Of late I've been looking at my little blog and thinking "Damn, I don't make posts here often enough." While thinking of some way to regularly make content, I started watching the new season of Pokemon - a series I haven't watched regularly in almost ten years. In Japan the anime is now called Pokemon - Best Wishes, and it now coincides with the recently-released Black and White versions of the game. A lot has obviously changed in the series from when I left it (somewhere between the third and fourth movies), and watching the show has overall been a very nostalgic experience...although I've also been reminded of how weird the show is, too. So I figured, what the hell, I'll see if I can produce something entertaining just by watching the show and typing up my thoughts on it, episode by episode. If things work out well, I'll have something that I can put up on the blog each week. If not, at least I'll have had fun doing the first few. Let's start with the first two episodes.
Fair warning before I begin - the series has not been dubbed yet, so the protagonist is constantly referred to as 'Satoshi'. I grew up calling him 'Ash', but simple exposure to his Japanese name might make me slip between the two. Other than Ash and Pikachu I think the only characters that have returned thus far are Ash's mother, Professor Oak, Nurse Joy, and Team Rocket, and I think I can avoid using the Japanese names for them. All the new characters and species of Pokemon I'll be using Japanese names, though, even if their English names have been made public.
Okay then? Let's begin.
As if I don't already feel weird enough watching a kids' anime, every episode of Pokemon in the original Japanese begins with a piece of advice for the viewing audience, telling them not to sit too close to the screen and make sure there're lights on in the room. I'd say this disclaimer is the product of paranoia, but we're talking about a franchise that gave kids seizures and then followed it up by making McDonald's toys for even more kids to suffocate themselves with.
Anyhow, Ash is in his room suiting up in his new clothes, signifying his seasonal redesign. As if we needed proof that the kid's still ten years old, he definitely dresses like it. Seriously though I miss Ash's original design - it looked a lot less like a uniform than pretty much everything else the guy's worn over the years. Of course Ash is excited that he's starting his new Pokemon journey, and of course Pikachu is the only old member of his team that's coming along with him.
While Ash and his mom ride with Oak to the airport, we cut to Team Rocket, who are being briefed by Giovanni. For some reason he's relying upon them to carry out an important mission...and as we'll see later on they'll actually do a good job. Don't laugh, I'm being serious. Team Rocket gets a chance to be competent this series. Anyway they have to go to the Isshu region too, and they end up taking the same plane as Ash and co. At this point the opening theme plays, and it's...meh. The song is typical kid-friendly optimistic mush. In keeping with the black and white theme, everything in the accompanying animation is in black and white, except Pikachu, who's running around meeting a bunch of new Pokemon species - who are shaded out and will be colored in as they're encountered in the series proper. SO YOU GOTTA KEEP ON WATCHING IF YOU WANT TO SEE THEM ALL, KIDS! WATCH OUR GIANT COMMERCIAL! WATCH IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!
So the plane lands in the coast of Isshu, and as everyone walks onto the dock (water landing), Pikachu is distracted when he spots an approaching, bizarre-looking thunderstorm. Ash asks what's wrong, but quickly falls victim to his ADD when he sees a fish-like Pokemon that he's never seen before. So they both wander off without any adults noticing. Team Rocket shows up and captures Pikachu, who can't fight back because of course Team Rocket's designed their snatching gizmo thing so that Pikachu can't use Electric attacks while inside it. And so thousands of Japanese children learn not to wander away from their parents in a friggin' airport. Fortunately the storm comes to a halt directly overhead and a big ol' bolt of lightning blows up the capture device, also surrounding Pikachu in electricity. This seems to hurt the little guy, so he fires a Thunderbolt into the sky, revealing the Pokemon that's generating the storm. Fortunately the giant Pokemon disappears immediately, leaving Ash unharmed, though Pikachu seems to randomly leaking some electricity from those cheek pouch things of his.
So Oak and Ash's mom rush out to see if he's okay - yeah, great job with the parental supervision, lady - and shortly afterward they're met by Professor Araragi, the professor in Gen V who sends the player on their journey. Naturally the widely-respected professor is wearing a thigh-length skirt, a lab-coat that actually accentuates her figure, and the camera trails up from her calves to her face. Never thought I could feel dirty watching Pokemon... So the prett- PROFESSOR takes the threeso- TRIO back to her place- BY WHICH I MEAN HER LABORATORY - and since Pikachu still seems to be emitting sparks from his cheeks, she offers to Ash's little friend a checkup. ...I MEAN A MEDICAL EXAMINATION. FOR PIKACHU. A REAL ONE. She concludes that there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with Pikachu, and then gets called by an assistant saying that a new trainer has arrived to receive his starter Pokemon. The trainer is Shooti, a rather unfortunately-named boy who will be Ash's rival for this season. Ash goes with Araragi to meet Shooti, who seems pretty mellow about starting his journey, but Ash gets excited enough for both of them. Shooti responds to Ash's enthusiasm by remarking that Ash's hometown is full of hicks. What a delightful young lad. Anyway, Araragi puts her goods on display and invites Shooti to grab one of her orbs.
...I MEAN SHE SHOWS HIM THE POKEBALLS THAT HAVE THE STARTERS IN THEM AND ASKS HIM TO CHOOSE ONE. SHUT UP.
So Shooti has to choose between the Fire-type Pokabu, the Water-type Mijumaru, and the Grass-type Tsutarja. Ash gets excited as all three Pokemon come out of their Pokeballs, and Shooti gets annoyed by him. He eventually chooses Tsutarja, which obviously upsets the Mijumaru. Shooti thanks Araragi for making him familiar with his little snak- GOD DAMN IT - and he takes his Pokedex and Pokeballs and heads off. Before he can get far, Ash rushes out and challenges him to a battle, Pikachu vs Tsutarja. So the battle begins, with the Mijumaru from before watching from a hiding spot. Things quickly go bad for Pikachu when Ash commands him to use a Thunderbolt, which doesn't work and instead seems to backfire on the poor mouse; the same happens when he tries to use Volt Tackle. Ash catches on and tries to have Pikachu rely on its non-Electric moves, but he's already exhausted and is quickly finished off by Tsutarja's Grass Mixer. Shooti is pleased with Tsutarja's performance, and remarks that Ash should go back to basics - references to "the basics" of Pokemon training seem to be his catchphrase.
Ash rushes Pikachu back into the lab, where Araragi concludes that he took in a large amount of electricity during the earlier storm, which has made him enter an "overload state." Frightened, Ash asks if Pikachu will ever be able to use Electric moves again. Now THERE'S an interesting development. What if Pikachu can't rely on its electric moves anymore, and Ash and Pikachu have to work together to make an alternate battle strategy? It works in multiple ways - it's a great excuse for Pikachu to lose when by this point he should be something like level 924, it gives Ash a chance to develop more as a trainer, and when Ash catches new Pokemon they'll have a chance to shine without Pikachu being the anchor. And it's not like Pikachu could possibly stuck this way forever, I mean eventually a solution to the problem will come up and-
He's back to normal in the next episode. I was just jerking your chain. The problem vanishes at the start of episode two. It's a load of crock.
The storm reappears over the laboratory, and a lightning strike causes a black out in the building, while arcs of electricity begin emitting from Pikachu's body, Pikachu obviously in pain from the experience. In the nearby forest, a purple-haired girl spots the storm and looks on in wonder. Araragi tells a lab assistant to get the power back on, and while staring into the eye of the storm she wonders aloud if the legendary Zekrom could be the source...
The next episode picks up where the first left off. Pikachu continues to let off more and more electricity, and just when it looks like he can't take it anymore, Ash embraces his friend and holds on, taking the full brunt of the electric burst. This should fry every nerve ending in Ash's body, but instead EVERYTHING IS FIXED IMMEDIATELY. The storm dissipates for seemingly no reason, the laboratory's power comes back on, and Pikachu's back to normal, cured of his ailment. Yes, every single plot thread that the first episode left unfinished is wrapped up without hesitation in the first twenty freaking seconds. How anticlimactic.
Anyway, Ash's mom and the Mijumaru - who's still hanging around in the background and will continue to do so for a while - check to see that he's okay. Of course Ash decides that since he can still feel his toes that he hasn't had enough bolts of lightning shoved down his throat for today. He commands Pikachu to test out his Electric attacks to see if he can do them now...by commanding Pikachu to use Thunderbolt and Volt Tackle on him. You know, maybe the years and years of Pikachu zapping him have turned Ash into an electricity junky. Remember kids, don't do drugs - running jumper cables from your dad's car battery to your ears is a WAY bigger rush. Long story short, everybody's safe and healthy, so Ash and Pikachu decide to begin their journey. Mijumaru continues to look on as Ash's mother, Oak, and Araragi give him a sendoff.
A short distance down the road, Ash sees some movement in a nearby bush, and, since his Pokedex identifies a Kibago in the bush, he throws a Pokeball. The ball ends up hitting Iris in the back of the head, and she angrily reprimands Ash. Hey, you got off lucky, Iris. Most of the ladies Ash meets get their bikes stolen and destroyed. Actually Iris makes a good first impression on me, which is a good thing since she'll probably be around for the next hundred or so episodes. She's a pretty friendly person but also likes to tease people, particularly Ash, whom she tends to call childish. Actually now that I've seen about fifteen episodes of the series I've been thinking about designing a drinking game around it. Some of the rules would be to take a shot every time Iris calls Ash childish or violates a cute-looking Pokemon's personal space. ANYWAY the confusion arose because the Kibago Ash's Pokedex detected belongs to Iris, and he rides around in her hair rather than in a Pokeball. Hell, the girl has so much hair he could very well have brought furniture in there. So the two introduce themselves to one another and talk for a few moments before Ash spots some pink deer-looking thing and runs after it.
We cut to Team Rocket hiding out in a cave, where they've remotely contacted Giovanni. They tell him about seeing Zekrom earlier and also request to have their Pokemon sent to him. Giovanni's assistant denies the request, saying that if they have Pokemon not native to the region, they'll draw unwanted attention (Meowth rightfully wonders if he'll be okay). After ending the transmission, a swarm of blatant Zubat knockoffs attack the three.
Back with Ash and co. he tries to catch some Pokemon but fails. Somehow. He gets run over by a stampede of raccoon things and doesn't try anymore until evening. Iris gets a ton of apples for them to eat, leading me to believe that Ash would've starved to death long ago without constantly having two friends with actual survival skills to look after him. Iris falls asleep and Ash and Pikachu spend a little while looking up at the star-filled sky. "These are all stars I'm seeing for the first time," Ash remarks. Um. No they're not. Unless this is the first time you've ever looked at the night sky, chances are, you've seen those stars before. You could be on the opposite side of the world from Kanto, and still have seen those stars before. Man good thing Ash doesn't have to go to school anymore, 'cause he'd be failing astronomy about now.
The next day Iris and Kibago are gone when Ash and Pikachu wake up, and she's stolen all of his money. Okay not really, but it'd be a valuable lesson for the little idiot. Ash spots a Mamepato flying overhead and chases after it, eventually being lead to a whole bunch of them. He has Pikachu use Thunderbolt on a random one, but before he can throw a Pokeball the rest of the flock descends on Ash and Pikachu. Great strategy, Ash, Patton would be jealous. The flock flies away once Ash has been thoroughly humiliated (though he is strangely not covered in droppings), but fortunately there's a straggler. Pikachu battles the Mamepato and it stubbornly resists being caught for a bit, but eventually ends up being Ash's first new Pokemon from the region. While Ash celebrates his accomplishment, Iris emerges and lightly chastises him for getting so worked up. However before Ash can start training his new fighting cock, Team Rocket also shows up, and they snatch Pikachu and Kibago. I have to say, the Japanese version of Team Rocket's introduction isn't nearly as fun and memorable as the English version, though I gather it's probably just as cheesy. Ash sends out Mamepato to fight them, but it's defeated by the Koromori that Jessie just caught. Team Rocket make their getaway using - get this - a hot air balloon that emerges from a suitcase. Actually I'm not so much confused by the balloon but by the fact that it's got a basket big enough for like five people attached to it. Where'd THAT part come from?
Now that I think of it, there needs to be a betting pool for how Team Rocket keeps getting defeated. In situations like this where Ash is out of Pokemon, it's always some outside force that's been alluded to earlier in the episode. And lo and behold, the Mijumaru that's been tailing Ash runs out to help. He takes the shell off his chest and hurls it at the balloon, punching a hole in it and sending Team Rocket crashing to the ground. Pikachu and Kibago are freed, and Ash orders Pikachu to use Thunderbolt. Jessie's Koromori manages to interrupt the attack and hit both Pokemon with an Air Slash, stunning Pikachu. Fortunately Mijumaru is more badass than a ninja with a jetpack, and fights Team Rocket off on his own. Ash and Iris rush their injured Pokemon to the nearest Pokemon Center, shouting their gratitude to Mijumaru as they leave him. So they get to the Pokemon Center, heal up...and the episode ends. That's it. I mean there's a wrap-up, but there's not a lot to it. Iris thanks Ash for helping protect Kibago, and Mijumaru is still trailing after Ash.
You don't get to see a lot of it in these two episodes, but Mijumaru is probably the most entertaining new character of the series. There are a few brief flashes of this, like his freak-out over not being chosen by Shooti, but his antics will just get better with time. Anyway, I had a good amount of fun writing this during my second watch-through, and if reader response is warm enough, I'll continue doing it. So let me know what you thought, and maybe you'll see some more posts like this one.