Pokemon Episode Analysis Episode 8: The Path to the Pokemon League

This should just be Ash’s default character design.

Character (s) of the Day:

AJ – A promising young Pokemon trainer with a strict yet extremely effective method of training, AJ creates an unofficial Pokemon gym in the middle of the woods to train his Pokemon and beat passing trainers. He manages to get 98 wins on a perfect record and aims to get 100 wins before going for badges and entering the Pokemon League. AJ is a tough, but a very smart and skilled Pokemon trainer who definitely earns a spot in the Pokemon league if he ever made it there.

Pokemon: He has numerous, but Sandshrew is his main.

Reappears?: No. 😦

Plot: With two gym badges under his belt…..well, on his vest, Ash starts to get pretty cocky. When the group stumbles upon an unofficial Pokemon gym in the woods, Ash is ready and raring to chalk up another victory. However, the owner of the gym, an equally confident boy named AJ, easily wipes the floor with Ash by using his Sandshrew, giving him victory 99 in an undefeated streak with his ultimate goal being 100.

After the battle, Ash hears commotion from inside the gym and peaks in to see that AJ’s training regimen for his Pokemon is extremely tough. He views it as being overly tough and worries for the well-being of the Pokemon. In a mix-up, Team Rocket accidentally captures Sandshrew instead of Pikachu, leading Ash to believe that he was right in his assumptions. He condescendingly assumes that Sandshrew ran away because he views AJ as a jerk and saw how good of a relationship he and Pikachu had so he went off to find a better trainer.

AJ vehemently denies this, but Ash hops up on his high horse again. In an effort to ‘save’ the Pokemon from the strict AJ’s training, Ash offers to take all of the Pokemon away from the gym and train under him instead. The Pokemon won’t give Ash the time of day, however, because they don’t feel abused. They love AJ, and he loves them. They deal with the strict training regimen because of that love and caring; they want to see AJ succeed and they know he’d never do anything to hurt them.

Sandshrew quickly escapes Team Rocket’s clutches and immediately returns to AJ’s gym with an unconscious Meowth attached to his tail. AJ and Sandshrew are reunited, and Ash sees that AJ really does love his Pokemon and vice versa.

Team Rocket show up to take Pikachu, and after they sling insults at AJ’s Pokemon, he challenges them to his 100th match. AJ blows Team Rocket away easily with Sandshrew, finishing them off in a powerful Fissure attack. With 100 wins under his belt, he heads off on his journey to get eight badges and enter the Pokemon League. Ash has gained a newfound respect for AJ and vows to find his own path to achieving his dream of becoming a Pokemon master.

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– Gotta love how cocky Ash is with his two pity badges….

– Wait, why are we going back to using the logo to say ‘Pokemon’ again?

– Ya know as much as I like AJ, his voice actor blows. Sounds like a cowboy who got hit in the face with a brick.

– I do admire AJ’s work ethic and his plan. 100 wins, undefeated mind you, under his belt before going to get badges is a great plan. Gary and the others didn’t even have that advantage.

– Geez Ash is being obnoxious in this episode. Between him being so full of himself it’s like ego-ception and him snapping at Misty for giving him legit advice on a topic that he’s shown time and again to have problems in (Pokemon Type matchups) he’s pretty insufferable.

– Ash: “You can do it! Flying versus Ground should be no problem!” He said after his Flying type, Pidgeotto, just got thrashed by the Sandshrew.

– Hey they did the thing where you can see Ash’s skeleton when he’s getting electrocuted….when they removed that from Tokyo Mew Mew. You continue to confuse me, 4Kids.

– You also get to really see the stark contrast between Ash’s work ethic and that of…you know…a good Pokemon trainer’s. Yes, AJ is strict with his Pokemon, yes he uses a whip, though he never seems to actually hit his Pokemon with it, he just hits the ground near them and uses the sound as a cue, but it’s like Ash doesn’t understand intense training regimens……or work.

All he says in defense of his own work ethic is you have to make friends with your Pokemon….and that’s it. Does he really not think it’s important to keep Pokemon trained on a regular regimen outside of the one or two battles every now and then? Does he also not realize that you can be strict and a Pokemon’s friend at the same time?

– I love that scene where Pikachu goes into a ball due to the Yousei Gips thing (the ‘strength enhancer’ that Sandshrew wears) and then Sandshrew laughs and goes into a ball too.

– Team Rocket’s getting some good lines too.

– Meowth: “Just ‘biting’ my time. *munch* AHHHH THE MOMENT OF TOOTH!”

…….I said SOME.

– So yeah it’s apparent that I really love this episode outside of the obnoxious Ash we have to put up with. It’s made more tolerable because it’s brought up time and again that he’s making an ass out himself. I especially like it because, if this were made today, I guarantee it would end in a lesson for the CotD instead of a lesson for Ash.

That is what I like most about it, how they didn’t decide to go the predictable route of making AJ a legit asshole who does basically abuses his Pokemon then have Sandshrew run away and have AJ learn the error of his ways. AJ stays true to form, Sandshrew stays loyal and Ash is the one who has to learn that just because you’re strict, tough and hard working doesn’t mean you’re abusive or an asshole to your Pokemon.

I also very much appreciate that they didn’t end this episode with Ash beating AJ. Not only would that have tarnished AJ’s dream, but it would’ve been another BS win.

Plus the ending battle with Team Rocket was just awesome. Fissure is freakin’ amazing.

This could’ve been a great time to have Ash actually LEARN a lesson for a change, but sadly this is another drop in the ‘One-shot lessons’ bucket. He’ll never reach even a decent work ethic in his training. He only ever gets close to such a thing near gym matches and leagues and even that’s short lived.

I especially hate the complete missed opportunity for actually making AJ another rival. Sure he already has Gary, but he rarely ever shows up and never battles Ash when he does. AJ could’ve actually been a friendly rival that would definitely give Ash a run for his money. But nope, just another forgotten CotD who doesn’t even reappear in the Pokemon League episodes. *pfft*

And while I would find it interesting for AJ to have taken Ash’s offer to join him on his journey…..I don’t think I’d handle that voice very well for the rest of the series.

Here’s to AJ. We hardly knew ye.

Next episode, The School of Hard Knocks where the gang finds a Pokemon academy where, if you pass, you’re automatically qualified to enter the Pokemon League without traveling to get badges.

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