Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pokémon: Top Episodes

With the impending news of another new generation of Pokémon, it's that time once again where I need to go back and remind myself just where it all began.
I have been watching the original dubbed anime since about 1997-1998, although I don't particularly have any single favourite episode. They all have their unique moments and themes, but here is a list of some of my top episodes from each season I watched.
Season 1: Indigo League
1. "The Ultimate Test"
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h06m57s58 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h08m07s243 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h09m10s108
Yes, apparently you can get into the Pokémon League without having to travel around to battle at any of the gyms. Ash and Team Rocket enrol at the Pokémon League Admission Center to take a crack at passing the written and practical exam. They all fail miserably, of course... But it makes a beautiful piece of entertainment. Especially since the three Eevee evolutions make a battle cameo in this episode. 
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h05m15s40  vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h05m35s1
Interestingly, the exact definition of 'Pokémon Master' is never precisely explained, although passing this test is said to give you the title. Just remember, the answer to life's hardest question is 'a Jigglypuff seen from above'.
2. "The School of Hard Knocks"
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h10m48s54 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h12m41s173 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h14m07s7
This episode focuses around Pokémon Technical, an expensive prep school which also allows graduates to enter the Pokémon League without travelling to fight the gym leaders. There are also several good gags in this episode, especially if you notice Pikachu's subtle battle with the Treadmill. I think this is the one and only time you will see Ash make a Brock-like face at a girl. Giselle, the top student in the beginning class, uses a Graveller to take out Misty's Starmie. Unfortunately Pikachu manages to pull off some unorthodox moves on her Cubone, though.
3. "Dig Those Diglett"
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h16m19s49 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h17m20s154 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h18m41s183
No-good construction workers are blasting their way through the mountains in order to build the great 'Gaiba Dam'. This displeases the local Diglett, which band together to destroy vehicles and infrastructure (no doubt causing millions of dollars in damages) in an effort to save their home. So, the head construction guy calls for any able and talented Pokémon trainers to help dispose of the Diglett. Hello, Gary Oak! Well, as it turns out, nobody's Pokémon will come out of their Pokeballs to fight off the Diglett since they somehow already know the situation. And as we now know, all Pokémon are very ardent environmentalists. As a direct result of the magical tears of their trainers falling on them, Team Rocket's Ekans and Koffing both evolve in this episode. I also learnt that one can surf on a wave of dirt.
4. "Primeape Goes Bananas"
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h24m50s26 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h25m25s117 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h25m52s147 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h26m01s243
There are two main reasons why I love this episode. The first is that Mankey/Primeape punches anything it sees, and the more out of control it gets, the more comical the situation becomes. The second is Ash's obsession with his official League hat. The story begins with Ash and friends taking a rest to eat Brock's 'donuts'. (Now, you and I know that the snacks pictured are called 'riceballs' but we won't tell 4Kids that just yet.) A Mankey appears, they feed it, and then Ash does something stupid. He throws a Pokeball at the Mankey, which infuriates it. The enraged Mankey proceeds to chase them all and steal Ash's precious hat.
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h30m58s133 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h31m09s255 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h31m17s62 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h33m21s245
For some strange reason, Team Rocket then confronts them openly about handing over Pikachu. James kicks the Mankey with his instant experience boots, which causes it to evolve into a very angry Primeape. Well, Primeape sets out to turn all of them into a fine paste, until Ash suddenly has an epiphany. He wants to be a Pokémon Master, which means he must stand up to any Pokémon. Squirtle and Bulbasaur appear to be fairly ineffectual against Primeape, but Charmander is in a different league. The vaguely disturbing thing about this scenario is how badly Ash allows Charmander to get beat up before reacting. Pikachu saves Ash's sacred hat in the nick of time, while Charmander roasts everyone a well done Primeape. It's too bad Ash gives his Primeape away like an idiot just a few episodes later. 
5. "Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon"
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h41m02s39 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h42m05s154 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h42m38s229 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h42m50s87
You just know an episode is going to be good when Gary Oak appears this early in it. Dressed as Indiana Jones, no less. Yes, Ash and friends have stumbled across Grampa Canyon, where a crowd of people have gathered to hunt for ancient Pokémon fossils. This is the only instance where it is acknowledged that Pokémon have brains and produce manure, thanks to Gary. Team Rocket plants explosives to blast all the fossils out... Wait, wouldn't that just destroy them? Ah, who cares.
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h41m18s200 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h43m28s212 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-21h43m54s221 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h04m04s254
Ash and Team Rocket fall into the blast hole and become trapped underground with some ancient prehistoric Pokémon. The odd thing I noticed during this was how little concern Ash appears to have for his Charmeleon. No wonder it disobeys him. Despite that, Charmeleon evolves into Charizard to battle Aerodactyl and save Ash from being eaten. Unfortunately, nobody actually finds any rare fossils (unless you count Gary's Pokémon manure) - but Ash does pick up a Togepi egg. Which is promptly stolen by Brock. And later Misty.
6. "Electric Shock Showdown"
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h12m35s15 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h16m01s214 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h17m05s158 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h20m27s104
This is when Ash challenges the Vermillion gym, using Pikachu to fight Lt. Surge's Raichu. It is a very memorable episode because never before has Ash actually had to do battle against a true gym leader. The first match goes badly, with Pikachu being destroyed by Raichu's superior strength. Lt. Surge always seemed rather unpleasant to me. Sort of like a big, slow... Igor? Anyway, Ash offers Pikachu a Thunderstone and asks if it wants to evolve into Raichu for a better chance at winning. Pikachu adamantly refuses, preferring to prove that it can win just as it is.
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h22m16s201 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h23m28s142 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h24m35s55 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h25m15s201
At this juncture, all the previous hints at Ash's Pikachu being special begin to knit together. Ash realises that Lt. Surge's Raichu evolved too fast, before it could learn the speed attacks which could only be learnt at the Pikachu stage. (I'm not too sure if this logic would work in the games, but then again the anime shows us that Ash's Pikachu can shock both Marowak and Geodude. Lt. Surge's Raichu is portrayed as rather cruel here, whipping Pikachu with it's tail. In fact, Raichu is unfairly depicted as cruel or troublesome a few times in the anime.) Using Agility to confuse Raichu, Pikachu finally wins Ash the Thunderbadge, and everybody does a happy dance. :D
7. "Charmander – The Stray Pokémon"
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h27m50s211 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h29m10s241 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h31m52s80 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h36m44s187
Of Ash's Pokémon, Charmander's story is the one which really hammers home just how awful a bad trainer can be. Damian not only abandons Charmander, but leaves it to die. Very rarely is this degree of cruelty seen in Pokémon, and I don't think Damian is punished nearly enough for what he has done. This is the sort of despicable trainer that really should have their Pokémon license revoked, and in addition be sentenced to life in prison. Tadmor Military Prison
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h37m34s157 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h38m52s170 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h39m24s227 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h39m30s52

Unfortunately Charmander was too loyal at this point, thinking that Damian would return to collect it even though it was clear that it was being grossly mistreated. I often wonder how much Charmander's traumatised upbringing influenced the disobedience issues that it developed after it evolved. This episode shows us the exact opposite of what a true Pokémon trainer should be - and also never to trust a guy wearing a pink shirt.
8. "Riddle Me This" + "Volcanic Panic"
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h43m00s92 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h49m12s215 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h50m51s173 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h53m05s239
The most epic of Ash's Kanto gym battles is contained within these two episodes. Until now, Ash had been using unevolved Pokémon to win his gym badges. The strongest of those was Charmander, but since it evolved, Ash has really been stuck with using Pikachu as his last resort. League badges are supposed to be difficult to earn, and Blaine is a shining example of what a real gym leader should be like. Ninetales cooks Squirtle with one Fire Spin, Charizard refuses to fight Rhydon, and Magmar almost incinerates Pikachu with Fire Blast. We finally realise that Ash is pretty much screwed here without his Charizard. 
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-22h57m58s107 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-23h00m46s223 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-23h03m24s32 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-23h04m43s55

The fight between Magmar and Charizard is the only proper battle that Charizard ever participates in this Season, hence why it's so awesome. There is also some good humour mixed in to counter the seriousness of Ash's situation. Blaine's disguise, the lame riddles, Cinnabar Island being a tourist trap... and Gary Oak wearing the most hideous pink shirt I have ever laid my eyes on.
9. "The Battle of the Badge"
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-11h48m10s161 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-11h48m20s8 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-11h49m31s228 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-11h50m05s61
I love the first part of this episode, fundamentally because nobody believes in Ash's skill as a Pokémon trainer. This joke is made much worse by the appearance of the one and only Gary Oak, who flashes the crew with his impressive collection of 10 Kanto badges. Now, if you actually look at Gary's badges, he appears to only have three of the same league badges as Ash. The rest were apparently won from the many other gyms scattered around Kanto - including the much coveted Companion Cube and Taco Bell badges. 
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-11h51m21s48 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-11h51m53s120 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-11h53m25s251 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-11h53m45s209

The sad part is that while Gary Oak actually had to battle Giovanni's Mewtwo at the Viridian gym here, Ash got to battle... Jessie from Team Rocket. But the fight for the Earth badge did prove to everyone present that Ash was indeed a good trainer, and that's really what counted. Yes, even Gary Oak and his air-headed cheerleaders were forced to admit it this time.
10. "Go West Young Meowth"
You may not have noticed it before, but the three members of Team Rocket are fairly likeable characters. I'd say James is the most likeable one, followed closely by Meowth, and then Jessie. But there is no character back story in the Pokémon world more tragic than that of Meowth. Abandoned as a kitten with no food or family, and then tortured for attempting to survive by the nasty jerkfaces of his random home town/Hollywood (more inmates for Tadmor Military Prison?), it's no wonder Meowth has grown to be so nefariously twisted.
vlcsnap-2013-01-19-17h03m28s147 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h43m57s132 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-17h03m42s36 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h44m29s159
Ironically, his life was saved by a stray Persian, which was the colony leader of a gang of street Meowth. If you notice the little sticker photo style snapshots at this point in the episode, you can see that Meowth actually shared some very fun times with this Persian and the rest of the street Meowth colony. Sadly, gang robbery and pillaging 24-7 weren't enough to make Meowth happy. 
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h45m37s93 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-17h04m19s118 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h46m20s12 vlcsnap-2013-01-19-17h05m04s86

Something was missing. And that something, or rather, some... cat was a female Meowth by the name of Meowzy. The really depressing part about this is the fact that Meowzy was a cruel snob just like all the other potential inmates for Tadmor Military Prison in Meowth's early life. This situation is not improved by the fact that her owner closely resembled an aged, obese version of Jocelyn Wildenstein. Interestingly, the number plate of the car Meowzy and her owner leave in reads '052-NYA'. Meowth is number 052 in the original Pokedex, and 'Nya' is the Japanese equivalent of 'Meow'.
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h47m06s224 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h47m19s86 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h47m37s12 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h49m27s88
Anyway, Meowth decides that to win the heart of Meowzy, he must learn to become human. Through much hardship, Meowth eventually manages to walk on two legs and teach himself to talk. Nobody ever actually gives Meowth the glowing recognition he deserves for accomplishing this near impossible feat. Instead, upon confronting Meowzy again to show off his new talents, she labels him as being worse than before: a walking, talking, freak Meowth.
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h49m54s85 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h50m35s9 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h51m21s221 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-12h51m37s115

And it only goes spiralling downhill further here for Meowth, I'm afraid. The most impressed anyone has ever been with Meowth's amazing talking ability is by uttering a simple 2 second phrase. Something along the lines of, 'What?! It's a talking Meowth?' or 'Could you possibly say a few more words, please?' Honestly, I am absolutely shocked that Giovanni didn't see any rarity or value in a talking Meowth. I've never really been a big Meowth fan, but this episode forced everyone watching to sympathise with him. 
Honourable Mentions:
11. "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak"
I think Gastly has been taking illicit drugs again...
12. "Holy Matrimony!"
Meet Master James and his terrifying fiancé, Jessiebelle.
13. "The Battling Eevee Brothers"
You want to know what your brother is going to evolve his Eevee into? Look at his hairstyle, and the answer will soon become obvious.
14. "Showdown at the Po-ké Corral"
Let Gary Oak teach you the ways of a real Pokémon trainer.
15. "To Master the Onix-pected"
Is the Elite Four's Bruno really lame, or awesome?
16. "The Case of the K-9 Capers!
Officer Jenny has not bonded with her Growlithe sufficiently. Now in Soviet Russia, Growlithe bonds you! Ahaha...
17. "Holiday Hi-Jynx"
Team Rocket tries to steal Christmas. PS. Santa has no elves. Only Jynx.
Banned Episodes:
1. "Beauty and the Beach"
Watch it to see James and his enormous inflatable boobs. You know you want to.
2. "The Legend of Dratini"
There are so many gun threats in this episode, I'm surprised there are any Pokémon still in the Safari Zone.

Season 2: The Orange Islands

1. "Pallet Party Panic"
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h11m16s135 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h12m15s210 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h18m10s151 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h19m35s12
In this episode, Ash's Pidgeotto finally evolves into a Pidgeot to save a flock of its own kind from being bullied by a Fearow. It is hinted at that this Fearow is the same Spearow which Ash callously threw a rock at in the very first episode. So if you think about it, all the problems in this episode are essentially his fault. Ash also abandons Pidgeot at the end, vowing to return immediately after he has delivered the GS Ball, but he never honours this promise to poor Pidgeot. I'm hoping Pidgeot eventually found a better trainer, preferably Gary Oak. Finger pointing aside, this is a great episode and one of my favourites in the whole series.
2. "A Tents Situation" + "The Rivalry Revival"
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h22m27s181 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h24m09s184 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h26m17s190 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h29m33s86
I thought "A Tents Situation" was a very well written episode, as it was both funny and clever. Team Rocket almost succeeded on this rare occasion, if not for Gary Oak dropping by and deciding to stalk Ash from outside. The following episode "The Rivalry Revival" features the first Pokémon battle ever between Ash and Gary, which results in a loss for Pikachu. I actually found it refreshing to see Pikachu fall to a fluffy Eevee so soon after it managed to take down a Dragonite.
3. "The Stun Spore Detour"
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h37m29s246 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h39m49s93 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h42m05s189 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h43m59s52
Throughout the series, Misty has always been portrayed as somewhat short-tempered and shallow. This episode proves otherwise, or at least in comparison with Jessie. With a good blend of funny and touching scenes, I found this to be a great source of character development for both Misty and Team Rocket. We also learnt a valuable life lesson here: Don't smoke weed, kids.
4. "Bound for Trouble"
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h51m11s21 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h53m00s94 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-13h59m07s174 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-14h02m00s109
This episode highlights more of the stark contrast between Team Rocket's Meowth and Ash's Pikachu. While Pikachu is utterly loved and cared for, Meowth is neglected and disregarded. But the two end up being tied together and must learn to get along in order to survive.
5. "Wherefore Art Thou, Pokémon?"
vlcsnap-2013-01-20-14h56m37s101 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-14h58m35s15 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-15h00m18s18 vlcsnap-2013-01-20-15h03m47s64
Two trainers who have despised each other for years both own Nidoran who love one another. Misty is gung-ho about getting them together, while Ash is fairly oblivious. And that's what makes it so funny. This episode also provides us with a faint glimpse into Jessie's past - although nothing that we didn't already suspect.

Season 3: The Johto Journeys

1. "Illusion Confusion!"
The joke is that Hoothoot thinks Ash is stupid. Also, Gary Oak cameo.
2. "Ignorance is Blissey"
This is that one episode which showcases what Jessie was like before she became bitter and twisted.
3. "Wired for Battle!"
Data is bad, but guts are good! (May not apply to real life.)

Season 4: Johto League Champions

1. "The Grass Route"
Skiploom kicks Ash's overconfident ass. >:D
2. "Power Play"
Gary's Umbreon = Cool. Ash's Pokémon = Comparatively Lame.
3. "A Better Pill to Swallow"
Caution: Do not lick Jessie's bellybutton.
Season 5: Master Quest
1. "Espeon, Not Included"
Eevee evolutions find your dancing incredibly boring.
2. "Fly Me to the Moon"
"There's an ongoing debate in the academic community as to whether these Pidgey represent evolution, de-evolution, or some mutative strain. But most scientists are now of the opinion that they're just very fat."  -- Professor Oak, World's Leading Authority on Pokémon
Season 6: Advanced
1. "The Ties That Bind" + "Can't Beat the Heat!"
Sigh. It's Ash Vs. Gary, in a full six on six battle at the Silver Conference. Remember how formidable Blaine's Magmar was? You won't see that kind of intense epic-ness over here now. In any case, this is still the best match you'll see for a while.
2. "As Cold as Pryce"
The touching tale of a man and his Piloswine.
3. "Extreme Pokémon!"
Ash's Bayleef wins a race against Gary's Arcanine, after having only prepared for it in one day. Booo!
Season 7: Advanced Challenge
1. "Who's Flying Now?"
This is a beautiful story of a youth and his love for a certain Pokémon called Chimecho.
2. "A Shroomish Skirmish"
May's Torchic evolves to fist fight with some angry mushroom Pokémon.
3. "A Tail with a Twist"
Possibly the greatest battle in known history between a human and a Pokémon. Beware the Jessie.
4. "Whiscash and Ash"
Sullivan's badass Flaaffy (Hannah) is the major reason why this episode is here.
5. "True Blue Swablu"
May learns to care for an injured Swablu. Unfortunately, it still chooses to leave her in the end.
Pokemon Through The Generations: An Individual Opinion
Generation 6 has been announced. I'm never sure quite how I feel when a new generation of Pokémon is let loose on the world these days. On one hand, I feel something similar to relief at the thought of the franchise not dying for another few years. But on the other hand, I am simultaneously struck by an overwhelming wave of utter devastation. Because I know, even though it makes me sound like some sort of uppity Generation 1 snob, how much I am going to despise most of the new Pokémon.
To be perfectly honest, the beloved Pokémon franchise I knew so well and which brought me endless joy back in 1998 actually died years ago with the DS release of Diamond and Pearl. It had already started to falter with Generation 3, but I haven't actually admitted that to myself until now.
Even though I played through the Generation 4 game at least three times, I remember next to nothing about it. I vaguely remember the names of two of the gym leaders. I have little idea what they look like. I don't recall the names of or what any of the gym badges look like in Sinnoh.
By the time Generation 5 rolled around, I felt as if the franchise had been replaced by something different - and that something had a negative effect on the art designs of both the human characters and new Pokémon. In addition, Black and White attempted to change the storyline a bit by adding in an organisation whose goal was to 'free Pokémon' from the slavery of trainers. I thought this would have been an interesting idea. If it were done well it could have brought a new dimension and a layer of depth to Pokémon. Unfortunately, it was not.
Team Plasma was clearly the villain throughout the entire game. At no point did I believe or question that what they preached might have been the humane or morally correct point of view. All they ever seemed to do was steal, hurt and enslave Pokémon themselves. As I went through Black and White, there was hypocrisy surrounding Team Plasma at every turn. Even N (who was not actually designed to be a cheaper copy of a Team Rocket grunt pretending to harbour profound anti-cruelty beliefs) confined Pokémon to Pokeballs and used them for battle despite what he claims to believe. With his tragic back story and evil father, I can't help but feel that N's character was inserted into the game to serve as the franchise's fangirl fodder and nothing more. Up until this point, Pokémon had no real 'pretty' boys or girls.
Black and White 2 focused far less on Team Plasma's supposed principles, and because of that I thought it was a better game. I still thought it was lacklustre, but at least I enjoyed it more than DPP and BW. The sub-plot involving your rival searching for his sister's stolen Purrloin had a fairly realistic conclusion. It was traumatised by the experience, and therefore didn't magically remember any of it's former masters as a Liepard when freed from Team Plasma. They could have just made it so that the Purrloin never evolved and was immediately happy to be back with your rival's family, but they went for the darker and less tedious option.
I hope this new generation will be different for the better. I say that with every new release, but looking at the three new starters... :< The look of the game world itself seems to hint towards quite an improvement though. Fingers crossed!

No comments:

Post a Comment