, I can't imagine Knotz really feeling disrespect since she only voiced her once prior to BW.

Otherwise no other complaint other than feeling like they should have allowed the original cast to do Battle Frontier.
What a crazy time of change this was. Granted I didn't see much of 4Kids's stuff as a kid (Never saw much of Kanto because well, I was just a baby by that point, most of Advanced was on Sky One and we didn't have it and I only ever saw the first three movies, the third being on a really crappy bootleg tape recorded from a cinema) and we had to wait until 2008 until CITV/GMTV started to air it which by that point we were already in Diamond and Pearl territory.

So yes, the TPCI cast was my proper introduction to the series itself. And looking back now, yeah, the TAJ (post 4Kids era) was super rough. Of course the newer VA's (asides from Cartcart and Rodgers who stayed on) had to get to grips with being the new VA's (Ash especially, Natochenny's earlier performance was not all that great) but there was a lot of just bizarre voice direction that really held them back. Not that great to watch these days.

Granted I think a lot of them got much better (asides from James and Meowth, I can never really get into them still) once DuArt took over (I know give Wayland a lot of crap but the one thing I'll praise him for was giving a lot of the older VA's the chance to return and now a couple of them are mainstays in the series - Marc Thompson, Erica Schroeder, etc) and nowadays I have not much problem with them. In fact I look up to a lot of them these days being a fan of voice actors (as well as their other more recent work for other stuff) and I can appreciate them for that. Sure, the dub isn't the most perfect thing ever but I can enjoy it for what it is.
I think what's even more egregious than the shoddy voice work in the dub is just how bad the art looks in this. They couldn't have gotten Iwane or Tamagawa to do the freaking tenth anniversary special?? Shameful.
God, I can't get over how butt ugly the special looks. Ash looks like he's melting by the end of it.
15 years ago, so crazy. I still have this special on DVD (packaged with Lucario and the Mystery of Mew) and it definitely did not hold up to the test of time (although whether it even did when it was first released is debatable, lol).

I think there's been enough discourse regarding the VA changes, but I really have to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else here in terms of the art...I guess as a kid, I didn't realize just how bad it was! Definitely rough for something that was meant as an anniversary special. Not to mention all of the errors and inconsistencies throughout the special. Honestly, this special is the definition of "a little confused but has the spirit."

Truthfully, I actually wish the anime would do specials like this more often. Just without all of the attached controversy, convoluted plot, dialogue errors, and poor art.
I remember seeing the special for the first time and not liking Kayzie's take on Ash. It didn't sound right as even though I don't like Sarah's voice it's still miles better than Kayzie's. That said I didn't like the plot of this special.
Wow, a whole decade and a half ago. Where's the time gone!? For perspective, a decade and a half from 2006 would've been 1991, back when Pokémon was little more than a design document, and back when its future success and ubiquity was unthinkable. Or for that matter, back when the success and ubiquity of the internet where we're typing all of this right now was unthinkable. A heck of a lot changes after 15 years, or even five years, or that matter.

Now, regarding the special, I happen to agree with Dogasu's assessment in his review that people generally seem to be more interested in talking about the voice acting (admittedly the big elephant in the room when it comes to this special) than the actual story itself, which is... something else compared to what the anime typically did at that point, and is plenty worthy of discussion on its own. But I guess I'll go ahead and get my opinions on the voice acting out of the way, because there is, of course, plenty to discuss there as well.

A little perspective before I begin: my first exposure to the (then) new voice actors was actually from the dub of the Manaphy movie, not this special (which I only watched for the first time very, very recently). And, spoiler alert: I did not like them in comparison to the 4Kids voice actors, and I still don't to this day. That said, that doesn't mean I thought that they were bad on their own merits... or at least, not all of them; they did have some pretty big shoes to fill by being essentially replacements for VAs who had been playing their characters for years. To keep it short and sweet, there were performances that I thought were pretty awful (Ash and Max... especially Max, ugh), acceptable (Brock, Lizabeth and the rest of her family), mostly good (Jackie, Phantom), and even excellent (May, who, even with a completely different voice, sounded shockingly close in spirit to Veronica Taylor's May where it counted, or at least I thought so). So while I'm talking about the performances in this special, I expect that my opinions might be colored a bit from my experiences with some of the performances from later in the series, especially those from the aforementioned Manaphy movie which was itself released quite a long time ago at this point.

With that said, I'd say that most of the performances here are about in line with what I expected from my experience with the Manaphy movie, with some notable exceptions. To summarize, in no particular order:

- Max remains absolutely awful, although I actually think that he sounds better here than he does in the Manaphy movie, if you can believe it (not that it really changes anything). Definitely nowhere close to what Amy Birnbaum (a very talented and capable voice actress) was able to pull off with him, especially when you take the Jirachi movie into consideration (which I could never see Kayzie Rogers as Max being able to pull off; thank goodness the voice acting switch came after that movie).

- Brock sounds like Brock... but also doesn't. Essentially, Bill Rogers as Brock sounds like Brock with an eternally sore throat, for lack of better words. Clearly an imitation of someone else's work, but I can't really blame Bill Rogers for that; he certainly not a bad voice actor and he does the best he can with the nearly impossible job that he's given (matching Eric Stuart's Brock).

- May sounds... weird, but then her whole behavior in this special is weird, so I guess that fits in a strange sort of way. She sounds much more subdued here compared to Veronica Taylor's May and especially her later voice in the Manaphy movie, which I considered to be "high-pitched". Here, however, she sounds almost bored and lethargic at times, as if there's something constantly weighing down on her mind or something, even in supposedly "happy" moments (her very first line, where she's supposed to be playfully teasing Ash, is a particularly egregious example). That, combined with her rather dour attitude throughout ("You see? Sometimes I can do the right thing!") makes her seem less like the May that we all know and almost like what a Mirror May would be like, or even like how she was in her very first appearances, before character development led her to improve on some of her insecurities. Again, she's just... weird here, and her voice in this special reinforces that. Fascinating, in a way, but weird.

- What's interesting with Ash is that it sounds like Sarah Natochenny went for a more direct imitation of Veronica Taylor's Ash here, with questionable results. I actually prefer the more unique take of him that she goes with in the Manaphy movie and beyond, where Ash basically sounds like he's going through puberty (as hilarious as that sounds), making him sound a bit awkward but still reasonably recognizable as Ash. That's for his voice, though. Sarah's performance as him, however, has always been kind of iffy and sometimes off-putting to me, especially here where, like everyone else, it's her first time doing it. My general opinion of her performance is this: she's mostly fine as Ash when it comes to normal, everyday conversation, and she has improved a lot in that department over the years (although I'll always prefer Veronica Taylor and especially Rica Matsumoto over her, even in that best-case scenario). But when it comes to scenes that require her to emote to any great extent, she almost always falls flat, nearly ruining several scenes. And I don't think that she's ever really improved there, even now (although the scripts often do her no favors). This special — again, her first time doing this — is no exception to that rule.

- Michele Knotz's Misty sounds shockingly close to Rachael Lillis's Misty for the most part, even managing to successfully convey much of the attitude that makes Misty "Misty". Only a few bad takes bring down her performance at times, but that's pretty much it. And all on her first try, too; very impressive!

- Team Rocket... they seem to have a bad reputation in TCPi's dub for many reasons, including because of their voices. That said, I don't think their voices are really all that bad for the most part, including here. The only one I truly dislike out of the three is Carther Cathcart as James, who makes Eric Stuart's arguably love-it-or-hate-it take on him sound quaint in comparison (and the lines he and the rest of the trio are given certainly don't help). But with Jessie, Michele Knotz once again takes a Rachael Lillis part and almost nails it, perhaps only lacking some of her predecessor's edge at times but otherwise sounding remarkably close. And Cathcart's Meowth, who I expected to hate, is actually tolerable for the most part, and is far from the worst Meowth VA ever (that dishonor goes to Inuko Inuyama, who isn't a bad voice actress, but I can't stand the voice that she gives him). He can never replace Maddie Blaustein, though, who I feel is the "soul" of Meowth and was easily the best version of him.

- I really dislike Cathcart as Professor Oak here, although to his credit, he does try. But try as he might, I just can't take Cathcart seriously as Oak compared to Stan Hart or especially Unshō Ishizuka as him, both of whom I feel are Professor Oak in the same way that I think that Maddie Blaustein is Meowth. And so when the former was replaced and the latter passed away, something left with them, I think... something that Cathcart can't replicate. But again, he does try, at least, and he certainly doesn't ruin the role, even though I still dislike him in it.

- Dr. Yung, at first, sounds more like some random character-of-the-day than a major player in a two-part special episode, with some truly hilarious line deliveries during supposedly serious moments. He thankfully gets much better later, however, stepping up his game considerably when the script calls for it.

- The Mirage Master's voice sounds ridiculously hammy and over-the-top, making even the most mundane lines either awesome or ironically, unintentionally hilarious. I absolutely love it, and it genuinely makes the whole special so much more entertaining. He's almost like comic relief — as if the special takes itself seriously, but not quite that seriously — even as he's simultaneously a truly ruthless and despicable villain.

Whew! Now that I've got that out of the way, how do I feel about the special itself? Well, looking back, it's easy to see why this special got so much attention — negative or otherwise — even before you take the voice acting switch into account. It's the 10th anniversary, guys, so here's an epic two-episode special just for you! Misty is back! So is Mewtwo! Mew is here, too! So is Professor Oak! And now he has this badass Dragonite too, because why the hell not? Oh, and it's not just Mew and Mewtwo who are back, but any Pokémon you can think of is back too, and now they're all super invincible Pokémon that no one can defeat, all thanks to the power of science! Really, it all seems on the surface like the kind of laundry list of fandom-pleasing (or at least, supposed fandom-pleasing) that makes something like Journeys or the Kanto references in the Sun and Moon era seem modest in comparison. Certainly, no stops were pulled in catching the fandom's attention (I wonder who on the power ladder signed off on bringing all of those characters back?) even as the voice actor change controversy ultimately did half of the work for them.

Yet for all of the talk about the voice acting of Ash and his friends especially, I actually think that they're all mostly a distraction in the story, with their role in the special easily being its weakest, most inconsequential part. Because when it comes down to it, this special is really all about Professor Oak and the Mirage Master, and about their conflicting beliefs regarding the value of life versus the value of science. And the special does not shy away from the consequences of that balance tipping in the wrong direction, as shown with Mirage Mew and its legitimately tragic and tortured existence. It builds up an awesome yet utterly ridiculous premise — super invincible Pokémon that can't be beat — and then proceeds to brutally deconstruct it by showing exactly the price that must be paid to make that possible, and just how far one person is willing to go in order to pay that price. It's surprisingly hardcore stuff for Pokémon, especially at that point in the anime's life when its previous teller of dark, limit-pushing stories — Takeshi Shudō — was already long gone from the series. In fact, the story and its themes don't seem that far removed from something Shudō might have thought of, at least superficially (which could be where the comparisons to Mewtwo Strikes Back come from, with some apparently even calling this special a "copy" of that film, haha... not that I necessarily agree, but I digress).

To conclude, I'll admit that I wasn't really expecting much out of this special, partially because of the voice acting (not necessarily because of the controversy, or at least not these days) and partially because the whole thing looked kind of stupid, to put it bluntly, with its seemingly silly premise even by Pokémon standards. That said, the moral and philosophical tug-of-war between Professor Oak and the Mirage Master — and the physical and emotional stakes of it all — surprised me, and in my opinion, it's that what makes the special worth talking about long after the controversy surrounding it has past. So long as you're willing to look past its superficially silly elements, I'd actually recommend checking out this special if you can get your hands on it. You might be surprised by what you get out of it!
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