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Jackie Cat

A cat who writes stories.
Heartache staff
they or she
This thread is for making certain important records or communications relevant to Training or Combat.

If you're looking for the rules for either, you can find them here.

Training Log

During the Heartache campaign, players are invited to participate in a fanfiction 'wordcrawl' to level-up their characters and earn rewards, which we call Training. (Despite the term 'wordcrawl', you can actually log fanart as well!)

Your Training Sessions should be logged via the Heartache Hub's Training page, here. This is where you'll log your writing, reviewing, and artistic efforts in the pokémon fanfic community to complete your Training. This thread is where you can post evidence of Training that isn't directly loggable in the Hub. In particular, reviews posted to Xenforo forums, such as Thousand Roads or Bulbagarden, can be easily logged using a handy tool we have in the works. Reviews posted to other websites – such as Fanfiction.net and Archive Of Our Own – will need to be crossposted to this thread in order to make them loggable in the same way. Do this by posting the full text of your review and a link to where you originally posted it, then log the post you made in this thread to the Hub.

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A tutorial demonstration will be posted during the first chapter of the campaign. Hold tight~
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Ch01 challenge fulfillment, crossposted for To The Break of Dawn

This is a review for the first four chapters! Sorry for taking a bit, but it was a bit more reading than I thought for this. Most of this will be stream of consciousness, with some final words at the end.

Going into many lines describing the Pokemon only to reveal the species a bit later is something I used to do, but unless it was important to the story that he wouldn't recognize the species, you should either open with the name and describe the differences or never give the name until formally introduced. The 'who's that pokemon' thing is a little unnecessary padding for the prose otherwise.

This line...

Prinplup hardly pays any attention to his scars or his ridiculous hat, he focuses right on the solid brass badge holding his raggedy clothing together.

This is an example of a sentence that actually should be two sentences. The comma is incorrect. There are a few sentences like this. You can also opt for a semicolon, but you're usually better off with a period.

Hmm. If it wasn't for the notes at the beginning and end, I wouldn't have been entirely sure that Braviary had amnesia. He seemed to carry himself well enough and the narrative doesn't allude to his sense of amnesia much other than grunting that he isn't sure how he got there, even attributing it to being drunk. I suppose that's closer to typical amnesia, but that comes with a lot more confusion. I'm not sure how that settles for the first chapter. It doesn't have a strong direction, but at least it's clear who we will be following until a more defined plot forms.

The second chapter is a scene at a bar where they get to know each other a bit more and the scrawny kid is a bit brainy, which is a nice atmospheric scene. The hint at the actual plot is at the end, where there's apparently some kind of prophecy surrounding the bird. Not much of a fan of those tropes, but it seems minor enough for now, though I'm not sure why it had to be presented in that way in particular for it to work.

Sometimes the tense shifts to past or past perfect when talking about things currently happening, and the chronology for this pure narration scene was a bit hard to follow. Admittedly, some of that might be because I'm not used to present tense, but it is still a little too dense. I think I got it by the end, but summarizing so much without a firm anchor of this enigmatic figure spying on the duo was hard to properly visualize. It felt more like a lump of exposition.

Chapter 3 opens really weirdly. There's all this hubbub over someone breaking and entering but it stealing anything and then Braviary shows up at an even stranger hour. I guess this is due to his amnesia wiping his sense of time and etiquette, but he seems to behave normally otherwise and even acknowledges that it's a strange hour. What in the world is this awkward encounter supposed to amount to exactly? That's my thoughts halfway through the chapter.

So the break-in is shortly before what happened, another oddity... Man, what's with Prinn asking to do this at such absurd hours? This is one of the strangest set pieces I've seen in a story with no rational explanation it couldn't have just been the morning after... which is kind of suspicious. It makes me think Prinn is actually some kind of betrayer or has some second plan for the timing to be this weird, but it's far too early in the story to make that call.

His life, as pathetic as he is right now, is finally his own.

Okay that's very much not an amnesia thing to say, so... was he lying about his amnesia? How thorough is this memory loss, or... was it a feeling?

That's sort of the main takeaway I had for this very competent detective work in the final chapter, and as I'm finished reading. I'm just... perplexed. The prose is nice, the atmosphere of the setting is good-my favorite scene is arguably the bar scene for this reason-and the plot is still getting started, so I give that a pass. It also helps that there's a minor subplot to move things forward until that weird cutaway after the bar scene becomes relevant.

My main gripe is how strangely Braviary's amnesia is depicted when we're largely over his shoulder. I can't get a good grasp of it. Half of me wants to say he DIDN'T have amnesia before, and revisions changed that, or something. It's so odd! But I harped on that enough by now. If I exclude that, everything else about this story is written very nicely. I still don't see how it ties into Explorers just yet... but obviously, we're at the start, so we'll see where that goes. Overall, good work! Sorry if I sounded harsh with some of what I said-let me clarify that this was an enjoyable read. I just wanted to point out the one thing that stood out to me as odd despite the quality the fic shows everywhere else.
I decided to fiddle around with AO3 tags and found a PMD fic that stars a silvally! <3 I ended up leaving this review, covering five chapters. Aaaaand it's 1060 words. Somehow. XP
A PMD fic starring a silvally and a jerkass ice ninetales who also has fire powers for some mysterious reason? It's so nostalgiiiiiiiic~

Framing this a sequel to Explorers of Sky is an interesting choice. Sequel pieces to canon PMD games aren't something you tend to find all that much of around the fandom. We go for original fics or adaptations of existing stories, in my experience. I'm not sure if you're having events of the other games happen. Ampharos is mentioned, but Sky had an Ampharos as well with the whole Sky Peak episode. So, it's perfectly possible your story has him hailing from Sky Peak. Especially since Mew's just chilling in the Grass Continent. (Or maybe you just have multiple mew in your version of the PMD world.) Little questions about the worldbuilding aside, I do like the idea that everyone's grown up and we're looking at the next generation of explorers. And you have an aging Chatot and Wigglytuff still at the helm. It does give a bit of mood whiplash to have these canon characters acting a lot like they do in Explorers alongside your OCs who are written with considerably darker mindsets and with considerably nastier things happening to them. I could see how that might bother some readers. I'm used to mood whiplash in PMD fics, so it's less jarring for me. But I do think having, say, Metagross talk in ALL CAPS to symbolize he's robotic is too gamey for my tastes and sucks me out of the fic. I'd suggest using, like, an alternative to quotation marks instead. You could, for example, [Have brackets denote robotic dialogue.] Likewise, you never describe Agility the move at all. You just have pokémon "use it," which doesn't leave anything to readers' imaginations. You could make it a little psychic shimmer around their legs, or treat it as a sudden burst of speed like the anime used to.

What might be similarly awkward is just how heavy-handed the prejudice toward Silvally is when he's getting walked around town. Poor guy really needs a friend. Like Mew, except she can't always be around. I would say it's almost cartoonish to have them constantly saying this stuff as opposed to, like, backing away or just putting some space between themselves and Silvally. It's less overt, but still subtle prejudice that would sell the idea they think he's dangerous. I'm not sure how long you plan to have it take before Silvally starts to win people over in some capacity, but I'd caution against dragging it out for too long. It's a similar case for Artemis. I say this as someone who wrote an unlikeable vulpix who doubled down on the bad behavior and ultimately took something like 200k+ words before he finally started to come around. Don't be like me. I think the only reason people put up with it is because the universe and setting punished him for his bad behavior. Which, in some respects, did happen to Artemis in getting paired with Silvally. That said, this chapter does offer a few hints here and there for her potential to change. And you show us both glimpses of past bullying/mistreatment (perhaps because of her hybrid nature?) and the fact that her parents seemingly disappeared. I do prefer how you're writing Silvally at the moment, but that's less a slight toward Artemis and more that I think you do a good job showcasing someone who's clearly traumatized and has been living through a two-year long traumatic situation. Of course he'd seem rather confused and easily startled by all of this.

The stakes right now are on the lower side and there's been a fair amount of dungeon crawling. I'm usually not that interested in dungeon crawling within fics. But I think it's worked well so far, especially since a lot of it comes from Silvally's POV and are used to better establish his character. I do expect that Artemis and Silvally will get wrapped up in whatever situation is responsible for the former's parents disappearing. How soon that happens is up to you.

The last things I'd strongly recommend addressing if you're continuing the fic are on the mechanical side. For starters, your prose. I'm enjoying it, but there are some consistency issues. You seem to be wanting to mainly write a third-person limited piece, with Artemis and Silvally as the primary POV characters. But you frequently head hop within scenes or wind up switching to a third-person omniscient POV temporarily to show us what several characters are thinking about. I know it can be a bit awkward to show what another character's thinking from a limited POV, but consistency is important. Stick with your POV characters and all that. The other thing is the dialogue tags. You're actually not formatting them correctly and I highly suggest looking up a guide, like this one: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-format-dialogue-in-your-novel-or-short-story. On top of that, you seem to be going out of your way to deliberately avoid using "said" as a dialogue tag, coming up with other colorful synonyms. There's... really no need to do that. In fact, it often times makes things read more awkwardly. For example, you use "X spoke" a lot, which doesn't read naturally at all. I did the same thing when I started writing and only dropped the habit when other more experienced writers pointed it out to me. This can also apply to some of your epithets, too. It's safe to say readers know what Silvally and Ninetales are. You don't need to substitute in "the chimera" or "the fox" or "the X-type" just for the sake of variation. You can totally use "the ninetales" to remind us of Artemis' species. (And I am curious why she seems to be the only character with a name in this cast. Is it because one of her adopted parents was human?)

Finally, that very rigid and robotic metagross officer seems totally trustworthy. I'm glad he's in a position of power where nothing bad can happen. :)

It looks like it's been a fair amount of time. Hopefully I'm not reviewing into the void and you plan to continue this. Because it's rare to find a pokémon piece focused on silvally. And a PMD one, to boot! It truly is a joy as an unashamed silvally-lover. :3
A United review tag review for Zero the Hero. 2 chapters and 400 words.
So it WAS the Azure Flute, after all. Pick up the dang phone, Ma! Though that does raise a few questions. Since we see people revering Arceus by name — which is a bit strange when you have the queen referring to Dialga and Palkia by titles. Why not call Arceus the Original One, then? It really should be consistent — and a church dedicated to them, one would have to wonder why the queen views the reassembly of the Azure Flute as a bad thing. Since, y'know, that would theoretically summon their beloved god. Unless Arceus is currently sealing off some sort of terrible evil force and reassembling the flute would release both Arceus and this horrible evil from the seal. I feel like that's how things like this tend to go. An alternative is that this one of those inverse worlds where Giratina's actually the benevolent creator with Arceus actually being some sort of nefarious character. I lean toward the former theory, though.

I'm glad chapter 16 does start to get the A plot moving. Even though the chapters are on the short side, it's nice to get a sense of some antagonistic figures we're going to see further on. I... think some of the garchomp's introduction leaned a bit too much on telling, not showing, between expository bits in the narration and the queen going on a bit of a rant about how good of a soldier she is. I think it would've been more effective to do something to illustrate this garchomp's supposed power. In that respect, her showing up in the village and just terrorizing everyone on sheer appearance alone (and making the ground tremble with just a stomp or two) in 17 is a more effective means of establishing her as a threat™ going forward. It's hard to tell when exactly George and Blitzer are going to run up against them directly, given they're grounded. Hopefully we're going to keep time skipping a bit.

Unfortunately, I do think that there are a few too many instances where it feels like characters are talking to each other in a void. The queen and her loyal soldier, the game of tag, and the garchomp's arrival all spring to mind. There isn't much shown of the characters emoting or using body language, nor do they interact much with the environment for these conversations. Maybe this is something that's fixed later on, but for now it does stick out.
A review of fellow Get Together 2023 SWC writing contest entry. One-shot. Review is 306 words long.

Okay, wishing to comment on this story and with the disclaimer that I haven't read Hoenn: Square One so far:

Grammar wise or flow wise I can't see any strong issues. The story is brief, concise, and as far as I know it says what it has to say. Ending feels a bit abrupt for my liking, but it'd be hypocritical to complain given the way i ended my own SWC this year :p

For the most part, I really felt the use of the prompt. Invoking as much personal interpretation as I can, the story seems to be not about being lost or about trying to be "found", but about the things (or people) lost to us leaving behind some sort of trace on our character, something that modifies our perception and can both create or fill gaps, something that leads us to see them in other people, in other places.

The example of the years lost, compared to something like "keys lost", evokes implications about a number of things that we call lost, but that by definition can't be lost; as if we were to be entitled to time, or to a pace of life, or to family in the first place.

The girl character is energetic and uses her place in the story well. I liked, but am mildly worried by, the implication that she's just starting to explore the world outside her town at the ripe old age of seventeen. In a Pokémon setting. And what it means that exploring the world at such an *old* age is in some families at least, looked at very uncharitably? Who knows what's going on there but hey at least this girl has gotten a reprive out of it.

[quote snip]

Better that than a loose cannon, in the land (and sea!) of the Aqua pirates, m'arrr!!!
A review of fellow Get Together 2023 SWC contest entry by Juno. One-shot. Review is ~954 words long.

I have to admit that I don't usually pick [Other Original] stories for reading (not their fault, they're just not [Pokémon]), but the context of the contest and the notes by the judges called my attention so I took my time with this one.

My general impression during the first read was that the story was good, but felt like it was not really going anywhere. Not even when the girl got off the carriage and got herself lost in the woods, there was never a sense of consequence of "where to next" — not only that the girl character wouldn't know where to go to, but that the story up to that point seemingly provided no clues as to where would the plot head off to or what was the purpose of the scene. So the scene was "lost" in a sense aahahahaha.

If that was intentional, good job! If not... hey, great authors steal unintentionally, so also good job!

"Never mind the bloody horses" and all that, the turn right after the girl jumped off the carriage gave me some sort of hint that there would be something unnatural or unexpected. She lost (aaaahahaha the key word again!) her pursuers far too easily for my liking, but then again that comes with a cost: she lost herself.

It's interesting that once she finds herself lost spacially, she also goes to lose herself, mentally, at one of the possibly worst times. What's *more* interesting in my opinion is that it takes this long, and it requires her losing herself, so that we can finally get her name.


There's also Eva, and the single mother.

No father. Not in this little cottage out of somewhere.

(Oh, it's also fun that we both have a character named Eva. Yours seems to be having an easier time than mine though!)

Interesting thing: absent father, unnamed mother. Who doesn't seem to take Edith much into consideration and oooh boy there's *something* going on if the mother has Edith be picked up by two strangers and forcibly led out of the room. Presumably into the same carriage from which she later escaped.

I know that feudal times are hard, but selling out your own child for... whatever much was, really, takes a special kind of person.

After that there's more loss again: lost is the will to live, in Edith's own mind, but that doesn't stick for long. We both seem to have hit a similar sub-theme (as did Groc's "Lost & Found" too, actually!): that there are some things that can't be so easily lost, or even at all. In this case, it's the innate desire for survival. I really liked the wording here: paraphrasing: "giving up would be so easy, except not"; sometimes, reality is as simple as that.

There's a moment of mental realization, of an inner reality that hits Edith: the memory of Eva. This is then compounded with a physical realization of finding her out: the man in the woods, who gives her the offering of at least a place where to get food and spend the night. I'm guessing it is important narratively that these two findings, mental and physical, are *also* both things that find her, rather than she finding them.Basically she gets immediate or at least short-term objectives.

After that comes the twist, and boy does that, let's say, take a bite out of you. We get the - so far - true nature of the beast, as that's what this is all about. A lost soul (if by design or not) that also has lost her family, and that when offered the opportunity and motive to pretend some normality, goes straight out for murder. There's motive right there, too. A cottage out in the woods, living alone. No one might miss this man, the same way no one might miss Edith.

What's more interesting here is that, if my reading of this beast is alright, she could have easily snuck out the cabin and go out there to feed off some deer or flat out hunt a wolf, bu no, she went for the easy murder and the easy mode that this means she gets a temporary base of operations. All to recover the company of the one person Edith doesn't remember hating her, perhaps just ebcause Edith is still too young to understand that maybe Eva can't.

So, in this scene, we also get the stronger impression that another thing Edith has lost by now is her humanity. But this one, going by previous scenes, seems to be entirely by choice.

And she commits to it when she picks her next targets by the motives one picks prey. She might go to Eva to pretend to her, who knoes, perhaps to convert her; but she certainly wants to go after the hunters, too. They know who she is, there's at least a motive for revenge, and they are in a way willing targets.

All in all a decent story. Not disappointed at all that I gave it a read. I think I expected more of... dunno, more reflection of Edith in the character of Eva, but the story does make the fair point that Eva is too young for that. The prompt was well used, though I feel the main serving (heh) was delayed just long enough that it felt cold, in a narrative sense. But since that's also accompanied by the characterization of Edith, it doesn't harm the story IMO.

The one thought I'm thinking of now, though: if this ever progresses into more stories, something of a 'verse, I'm half-willing to bet that there's going to be a "Eva the Vampire Hunter" arc. Might do for easily grabbable character drama.
A review of Gears of Mana — Prologue 1 by Makkuro Kiba. Part of a review trade. Review is ~1140 words long.

This is a review for the first part of the Prologue.

Depending on the world, stuff like powers and magic relies on a power source. Like fossil fuels, or like the chemicals going into the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.

But it's difficult to say what is power. It's like asking, what is mana? We just don't know. Some places call it PP, others TP, others MP, others... *gasp* "Aura". But in this particular world, it is "Mana" (like the "Sword of Mana series) and it seems peoplemons fight over it, so it's defo a finite and hoardable resource.

And I'm willing to bet, given the title of this story, it operates, derives from or somewhat functions related to gears. Like, ya know, those Gears of Time. But these are different. These are Au– I mean, Mana!

The story starts in first person POV, so there's bound to be some narration and structure particulars down the line. Here we start with the gross and the thick of it of a Mystery Dungeon quest in a coniferous area (that's nice! I don't see acknowledgement for coniferous life in Pokémon stories very often) and this is a Treecko making their escape from some opponent.

The opponent in question turns out to be a Pidgeotto chick... or chic... no matter, she's playing Femme Fatale and is playing for keeps, because she's using this Au– I mean, Mana power to Gust our protag and very clearly threatening to make him stay.

Mana was the power we used to access our full potential as Pokémon. We used it for moves, abilities and evolution all across the Hemisphere. But something's wrong with that Pokémon!
Worldbuilding money shot right there. In a quick paragraph we get lots of clues and lots of questions. (So we do kind of get an answer to "What is mana?" then) We get that it's behind lots of the mechanics we consider foundational for Pokémon... including evolution.

But what's this about a Hemisphere? I know I at least live in the best one, but is this about a literal half of the world or just a naming thing? We just don't know (yet).

The other thing is that this Pidgeotto is somewhat "wrong". I mean, I assume this is a bit of a given too because Flying > Grass, but the other take about it is that in this world attacks don't just normally sparkle Mana?

Treecko POV Protag then uses their own Mana, this time "Normal-type", so there are other Manas, and used it... in the form of an attacking move to get a boost and trying to escape. Normally I'd guess one would use Agility for this because I've always understood Quick Attack to be an application of speed-as-force and launching yourself head-on at the opponent, no time for cartwheelings and flynning about the opponent (that's what eg.: Air Cutter is for) so in this case Treecko qould've just made their escape that much easier to follow.

"You think you can hide from me just because you are a Sentinel!?" the Pigeotto roared.
Yep, easier to follow. Plus whatever being a Sentinel means. And we get the explainer for that right away!

"Keepers are supposed to monitor mana and each other! Sentinels are supposed to watch over y'all and set everyone straight!" I yelled back.
Okay, when was the last time I was at a police shootout at the stores and the criminals were shielding behind a car or something and yelling at the cops that "Cops are supposed to monitor the use of guns and ammunition and not let loose around when there are civilians around! And criminals are supposed to give you easy targets to play with!"?

Nope, can't recall when. Serves as a bit of explainery tho, and it does present the imagery that Sentinels are supposed to keep a "who watches the watchmen?" status, watching over those who mediate Mana like Keepers, of which this Treecko is sorely failing at.

After a few more failings at retaking control of the fight, Treecko POV Protag has to be saved by a Lycanroc (candidate for best doggo!) who seems to have taken their precious time to just one-shot the fight and capture this Pidgeotto outlaw. Oh, Rock > Flying btw, so this caps the situation nicely, too.

And this brings us to two notorious little events.

First, we get our Treecko POV Protag's name:

"I'm Linus," I replied.
Nice name to have! I know a few cool people named Linus, like Linus Torvalds. There was also a Linus in Charlie Brown, I think? Alas this means I can't continue calling him Treecko POV Protag.

But also, this little gem:

“This was a request. There have been reports of a suspicious Pokémon nearby, so we League Pokémon had to split up to cover more ground."
Two in one: There's a League (is it like the League League, or just a league with capital, I wonder), and either the League is busy enough or the map is large enough that they had to scatter their presence to cover the required area for one suspect.

Linus looks like he wants to join this group, and Lycanroc requests a note to be written to notify of the situation at hand. At once we get a mention of another suspect outt there, with a particular scarf.: two black claw marks.
(Breloom, or Zangoose, I wonder?)

After that the two characters decide to head out for the nearest exit, for the capture is complete but there are at least like, three questions to be solved. And already we get a guidance on that Formerly Unnamed Treecko POV Protag wants to achieve: being a member of a team, of which he has even a name set, although Lycanroc does offer another suggestion.

"Team Sharp Claw". And that, it seems, is one of many things to look forward to with this story.

In general good beginning. The first person POV does have an immediate effect of limiting the sensations and information the character has available about their surroundings and of planting Linus' tactical calls as "good, until the moment they fail" — and this is respected just like it would happen to one's perceptions IRL. We all think we look oh so cool and rad cartwheeling about until the moment we inevitably hit our head against a wall... that's not just me, right? RIGHT????

Pacing was pretty good: the chapter is quite evenly split between a threatening action, a resolving action, a conclusion for the action and a debriefing of the situation. Lycanroc a bit too OP solving the ambush on one move, but pls don't nerf them just yet, this forest still looks quite big (and coniferous!). And it's good to have quadrupedal Lycanroc representation.

Worldbuilding-wise... well, we just got several questions right in front of us, so we're starting good. Just that weird "I have to explain to you these dictionary words while you are trying to kill me!" moment that made me chuckle, but nothing bad. And I still think I'm in the Best Hemisphere until provided evidence to the contrary (and, after 2020, that'll be hard).
Crossposted judge reviews for Thousand Roads' Aeons and Avatars one-shot contest.

A Voice's Burden

Looking at the Mystery Dungeon games from the point of view of a Voice of Life was a neat concept, I think. The Voice of Life may not exactly be a legendary Pokémon as conventionally defined, but I think what you do with it feels quite appropriate to the contest theme, focusing on this higher being with a duty to fulfill for the mortals of the realm. Being trained by Mew definitely adds to that as well - a sense that a Voice of Life is ultimately the same sort of being as a legendary, even if they aren't quite called by the same name.

I also think you did a nice job on the general somber atmosphere and narrative voice here - the narration feels very consistent and clear, minimalistic without becoming too sparse, and the second-person POV is a neat choice to put us in their head. Ninetales grapples with a persistent sense of inadequacy and inability to act and difficulty living up to what Mew wanted from them, all the way until they can finally pass that burden on to the to-be Hydreigon.

Ultimately, though, I did find myself wishing this story gave a little more insight into what's behind Ninetales' state of mind. They observe but never approach Mewtwo - why? Ninetales berates themself for it, and then continues to be frustrated with their own inaction, but I'm having a hard time getting a real sense of why, if Ninetales hates their inaction from effectively the start, they don't in fact try to do more. Surely there's some underlying reason that's stopping them - whether that's fear of intervening in the wrong way, curiosity to just see how things play out, some apathetic inability to care what happens to the mortal world, or even just ADHD-esque procrastination where they can't muster the willpower to do the thing even while fully intending to - but it doesn't feel like we get any real insight into what that underlying reason is, why Ninetales actually finds themself so reluctant to intervene despite how much they hate it. And when that seems to be the central thread of the story, I think that's a little unsatisfying; we don't quite get the proper punch of exploring the mindset of a legendary or legendarylike creature because we're not fully diving into where that mindset comes from or what it's about.

Finally, a minor grammatical nitpick: you use rather too many commas where they don't belong, most prominently before most every "and" - generally, you only need a comma before "and" if what comes after the "and" is a full sentence with a subject and verb.

All in all, I do wish this story had a bit more depth to its exploration of the Voice of Life's mental state, but I like the concept and the core of what it's doing - I'd just like to see it fleshed out in a more illuminating way.

A Wonderful Leaf Boat

This is a fascinating story with a huge scope, and I thought it was definitely one of the most interesting and expansive takes on the theme - tackling a mortal Pokémon ascending to the legendary role, the weirdness of being put in this position of protector, the awkwardness of interacting with his much smaller mother after the change, the heartwrenching treatment of the now-immortal Midas having to helplessly watch her wither away and die, and finally how in immortality everything begins to blur together and memories fade, and Mew's advice that they'll never stop caring and hurting but it's still worth it.

I thought you did a nice job with Midas's mother in particular; she has a very distinct sense of character as this grumpy, kind of cold parental figure who nonetheless loves him very much, and I thought the buildup and emotional writing as she ages and dies was really strong. But I also enjoyed Midas's naïvety as he learns (him being motivated by the childish belief the previous Latios had just abandoned everyone, oof), as well as Mew's particular character, nonchalant but sympathetic, this older immortal finding joy in just watching ants. They're all strongly characterized and have a distinct charm to them.

The biggest thing to drag it down for me was that on both of my main readthroughs of the story, I found my attention simply wandering off it a lot in the first half, until around the point where Midas has met Mew a couple of times. I think it's largely because up to that point, it feels a lot less focused, with more dense imagery and slow scenes just sort of describing Midas's everyday existence as Latios without a very clear sense of direction, where the second half develops a much more interesting sense of themes and character dynamics and emotion, which are the story's greatest strengths. I think some of the first half here could have been condensed to make the story stronger overall and get to the more powerful moments earlier - or perhaps Mew could have been introduced earlier, frontloading that character dynamic more and letting it serve as more of a running thread throughout.

While the prose was atmospheric and evocative, it also felt like it had a fair number of oddities and mistakes - typos, words swapped out for other similar (or not even that similar) words, missing words, extra words, strange phrasing that I needed to squint at a bit to understand, or couldn't quite understand at all. It made the story more opaque than it needed to be at times, with sentences that didn't quite parse right and required extra concentration to piece together, and that perhaps played a part in why my brain slid off it a bit (though I actually feel like I noticed more of these mistakes in the second half). A couple of times it awkwardly took me out of otherwise strong emotional moments.

Also, I had a really hard time in this story figuring out what sort of Pokémon Midas (pre-transformation) and his mother were. On the first page you describe Midas as having a bushy brown tail and his mom as having blue ears; from there I was just trying to remember any Pokémon species that has both a bushy brown tail and blue ears until finally on page 15 out of 21 we learn he was adopted. It was a significant distraction from everything else about the story on my first read, just combing through the text for any other kind of cue or hint as to what species I was meant to be picturing. Having these tiny early clues at all while making them so vague and kind of misleading is a counterproductive choice, I think; either making it plain early that he's an Eevee and she's a Nidorina or leaving it completely vague until we're in a position to be able to actually identify them would have worked better without leaving the reader to puzzle over it for most of the story.

One last nitpick: I found myself kind of surprised that after calling what's presumably an actual boat a "human craft" at the beginning, Midas's narration then goes on to insistently call leaves drifting downstream in general "boats". I'm a bit surprised in general by why he would call leaves boats even when they aren't carrying ants (it feels like an apt metaphor when they have 'passengers' but less so otherwise) - but more importantly, if he knows the word "boat", surely he'd use it for human boats, too?

All in all, though, I think this story has very interesting themes for the contest, memorable characterization and some very solid emotional execution. It could be tightened up pacing-wise and read more smoothly, but otherwise I thought it was very well done.

Free to a Loving Home

The Silvally narrator here is a joy to read, so incredibly sincere but simplistic in thought. The buildup is super cute and endearing, and it's very easy to care about them and what's going to happen to them. You really got across this sense of cute playfulness and innocent desire to please coupled with persistent lowkey anxiety, and the descriptions of their sense of fun in particular are really joyful and on point. What a good pure chimera who just wants to do good for their pack.

I was kind of surprised by how quickly they wound up turning against their former pack, after the buildup about that being how they think of the scientists. All they saw on the TV was Rose/Tackysuit (why isn't his designation in the narration a capitalized variable like everyone else's?) being disparaging, but they don't even hesitate before immediately dismissing all of their old packmates who aren't him as liars who never cared - even completely ignoring PINK_PONYTAIL as she does everything she can to stop LEADER from euthanizing them. In their position I feel like I'd be in denial a little bit, figure it's just Rose who's the bad guy here, and then that maybe Rose and LEADER are but PINK_PONYTAIL is good and trying to help - but they seem to extremely easily conclude they were simply all bad and nobody cares about them, despite their prior loyalty and current active evidence to the contrary. It wasn't a huge thing but it did give me pause a bit.

I was kind of confused and not entirely convinced by what happens after they get taken away from Macro Cosmos in general, though. You've made a point of how PINK_PONYTAIL seems well-intentioned, which makes it feel strange that she would just slap the helmet on them without a reassuring word, even if (I'm assuming, even though it's not really suggested in the story itself) she thinks it's the only way to stop them from having destructive panic attacks. Silvally is already known in this world, what with Gladion being on TV with one, and there have been news broadcasts about how Rose wanted to manufacture more because they're the perfect Pokémon to sell and wealthy trainers will fall over themselves to get one - but for some reason now nobody wants the narrator, even when they're being given away for free? I can't make any sense of everyone shunning them and giving them dirty looks - it feels kind of like an unreliable narrator thing, like they're just imagining that, but the fact nobody actually takes them despite the sign seems to suggest nobody does want to raise a Silvally, for some reason. Why? How is Silvally so unforgivably freaky, in a world where there are so many much freakier-looking Pokémon? Why are Leon and Gloria the only people who'll even look at them?

I also felt this section of the story dragged a bit, especially since the narrator's internal monologue loses its naïve charm here in favor of a stream of bleak pessimism and bitterness and self-flagellation that feels a little repetitive and melodramatic. I think this part could have been shortened a fair bit without negatively impacting the story - but also, I think this all might work better if there was more emphasis on the narrator's violent panic attacks in particular as the driver of why it's so difficult to find them a trainer, assuming that's the intent - as it is they're so deemphasized that I didn't even realize until the second read that that might be it. Imagine if PINK_PONYTAIL explained to them that she's really sorry but they need to put the helmet on so they won't hurt people; if we were told people have heard they attacked people and that's why people are hesitant to be their trainer, out of fear rather than disdain; if maybe there were people who showed interest but Sweatsuit wouldn't entrust them to just anyone; if their self-esteem issues were more about worrying they really are dangerous and unfit for companionship than the nonspecific perception that they're 'a freak'. I think that'd make this whole bit hit harder and feel more real!

All that said, the charm picks up quickly again once the narrator is with Gloria; the scene with Zippy is adorable, and it's extremely sweet that Gloria thinks of introducing her new chimera Pokémon to one who's a little similar, in their own way. The ending is super heartwarming, Gloria is really good, and I wish the best for Buddy now that they finally have a new pack. The ending is just really lovely, again bringing out all these good little details that sell the POV.

I'm feeling some hesitation about how to class this story as a legendary POV, because while this story definitely has a very strong sense of POV, and Silvally is technically officially classified as a legendary Pokémon, this story feels like it rather leans away from the things that make Silvally legendary. This isn't a story about Silvally's awesome power or role as a Beast Killer imitation of Arceus - it's about a naïve experimental Pokémon created to be sold to regular mundane trainers, one that apparently no one wants or cares for until Gloria gives them a chance. If anything it's a story that would kind of make more sense if they were a less legendary Pokémon! That's not a bad thing for the story itself, but I do think it hurts its relevance to the theme a bit - this feels somewhat less like a story that speaks to what it is like to be a legendary Pokémon than some of the other entries. That's definitely something quite ambiguous and debatable, though, and it's not at all unreasonable you wrote this for the theme!

One minor nitpick that struck me: when the scientists call the narrator "ready for market", it feels odd to me that despite them having no idea what that means until they internally look up the word "market", they immediately jump to the conclusion that they're the goods that are about to be sold, instead of simply that they're ready to visit the market with the pack, which would surely be a more straightforward interpretation given they clearly don't recognize the connotations of the specific phrase "ready for market".

All in all, I think you've got a lovely first half and ending featuring an incredibly adorable Silvally who is heartbreakingly easy to root for, but are dragged down a bit by the chunk in between. I really did enjoy the narrator a lot, though, and I think it wouldn't take much at all to tighten it up.

Koki'o Ke'oke'o

I loved to see a story here about legendaries being revered as gods by humans and the relationship between them - first this very amicable one, with the gods walking among them and freely helping them, only for it to turn ugly. The legendaries taking on a human (or superhuman) appearance while maintaining this friendly relationship with the humans only to revert to their more guarded canon appearances after suffering a betrayal was an interesting touch, and I loved the detail of their bodies being built from black sand and how you work with that throughout.

I also appreciated what you did with the relationships between the Tapu, particularly with Fini's wary cynicism compared to Lele's naïve optimism before the latter is cruelly crushed. I quite liked how the others all fight to subdue Lele when her anger threatens to destroy the island but after she's calmed a little Fini just tells her they're there for her, obviously sensing that Lele is lashing out because something horrible has happened to her. All in all I thought that was a strong portrayal of destructive trauma responses and those who love her having to be firm in the face of those tendencies even as they care and empathize and wish to help her heal.

I thought you did quite a good job on the portrayal of violence and trauma here, in general. You make healing the war injuries feel horrid, and the sexual assault tactfully looks away from the worst of the actual deed but lingers afterwards on particular sensory details of the memory in a way that felt very visceral in conveying its horror and the sense of violation. It was an interesting (and painful) touch, too, that at the beginning she likes to be much taller than humans, inspiring awe, but had specifically chosen to make herself vulnerable to be less imposing before it happened. And the way she reacts in the aftermath is heartbreaking - that desperate confusion and revulsion and self-loathing, tearing away at her own body and distorting it into a non-human form to destroy everything it was and any resemblance to the attackers. It was evocative and memorable, and the way the island itself responds in tandem with the aching trauma of its goddess just magnifies it.

And then, though life goes on for Lele from there, she's oozing with heartbreaking rage, using her healing powers to draw out fights between Pokémon in the dark hope of watching others have to hurt like she has (in stark, painful contrast to her previous desire to heal everyone who's hurting), and the hibiscus never grows there again - until the descendants of the Akalans come to atone. They bring hibiscus plants, but also bandages and poultices, which I can't imagine Lele literally needs right now but are clearly very symbolic of them wishing to help her heal, instead of just constantly taking and taking and expecting her to keep giving like their ancestors. In the end, Lele has managed to heal and find peace again, in the safety of her hibiscus grove, even though what happened did permanently change her, gave her a hardened shell she can only ever truly step out of among the flowers. I think that's a beautiful, haunting portrayal of how trauma never truly leaves you but a form of healing can still take place, create at least limited spaces of safety that can allow one to be vulnerable again.

The main criticism I have is that I felt like Lele's thought process over the course of the bit where she heals the Magå'haga and then returns and explains it to the Akalans wasn't entirely clear, and that's a moment where I feel like we would really benefit from exploring what she's thinking more thoroughly. As it is I found it hard to tell whether she doesn't realize these are the very people who inflicted the horrible injuries she ran into the forest to escape from, or whether she realizes but her mindset is simply that she desires to heal everyone in need no matter who they are and naïvely assumes the Akalans would share that mindset until they reject her for it. I think either of those interpretations could make sense and be evocative, but when I can't quite tell which of them is what's actually going on, it's a bit harder to reconcile and to stay immersed in her character and mental state, and that's a shame because this is such a crucial part of the story!

There were some mistakes here and there - nothing that seriously disrupted reading, but it might be worth giving it an extra round of proofreading - and a couple of times where I might quibble with the effectiveness of particular phrasing, but nothing too major.

All in all, though, I thought this was definitely one of the most effective entries here, both as a story about trauma and recovery and as an exploration of legendaries as gods. Really nice work on this one.

Mew's Meddling Mischief

What a delightful little fic. You've got a lovely ditzy narrative voice for Mew here and her persistent total misunderstandings of everything were both entertaining and a fun more humorous sort of exploration of legendary POV - an immortal just constantly searching for something novel enough to be fun, so detached from mortal life and especially humans who normally seem like the most boring species on Earth that she just fails to comprehend anything about human psychology and interactions.

The little love story you tell in the process is quite cute; though beset by a sitcom conga line of misunderstandings and silliness, Darren and Cass's interactions feel pretty grounded and genuine in their hopeless teenage awkwardness, and their will-they-won't-they is easy to root for. I also enjoyed their Pokémon - minor roles, but you gave them some cute moments and personality in the process.

You made some really nice use of Mew's particular POV here, too. Her psychic senses play a prominent role, letting Mew attempt to puzzle out the pair's feelings based on her empath sense with no frame of reference. And then there are the bits where she transforms into other species and has to contend with being hopelessly easily distractable or sleepy or loving to eat rocks - just a very fun bit of POV flavor that remains entertaining throughout.

I do find myself sort of wondering how this is the first time Mew's ever managed to take enough of an interest in humans to notice basic things about them, but that feels like a very fridge-logicky concern here; ultimately the reason why is because it's funny, and in this story that's what matters. The comedy is all in all just very successful here, I feel; Mew's terrible ideas for poking and prodding them remain amusing as the story goes on, and while it would probably have started to wear out its welcome if it'd gone on much longer than it did, I thought you picked a good pacing and place for it to end.

I don't have many real criticisms here, all in all; it's a well-executed comedy piece with a cute emotional core and thoroughly informed by the particular POV of your chosen legendary. It's always a little tough for a comedy in a contest like this, where they easily get overlooked in favor of more serious dramatic pieces, but I thought this story was great at being exactly what it's going for.

Mountains Will Never

You've got a fascinating concept here - a mortal Pokémon takes over the role of Yveltal after Yveltal has powered the Ultimate Weapon and must learn to serve Yveltal's role as psychopomp. I like the various strong imagery here, and the way that it expands upon the story of X/Y (AZ's brother being named Byron, starting with the second and second-last letters of the alphabet, was a fun touch).

The twist that the voice in the shard is the old Yveltal kind of confused me when I got there - because that's what I'd already been assuming from the very beginning! We had established that the weapon was powered by Yveltal, so when the weapon apparently had a voice, I assumed automatically that that voice was Yveltal - the bit where it was powered by Yveltal seemed like the only explanation for a weapon having any kind of voice at all, and other bits also seemed to straightforwardly suggest this from the start, like with how indignant the shard is that she "stole" Yveltal's role and how it then sets about teaching her how to serve that role. So it was quite surprising to me when it turned out in the story that the new Yveltal had never connected the voice to Yveltal at all and apparently just sort of assumed the weapon itself had its own voice that had nothing to do with Yveltal somehow. This seemed like a much less intuitive conclusion to me than that it simply was Yveltal, which made it read weirdly to me that that would have been her first thought! Maybe it's just me, but it made my first read feel very strange.

The story is largely a collection of little vignettes of Yveltal carrying out her duties, some developing the central interaction between Yveltal and the shard along the way, some serving more to just show Yveltal's daily work and present little contemplations about death. I thought they were quite atmospheric and had resonant little points and images to them - it's a very somber, philosophical sort of story, all in all, and it succeeds in this almost meditative string of little stories of death, and how this Yveltal chooses compassion.

But I did find the story didn't feel entirely focused. We spend a while on how the shard has promised Yveltal that it'll tell her who she was in her previous life, but then it reveals it never knew, and that entire thread just sort of feels like it gets quietly dropped - we never quite address it after that, neither with any further information on it nor with Yveltal coming to any kind of resolution about letting go of the desire to know her old self. The topic just sort of silently moves on to the reveal that the shard was Yveltal, and then we never bring up the new Yveltal's previous life again. And while the vignettes are strong in their own ways, only some of them quite feel like they're building up to the main thrust, making the primary plot feel a bit detached from them.

I also found the prose a bit dense and difficult to understand at times in a way that doesn't quite come together even on a reread. That's something that's always going to depend on the reader a bit, but to me, at least, it felt more obscure than it had to be, in a way that made it harder to get through. I also noticed that while the mechanics were otherwise very clean, you tend to use commas before "and" even when what follows is not a complete sentence (doesn't have its own subject and verb), which you generally shouldn't.

But I quite liked the concept and main themes you've got going here, and some of the vignettes were stark, powerful images that linger. Yveltal ending by taking the old Yveltal to the next life felt right and like it came full circle. All in all, it was a fascinating story exploring a very interesting legendary from two quite different angles - the lonely god who joined a project to cause devastation, and the ascended mortal who grows into a more compassionate wielder of the role.

Of Mon's First Disobedience

This story has a very distinct and fun narrative voice, and I enjoy the concept of this twisted, legendary Pokémon-flavored reframing of the Christian story of the Fall.

I think you do a nice job here with portraying Venira's relationship with Arceus in particular - him as this controlling father figure who is nonetheless ultimately just trying to keep her from becoming a corrupted beast dependent on blood, her in this teenage rebellion sort of phase, not understanding the emotions she's feeling but just knowing she wants to defy him and be away from him, but realizing over the course of the story that she's afraid of him and that he's legitimately abusive towards her. Arceus probably just wanted to raise a good crop of legendaries and give them domains, but he went about it entirely the wrong way, and his treatment of Venira is genuinely ugly, in the way of actual abusive parents. Venira learning to name and understand her emotions is a fun touch throughout, coming to a satisfying head as she slakes her bloodlust and finally manages to name wrath (the use of unusual formatting was fun in that bit). Her final confrontation with Arceus is both viscerally satisfying, from her point of view, and also thoroughly Oh No; we can have a certain sympathy for Arceus in his shock at losing his children to becoming embodiments of the deadly sins, even while acknowledging he's an abusive dick.

I'm left sort of curious about Arceus's angle here generally. Venira mentions Arceus gave her a hairpin, and that's sufficient to unlock her window, which she calls attention to as being kind of dumb on Arceus's part; it made me wonder if Arceus had actually meant for this to happen all along, but the final scene makes me feel more like his shock is genuine. No one calls into question that he created the seraphs, which makes me wonder why they were created this way, whether something made it impossible for him to simply not make them hunger for blood, or if it happened by accident in some way he couldn't predict. All in all it makes me curious about Arceus's role in this universe from here - is he now out there trying to stop his vampire children? These aren't really criticisms, per se, so much as just the questions that I pondered as I read, knowing this is a spinoff of a larger story; as a free-standing story and entry in the contest, though, it does leave a lot of things ambiguous.

I do feel that as the legendary POV goes, in this story it's easy to forget at times that Venira even is a legendary Pokémon - her vibes feel strikingly like a human teenager a lot of the time, even as she's still in the process of learning emotion words and is casually talking about eating asteroids. In scenes like the one where she eats starfruits with Avareed while obviously crushing on him, I feel distinctly like I'm just reading about humans with magic powers raised in a quirky place. That's not inherently a bad thing - legendaries being able to take human form and/or being very humanlike in thinking is a perfectly valid choice for stories where that's the kind of legendaries the story needs. But it does mean in a contest that's about exploring legendary POVs, it might make it a little less noteworthy for the theme aspect.

There were a number of mechanical mistakes here and there, including several instances of homophone confusion ("bearing his teeth", "taught lips") and some present tense - something worth watching out for with a beta, I think. But it wasn't majorly distracting and didn't interrupt my reading much; for the most part it read smoothly.

All in all, I enjoyed the premise and core character dynamic of this story in particular and how you built up to the emotional climax. For the purposes of the contest I felt it did less with the legendary POV per se than some of the other entries, but as a story it was a fun read, and definitely intriguing backstory for Venira and her siblings.

The Face of Time

I was immediately intrigued to see this was a story about Jirachi's experience, exploring the implications of an immortal being that awakens for seven days every thousand years, living through all of history via short glimpses of each individual era. That's a really neat concept to go for, and very appropriate for this contest!

There's a fun sense of scale here, with Jirachi casually recounting the literal millions of wake-ups before Earth even has any interesting life on it. The Ice Age happens in what's a blink of an eye to Jirachi, and from one wake-up to another a miracle granting one family riches has created a powerful dynasty with people who run the gamut from nice, kind people to power-hungry bastards, leaving Jirachi to deal with the consequences. (Though a thousand years is a long, long time in human generations - by the second wakeup the original family's descendants would number like fifty million people forty generations removed from the family Jirachi met previously, so Jirachi even recognizing these specific humans as descendants of the family they met previously may be a bit of a stretch!) Meanwhile, Jirachi was initially sad to realize they would never see most of those they spent their seven days with again, but over time it all blurs and they don't spend their time being sad anymore. These are interesting contemplations on power, immortality, human nature and the butterfly effect that were fun to tackle here.

I did find the structure and way the story was told to hinder its effectiveness in conveying its themes a bit, though. In the first half we spend a while just sort of recounting a Pokémonized basic timeline of the evolution of life on Earth, which is definitely some interesting history, but within the context of the story, it feels a little dry and doesn't tell us all that much about how Jirachi experiences the world. And at the end, Jirachi catches up with the present day but then continues by sort of aimlessly describing their legendary Pokémon friends, which feels similarly not quite like it gives us very much insight into Jirachi's legendary Pokémon perspective or is very related to the rest of the story - it feels a little strange there, like an odd tangent added onto the end.

And Jirachi is telling us about all this after the fact, summarizing things briefly and offhandedly, which doesn't give us a lot of time to get emotionally invested or really feel the weight of these events; we're just told that they happened, and it goes by in a bit of a blur. I think it would have been fascinating to see Jirachi's encounter with the initial human family and the later thousand-years-later encounter with their descendants written out more fully, exploring Jirachi's state of mind as this was all happening further - Jirachi's escape with Jezebel from those who wanted to abuse their power in particular sounds like an exciting scene, but we're only told about it in in a couple of sentences as it is, so we don't quite get to feel that excitement!

So all in all, I thought this was a fascinating subject drawing out interesting themes, but I would have like to see it flesh out those themes and be more focused on what's relevant to the story's core subject matter. It was a very cool, ambitious thing to tackle, though!

The Way to a Legend

This was a really unique entry that kept me guessing most of the way through. I definitely enjoyed the large amount of whump, opening with hypothermia, then moving on to psychic assault, then the stabbing and Nic's slow awareness that he's dying and moreover that even if he weren't he'd simply starve, in a world whose food is incompatible with his biology. It was fascinating to explore that concept, of an isekai protagonist simply being an alien in the world they've found themselves in and not being able to sustain themselves in it, and I did feel something at Nic about to pass out and just wanting to hear more about the wonders of the Pokémon world for comfort after growing up with the franchise as a kid.

I thought you also ultimately did a pretty good job with Nic and Lani's quick bonding. They may not have known each other long, but the psychic connection of their emotions, Nic's nostalgia-fueled desire to help her and how hard he tries to do so while still being very carefully respectful of her wishes ultimately works to make the attachment she feels for him by the end work, for me. Her rescuing his soul into her stillborn egg felt like a fairly satisfying ending, thanks to how we had set up the extra egg from early on.

However, the way this story is written unfortunately drags it down, and also made it deeply confusing on a first read; for a substantial portion of the first half, the first time I read this, I simply felt like I had no idea whatsoever what was going on. The biggest reason for that was the unexpected rapid POV switches, which sometimes also jumped back and forth in time, but if that were all I could probably have worked it out okay. As it was, though, the prose is also frequently unclear and marred by numerous typos, punctuation and homophone errors and tense shifts, and it often makes it hard to tell which character is saying a line of dialogue, too. And a lot of the happenings themselves were also confusing, or at least told in a way that made them harder to get a grasp on, one way or another. Individually each of these various elements would probably also not have given me so much trouble - but there were enough such things giving me pause to leave me just feeling hopelessly confused.

One such minor thing is how Articuno is described as white and established to have psychic powers, for instance - no version of canon Articuno is white, and while legendaries all having some degree of psychic powers isn't an absurd concept, here I found myself squinting wondering if this was supposed to be Galarian Articuno, until at some later point it instead describes her as white "and cyan". Lycanroc, meanwhile, is described as a gray dog when attacking the narrator, but then as gray and orange (which one would think would be the more noteworthy color) in the later sequence, which then turns out to be actually happening earlier; all in all it took me some squinting and scrolling back and forth to connect that the dog Nic punched was in fact the Lycanroc described in the later scene, even on the second read. The Rocket admin refers to Nic as an "anomaly", making it hard to tell he's talking about Nic at all and not some other creature that might for all I knew have been present in the scene - and to be honest I don't understand why he would call him an anomaly at all, when this turns out to be actually taking place before the catch sequence, which is the first thing that might make the Rocket think he's not an ordinary human.

After that, Articuno chooses to mindmeld the human who just rescued her with the human who just tried to capture her, apparently to help them understand each other, but I don't understand why she would want that - wouldn't that from her point of view just be likely to turn her rescuer against her? During the mindmeld, Nic extends "one last mental fist" in the Rocket admin's direction, but then we don't get to hear anything about what that was, which memory he sent, how he managed to win the mental tug-of-war - the Rocket is just suddenly knocked out, somehow, and we just don't address how that happened.

And at the very beginning, the story opens with Nic seemingly casually admiring the stars and then complaining irritably about his backpack and frozen sandwich, with no sign that he's actually lost in the Arctic with no prospects of rescue until it suddenly comes up offhandedly a while into the scene. It's the sort of thing where by the time it gets brought up I feel like I must have missed something earlier - it really didn't feel like that was what was going on up to that point! Something like someone getting disproportionately angry at a backpack refusing to open could be a subtle hint that they're feeling some broader distress, but here, Nic's narration explicitly addresses his irritation with the backpack as simply being because "failing at the easiest task for five minutes straight could make even me furious", expressly making it out to be just your average everyday annoyance.

And while we have a number of brief scenes of Lani's POV, and Nic becomes an Articuno at the end, and technically it's suggested towards the end that real-world humans are actually 'Pokémon' (though this doesn't entirely make sense to me; the dark blood resembling Deoxys is cited as a reason, but Articuno's blood is still orange like the Rocket's, so that seems like a particular Deoxys thing that if anything more suggests Deoxys isn't a Pokémon, and obviously real Pokémon are able to feed in the Pokémon world), none of that quite makes up for the fact the vast majority of this story is the POV of a human and not a legendary Pokémon, to me. For the duration of the story, Nic simply is a human with human concerns who thinks like a human, and the insight we get into Lani's POV during her sections is fairly limited - she cares deeply about her children and is wary of humans, but we don't learn much more about her or her perspective than that. This story is an interesting exploration of several things, but I don't think the POV of a legendary is quite one of them, so I don't think it was entirely the best fit for this contest!

All in all, it's a very interesting story with some nice whump content, but marred by confusing execution and prose, and I think for an entry in this contest it wasn't quite focused on the theme. But it was very creative and I quite enjoyed the concepts you had going on, by themselves. I think this story could really shine with a beta reader who could help you smooth out the various errors and confusing bits to make it easier to read.

What Life Has to Offer

Loved to explore a really alien POV here - Ena's Eternatus identity seeps out of every word in this story, and that was a great choice for this contest. The way that she's innocently fascinated by Life, and believes she's simply helping and nurturing it as she destroys planets, and then finally comes to realize maybe Life can teach her things, too, was a lovely little character arc, and the narration strikes a nice twisted chord between deeply creepy and oddly wholesome in its misguided way.

I did find myself not always entirely clear on what the story was getting at, though. It's always a delicate balance trying to write an alien POV while still ensuring a human reader can understand, and I don't envy you for having to try to juggle that here, with a particularly alien Pokémon. But while I certainly got most of it just fine, it was sometimes legitimately hard to get a grasp on what was actually happening. I'm not sure what the bands of light that let Ena see memories actually are, for instance, and Ena seems to explicitly have a metallic body early on only to suddenly be feeling what it's like to have a physical body for the first time, which left me confused as to what exactly her former body was.

I'm not totally sure what you're going for with the square brackets surrounding some words, either. They do call more attention to those concepts, but just the capitalization would have done that too, and it's just not entirely clear to me why all these things need square brackets and others don't. The closest I've come to understanding it is noticing you use square brackets for concepts the Eternatus larvae have only seen and experienced from the light bands, but even then, there doesn't seem to be a shift towards not bracketing things when Ena proceeds to actually experience things herself in real life - Rose, for instance, is someone she only meets corporeally and can't have been part of any memories she viewed, but he still gets square brackets. This is a very minor nitpick, but it is something that was confusing me a bit throughout the story.

The pacing here also bugged me a little. You have loving descriptions of individual scenes from Ena's early life, only for the last bit, tackling her encounters with the Pokémon world planet we're familiar with, to be much more summarized glimpses that feel almost like an afterthought in comparison. It leaves me curious whether you originally meant to tackle Eternatus POV without getting into Rose or the Darkest Day and then changed your mind late in the game. I do wonder if it could have been more effective to expand and flesh out some of that as much as you did Ena's spawning and final conversation with her mother!

All in all, though, I thought this was a lovely entry - a very in-depth exploration of a legendary's POV with a lot of neat details. It had some proofreading errors and I had some niggles and points of confusion, but overall I thought it was successful in what it was trying to do.
Crossposted judge reviews for Thousand Roads' Aeons and Avatars one-shot contest

The moment I saw the title of this, I was excited that we got someone doing a take on Spiritomb as a legend. And overall, I think you did a great job with capturing a striking effect with each vengeful soul being added to the pile. It’s very blunt and raw, the hatred digging into the reader, struggling to be contained. So many souls, only kept in balance by that shared hatred… it was almost inevitable that turning that same hatred inward would be their downfall.

It’s interesting how the souls all hated the armored man, but also the living people of the village hated him too (or at least, were willing to execute him). And yet, I doubt the villagers sympathize much with the banished souls since they were the ones who sealed the souls away. So the village is both executing a criminal and imprisoning all his victims! It’s a weird situation.

I was a bit unclear on the significance of the traits listed for the humans and Pokémon that were found and possessed. Some were identified by emotions and some by mere physicality, so it felt a bit arbitrary—adjectives for the sake of having some connection to Pokémon. (And the Pokémon that got possessed didn’t have attributes listed at all, so it sort of just became a list of seemingly random species.)

I also initially thought that the humans and Pokémon that got possessed all had some connection to the spirits’ past lives, and all were lashing out in violent fury totally separately. But then in the end, the traveler finds all the bodies together, which seems less like the spirits being drawn to those people in particular, and more possessing whoever they encountered, a horde that all happened to be in the same place (perhaps the crowd that watched the knight’s execution). It further makes the list of all the possessed humans’ traits feel less important.

The traveler himself is interesting—he taught the village how to imprison souls, so he must have known that it couldn’t last, and that the Spiritomb would unravel eventually. He’s unfazed by all the death, clearly looking for the keystone. Does he realize it no longer holds all the spirits? Does he care? Maybe he intends to use it for something else, perpetuating the cycle of violence and hatred. It’s hard to say because his sequence feels noticeably empty of emotion or purpose. He just shrugs and goes on his way, which makes me lean more toward apathy than malice for him. But if that’s the case, then what did he get out of imprisoning souls and teaching others to do the same, especially now that the souls have all left?

I think some additional clarifying details would have helped strengthen the theme of the cycle of violence (at least, I think that’s the intended theme). Also, I didn’t really get that strong an impression of Spiritomb as a legendary being. A greater focus on the legends surrounding the binding of souls, or an exploration of the loss of their humanity, or the way that they can’t even relate to being human anymore, or the exploration of what it means for a being of pure hatred to exist in the world—any one of these things might have helped it feel a bit more in line with the contest theme, imo.

Still, it’s a very striking piece and conveys a lot of strong emotion in a short time, so well done for that.
Now here’s an interesting premise—a ritual to ascend and become legendary. It’s a unique situation to be in, leaving behind one’s mortal form and all the good and bad that comes with it.

I think I really would have liked to see more attention paid to the significance of the ritual. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it would be useful to bore us with the details of how it works or anything, but making living sacrifices to Ho-oh is a pretty big deal! Does the man believe Ho-oh desires sacrifice? Is this a well-known ritual, a forbidden one? Is he an outlier for thinking Ho-oh desires sacrifice—would other people find the concept blasphemous? Or is he part of a fringe sect who knows the truth that no one else will acknowledge?

Maybe it is forbidden, but he thinks everyone else is cowards for denying it. That would have an ironic bend when you consider that him being so desperate to escape old age and death is a form of cowardice itself—the same thing he might have decried others for. Did he know just what kind of form he would be given? What was he expecting, exactly?

There’s a lot of potential emotion in the setup: the fear, the desperation to succeed, the willingness to give up everything. Or maybe the total blind devotion and certainty that the ritual will succeed. But the main reason I’m asking all these questions and suggesting potential meanings to take away is that the story didn’t give me a lot of answers!

The shift from confidence to cowardice felt a bit jarring. By all accounts the ritual worked and he got what he wanted, and he flees because… Mareep are scary now? Even though he just established how much better this new form is than his old human form. The implied fear of imprisonment is certainly something you could work with, but it’s so abrupt—I would have liked to see that get fleshed out. If this is a world where humans hold power over Pokémon, then that means he gave up that power in order to become a Pokémon—trading one form of vulnerability for another.

In a way, I can kind of see an angle where like, he’s been punished for his cowardice in trying to escape death, unable to shine, relegated to the shadows. But at the same time, he did get what he wanted—this isn’t actually a punishment at all, more of a self-exile. If he still had the confidence that he had before, there’d really be nothing wrong with this outcome!

There’s a lot of really interesting stuff that could be done with this theme, but I think it needed a bit more fleshing out to explore the concept to its fullest.
This is a cute little story about kids learning the value of time, but unfortunately, I found myself wondering what it was going for throughout most of its runtime. We spend a lot of time going through the worries and concerns of the schoolkids, but most of it doesn’t seem to have very much to do with time, or taking time for granted. There’s the one kid late with their assignment, but that’s a bit of a stretch, and not likely to have resulted from taking time for granted.

The focal point of the fic is, of course, the story about Dialga, and I have mixed feelings on how it’s presented. On the one hand, there’s a lot of interesting insights into just what the fledgling god of time had to deal with before they could properly rule their domain. But on the other… I can’t help being confused by the fact that the writings seem to be from Dialga’s own POV. An actual firsthand account. Were these historical writings written by someone who had spoken directly to the creation trio, or otherwise felt like they had some connection to them? It’s all very personal details of what Dialga was thinking and feeling—almost like he gave his life story to humanity at some point. It’s definitely not what I’d expect to be in a history book, that’s for sure, and I’m surprised it wasn’t addressed.

It’s also a bit strange that the teacher knows the exact reason behind all of Dialga’s actions and limitations at that point, like stating with such certainty that any uncertainty at any point would have led to time unraveling.

(Minor note, but I normally associate capitalizing words like Teacher with a way of calling attention to them, for example, a young child’s POV capitalizing to make them sound Very Important or to otherwise make something feel like a title even if it wouldn’t normally be. The omniscient narration didn’t seem to be calling attention to it, though, leaving me wondering what the purpose was.)

I can’t help but get the feeling that the framing device was a bit unnecessary. The prose was generally nice, but the long blocks of unbroken dialogue had no tags, no actions, and very little relevance to the story’s theme. There’s some cute banter and some of it sort of tied back into the theme, but a lot of the conversation felt aimless. It feels like this would be much better suited to a folktale, or Dialga sharing his own life story to a listener who had not been appreciating time, assuming that everything would just work out eventually with no forethought (and Dialga sharing his own experience to caution against that).
And here we have the story of a legend that doesn’t want to be associated with his domain. It’s interesting that Darkrai doesn’t know about the time that he afflicted people with nightmares, and even wonders if another Darkrai was responsible for that reputation. It certainly implies that the effect is unconscious and unintentional. Does he cause nightmares now, or are people holding a grudge for something that happened in the past? I’d like to have seen some of that discrimination directly rather than be told about it after the fact—it would make it feel more real.

The opening has a lot of lush details for the city but it ended up feeling detached from the rest of the story—like this is equal parts worldbuilding blurb and one-shot stitched together. I think a simple way to make those details feel more impactful if they were connected to Darkrai—as in, these are all the beauties of his home that he delights in seeing, and even the mundane details hold wonder to him—part of the reason why he can’t bear to be cut off from the city. It could also be a connection point to the main theme—he sees the beauty in all parts of his home, but it takes the power of art for him to see beauty in himself.

There were a handful of prose errors, some comma splices, and some awkward sentence construction like starting consecutive independent clauses with “but.” One line in particular that tripped me up was:

He is unable to prevent the tiresome repetition of his cynical outlook,

This sounds a bit like it’s referring to himself viewing things cynically, and not other people viewing him in a cynical manner.

It’s interesting that the Pokémon of the city don’t view Darkrai with disdain while the humans do. I would’ve liked to know why that is. As well as why the Pokémon of the household treat him more kindly—is it just because of their trainer? Speaking of their trainer, I’m curious how Darkrai came to reside with Rembrandt, if he was the only one to offer him a home. A painting hints at reminding him of how he came to meet Rembrandt, but I’d like to know!

In the end, Darkrai comes to accept his domain, but I think it would have been good to explore how being the emperor of the night might necessarily overlap with nightmares. Perhaps by giving people the ability to steel their heart by facing their fears in a safe manner. Learning to overcome fear and face it can be helpful, after all. It can also be inspiring, and giving people a safe outlet to face those fears in battle is certainly a worthy domain.

Overall, I think the story felt a bit aimless. It’s essentially just Darkrai feeling sadge, seeing the painting, and feeling a new purpose. I think a more impactful way to structure it would be something like starting with a firsthand account of the people in the town avoiding him, the Pokémon not feeling the same disdain, but following in the suit of their trainers just because. And then maybe someone in his family trying to convey to him that he has worth, but Darkrai not really getting it until he sees the painting. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ and all that. I could easily see their words failing to sink in but the art gripping him. Art has the power to shape the subject in the mind of the viewer, to humanize its subjects. This appears to be the main theme of the piece, and I think these changes might help that theme shine more effectively.
On my first readthough of this fic, I barely managed any notes at all. That’s how completely and utterly it captured my attention.

This is what it means to be a legend. This is the tale of two wandering gods coming to love mortals, feeling the deepest hurt and betrayal and lashing out in impotent anger and violence, and then… choosing to love again.

It all starts from a simple seed—Lugia admiring the persistence of the humans—and risking himself to get close enough to observe them firsthand. It’s only by getting close to them that he could ever learn from them. Learn how they support and care for one another despite being weak.

There’s Ho-oh dismissing the value of anything temporary when thinking of human settlements being so easily destroyed, and that carries over to her view of death, and temporary life being less than the promise of eternal life—a theme that will haunt her throughout the rest of the story. But then she begrudgingly starts to see the beauty in human creation herself—that they can show strength of will despite being so small and weak with fleeting lives.

Nice foreshadowing with Lugia’s mortal form being endangered early on, establishing what death means to a legend—not the final end of all experience, but a deep, soul-crushingly lonely eternity. It makes it hit all the harder when death strikes so cruelly and unexpectedly on the day of the final festival before the pair would have departed.

Ultimately, this is the story of Ho-oh, the eternal flame, learning to accept death, and for that she needed to die. I genuinely had no idea what to expect when the death struck so suddenly and there was still half a story left to go. Her interactions with Yveltal were both fascinating and entertaining; they have a great dynamic. And it’s so poetic that the eternal flame would need to learn this lesson from the caretaker of death himself, the one most poised to find meaning in temporary life.

There were a few tense errors and sentence fragments that didn’t seem to be for emphasis. In particular, bits where it lapsed into present tense that didn’t seem to be stylistic because there wasn’t much of a pattern to when and where it occurred. And maybe I’d have liked just a little bit more development on Ho-oh coming to love Osiri, because on my first readthrough it seemed like Ho-oh was won over too quickly. Maybe just an extra few lines about how Ho-oh was just staving off the boredom by battling Osiri and this definitely doesn’t mean she cares or anything (yes she does).

But that’s just minor nitpicking. This story was wonderfully paced with compelling characters, powerful emotion, and hard-hitting themes, and it’s everything I could have wanted from this.
The use of second person gave me pause at first. I know it’s trendy these days, but I usually hope for it to be more than just a tense, to play with the concept of identity and—

…and then I realized that the identity we’d found ourselves in might very well be a lie, and that it was woven into the prose itself from the very beginning, and that this was very intentional. That’s when I knew that this was going to hit hard.

And boy, did it ever. The non-chronological storytelling was an excellent way to stack up the revelations one by one. Alto Mare sank. Bianca is gone. For a moment, there’s the lingering question of when this takes place in relation to Movie 05, and just what level of AU this is. But then the details start adding up, creeping into the back of the reader’s mind until there’s no denying it any longer. The conversation with Ash, her interference in the Tour de Alto Mare, the encounter with the thieves… it all fits. The only possible point of divergence is the ending, and that means that Ash is…

There were a lot of cute details in their meeting and conversation, a pervasive childish innocence to them both that gives the instant friendship almost a nostalgic feel, which pairs perfectly with the vibe of ‘that which has been lost.’ The fact that Ash encouraged Latias to think of herself for once, and that everyone deserves to be a little selfish… But when you’re a legend, you can never just live for yourself, can you? To do that is to abandon your duty, and in keeping Latios from his, thousands of people are dead.

There’s no catharsis. No way to make things right. Just a mire of guilt and anger and loss, and clinging to another’s identity to pretend that anything’s all right.

I should admit that some of the typos were a bit distracting, so I’d recommend giving it another editing pass before publishing. I also was a bit unclear at first on whether or not Latias could speak in human, since she appeared to be speaking telepathically in the flashbacks. Still, those are just tiny quibbles. This story was full of raw, ugly emotion and the bitter truth of what happens when a god decides to live for themselves, and I loved it a lot.
Now here’s a fun concept—a legend lowered to that of a mortal, a powerlessness so thorough it’s best described as human. But beyond the loss of power, there’s the loss of self, since the psychic being that is the real Mew has been cut off from the body. Such a painfully tiny fraction of the whole, having to deduce what’s new and unfamiliar by what emotion the memories held before the suppression.

I like how you play with how your perception of time is linked to how long you’ve existed, and that, for all accounts and purposes, Mew has now existed in this persona for… all of a few hours maybe, if we total up all the memories left? The idea of a gap in your consciousness resulting in a new you, exactly identical but different somehow… It’s eerie stuff.

I liked the depth of the powerlessness that we got, but I think I’d have liked to see a bit more of the contrast firsthand—while we got plenty of time to become very acquainted with Mew’s new vulnerable state, it’d be nice to be able to compare that with their previous experience as a legend: what all that power felt like, what it meant to have a disconnected consciousness before it was all ripped away. That would help make the following segment feel instantly different to the reader, outside of what Mew is telling us.

Still, if I’m going to be told things, it certainly helps that the narrative voice is very strong. Tons of personality, and loads of fun observations. Giovanni positively oozes presence. Just a few small well-placed descriptors and a whole lotta vibes.

(Minor nitpick/question, but can Mew speak verbally, in human language? I’d assume telepathy would be cut off by the suppressor, unless it specifically has an exception built in or something.)

I think I got a bit confused by the identity of the doctor. “Dr. Alan” seemed like an obvious lie when the narration made him sound exactly like Fuji. And then Mew switches to calling him Fuji without the narration remarking on it. But then later, Alan and Fuji are both mentioned in the same breath as if they’re different people, which was a real “huh” moment.

I also was a bit confused as to why Mew’s genome doesn’t have any code for a nervous system when the current vessel, with the suppressor active, has local memory, dreams, etc. while being cut off from the timeless psychic persona. Does the genome not actually code for those things because the vessel was generated through spontaneous transformation?

Still, the revelation that needing a human brain was the key to making the Mewtwo project succeed was definitely neat. Being a legend means having a body that is merely a vessel for the timeless self. And when that same legend is lowered to the level of a human, it leaves a scar, a scar in endless time. It’s a fascinating direction to take the contest theme and I think you did a great job exploring it.
The first thing that jumps out at me while reading the intro is that I think this would hit a lot harder if we got to see what was lost. We open with the evils of humanity and destruction on full display, but we never got to see the beauty of what came before, so we have to take for granted that what came before was worthwhile. Of course, I can infer that Nature Is Good, but loss always has more of an impact when it inspires mourning for what was taken—when it shows the reader why they should care.

It’s interesting that the creator lambasts humans for their indiscriminate killing but feels nothing when doing it himself—I would have liked to see this get explored. Does he feel that the other legends were borne of him, so it’s no real loss for their essence to return to him? Does he feel it’s a necessary sacrifice—more death, but in the service of the world’s rebirth? The narration suggests that he resents or looks down on them, those guardians of his creation—does he blame them for allowing the human blight to get this bad?

We get a little bit more development with Reshiram and Zekrom that we didn’t get with the other legends, and that’s when the narration finally remarks that the other legends would have wanted a diplomatic solution. I think it would have been good to get an earlier hint of this, so the reader wasn’t left hanging, not knowing if there was going to be a reason after it had been brushed off as “inane questions.” Something like “he’d heard all of their excuses before, their reasons for not doing anything, and he wasn’t going to stand for it anymore”—that’s the sort of thing that primes the reader to expect more later, as opposed to figuring that the story probably just won’t tell us.

(Side note, but lightning as silent and passive is pretty strange for a metaphor—I wouldn’t have associated it with either of those things!)

Zekrom tells the creator that he is a fool for believing he’s doing the right thing and then dies without another word. This is pretty powerful in the moment… but I can’t help but wish that the story had given me any reasons to believe that the creator might be wrong for doing this, even if it feels true to him. Why is he so certain that the others are wrong, and that his solution is the only way? Have they gone through this song and dance before? Had the others ignored his warnings? Were they complicit in the world getting to be that bad? Razing the humans also means choking out the natural world as well—does the creator view that as a necessary sacrifice, or does it just truly not matter to him?

In the end, there is rebirth. The creator vows that next time, he’ll ensure that it would not happen again. But I can’t help but wonder what he intends to do differently. What did he do wrong before? Was creating humans the thing that spelled the world’s doom? But he doesn’t seem to regret creating them, nor does he intend to simply fail to recreate them. It’s also unclear how humans would learn their lesson if no one can pass on the tale of their downfall. I’d almost expect that razing their cities and leaving survivors in a broken world stripped of the power that they’d once had would be more humbling. With this outcome, it’s hard to see how any lesson could be learned. Starting over might quell the hatred that consumed him, but he’s not done anything to actually bring about a change.

And it could be entirely possible that that’s the point! The endless cycle of a creator consumed by useless, impotent hatred, unable to see any way out. Unable to do anything but temporarily soothe his own hatred. A tragic purgatory of his own making. But if that is the point, I’d like more exploration of his perspective.

Overall, there’s some good stuff here—namely strong prose with solid dramatic timing. I just would have liked more fleshing out of our central creator POV to make him feel a bit more nuanced and three-dimensional.
So we’ve got a couple of intriguing paradoxes right off the bat—the tower with healing properties, whether it affects the wilds, why it’s closed off, why more people don’t visit, etc. I like how you set up the intrigue early, it keeps the reader wanting to know more. There’s some nice tension with the wild encounter in the tower, and a real heavy presence with Cobalion’s voice looming over our protagonist. Plus some early hinting that Keldeo is torn between being a hero in society, and the honor of the wild.

I did get the feeling this premise would work equally well without a legendary protagonist since the main conflict is society vs wild rather than anything pertaining to legends protecting mortals (and the town folk could easily be just as awed because of his folk hero status as his legendary status). But that’s a pretty minor nitpick, and I think you used Keldeo’s relationships with the other Swords to great effect. I enjoyed the use of the flashbacks, and I think they gave each of the Swords a strong characterization in a short amount of time.

The obviously different body language for Manectric, as well as ‘friendly’ as code for wild was a nice touch that made her instantly Different as well as instantly endearing. It’s very easy to sympathize with Keldeo feeling stuck between following the law and doing what’s right.

I think some of the exposition did feel somewhat flat and dragged out, and a fair amount of it seemed, to me, like it could be trimmed up. In particular, some parts where the narration restated things that Keldeo had just learned, and a few dialogue exchanges that went a biiiit long without any additional information.

The pacing of the battle was the weirdest bit. A ton of internal monologue before any of the combat, and the baron is panicking before it even starts, which makes it feel weird that he even accepted it. I could certainly see him being old and prideful and Keldeo being stronger than he bargained for, but the panic before the battle even began just felt… strange. And then the battle is over in a single paragraph and it felt almost… anticlimactic. I think it would have been more effective if baron appeared very calm and collected (not letting on that he’s in a real catch-22 until after the fight), and counters Keldeo’s first few moves, but is playing things too safe and Keldeo has to make a bold move to catch him off-guard. This would also mirror how Keldeo himself had played things safe with his reputation until now, and is making a bold move by standing up to authority in the first place.

That said, I did quite like their convo afterward, and the baron’s answer helped add depth to the situation. In a way, Keldeo was in a uniquely advantageous position because of his title as a hero of the people—there’s no way Cobalion could have achieved such a favorable outcome with force alone, and that’s pretty vindicating. Overall I think you did a good job conveying Keldeo’s principles and his relationships and how those shaped his decisions, and his arc concludes on a satisfying note.
I never would have expected a Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon fic to come out of this contest, and I’m glad to see it. It’s a great way to explore what it means to be an artificial Mew that hits completely different beats from say, Mewtwo. I thought it was creative to have the Mirage Pokémon be generated by crystals from Area Zero—after all, if it was possible to combine technology with those crystals to generate the Paradox mons, then being used for the Mirage System is a natural fit.

There’s a lot of mention of Yung patching the Mirage System’s errors, but it’s never clear what the errors actually were, which gave the story a pretty Hollywood-programming feel. Sure, there’s type weaknesses, and Mirage Pokémon being stripped of those is certainly a difference from organic Pokémon, but I would have liked more exploration of what kind of negative effects the errors actually cause.

The easiest way to make this less vague, in my opinion, is to have Mew’s code start piling up with redundancies—functions of the code that result in Mew’s processes not being as fast/efficient as they could be because he’s experiencing things like curiosity or wonder that don’t strictly need to be there.

You could tie this into his time with Genesis having specific side effects, which would make it more impactful, in my opinion. Things like slower reaction times from no longer thinking like a hyper-efficient machine, or not being as precise in his movements because of mirroring Genesis (as cats do). Or showing Mirage’s empathy leading to slower decision-making because of the time lost from stopping to consider others’ point of view. These are all technically imperfections, after all! And I think having more specific flaws to point out in Mirage other than just “well he must be flawed because no one’s perfect” would help reinforce the theme of those flaws being beautiful.

The other thing that jumped out at me was the recurring vibe of code or data as a substance rather than a set of instructions for something—most noticeable when the Mirage System saps Mew’s data. He screeches in agony as his body is turned into data, but it already is data, so it fell a bit flat for me. You could do a lot with that bit—the creeping dread of senses going offline, the emptiness of no longer being able to perceive the outside world. That said, I did like the feeling of powerlessness you conveyed, the desperation to intervene while being seemingly incapable—as well as the poetic irony that the ‘perfect’ Mewtwo program had a backdoor vulnerability that Mirage could only access because he’d been buried in the system and learned its ins and outs.

Despite my quibbles with the technological side of things, however, I think this piece overall had some strong themes and you did a good job conveying the pressure that Mirage was under, as well as the weight of his desperation and sacrifice.
Alright, this is definitely a different take on Legendary interactions. :P Palkia has a memorable presence and the legendary banter is fun. It’s hard to describe the vibe… it’s almost down-to-earth, but with an absurdity that cuts through all the ‘grandness’ you’d normally ascribe to a titanic, earth-shaping clash between four gods. It twists the epic into the mundane. There’s lots of physical details that keep the scene strong in the reader’s head, a good sense of space (ha), and visual humor despite the lengthy dialogue.

It does feel a bit disconnected that Dialga feels such a conflict over what his domain is specifically in response to Rayquaza’s request. It doesn’t directly relate to apprehending Groudon and Kyogre at all, aside from just being something that could, in theory, be sped up if he actually used his power. It had me wondering if he’d just never thought about it before, or…?

Maybe if it was like, Palkia’s power being very practical for apprehending Groudon (warping Groudon into position, teleporting attacks away, etc), and Dialga feeling like his power isn’t so helpful without also being a risk. It makes sense to be hesitant to do things like reverse Kyogre because time is meant to only flow one way; it’s not designed to be navigated back and forth the way space is. But then Palkia’s encouragement could help him see that as the guardian, he’s also the only one in a position to manipulate it safely.

In any case, I enjoyed Palkia’s way of describing time to Dialga, as well as the fact that Dialga thought that guarding time meant refraining from manipulating it. And it’s a fun detail that Palkia’s unusual outlook is the result of traveling with a human.

(Side note, but I kept wondering if there’d be an explanation for why Groudon v Kyogre would cause rain to fall upward, then wondered if I was being dense and it was meant to be a metaphor, and then after re-reading… I’m still not sure!)

It did feel like the story dragged out a bit after Dialga’s revelation. That seemed like the high point of the story, but it was only halfway through, and then… there’s a whole lot more banter and small talk afterward that doesn’t accomplish toooo much. I did like the fact that Dialga was confident enough to decide not to rewind the fight if it might compromise the ability for Groudon and Kyogre to learn a lesson from it. Although it was slightly undercut by the fact that they… don’t appear to have learned anything. Ah well. :P

I liked how Rayquaza’s ‘role’ isn’t anything more than stopping the other two, leading Dialga to realize that a legend can be more than just their job—that they can live life how they like it (as Palkia had been doing, as Palkia learned from humans.) Overall, while a bit meandering and unfocused at times, there were a lot of fun and endearing interactions here, and it serves the theme that, even for legends who ostensibly have a ‘purpose,’ life (and time) can be what you make of it.
One-shot reviews for the 2023 contest!


This one grabbed me right away due to the unique narration and formatting. It’s short, yet packs a punch, and the eerie, malicious tone is VERY vivid.

I admit I had to read this a couple times to fully grasp what was going on, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing or a fault of the writing—it’s meant to be a bit of a chaotic experience, given that this is 109 souls confined in a single space, and it works well, though I did have to reread the end a few times to fully understand what took place.

If i have one criticism, it’s that the ending is a tad confusing—all of the perpetrators and victims-turned-vengeful spirits have been only vaguely talked about, no names given, and suddenly when we meet “the armored man,” there’s a *lot* of specificity to him that made me think I was missing something, at first.

But wow, what a fun take on Spiritomb. It’s fascinating to think about what happens when you try to trap 109 souls, and what an existence even looks and feels like for such a Pokémon. It’s appropriately morbid, dark, and spooky, and the vibes are immaculate. This would make a very good Halloween fic, as well! :copyka: Well done!

Shadow of a Doubt:

Marshadow fic! Better yet, an origin story fic! I love me a good origin/folklore-esque type of story.

I gotta say, while this is a short entry, you do a great job of getting across the necessary backstory and details in a way that is clear, concise, and works well. I enjoy that you give these details in a very casual sort of way, yet you never resort to spelling it out directly for the reader (such as MC’s debilitating illness, his devotion to Ho-oh, sacrificing his Pokémon as part of his offering, etc.) It never feels like an exposition dump, either, so nicely done!

I will say that, as it is now, this doesn’t quite feel like a complete story. I found myself wanting more. Who is MC? Did he become a trainer solely so he could sacrifice them for this ritual? What’s his relationship with his neighbor, who he knows by name, but who doesn’t seem to show any clear signs of concern for him or his Pokémon after seeing his house burned down? Why is MC such a devout believer in Ho-oh, and what makes him so confident that this ritual will actually work?

And above all: Did the ritual work as intended? Was he expecting a specific form, or happy to settle for anything? Was being turned into Marshadow a sign of Ho-oh accepting him…or was it a punishment, a condemnation?

If you ever plan to work on this story again, these are all great things to think about that can give it more substance, help it pack a harder punch. Maybe we get to see in greater detail who MC was as a person, what kind of trainer he was, what his suffering looked like. Maybe we learn more about what this Marshadow form actually means in regards to Ho-oh’s response, and if this is what he actually wanted, or if it’s a Monkey’s Paw type of situation. There are lots of fascinating things you can do here, as you’ve got a unique concept and good groundwork for further expansion!

I enjoyed this one-shot, and me wanting more means that it was nicely written and has a compelling premise. I’d love to see this fleshed out a bit more into a fuller, more comprehensive story!


Oooh. Okay now I gotta ask if you’ve seen the latest Guardians of the Galaxy movie, because the POV character here (who I assume is Arceus?) is strikingly similar to the villain in said movie. Which is to say, they’re both totally unhinged. :copyka:

I have to say, I struggled a bit with this, because there’s such a distance between the reader and the characters, and there was very little, if any, sense of space. I couldn’t visualize what was happening very well because it was all so vague, and I’m not even sure where the actual events took place? Arceus is…somewhere, killing legendaries and apparently forming a blood circle of sorts around him, but where is this exactly? I literally envisioned all of these interactions in a blank gray room, because there were no descriptions given whatsoever.

As a reader, I felt quite removed from the events, because every character here is completely nameless—in fact, we don’t even get any species name drops, either. That seems like it was a stylistic choice, and I respect that, though the consequence of it is that I didn’t feel fully invested, and it was also confusing at some parts what Pokémon I’m even supposed to be picturing in the scenes—specifically, the “incarnations of fire and lightning.”

There are several legendaries that could apply here, and we aren’t given any additional info to help narrow it down so that the reader can get a better visual of who is even in the scene. My first thought was Zapdos/Moltres or Raikou/Entei, but then at one point the lighting one “spreads their arms”, so my brain went, “Wait—arms? Uhh so Zeraora, then?” But it could have been Thundrus or Zekrom, too. I had no idea because it’s never made clear, and I think there are plenty of ways you could make it clear without having to name drop the species, such as providing more physical descriptions.

The lack of specificity made it hard to get invested in the plot, as well. We know the humans are destroying nature, but we don’t really see anything super specific beyond a few throwaway lines about their metal machines destroying trees. And I have to admit that the image of all of humanity mercilessly polluting the ocean and tearing down forests while laughing did seem a bit, well…gratuitous. I wasn’t sure if the narrative was trying to convince us that humanity in this world was genuinely, objectively like this, or if it’s meant to be a bit distorted from Arceus’ POV. In the same vein, I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to be rooting for Arceus in the end or not, as the narration itself is quite malicious and vengeful, and we never see Arceus show any regret for his actions…yet his actions are objectively abhorrent and pretty despicable, and the narrative doesn’t address this save for one line of dialogue from our unknown electric legendary. Deciding to immediately raze the whole planet, destroying millions of innocent lives, and murdering all of his legendary subjects simply because he wasn’t interested in debating with them does not paint a favorable picture! (Unless the argument is that every living being on this planet was evil and deserved to die, which again, feels like a massive stretch to me. Not only this, but what about the Pokémon in this world? Are they all evil and deserving of retribution (heh) too?)

I will say though that there is an interesting bit of hubris in this story at the very end—that in his quest to destroy humanity, there was nothing left of the earth, either, which was the very thing Arceus set out to protect. It’s a story of overkill—literally! :copyka: This self-destructive, self-fulfilling prophecy makes for some fun analysis, and I think you could have lingered on it a little more! There’s some fun potential there to wrap up the story as a bitter tale of going too far for one’s own ends. This would also make the actual goal of the story to be more clear, because as it stands, I’m not sure what it was trying to accomplish other than showing lots of violence…which is fine, but violence works best when it serves the narrative, and the narrative didn’t seem to have any purpose other than the violence itself, which in the end made both fall a bit flat.

I think this story has a lot of potential that can be reached by filling in details, making things more personal and specific, and being a bit clearer on what the narrative is trying to say. Is it trying to teach a lesson on morality, or is it simply an overpowered god throwing a fit and that’s all there is to it? Either one is great, but it will serve you best to lean into one or the other more strongly, I think!

From the Ashes:

Oh BOY there is SO MUCH to unpack here, and I mean that in the best way possible!

I’ll start off with my biggest criticism first, and it’s about the prose. The prose overall is actually fantastic, and it really nails the godlike vibes of these all-powerful, immortal legendaries. However, at several points in the story, the tense switched randomly from past tense to present tense, and it happened often enough that it did take me out of the story a little bit. The good news is that this is a very quick and easy fix once you spot those places!

Now, on to the contents of the story: and oh, wow, I gotta say, I really loved this. The fact that it wasn’t just an origin story, but that there was genuine character development for both Lugia and Ho-oh and even, to a smaller degree, Yveltal, really drove this home for me. These are powerful, deity-like creatures, but they still felt like characters all the same, not just forces of nature. And the descriptive writing of their emotions? Absolutely beautiful. I love the way you frequently compared their emotions and responses to forces of nature that coincided with their elements—water and ocean for Lugia, fire and heat for Ho-oh, cold and darkness for Yveltal. It made their interactions that much more visual and visceral, without ever feeling repetitive.

I do think that sense of place could be a bit stronger in some areas. There were several moments where the characters interacted with one another, and I wasn’t entirely sure where they were, or if they were flying through the air or perched somewhere, and so on. Filling out those details will make it that much more immersive, I think!

Above all, I loved the themes of this story, and that it wasn’t just a historical retelling of how Orre came to be. It’s a story about love, grief, forgiveness, humility, and hope. It’s a story about choosing to love again even after you’ve been burned, because of the ones in life that make loving worth all the pain. It’s about overcoming your prejudices (looking at you, tsundere Ho-oh! Lol) while learning from your mistakes. It’s about apologizing and admitting you were wrong, and facing your errors instead of defending or running away from them. Ho-oh’s disdain for humans turning into a love so deep that she struggles to let it go, Yveltal establishing that he is the god of death but not of killing (one of my favorite moments personally), Lugia learning that maybe not all humans are deserving of blind trust, but that they deserve a chance to prove themselves all the same. Gosh, this story is packed full of wonderful, meaningful themes and character relationships, but it never felt rushed or too packed for the word limit. The pacing was masterfully done, and also the dialogue was one of this story’s strongest points, imo.

I want to comment specifically on Ho-oh and Yveltal’s dynamic for a minute, too, because I found it utterly fascinating and really well executed. We have two polar opposites here: the goddess of life and rebirth, and the god of death. We see how they (well, mostly Ho-oh) reconcile their differences and come to learn that they each play a vital role in the world—that their roles are not, in fact, in opposition to each other, but rather they complement one another. It’s a really unique angle, because we don’t see Ho-oh and Yveltal compared with each other that much (or at least, I haven’t), and seeing it written out like this was really cool to see. It makes sense that Ho-oh would have a bit of a personal bias against Yveltal—not just because of Osiri’s death, but because his role has appeared to be an insult to hers all this time. And then we learn that this isn’t the case, that Yveltal values life just as much as she does, but that he also has the wisdom to value death, too.

One other thing I wanted to mention was the relationship between Lugia/Ho-oh and the humans, and how they accepted the humans’ offerings, not because they needed them, but because it allowed the humans to show their gratitude. I found that to be a very nice touch.

As a judge, I’m a stickler for both theme application and uniqueness. I don’t want just a story told from a legendary Pokémon’s perspective—I want a story that capitalizes on that concept, makes it a core part of the writing, and delivers its own set of themes on what it means to be a legendary Pokémon that mingles with mortals. And boy, did this fic hit all of those buttons perfectly.

Overall, this story really delivered. Beautiful prose, wonderfully flawed characters, Legendary POV that feels legendary, and meaningful themes all throughout. It has so much heart, and it really struck a chord with me because of that. From the Ashes is a wonderful creation, and you should be proud of it. 💛

All in Good Time:

Well this was a fun, unique take on Pokémon POV! Let’s dive in to some of my favorite aspects:

I found a lot of elements here quite charming, and you did an excellent job establishing the atmosphere and vibes of the setting. I felt like I was sitting right there in that chilly room with the students, listening to the teacher as the snow fell outside. It gave me literal old-school vibes, too, like back in the 1800s when school buildings were just one room and the only heating option was a fireplace. It feels like a simpler time period, somehow, and in a way it made me strangely nostalgic for those school days when my biggest worry was the next homework assignment and how I would spend my winter break and if the snow was sticky enough for me to build a snowman. 💛 The best way I can describe the vibes here is that it feels like comfort food, and I really enjoy that.

As for the story itself, I like that this is Dialga’s POV without actually being from his POV. It also tackles a complicated concept—the taming and shaping of time itself—and presents it in a visual, almost storybook kind of way. I like that Dialga gaining control of time and learning to use his powers wasn’t something that just happened—it was a whole journey of self-discovery and humility.

There are some things that didn’t quite land for me, though. I can’t help but feel like something is missing here, something that could have given the story a little more impact. For one, the way this story is delivered, with a teacher presenting to the class, can very easily feel more like an exposition dump than a story, which is the tricky part about writing in this literal storytelling format. The fact that the teacher and none of the students are given any names is another thing that makes it feel a bit distant. I think I’d have enjoyed it if we got to know the students a little more personally beyond being a vessel for the audience to hear this story.

Maybe student A is struggling with self doubt, and student B has major decision paralysis, and student C is feeling pessimistic about their future. Granted, we did get some hints of this, with a student swiping another classmate’s scarf for a snowman, and another student debating on moving to another school…but these little background details don’t feel connected with Dialga’s story, and feel a little more like fluffy side content instead. With some tweaks, you can probably find ways to make them more directly parallel Dialga’s own struggles, which will help the whole story feel a bit more cohesive!

So with all that said, I did enjoy this cozy one-shot. It makes me want to settle down in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate or a bowl of soup. :) I think there’s some untapped potential here for it to stand out just a bit more, to feel a little more personal to the reader and carry more emotional impact, and for it to feel more like a journey—not just for Dialga, but for the students and, by extension, the reader, too. If you do end up tweaking it later, I’d love to see what becomes of it! This is a lovely piece that I can find myself returning to when I want to feel warm and comforted. Well done! 💛


Oh, this was exquisitely written. From the use of second-person POV to quietly putting all the sad, devastating pieces together, this story paints a beautiful tragedy.

First off, I commend your use of second person POV, you absolutely nailed it. I love the subtle cues we get before the reveal that “Bianca” is actually Latias—the fact that she doesn’t speak verbally, the way she reacts to Lorenzo’s question about Latios, and so on. My favorite part of the whole story was the legend near the end, depicting the origin story of Latios and Latias, showing how they have always been closely bonded as a sibling pair, and always will be. The color symbolism (blue for sky, red for the brother’s blood) was also a very nice touch. I love the detail about their illusions not leaving any footprints behind, as well.

I can’t help but wonder if this story wouldn’t have had more impact if the focus was not so much on Latias’s friendship with Ash (who is never named but it’s clear who he is), but with Bianca instead. After all, Latias and Bianca were friends long before Ash came into the picture, and it’s Bianca who she had made a habit of imitating. It would have made the fact that Latias tried to live Bianca’s life for her afterwards all the more poignant and tragic, and her betrayal more painful.

I’m also a little confused as to how Latias managed to stop Latios from sacrificing himself. It sounds like she simply abandoned the city, but surely something had been done to prevent Latios from giving his life? Did she take the soul dew and leave? Forcibly stop him somehow? It’s not very clear, and I feel like that’s a key piece of the story to really know what happened and what exactly Latias’s betrayal of Alto Mare looked like.

That said, I love the way this story was delivered, through a series of well-timed flashbacks that give a little more info as it unfolds. The pacing is excellent, the prose is gorgeous, and the themes of “before and after” make the tragedy even more stark. I like the glimpse we get into Latias’s feelings about abandoning the city (as well as her childhood best friend and new friend.) There’s a lot of unspoken guilt in the way she conducts herself, and the way she immediately tries to justify it with her own loneliness and dedication to her brother gives a strong sense of emotional disconnect. It’s like her more childish side is trying to rationalize what she’s done with her more duty-bound side.

This is a heartbreaking tale of duty vs love, and a fresh take on the classic Trolley Problem. Save the city and its thousands of citizens who will never know of your existence, let alone know you personally, versus your brother, the only other being in the entire world that has been with you all your life, the only one who truly understands you? Yikes. Though there’s a part of me that feels one important factor is not taken into account with this story, and it’s that Latios was not her only family. Her only flesh and blood, to be sure, but Lorenzo and Bianca were also family, and she abandoned them, too. Yet she doesn’t seem to reflect on these two and their importance to her as much as she does about Ash and the other citizens who are strangers to her.

This was a gripping story, a very unique and fascinating take on the theme, and beautifully written. You did a great job art artfully delivering a tragic tale. Well done!

Darkrai Eyes:

To start off, this fic really excels in the setting department. The opening scene was beautiful, full of life, and very vividly depicted. I especially enjoyed the slice-of-life moments of the Pokémon world we get to see throughout the story—Machoke unloading cargo, Glaceon helping her trainer sort jewels, and so on. It felt very much like a Pokémon world in this sense, and I loved that!

I will say, though, that there were times that the descriptions and particularly the art references went a bit overboard. There seemed to be more references to famous artists than plot elements, and the story appeared to be having a hard time which it wanted to focus on more. As a result, the plot suffers, because the pacing is drastically slowed—even disrupted—by the narrative constantly pausing to name drop artists and describe the specific paintings and the arts in general. (Though I admit the little cameo/shoutout to Mew under the truck got a chuckle out of me, heh.)

As for theme application, while it does work, and I find the moral of the story very sweet, I found myself wanting more from Darkrai. I wanted to see more about how his legendary existence played a role in the story. Why was he taken in by Rembrandt? Why do the people in this region not know of Kyurem or Reshiram, but seem to know all about Darkrai, to the point of there being widespread societal prejudice? I think my biggest criticism here is that you could easily replace Darkrai with, say, Absol, and the story remains pretty much completely unchanged. So the fact that Darkrai is a legendary Pokémon doesn’t seem to have that big of an impact overall.

However, I did really enjoy that Darkrai came to find new courage himself—Rembrandt helped him, but it was Darkrai who made the connection that maybe not everyone actually dislikes him, and it was not Rembrandt standing up for him and fixing all of his insecurities for him. That was a nice change of pace!

Overall you have a very solid foundation here, with a real knack for scene setting and painting a vivid picture with words. My advice is to make sure not to get too caught up in that, however, and to strike a balance between plot and scene details. :)

Searching for a Resolution:

This was a really lovely story! From the pacing to the descriptive details, it flowed really nicely for me as a reader, and the characters all have such distinct personalities despite their short screen times. My favorite is the way you’ve sprinkled worldbuilding throughout the story—never spelling it out outright, but leaving details here and there for the reader to piece everything together themselves. Doing it this way prevents the pacing from getting bogged down with exposition, and you did so skillfully!

I also enjoyed that not all the conflict was totally resolved by the end. Keldeo still had a lot to work through with the other Swords, especially Cobalion, and the festering, painful rift between them and him was very distinct. The way his thoughts kept straying to how each of them would react in different scenarios, the way he misses them and yet clearly has lots of unresolved anger at the same time…it was very raw and well done.

If I had one criticism, it’s that there’s a lot of set-up for the main conflict, but then the conflict is resolved rather quickly. I feel like a little more could have been added there, either making the duel more drawn out and difficult for both sides, or Keldeo trying other avenues to get Guarde to listen to reason at first before resorting to a duel. The set-up itself was really nicely done, not too fast or too slow, but the resolution (ha) did feel a tad too easily won after all of that.

That said, I really liked this one-shot. It was a fun and refreshing take on the PMD world, especially through a legendary’s eyes, and particularly through the eyes of a legendary who, according to some, abandoned his post to live and work with the “civilized” mon. The whole dynamic of civilized vs “savages” (yuck) is a really solid basis for a longfic, tbh. You could easily turn this into a longfic and I, for one, would be eager to read it! There’s so much to explore here with some tasty angst, political tension, moral dilemmas, and so on. Especially now that you’ve shown that even legendaries are divided on this particular issue!

The pacing, scene setting, characterizations, and theme applications were all fantastic. You did a great job with this one-shot. Well done!

Who Really Needs Who:

I admit I was not prepared for “average day at the office except it’s legendary Pokémon,” but you know what, I’m here for it. 😂

Palkia is such a bro, but like in the best way possible. He’s so likeable! I really love the dynamic he and Dialga share, like that of an older brother mentoring his younger brother. It’s very wholesome with relaxing, laid back vibes.

The dynamic between Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza is also amazing. I love that the former two are going at each others’ throats, only to learn later that they’re just having a sisterly spat, and then the hints at the end that maybe they weren’t even really fighting at all, but helping Rayquaza feel needed? 😂 The snippet of them bonding at the end was hilarious. Massive sibling energy all around here.

There’s only one little hiccup for me here, and it’s that I don’t quite understand how Palkia’s pep talk gave Dialga the breakthrough he needed. It wasn’t super clear to me how those dots connected, nor how that reassured Dialga enough that he could suddenly understand and use his powers very precisely and almost flawlessly. It was all very vague, and even at the end, when Dialga said “time is everything,” I struggled to see how that was exactly relevant to everything that came before it.

It was also a little uncertain whether the main focus of the story was meant to be Palkia and Dialga’s relationship, the weather trio’s relationship, or Dialga’s struggles with his powers. While all of them were nice additions to the story, I think the fic would benefit by making the main focus a little clearer and picking one of those to emphasize more than the rest.

But! This was a nice, lighthearted take on the average day in a legendary Pokémon’s life, and I rather liked the relatable way you’ve normalized it like a job they all have to do. Life do be like that sometimes—sometimes it’s dull and thankless, but having a purpose really does make all the difference…especially when you have someone you care about right there to help you. :)


Ok so I had to look up what wabi sabi is, and boy is it a fitting title for this story! I really loved the themes here. Also, shoutout to that random special anime episode! At first I thought this was like an AU version of the first movie until I realized it was based on that episode instead. (I don’t know what it’s called, I haven’t actually seen it myself, I just know it exists.) Anyway, let’s dive in:

Mirage is such a lovely little bean, and his friendship with Genesis is even more pure. She’s so sweet and very Mew-like in her childlike curiosity, desire to befriend anything that moves, and always wanting to play. The cloud scene in particular was a highlight for me. I love simple scenes like that where characters learn important life lessons by looking at the things around them.

I found myself wanting a little more from Dr. Yung as a character. He wants to create perfect Pokémon…but why? It would be interesting to have learned a little more about his backstory and motivation for this project, why he’s so obsessed with it to the point of insanity. Usually people have a very strong, personal reason for devoting themselves so wholly to a project. Maybe he had a close Pokémon partner who died in an accident or from some kind of attack that exploited their type weakness? Maybe he was severely ostracized for even thinking of such a concept, and threw himself into his work in hopes of proving them wrong or even getting revenge? Something like that, that would make his motivations more personal, would go a long way in developing his character. In fact, you do mention revenge here in the story, but it’s very vague and we don’t know specifics. What does he want revenge for? Or who does he want to take revenge against?

I also found myself wondering about the other mirage Pokémon. If Mirage developed a soul (or had one from the beginning), does this mean the others did, too? Or were they just mindless machines and Mirage was the exception? I think this story could have a much bigger impact if all of the characters, not just Mirage, were fleshed out just a tad more.

I love the theme of this story, about overcoming perfectionism and learning that to be imperfect is, in its own way, perfection. Because all living creatures are imperfect, were created that way, and who’s to say we aren’t supposed to be that way? Genesis makes a great point about all the clouds being unique, and that uniqueness wouldn’t really exist if everything was perfect. This theme hits home for me personally. 💛

Last but not least, I love that Mirage does get his happy ending and that he uses it to teach others about self-love and the wonders around them. Very wholesome and heartwarming! A lovely story and a nice light read. Great job!

Only Human:

What a delightfully unique one-shot this is! I’ll admit it took me a second to figure out what was happening in the beginning, but once I understood, it was a fascinating read.

The whole concept of Mew’s identity crisis and low-key body horror is really interesting here. The idea that they can’t sense everything anymore, are cut off from their powers, is pretty horrifying. I love the dialogue in particular, and I think that’s where the writing really shines. It’s a brutal environment in Team Rocket, and nobody is anybody’s friend. Proton is the closest thing Mew has to a friend, but they both make it clear they’re just joining hands to use each other to their mutual benefit. It’s cold and harsh, but it definitely checks out given the circumstances.

I do have a couple hang-ups, though—one is that Mew, while in a human body, still seems weirdly too human for an ageless legendary Pokémon. It felt odd to me that they were casually chatting with the other scientists like a normal human would, even using sarcasm and dry humor and curse words. It felt a little too human for me, and you’d think that an immortal creature that avoided direct interaction with humans would have a distinct way of speaking—especially since they are so unused to being cut off from their psychic powers.

I also didn’t fully understand the “I shouldn’t have looked” section. Shouldn’t have looked at their psychic memories over the last few days? Shouldn’t have looked at the Rocket hideout? It’s not clear what Mew saw that scared them so badly, and then we cut to the end with Mewtwo, where Mew’s motivations are still very unclear. The ending felt abrupt and a bit muddled, and I’m not exactly sure what I as a reader was supposed to interpret from it. It seems this was meant to be a Mewtwo origin story, but because the focus was all on Mew (and most of it on their discomfort at being cut off from their power), it didn’t fully feel like one, so I think that’s why the ending didn’t completely connect for me.

I think if you added some scenes where Mew saw hints at what they were creating, or even sensed something about Mewtwo’s consciousness as he came to life, that would tie it all together more neatly. How does Mew feel about the experiment they’re creating? Do they feel some kind of moral obligation or responsibility for it, since Team Rocket is using their DNA to create Mewtwo? I feel like the choice to only focus on their physical discomfort about being a test subject takes a little bit away from the rest of the plot.

I did really enjoy the various character dynamics here though, especially between Mew and Proton and the subtle hints of guilt from Proton. Love that kind of stuff, and you nailed it.
Two-chapter, 435-word review for Zero the Hero

This feels like Worldbuilding: The Chapter. A lot of names and descriptions of things get thrown around, which allows me to picture some of the stuff in my mind. I'm not sure if this is introducing us to some of the places that our heroes will eventually end up going to or not. As it is, I think I'd prefer waiting until they actually go there to learn about the places. I'm not liable to remember them as is. Not that there's anything wrong with people talking about their homes. It's a perfectly natural thing that we do. Just feels somewhat out of place for me. I guess the intention is to ground (heh) Gareda a little and not make her seem like a totally uptight person who only thinks about work and being a soldier and all that. The big takeaway for this chapter is to show that Gareda is heading to the same place as George and Blitzer were told Speedy would take them to for this mysterious outlaw mission. And it feels like the rest is fluff to pad things out. Suppose I would've preferred this as just a shorter scene showing that Gareda is on a collision course and leaving it at that to return to the protagonists.

Other thing that confuses me is why Gareda seems to be able to sense something off with George. The fact that, as Arukona mentioned, you keep referring to her having "sensors" really throws me off. Garchomp is no lucario. Or a psychic-type or a mechanical 'mon or any of the species you tend to traditionally associate with the ability to sense these kinds of things about other people. Maybe you meant it's a gut instinct... but where is this gut instinct coming from? Something she's encountered in her time as a soldier, perhaps? Or is she actually a special garchomp in some way? Either way, it might've been worth offering up a little more details around why she feels this way. Otherwise it just feels like George getting recognized for being the protagonist.

I did find George's thought about his age funny... since I genuinely can't peg his age or Blitzer's. I'm pretty sure I keep thinking they're older than they really are, because some of the things they do and say are quite childish. Like, elementary school (or primary school for Europeans, I guess?) levels of young. With that said, even though they are worried about what an outlaw could do to them as kids, I imagine thing's will ultimately turn out okay for them. Since they're the heroes, after all. ;P
One chapter, 380ish word review for PMD: Heroes of the Past, which I'm happy to see is not in hiatus! :3

It's not a true PMD fic with a ninetales unless the poor fox is covered in mud. :P

You're right. This chapter read differently from the previous ones, so you must've made some big strides while working on your other projects. Most of the mechanical things I pointed out last time aren't here at all. I thought the chapter flowed quite nicely, particularly the opening dream sequence and the ending with the kids playing ball. The middle parts do feel like they're a bit on the lighter side with describing scenery and at some points I imagined the characters were talking to each other in a void. That said, you do a great job individualizing each pokémon's body language based on their body type. It's great and a nice way to draw attention to their individual abilities. Lucario and Aurum definitely got a lot of focus in that regard with the aura reading. I do wonder if all the focus Aurum got, in particular, means we'll see more of him as a secondary character in the future. The "bookwork aura doggo" angle isn't something I've seen much of in fics. It also offers a nice contrast to Lucario, who himself is a fun little Easter egg for Rescue Team fans. I like it when that stuff's added in. Helps sell the whole PMD world thing Super introduced.

The opening dream sequence fascinated me. It's vague, sure, but that seems like the point. Lot of speculation I could make from there. Is this some alternate version of the Gen 7 timeline where the three type: fulls remained in stasis and Silvally somehow woke up/broke out and emerged into a very different world than he was created in? Was all the crazy crashing around and stuff the result of waking up in a mystery dungeon itself as it was being shifted around or did some Ultra Wormhole yeet him from his world to the PMD one? What were those figures he saw? Legendary pokémon? Perhaps UBs? I don't think they were described as anything but "figures," so I suppose I'm going to have to wait to find out more.

Sorry I was a bit late to this one. But now I know how to get AO3 notifications for pieces that have updates. Yours is my first! (And only one, lol)
Two chapters, 330 words for Espy's fic reboot

Very interesting opening. Already it's quite different from what happened in canon Super, with Mew appearing front and center, apparently dead, and various other things involving Espurr instead? At this point, it's hard to tell just how it pertains to Super.

I do think it's kinda funny that "somemon" is used when the substituted word—"one"—is still perfectly applicable.

Interesting prologue. I recall it being very different from the last prologue. It's also more direct with how Espurr will be relevant down the line. I don't think it was ever clear that she was human then, and in fact, I wondered if she was something else entirely. But now, I guess it's more clear?

This also is reminiscent of a standard Super opening, just with Espurr. Doesn't immediately capture me just yet... but there is one small detail I'm noticing is off. In Super, the human was with ancient Mew. This time, and especially with the prologue, this is a new human entirely. So did the original human lose? Hmm... Maybe because this AU never had Espurr, then she couldn't have done her triple cross gambit to save them...

I also noticed that they said there are only "two" humans alive. Did Rescue Team happen so far back that they died of age, or did something else happen? Lots of little details that a non-savvy reader would miss, but here seem like very deliberate additions.

The scenes in the Dungeon were a very interesting take. Just what is the fog and those rotting gales? It's definitely a more eldritch take on the Dungeon scale, and I'm curious what that means going forward for how this will tie into the plot. It's too distinct to not be.

And then we end familiarly, and the next chapter will likely be of Espurr waking up in Audino's building. Familiar yet distinctly different than I remember in some ways... And then I'll be hopping onto the beta train now. Be seeing you soon~

One chapter, 564 words, Fledglings c94

Chapter 94 this time around, and it looks like the pirates are finally going to make their move now that they got word of the "retaliation." I wonder what the latency is with that, though. With snail mail being their closest means of correspondence, even with fliers, they'd have a good day at minimum to escape before they'd be truly cornered, right? Unless the islands are less than a quarter day from each other, I can't see how it'd be possible otherwise. I guess as pirates they couldn't station themselves too close without risking being caught...

Post-read, I was more or less correct in that they'd need at least a full day to arrive. Being held in a cell will definitely help things there.

That being said, though, I need to be blunt-I'm just really frustrated with this plot of mistaking a crew by their colors instead of obvious telltale signs like... species. I feel like that'd be a standard report in these things in a world like this one. I already ranted about this in my last review but I'm going to grumble about it again since it's still going and prominently.

Wait. They think it's them because the impersonators were literally shouting their backstories? That they were from tromba, like some kind of "I'm shouting it so it's identity theft" methodology? And they bought that? why though

"A clear sign the Administrator was displeased with the turn of events."
-This entire sentence is unnecessary. Otherwise, interesting scheming by admin, though I don't know how much of that was necessary to have onscreen for so long.

I almost had some hope for the trial when Ander brought up basically all of my core grievances. And it SEEMED like they were kinda convinced at first? Well, some, at least a few. But then...

"Get these pokemon back to their cells"
Because the pirates we thought they were... are now attacking us—okay, no, I'm actually genuinely baffled at how these characters are thinking. Why this? This whole impersonation arc. Ander literally outlined the logical fallacies to an established judge and public, and it's just brushed aside like an afterthought. Actual physical evidence is right in front of them, and they even said the pirates kidnapped Pleo... when Pleo is right there saying the opposite. This case in any remotely logical court of reason would have been tossed before a trial even started. One look at Pleo, an interrogation which would be standard in something like this-so many things had to be overlooked for this to be contrived.

With how the pirates showed up to cause a ruckus anyway, I think this would have been a much more streamlined ordeal narratively speaking if the events were quicker. For example, they were attacked by the villagers, their boat was damaged, but just as they were apprehended, they would realize that these Pokemon don't match the species at all. Maybe not even their accent/native language. The ACTUAL pirates were trailing them closer, so by the time they get to talk and sort things out, they're attacking and we're at where this chapter more or less ended. As it stands, though, this was a very glaring arc for me.

I'm hoping that once this gets resolved, and its lasting effects are hopefully not too detrimental over something so frustrating, the remainder of the chapters work out better.
Six chapters, 487 words for Chapters 1 - 5 + Interlude of Canis' fic The Bringer

Hello! I'm finally here for our review exchange, to review six chapters of your fics! I chose to go with Chapter 1 through Interlude of this fic!

First of all, really interesting opening and concept! Six months for Red to find a new Bringer. It was really interesting to see Red being terrified of how it'd go, with the dreams.

It was also really nice to see Red being nice to Helix! He's finally admitted that he can care for Helix!

Interesting how the trial seems to only have lasted one day. Ace Attorney rules?

I really love the journal entries! It's fun to see how things are recapped with Red's hindsight. Though I'm intrigued by the year being such a small number.

I'm intrigued by the other Ducklett Program members. Interesting seeing how different they all are!

Suki's situation seems similar to Red's. I wonder if they're only superficially similar, or if they're more alike than just surface level?

Yay, Samson! Nice to see him! Hope we get to see him more!

The conversation between Samson and Red was fun. Samson is so nice and Red really wants to lash out, but he has to keep playing along to keep up appearances.

Oh boy, people are looking into Michi's disappearance. That's not going to be good for Red.

Seems like therapy is going much better for Red now! Yay!

Interesting, so Red would like to have been a surgeon if things were different. I wonder how things would have gone if he had tried to take that path?

And he doesn't know that independent learning is a thing you can do. Interesting.

The conversation between Red and Suki is fun! They're both pretty alike, though definitely still very different. It's nice seeing Red having a genuine positive conversation with someone.

And oh boy, the police are at Red's house.

Interesting that Red feels bad about killing Michi. Wonder why he feels that way about her and not any of his other victims?

Oh boy, Red talking to Samson after all that.

Interesting! Seems like Michi's disappearance could definitely be connected to Red if they looked hard enough. Oh boy.

And an argument between Red and Abe about their mom. Oh boy. Seems like things are really heating up.

And to further add to the tension, the police are asking the ghosts about Michi's disappearance, and one of them indicts Red. Oh boy. That's gonna be interesting to see what comes of it.

Looks like therapy is really starting to help Red!

Oh boy, Red kidnaps a criminal, and they're rejected by HELIX, and now Red has another body to dispose of. That's not good.

I don't have a lot to say about the Interlude due to it being mostly sexual stuff, sorry.

Overall, it was nice reading more about Red and your fic universe, and I really enjoyed reading these chapters!

Thank you for writing this!
PMD: Heroes of the Past, chapter 7
The deadliest terror of all: English class.

Mostly a lot of setup in this chapter. Artemis wants to get to the bottom of Silvally, but her way of doing so looks like it could potentially cause more friction. Not that Silvally knows he's got some whole confidential police file or anything, but I doubt he'd appreciate that route. Even if he isn't fond of talking. I'm not entirely sure what to make of that, since he has been awake for a while at this point. You'd think he'd be used enough to what his body can do by now. I'm not sure if this is a subtle implication at something being off — like, say, Silvally secretly being a human whose spirit was put inside the machine — or just the fact that, since he wasn't "perfected," his body has mechanical defects.

The written language barrier also adds fuel to that fire. Silvally's writing in English... or, perhaps Unown would be a more apt descriptor for this setting? To be honest, given this is advertised as an Explorers sequel, I'm surprised Artemis isn't drawing any connection between Silvally's writing and the unown. If she's truly this renowned explorer, then surely she's been to Aegis Cave at some point. Or her parents recounted their experiences with the place? Either way, I have a hard time believing Artemis wouldn't have been exposed to unown at some point in her life. Unless Silvally's writing in an entirely different language. I know Gen VIII and IX gave us some sort of fake cartoon language for the main line games, so I guess Silvally could use that and it would count.
Challenge #2 - Recommendations

Most stories I read might slip out of my weathered old brain, but there are some that have stuck with me. Now’s the perfect time to give two of them their dues.

My first recommendation is Starfall by Pen. It is most likely my favorite Pokémon fanfiction of all time. I thought it was so good that I recommended it to a friend who isn’t even a Pokémon fan. He still hasn’t read it after three years, but if he ever does, I hope he finds it anywhere as beautiful as I did.

Starfall is a oneshot that tells the story of Kabiyo and Alu, a Honchkrow and an Arcanine who are old friends with mysterious pasts. Alu comes to see Kabiyo after what seems to be a long time to inform her that another “starfall” has taken place. A “starfall”, we find out, is a phenomenon linked to the death of a god that bestows energy on the ones that claim it. At only 5k words, it’s rather short, so checking it out shouldn’t take long. Please do so. You won’t regret it.

What makes Starfall so great, then? Well, it’s extremely beautifully written. The prose is magnificent and evocative, but still breezy to read. The story respects the reader’s intelligence by not spelling itself out, encouraging reflection. The worldbuilding gives the story a strong sense of identity despite its shorter length. The characters are distinct, engaging personas. Honestly, it just succeeds on all fronts, and it was wonderful to read it again to refresh my memory for this recommendation.

Given its length, I can’t say much more about it without spoiling it, so I’ll just end with saying that this story has stuck with me for three years and I’m certain it’ll stick with me for longer. Read it.

Before I get into my second recommendation, let me ask you a question. Do you like Hypno? Probably not, right? It looks weird and unnerving, and it’s said to hypnotize people, even use its powers to take away children. It’s just creepy. And that’s why you don’t like Hypno.

Alright, now what if I told you that the next fic is going to change all that?

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is a six-chapter, 34k-word fanfic by my good friend NebulaDreams. It’s part of a collection of stories known as Dreamdiver, centered around the life and work of a Hypno named Jung who works as a therapist and reads the dreams of his patients in order to figure out their psychological problems and help them. They’re all good, but I’ve chosen TSoRPM for this post as it’s the longest one of the Dreamdiver stories released up to this point and as such is probably the one that needs the most convincing to get people to read it.

Now, while a Hypno therapist that reads dreams in order to figure out their patients’ subconscious is already a bomb ass premise I frick with big time, this story does have a premise aside from that. Some Pokémon have been kidnapped near Anistar where Jung lives, and people are blaming Hypno for it. Jung, having suffered from terrible nightmares lately, has two reasons to seek out these Hypno: to clear their name and to put a stop to his nightmares.

TSoRPM follows up with the Dreamdiver tradition of bizarre, surreal dream sequences and intriguing imagery, and it remains as strong a point in this story as with the others of the collection. It’s also complemented by striking artwork done by Neb, some of which is non-referential (as far as I know) and some of which are references to the paintings of Francisco Goya. You’re definitely gonna come out of this read with a lot of memorable moments in your head thanks to these dream sequences. Maybe you’ll get inspired, too!

The dreams aren’t the only thing this and the other Dreamdiver stories have to them, of course. They all have Neb’s unique worldbuilding in which Pokémon - or at least many species of them - can learn to speak human language and get themselves human jobs. This leads to an interesting society, especially in the case of Pokémon with poor reputations that are shunned and mistrusted like Hypno. The fic strongly features and explores species-based discrimination and self-loathing, but also the intricacies of Hypno culture and biology, like their dream-eating, hypnosis and pendulum-carrying. I’m not sure whether I should call it xenofiction, but the vibes are there - if you like xenofiction, chances are you’ll like this. You’re also gonna like this if you like whump. Yeah, whumphog, I’m talking to you. I know you.

Then there are the characters. First off, there is Jung, who is very sweet, charming and selfless, but whom all the discrimination is really wearing down. He is very likable and we want to see him get better and his world to get better around him. He will destroy your notion of Hypno as creepy, sinister creatures. But it’s not just him. In the story, we meet many other Hypno with unique characteristics, like Jeanne the laidback bookworm, Brie the cheese-loving baker and the wise old Hoothoot. There’s a hyperactive young Drowzee, too. These colorful characters work to humanize (well, poor word here) the species and make you feel remorseful for your harsh attitude towards it. And what great story doesn’t change you in some way?

That does it for my recommendations. Be sure to read Starfall and The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (and, hopefully, the other Dreamdiver stories) this coming Review Blitz or whenever you have time - just remember to let the authors know what you thought! Neb especially gets way less engagement than he deserves and it breaks my heart.

Until next time!
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PMD: Heroes of the Past chapter 8, 420 blaze it words
Language, Artemis (and Artemis' monologue)! You only get one F-bomb in a T-rated fic! >:C

Mew continues to be one of the more fascinating characters for me, if for no other reason than her ability to switch from being a gremlin agent of chaos to someone rather serious who's able to drill down to the root of certain issues with Artemis. I do like her internal struggle between trying to remain friendly and polite while getting actual answers out of Artemis. Which ends up leading into her take Silvally off for Eng— sorry, Modern Rune lessons while Artemis just casually reads some confidential records. I'm guessing a chunk of that info came from Metagross doing his own scan when Silvally was taken to the precinct. But I swear Artemis had watched that and heard what Metagross said, so some of her reactions to the "not his fault/light sentencing" read a bit to me like she'd forgotten she was there for that stuff. Maybe a line or two acknowledging certain bits matching up with what Metagross had said at the precinct could've helped with that. Not sure. That said, the subsequent read through of the first Team Dusk encounter is a lot more heart-wrenching, particularly as Artemis grapples with the unfortunate truth that she did attack someone innocent.

I think it's a powerful bit. It's definitely helped by the fact that the large majority of this "miscommunication plot" happened offscreen/before the start of the fic. Because miscommunication plots can normally be *quite* frustrating to read, relying on a lot of arbitrary plot devices and asspulls to keep going. But here you've clearly laid out Silvally's language barrier both due to physical issues and his memory loss. So, that coupled with most of the miscommunication happening before the fic proper, makes it work out nicely. If I had to venture a guess, this is going to lead to a rather uncomfortable teatime at Kanga's, albeit for different reasons than it would've a chapter earlier. At least, I'm assuming tea's still happening. I don't see why the Kangaskhan scenes would be here if this wasn't coming up in a chapter or two.

Only other bit is that there are a couple of dialogue tag errors here and there. As silly as it sounds, "laugh" and "groan" generally aren't considered speaking verbs in the same way as "said" or "grumbled." They're behaviors people do, like coughing. So you'd end dialogue with full periods, then have a character groan or laugh.

Nice work once again!

PMD: Flowerbeds, 2 chapters & 725 words
Flowery, innit?

I recognize these opening parts are not representative of your current abilities. So, I did actually peek ahead to the latest chapter despite lacking context and I did see some things that were similar to what I noted. Just toned down a bit.

As far as actual overarching plot goes I think the hook's decent. Villain-focused prologue -- I can't believe one of the Dastardly Whiplash Malamar from the Kalos anime up and jumped dimensions -- gives me some sense of an overarching struggle. The first chapter is much closer to standard PMD fare but at least offers the distinction of starting off with a guild 'mon in the world to flesh the place out and give some background. It's a solid combination that's done a good job drawing folks in thus far. (Going off AO3 notes, at least.)

Where I, personally, am rather mixed is in the execution. Mainly a lot of the mechanical stuff that isn't just basic spelling and grammar. The narration style change has been brought up before and I will echo that it *is* jarring. There's a lot of tense confusion when you swap over to first-person. I can shrug that off. If anything I had more pause from how liberally thoughts-as-dialogue are employed. If you'd stuck to third-person with Oswald's scene, I'd have less of an issue. But, like, Oswald *is* the narrator by virtue of this being first-person. Most everything that was thoughts-as-dialogue could've instead been standard prose and it would've flowed smoother. The way it's employed here makes it feel more... script or video game-like. I did plenty of thoughts-as-dialogue reactions earlier, too, and other more experienced writers encouraged me to dial it back. Save those for times where they can be more impactful. It didn't seem quite as egregious in the latest chapter, though that was entirely third-person. And even in your third-person scenes here, you don't employ it as often. And I think the liberal use of it is at least partly responsible for all the tense confusion.

I really would've liked the thoughts as proper prose instead. It would've given Oswald's inner monologue more character. Instead, a part of me feels like I'm reading someone else narrating the events through Oswald's eyes. I bring this up because, for the third-person parts, it felt like you were struggling to decide between a third-person limited POV and an omniscient one. It read to me like there was *generally* a distinct narrator character describing everything, with intermittent flashes of thoughts from Larkspur and Dahlia's perspectives. What I don't think helps in this regard is the exposition. The prologue opens with it. This chapter opens with a good chunk of it. And I did check the most recent chapter and it does seem like, despite attempts to anchor things from Marigold's POV, there are occasional moments where the narration spends a few sentences or a paragraph explaining something that prrrrrooobably could've been handled more succinctly. It's definitely improved, though. Marigold's POV did seem to have a stronger hold when comparing it with these opening parts. So, I have to point it out in case you ever go back to make some alterations. The narrator taking a handful of paragraphs to tell me about Larkspur feuding with that sableye or give the basic personality trait overviews of Dahlia's teammates are things that should've been shown off organically through actions and/or dialogue between these characters. The issue is compounded for me because a startling amount of the prologue's opening consists of sentences that have eerily similar length and an overzealous amount of commas (including comma splices). Not to mention semicolons, which, like, work wonders for class papers but not so much for pieces like these. Similarly, Oswald's "narrator" spends a lot of time opining about his new looks and confusion. It definitely could've gotten trimmed.

Are there fics that are more egregious with this kind of stuff? Absolutely. But it did make me think of them and briefly panic. Hence why I say the execution left me mixed. I don't think most folks care, ultimately. You've got plenty sticking with the story and it's clear to me from the last chapter you've made some great strides. I'm just leaving this out here in case you ever want to revise the opening parts to better reflect your current abilities.
Challenge #2: Fic Recs!

It took me a long time to decide what to rec here. I specifically wanted to go for things that weren't on TR; I know we'd all like more attention on our own little community of work, but it's easy enough to poke for those through requests, review games, etc. Also, I tried to keep it to fics that were either complete, or had a decent number of chapters and were still updating (or, well... I hope they are).

The first fic I settled on, The Sea Phantom, I've actually already recommended once before on TR's fic rec thread, as well as a few off-hand mentions on a couple other occasions. But this ranks highly among my favorite fics of all time, so I decided to take this chance to really try to hype it up.

The second fic, Poison, I was shown... roughly 14 hours ago (at the time of this post). I've been up all night binge-reading it, and it just hit me hard, so I figured this was a good choice to stick here, too. The author is anonymous on AO3.

Anyways, here's my two highlights. (Spoiler tags because I went a little overboard and still somehow don't feel I've done either of these the justice they deserve...)

Fic #1: The Sea Phantom by Frozen Archer


Author’s Summary: The paths of a young yet powerful trainer, a protégé with a memory for myths, and a thief with a new and powerful position seem unlikely to cross. However, a pirate captain with a score to settle and a love for adventure and fame may just bring them together in search of a cure when the land itself grows ill.

I have previously highlighted this on TR’s Fic Rec thread but this is a chance to go more in-depth.

Plot and Setting: I love this fic. I love it a lot. So much that back when it first started in 2013, it was one of those “submit your own character” things, and I did just that. (The fic went on a six-year hiatus shortly after, but upon revival, my OC remained. I promise this is not part of the reason why I want to feature it, but rather I consider it evidence of how invested I was after only two chapters.)

I will note that it has again taken on a now two-year hiatus, as the author is a nurse who had been dealing with the covid pandemic, so writing time was obviously not been high on their priority list. The fic itself is also rather short so far, at only 14 chapters (60k words), so take that into consideration, too. I offer it in the hopes that it will continue to be updated in the future when the author has time once again, as it has already survived one multi-year hiatus (and I’m no stranger to those, myself).

Now, the story is set in an unspecified time period. What we know is it is 'not the modern pokemon world'. It has the vibe of a medieval Pirates of the Caribbean; combination of pirates and royalty/kings and queens, but with pokémon.

The summary pretty much covers what we know of the plot. The lands of the various regions (so far featuring Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh, but includes references to others) are all becoming ill. Plant life is dying, wild pokémon are attacking human settlements, no one knows why.

The first chapter is essentially a prologue, which doesn’t introduce any of the three main characters, but sets up the royalty of each region and each of them discovering the illness and how each of them is going about researching cures. The setting descriptions are very detailed and easy to imagine.

Characters: As the summary implies, we get the PoV for three main protagonists, each coming from a different background.

  • Sketch, recently promoted first mate of captain Greyson's pirate crew. He's my favorite of the three main protags. Pretty much what you’d expect of a pirate.
  • Alexandra, typically referred to as Alex, a trainer (and a bit of a chaos goblin) from Sinnoh, where women aren't allowed to be trainers in this setting. She has to flee when the crown discovers her secret. There's possibly a character or plot arc involving a missing father here too.
  • Kiernan, normally called just Ki, a rather frail, young apprentice archivist living in a more well-off area in Canalave. Well-versed in myths and legends. Chapters focused on him tend to be more lore and info-focused compared to the heavier action in Sketch or Alex's scenes, but they do make for nice downtime and speculation.
There’s quite a large cast of supporting characters, too; Many of them are the other members of the pirate crew, like captain Greyson; the ship’s doctor, Brenna; and navigator Janek (who is one of my favorites and wish he had more screentime). We also get a bit of Ki’s family and co-workers. They all play off each other very well. Most interactions flow smoothly and believably. Most characters who feature even remotely have enough personality to not be forgettable, which I think is impressive considering just how many of them there are.

This also means there’s quite a lot of pokémon featured, too. (The protags alone have 5, 5, and 3, respectively.) Generally, they are less developed than the human characters, which while understandable given the huge cast, but many of them do have flair. And even then, there’s some scattered cute moments to be found (at one point Alex is giving head scritches to her drapion and flygon and it is adorable, and another one where said flygon is acting as a grounding force for Alex, who is having a panic attack).

On that note, many of the pokémon characters are ones that aren’t featured often in fanfic. Highlights of the more prominent ones so far include mantine, furret, lumineon, tropius, altaria, and kingdra. Many of the side-character ‘mon are often under-represented too, such as grumpig, granbull, and medicham.

Final Thoughts: As I mentioned previously, I love this fic. It’s got an intriguing premise, a fun setting, and fantastic, well-written, likeable characters. The slow, uncertain nature of future updates is, sadly, a consideration, but if you can live with that (let’s face it, we’ve all enjoyed a fic that just ground to a halt at least once), this is a fun build-up to a promising story.

Fic #2: Poison (author is anonymous)

On AO3

Author’s Summary: Wes was a cursed child.

A dark, gritty Pokémon Colosseum AU, where Wes never left Snagem, the region was never saved from Cipher's first onslaught, and the desert winds are howling. This is a story about the making of monsters.

Plot and Setting: Essentially, what the summary says. This is one author’s take on an Orre region where Wes walked a very different path. We see a lot of glimpses into Wes’ mind, both past and present, as well as numerous other character’s perspectives as the story goes along. I discovered this one only recently (guess who), but damn, is it good! It’s definitely a darker take on the shadow pokémon concept, turning it up to 11. The story includes AU elements of not just Colosseum, but Gale of Darkness, as well, merging them into one larger, clearer backstory for Wes.

The big draw to this, though, is the emotions it conveys. If you have feelings, it will break you. Our unknown author weaves a complicated, beautifully tragic tale that intertwines numerous plotlines via the supporting cast. The final chapter (chapter 9, not the epilogue) is gut-wrenching. It does have a happy ending, if that’s a concern to you, but it builds up to it for a loooooooong time, and it ends in a mostly satisfying way.

There were two points I was somewhat disappointed with. First, the pokémon characters themselves were mostly unimportant (with the expected exceptions of Wes’ signature espeon and umbreon duo). The shadow pokémon that show up are done well, but they generally don’t feel as much like characters as they do plot devices. To a degree, this makes sense, as the story isn’t about them, and honestly there’s only so much you can do with a soulless husk of a character anyway, though I do still wish we got a bit more.

And second, without spoiling too much… We don’t really get a proper resolution to the shadow lugia element. We do see other actions being taken to deal with the aftermath, but all we get in regards to this element is a brief mention that it’s on the list of things to deal with. In a way, I feel like not mentioning it at all, as though the author simply forgot about it, would have been more satisfying; but because the author did mention it, we know they weren’t forgotten and we’re left to wonder how it resolves, which just leaves the story feeling incomplete. Again, I sort of see why – just like the lack of any real characterization of any shadow pokémon, the story isn’t about shadow lugia, but it did feature relatively prominently and feel significant enough during the last few chapters that I figured it would get something.

This one is complete at 10/10 chapters (including a prologue and epilogue), and about 60k words.

Characters: To no one’s surprise, the MC is Wes. By this point, I’ve been pretty colored by OSAS Wes, so a lot of my comparisons to his character are made to Yellow’s version of him. That said, everything he says or does, or has done to him, feels believable and in-character, not just for him specifically, but for anyone in his position who goes through what the author puts this guy through, even as the story jumps between past and present PoV.

Rui as well is very in-character, much to my delight. She’s very much also comparable to OSAS Rui, being hopelessly optimistic, unshakably hopeful, and even naïve. I do wish we got a little more of her backstory too, because I did find myself wondering if the justification for how far she goes in her role was strong enough. Her initial meeting with Wes and their rather brief follow-up interactions were essential to how the story ends up for sure, but they don't actualy interact very much at all, followed by implied months between even seeing each other. I don't entirely feel that those initial impressions, their impacts on both characters, and the relationship that formed out of it were built up enough to justify what eventually happens later. The good news is that this, too, still somehow manages to play out feeling in-character for Rui.

Being a Cipher-themed backdrop, naturally, most of the important Cipher characters are relatively prominent. The Colo admins get the most spotlight time, not only showing up early on but continue to feature all the way to the end. We also get plenty of Eldes, Ardos, Greevil, and, surprisingly, Nascour is actually a very important character. Gale’s Lorvina is also surprisingly prominent, too. We also do get a fair bit of Gonzap, from Wes’ pre-Cipher time, as well as some Silva and Secc (although the rest of the kids aren’t even mentioned by name).

Despite having a fairly large cast of characters, almost all of them are characterized very well, properly in-character and well-written.

Again, though, I can point to the pokémon characters as somewhat weaker. This is largely a result of the only non-shadows featuring pretty much at all are Wes’ espeon and umbreon. The author takes a slightly more animalistic approach with them, and they take after their trainer’s personality far more. We do get some insight into their thoughts, though, and when we do, it is painful. In a good way.

Final Thoughts: There’s no chance in hell I could do this review justice. The only blemishes I could see were in the lack of proper pokémon characters, a fact that generally can be excused due to the nature of the story the author is trying to tell. They do a wonderfully cruel job building up Wes’ sorrow-filled backstory and his seemingly never-ending fall, bringing up flashes of it almost flashback-like to supplement the present setting scenes where relevant. Watching him slowly sink into his role, and watching everyone else react to it, is heartbreaking.
Presenting... Amby's TR underrated PMD sampler platter for possible Review Blitz consumption. (Aka chapter 3's challenge.)

For these recommendations, I'm picking fics from three different "tiers" of power scaling. So, you can check the spoilers tags if you're interested.

Author: @windskull
Link: https://forums.thousandroads.net/index.php?threads/places-we-call-home.104/

The Light Dish refers to the fact that this is a fic where the power scaling is very low and the focus is less about pokémon constantly battling and more about the relations between the assorted members of the cast and how their lives are thrown for a loop when Nip shows up. I am not up to date with this, so perhaps calling it my light dish will prove to be an "aged like milk" moment in the future. For now, though, the "mystery" element of mystery dungeon feels like it's at the forefront. What's the deal with different settlements having specific patron pokémon. Why is our main POV character (Haru) so against this practice? How is wind going to challenge Haru's beliefs (because it sure feels like we're going in that direction)? Just what happened to drive Nip away from his old tribe? Does he even deserve forgiveness for a very specific (and often meme'd on) action he pulls relatively early in the fic?

And I'm not even touching on the allusions to a greater, interconnected world I've read so far. Name dropping organizations that would sound familiar to someone who's played PMD, but even without that familiarity are spoken with enough reverence to make you interested as to what, if any, roll they'll play going forward in the fic.

Again, maybe the action picks up later on. But for those who are hesitant to approach PMD fics because of their skew toward action, often higher fantasy or sci-fantasy nature, and feeling like you need intimate familiarity with the source material to get the most out of it, I encourage you to give this one a try.

Author: GumPlum
Link: https://forums.thousandroads.net/index.php?threads/pokémon-mystery-dungeon-free-fiction.1205/

The Medium Dish, as the name implies, starts to up the ante a bit more in terms of what's being offered. I would say that what's been posted of the fic so far is a lot of introductory fare, establishing the setting of the story and an intrepid band of misfits who are working together for the foreseeable future. Where things get a bit heavier is that the fic is introducing legendary 'mon characters and Ultra Beasts nearly at the very start, with allusions to an entire UB civilization (and possible Necrozma worship?) that may or may not become important down the road. And some of this information comes a bit faster. Hence, it's a somewhat "heavier" fic to get into. There's also a fairly large group of prominent characters introduced fairly quickly. I enjoy it a lot — and am guilty of doing something similar myself — but I can understand where that, in combination with an original setting, would intimidate potential readers.

Still, I'd encourage TR folks to give it a try. There are significant themes of self-discovery woven into just the start of the fic and there's a lot of queer (and possibly trans) subtext in the human-turned-pokémon character. Maybe it's not quite as personally relatable if it's a pokémon. I can't speak for everyone. I do think what's available to read presents a rich world and some very interesting characters to get behind. There's a bit of action showing some crazier powers, but it's not as out there as the PMD fics with the highest power scales. Speaking of which...

Author: @Namohysip
Link: https://forums.thousandroads.net/index.php?threads/pokemon-mystery-dungeon-hands-of-creation.22/

"But Amby, you rapscallion, HoC is not an underrated fic!" you shout, shaking your fist at your computer screen as if I can actually see it. (I can't.)

To that I say it most certainly is by TR standards. This fic is both heavy in the volume of material available and the fact that it is easily one of the highest power scales of any PMD fic out there. Arguably vying for the top spot with yours truly. There's a lot of action with characters displaying powers that don't even remotely line up with anything you'd see in the canon material, along with most trainerverse fics (be they drawing from the games, anime, Pokespec, or some combination).

Putting that all together, I do believe it creates this sort of intimidating aura where, as far as TR is concerned, everyone knows about the fic, but only a handful of you have actually read it. With fewer venturing toward the later parts of the fic where there are some fascinating character stories.

And the thing is... a lot of the depth and complexities at play here should be approachable. Particularly for anyone who took part in Blacklight Eternal or has been doing plot-related scenes in this campaign that Namo leads. He draws from his experience writing that fic to craft his NPCs in these campaigns. Likewise, he's definitely learned a few things from his work on this stuff that he's applied to his writing. So, the result is a fic with a steady upward progression of chapter quality. Where the characters are both entertaining and interesting to read about. And there's a lot of strong setup and foreshadowing. It's a fic where if you chose to go back and read it a second time, a bunch of seemingly innocuous lines and events take on an entirely different meaning. To have that consistency throughout a long fic like this one is impressive. And, in my opinion, deserves more love on TR.
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Chapter 3 Challenge Recs!

Tetra's "underrated" gems:
(Yes its on wattpad. But its worth it imo)
Raptor Trainer has earned a special place in my heart as one of the best, most bizarre and delightful crossover fics ever.

Whereas some crossovers might opt to toss Harry Potter into the Pokemon world or borrow elements from other franchises, this fic decided to just go all the way and ask the question that needed to be asked.
"What if all those cool raptors in Jurassic World 1 didn't die? What if one of them fell through an ultra wormhole into Alola? And what if said Raptor decided to become a pokemon trainer?" Because lets be honest. Dinosaurs are sick, and especially raptors. And Pokemon is Pokemon.

Despite the absurdity on paper of the premise, the author takes it fairly seriously, all things considered. There's an excellent sense of verismilitude. The raptor, Echo, must learn to cope with her new senses and higher thought and reasoning capability, while struggling to reign in her more animalistic instincts. Along the way she begins to build a new 'pack/family' of both humans and pokemon alike. Team Skull is also ready to cause plenty of problems for her, and her conflict with them takes on a new dimension compared to the games, after things take a gnarly turn early on.

The story follows the games plot but adds a whole extra layer of drama as Echo explores her identity and place in the world. From struggles with her unfamiliar species, translation issues, and violent impulses, and fighting gangs, her journey isn't a walk in the park.

The author also does a fantastic job delving into the issues of Echo's character and developing her personality. She's given so many new layers in this story she takes on a life of her own. Somehow I've fallen in love with this Echo despite the lack of anything more to her in the JW movies.

The story is deeply charming and emotionally delightful. It's both simple and layered and it's just a great read all around, with massive bonus points for the concept. If you're the kind of person who loves absurd played straight, delightful characters, found family, internal struggles and the idea of identity and self and DINOSAURS I would highly recommend this fic.

If you or a loved one has found yourself asking "what if the manga had a better ending for RSE? Where can I get more good quality Steven content and RSE content? What would happen if Hoenn didn't have a plucky young hero to save the day from the clash of titans?"
You may be eligible to read and enjoy Final Gambit. Although the inspiration for the fic is a 'fix it' for the adventures manga, no knowledge of the manga is required to read and enjoy.

Final Gambit is a short AU fic exploring a world where there is no protagonist player character around to help save the day from Groudon and Kyogre. Instead, Champion Steven Stone and the Elite 4 must do whatever it takes to save their region. And what better way to counter titantic forces than to try and seek out ancient powers of your own?

First, I must say how delightful I found the characterizations of the Elite 4. They feel so true to canon, yet enhanced with more depth in a way that feels so natural for them. Each members has small moments where they get to shine, and the strength of prose means you can practically hear the words in your head.

FG is a tender, yet epic emotional rollercoaster packed into a few short chapters, where every line of exquisitely crafted prose and expertly written characters are used to their fullest. No line is wasted. Almost immediately the reader is plunged into the harrowing and terrifying midst of the conflict that reminds you exactly why these god-like beings are so terrifying.

The story never once lets up after that, and although it's short enough to finish in a sitting most likely, it may stick with you long after that.
It certainly stirred my emotions, in the best possible way, leaving me feeling both on the edge of my seat, devastated, elated, and emotionally satisfied. The fic is also packed tight with delightful bits of lore that enhance the story and make Hoenn really feel alive as the region teeming with undiscovered secrets.
Side effects may include: crying, screaming, cheering, gasps of shock, and yelling at your computer screen.

If you experience any of these emotions in a positive way it is recommended to contact the author immediately and show the story some love.

This story really surprised me. Its one of the rare fics where I had to read it twice, and enjoyed it so much more the second time around. Purely from personal experience, its a bit of an oddball, but in a good way. The prose has an airy, rambling feel like both a fable and seeing through the eyes of a legend. Or like the ocean, which can appear tranquil and have so much depth.

Midas is a little pokemon living by a seaside, who dreams of being a protector. And gets his dream. Yet the life he leads is of course, not at all like the one he pictured, for better or worse. As he becomes a legend, we see his personal journey grappling with his place in the world.

I don't want to spoil the short story for anyone, but I found that the themes and writing were really enticing. Built up in the background in such a pleasing way that by the time I reached the end and it all began to click, it tugged at my heartstrings.

Well worth it if you want a tale that makes you think, leaves you with that lingering wonder and bittersweetness...
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