Pokemon Episode Analysis -Episode 9: The School of Hard Knocks

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C(s)otD – Joe: A student of Pokemon Tech, Joe’s skills are graded as being on par with someone who has two badges. Despite this, he frequently makes himself seem less skilled than he is, somewhat embarrassingly so, in order to prevent being forced to work even harder than he already is by his fellow students. Joe has a big crush on one of Pokemon Tech’s beginner class’s best students, Giselle.

Reappear? No.

Pokemon – He is only shown using a Weepinbell, but it’s unclear whether it’s actually his or the school’s.

Giselle – An egotistical (and bitchy) girl that all the guys pine after, Giselle is the top student of the beginner class of Pokemon Tech. She looks down on Joe and even the three Ashketeers believing herself to be much more knowledgeable and skilled than they are due to her high scores and impressive knowledge of Pokemon.

Reappear? No.

Pokemon – Giselle is seen using both a Graveller and a Cubone, but again it’s unclear whether these Pokemon belong to her or the school.

Plot: Ash, Misty and Brock wander through the forest (well, get used to that sight) through a dense veil of fog. As they stop for a rest, Ash goes off to find some firewood and stumbles upon a group of kids ‘testing’ another kid, named Joe, on Pokemon trivia while he runs on a treadmill.

Joe falters throughout the test and ends up failing in the end. Ash and Misty run to his defense, but the other kids snub them and go back to school at Pokemon Tech.

Brock and Misty explain that Pokemon Tech is a prestigious school for aspiring Pokemon trainers. If they graduate, they are allowed immediate admittance into the Pokemon League without traveling to get the eight badges necessary.

Ash, enraged at a school that is basically a shortcut for rich kids to get into the Pokemon league without doing the real work of traveling and learning by doing, demands to go to the school only to have the fog clear revealing that they’ve been feet from the school the entire time and that the school was the one emitting the fog.

Joe explains to the group how difficult the school is and the hierarchy of their classes. Beginner class students are equal to someone with two badges, intermediate is equal to four and advanced is equal to six while graduates are equal to eight. While Ash again tries to defend his method of training and boasts that he has two badges, Joe says even he at his moderate level in the beginner group is better than someone with two legit badges and even believes Misty is a pushover because she specializes in Water Types and has beaten them in simulations several times.

Misty gets up to plate at this statement and demands to have a real Pokemon battle for Cerulean City Gym’s honor. Joe uses a Weepinbell, banking on the type advantage, while Misty uses Starmie. Despite the type advantage and confidence, Weepinbell is defeated easily to Joe’s confusion.

The top student of the beginner class, equal to someone with three badges, and creator of the harsh training techniques that go on at the school, Giselle, shows up to explain that even with a type advantage Misty’s a gym leader thus her Pokemon are stronger and have more battle experience, which made the battle one-sided even with the type advantage.

She further proves this by knocking Starmie out, literally, with a Graveller. Hearing of Ash’s exploits as a trainer, he tries to prove himself only to be mocked for his lack of progress over two months and seeming lack of skill and knowledge of Pokemon.

Angered at her insults, Ash challenges Giselle to a match. Pikachu vs. Cubone. The match is pretty one-sided with Cubone easily coming out on top each time. However, Ash basically tells Pikachu to go ballistic since he believes the use of Cubone’s bone to be underhanded. Pikachu, with some trickery and a hearty can of whupass manages to beat Cubone and proves Giselle wrong.

Team Rocket show up to cause trouble, but are easily taken care of by the students of Pokemon Tech with a barrage of Pokeballs.

Giselle has learned her lesson and so has Joe. They agree to start their own journeys and finally become friends. With hopes of battling each other again in the future, the group leaves the school and continues on their journey to Vermillion City.

==========================

– Nice paint job on the cup, 4Kids. How many highlighters did it take for you guys to do that?

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– Student 1: “We don’t fight.”

Student 2: “Fighting is for cavemen. We’re not in the stone age, ya know?”

You guys are aware that you’re in a school dedicated to teaching kids on the art of Pokemon Battling IE fighting, right? Or is fighting only sophisticated when you’re making animals do it?

– Oh come on, guys. I know text is evil and everything, but you can at least make an effort at making the blurred out replacement text look A LITTLE like the words Brock is supposedly reading.

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Let’s see if I can decipher any of that. Ahem….Po limo ice…..gurdooh cul. Outside of Po from Kung Fu Panda wanting a limo made of ice, it’s complete gibberish.

– So wait, Pokemon Tech can control the weather? Slow your roll, Kanto, Castform won’t be around for a few more years.

– I really do like the idea of a Pokemon school that allows you to bypass all the traveling. It appears to be really difficult so while it’s technically a shortcut, it’s by no means easy. The fact that only rich kids can attend kinda rubs me the wrong way, though. My main problem with this is, how do the students get the Pokemon? You need to actually have legit experience TRAINING a Pokemon and catching them to be a good Pokemon TRAINER. Do they just get Pokemon handed to them by the school or are there times when the students are sent off to catch and train their own Pokemon? Because it really seems like it’s 99% books and simulations and 1% actually dealing with live Pokemon.

– Joe’s logic, all of it, is just stupid.

He fakes being less intelligent than he is to keep the other kids from working him even harder, which makes a little sense. But then he turns around and says they’re still his friends even in spite of how they treat him because it was only through their help that he learned as much as he did. So if he’s thankful to these guys for helping him learn so much through their harsh teaching methods, why is he pretending to be less intelligent to prevent them from giving him even harsher training methods? It makes it sound like pure laziness not avoidance of kinda bullying.

He then says that he doesn’t leave Pokemon Tech because his parents work hard and scrape together the tuition to let him go to Pokemon Tech. Yeah, hi genius. If you work harder, get smarter and improve your grades or moreso your badge ranking, you can graduate earlier and make it so your parents won’t have to scrape together this cash anymore. Geez I thought you were pretending to be dumb.

– Ladies and gentlemen, one of the only times that Ash ever shows romantic interest in a girl and probably the absolute only time it’s ever been so blatant.

– Ah and also our first ever glimpse into Team Rocket’s continuously fuddled backstory. Good times. How did Jessie even get into Pokemon Tech if she was poor? Continuity! Get it? Poor continuity? Yeah, you get it.

– While I really like the simulation looking like the actual game, I kinda wish they had added more detail to the screen to make it feel more genuine.

– Okay, let’s react to the crushes on Giselle here, assuming she’s ten.

Joe – Fine.

Ash – Fine

Brock – Ehhhhh

James – EUGH.

– Ya know, I don’t think I’ve really hated a character in Pokemon, outside of Pokemon abusers, more than I’ve hated Giselle. I mean, yeah Casey pisses me off, but she’s just really really really annoying. Ash makes me rage sometimes, but he has his moments. Every time she’s on screen I feel like slapping her in the face and what’s worse is the fact that she beats Misty so badly and Ash is the one who has prove her wrong. Are we really at the point where we’re saying Ash is better than Misty? Nine episodes in? Really?

And is she really justified in thinking Ash to be pathetic for having two badges and three Pokemon two months into his journey? I mean….yes it is pathetic, but considering they’re in a school where I assume at least of year of work needs to go into moving up a rank, judging mostly by the guy who was held back a lot, doesn’t that mean they work for over a year just to merely meet the criteria for four badges? And another year for six? And yet another for eight? The more I think about this school, the more it seems less like a shortcut and more like a longcut.

It really seems like this school would be more suited for making Pokemon researchers instead of Pokemon trainers.

– No, Ash, just because a Pokemon has moves that are fairly unique to itself, like Cubone’s bone abilities that are fully legal under the authorization of the Pokemon league, does not mean you can make up crap as moves and call them legal. Even if they do look like legit moves such as Bite, Hi-Jump Kick and Fury Swipes, Pikachu doesn’t ‘know’ those moves legally so it’s technically not fair. That’s like something Team Rocket would do.

– And I know Giselle had to change her tune by the very end, but I just find it ridiculous that she pulled a complete 180 just because of one loss. You do not spend 10 minutes basically doing nothing but gloating, mocking other people’s abilities, showing off, being a complete bitch and being so high up on a pedestal that you’re leaving the atmosphere and then become a nice girl after one match that was really won on sketchy terms anyway.

– And in spite of wanting to continue going to Pokemon Tech to make his parents proud and prevent them from wasting their hard earned money, Joe decides to drop out and start his Pokemon journey. Well, hopefully they’ll save enough money from not needing to take care of him anymore that they’ll claw themselves up out of debt. Yay!

All in all, this episode is really not as good as I remember it, which is a shame. Yes, I really do like the idea of a Pokemon School where you can bypass the traveling and gym matches if you graduate. It’s a very realistic idea that I can see being implemented in this world. Despite the fact that it’s so damn expensive and may actually take much longer than a regular Pokemon journey would, I can imagine that most parents wouldn’t be comfortable with the idea of their ten year old child going traveling on his own to fight super powered monsters and a school that achieves the same thing is a good alternative.

While I was watching this episode, I even mused about a spinoff show which would take place in a school. Like a slice of life with Pokemon. Think about it. New environment, new story structures, new characters, consistent side characters, few to no CotDs, and we could implement cool new aspects like fun challenges and tests, festivals, tournaments etc. Hey, Yugioh transitioned to a similar concept just fine and you can’t tell me a nice change of pace from the stale formula we’ve had for over 15 years wouldn’t be welcome.

I also liked the rare exploration of Pokemon levels, something that is still debated to this day in regards to the anime, and the poke at the actual games with the simulator.

However, I don’t like Joe. He’s really bland and a bit dim. I hate Giselle with all my heart and soul, the battle between Cubone and Pikachu seemed a bit screwed and the ending both in terms of message and Giselle’s big revelation seemed really predictable and corny to me.

In addition, Team Rocket’s appearance was even more pointless than usual. We only learned that they went to the school, got the worst grades and then they pop up at the very end, do their motto and get hit with a bunch of Pokeballs before running off.

This episode even had worse animation that usual. I did like a few shots that actually seemed odd in terms of Pokemon’s usual style like the shot of the broken window and Misty holding Starmie, but the shots of the boys walking away in the fog and Team Rocket’s final scene were horribly animated. It’s almost like they weren’t done animating them to be honest. It just seems like a bunch of keyframes made into a slideshow.

I didn’t really hate this episode, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I remembered liking it.

Next episode is the beginning of the Starter Trilogy: Part 1 – Bulbasaur.

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