Character Debuts: Giovanni – Leader of Team Rocket, Giovanni stays cloaked in shadow for a good chunk of the first series. He rarely appears on screen at all, and sadly he never amounts to much as a villain. Outside of the dub exclusive creation of Mewtwo later in movie 01, this massive attack on the St. Anne is probably his biggest and most notable plan. Ultimately, a wasted character and villain.
Pokemon: Probably a lot, though the only Pokemon confirmed to actually be on his team are Rhydon, Machamp, Kingler, Golem and a Cloyster. However, his trademark Pokemon is a Persian, which he treasures and never leaves his side.
The Magikarp Salesman: Never given an actual name, the Magikarp salesman, oddly enough, has made at least one appearance in every Pokemon series to date. He’s always swindling people, James especially, into believing that Magikarp are a great investment that will end up making the buyer millions of dollars only to leave his stand when the customers find out about the scam.
Pokemon: Gee I wonder.
CotD: Gentleman – While technically not a character, he doesn’t even get a name, the Gentleman that Ash battles and trades his Butterfree to is a significant enough character to at least be mentioned here. He seems like a very kind and respectable trainer who also enjoys trading.
Pokemon: Squirtle and Raticate. Butterfree (temporarily)
Captures: Ash’s Raticate – Ash traded away his Butterfree for a Gentleman’s Raticate in this episode. However, he changed his mind and traded him back before the end of the episode.
James’ Magikarp – James gets coerced into buying a Magikarp. He tosses it away later in this arc.
Plot: As Ash and the others are leaving Vermillion City, they see a beautiful cruise liner, the St. Anne, in port. As they gush over the idea of going on a cruise, they soon sulk when they realize they don’t have nearly enough money to ever go on one. However, as ‘luck’ would have it, two ridiculous teenage girls approach them offering them free passes to the St. Anne, and what’s more is that there will be a big party of Pokemon trainers on the ship.
As the teenagers reveal themselves to be (shocker) Team Rocket in disguise, they hold a video meeting with their leader, Giovanni who reveals that he’s gathering tons of Pokemon trainers on the St. Anne in order to take all of their Pokemon when they’re out at sea.
While Ash, Misty and Brock are in awe of the St. Anne and all the cool Pokemon stuff happening on board, Ash sees a Pokemon battle going on between a Gentleman and his Raticate and a boy and his Starmie. The Gentleman wins, but gives his opponent some respectful words of encouragement before asking the crowd if anyone else wants to challenge him.
Fired up, Ash challenges the Gentleman with his Butterfree. It’s a pretty even match until Butterfree paralyzes Raticate with Stun Spore. As he’s about to finish him off with a Whirlwind, the Gentleman calls off the match and says to call it a draw, much to Ash’s disdain.
Meanwhile, James comes across a salesman at a kiosk who shows him a Magikarp. He claims that the fish is a gold mine since they have so many babies and each Magikarp can be sold for around $100, and James is easily suckered into buying one.
Later, the Gentleman from earlier approaches Ash and tells him that he really liked his Butterfree. Ash thanks him for the compliment and says he also liked his Raticate. The Gentleman then offers to trade his Raticate for Ash’s Butterfree, stating that trading is a great practice that is part of what makes being a Pokemon trainer so great. While Ash is a little uneasy about it, he ultimately agrees and trades Butterfree for Raticate.
Back with Team Rocket, James gets chewed out for buying a worthless Magikarp and Jessie demands that he get his money back when she finds out that he used some of her salary to pay for it.
Ash speaks with Misty about how he’s feeling regret over the trade and worries that Butterfree won’t be cared for the way he cared for it. A horde of Team Rocket members emerge and demand everyone hand over their Pokemon, but no one’s going down without a fight.
As Team Rocket gets thrashed by an onslaught of Pokemon, Ash accidentally tries letting out Butterfree only to sadly remember that he was traded away. He stops to remember all the good times he had with Butterfree before snapping out of it to help the effort against Team Rocket. They eventually blast all of the Team Rocket grunts away, except, oddly enough, our regular Team Rocket trio.
Suddenly, a terrible storm appears, knocking the ship violently. As Ash trades for his Butterfree back, the passengers angrily confront the captain, who ends up escaping on a life raft while trying to convince everyone that everything’s okay.
The passengers flee to the life boats, but Ash lags behind as he makes his trade. He completes the trade, but Butterfree’s Pokeball slips from his hand and rolls away after the ship gets hit by a wave. Likewise, James, Jessie and Meowth are also chasing his runaway Magikarp Pokeball.
While both groups manage to recover their Pokeballs, the ship gets hit with a huge wave and ends up capsizing. As the ship sinks to the bottom of the sea, Ash and his friends as well as Team Rocket lie unconscious from the hit. Will they be able to escape?
Narrator: “Has Ash’s ship finally come in? Or are Ash and his friends cruisin’ for a bruisin’?” That was an awful line, Mr. Narrator. Please go to your corner and don’t come out until we’re questioning the fates of our main characters.
Ash: “Do you know anyone who says ‘radical’ anymore?” Ooh, look at 4Kids believing they know when slang is dated or not. That, kids, is what we call ‘kidding ourselves!’ Also, uh, considering this was made in 1998, I’d say ‘radical’ was not that dated by then.
– I can’t help but love James in the scene of him as a teenage girl. I know he’s mostly just going ‘CoooOOOOOOoooolll!’ over and over, but he just cracks me up when he does it.
– It’s kinda weird to see Giovanni actually having some modicum of a real connection with Jessie, James and Meowth considering he soon drops them like hot rocks and forgets about them, outside of their debts of course. He actually entrusted them with an important part of his newest scheme here.
– It’s also weird how, during these first handful of episodes, Charmander is sometimes pronounced ‘Char-minder’ I thought only Damian did it in Charmander’s debut, but I think I heard it an episode or two ago and now Ash said it here.
– I have to sympathize with Ash here; it’s a pretty dick move to see that you’re losing a match then decide to call it off as a ‘draw’. If you want to call off a match and accept defeat because you don’t want to see your Pokemon get hurt anymore, then fine. But calling a match you were clearly losing a draw, even if Whirlwind doesn’t actually do damage, is just stupid.
– Okay, so not only do we have Charmander being pronounced ‘Charminder’ but also the Gentleman calls Pokemon ‘Pokeymon’…..Apparently he’s my grandma.
– Whoa! What the hell? A splash of blood and a flying tooth made it through 4Kids’ censors? It’s only for a few frames, but it’s a damn closeup after a clear strike on another person. Even this early in their career, they would’ve edited that out.
– I do find it a little weird that Ash, a trainer so intent on making strong relationships with his Pokemon, was so quick to accept this trade. I mean, yes, he is uneasy about it, but he really let go of his first caught and evolved Pokemon for a Raticate, that was losing to Butterfree no less, all because of a pretty trading speech by the Gentleman?
– Ah it is so nice to see Team Rocket (the full one) doing something…..Even if they suck about as much at their job as Jessie, James and Meowth. Yes, kidnap all those Pokemon without protective suits to prevent people from using their Pokemon on you….And what’s more is that the trainers outnumber the Rockets like ten to one and they just assumed that they wouldn’t fight back, even without weapons to threaten them. They are literally just walking up to people saying ‘Gimme your Pokemon!’
Even WORSE is that their only capture mechanisms are vacuums that suck up Pokeballs only….so they have no way of taking Pokemon who are out of their balls.
And finally, they don’t even have Pokemon of their own to actually battle with!
You. All. Suck.
No wonder Team Rocket fizzled out and had to be rebooted in Best Wishes.
– Also, nice recycled multiple Pikachu footage from episode two. No idea why the Bulbasaur followed suit and made a pyramid too, same with the Charmander. This a Pokemon battle, not cheerleading camp, guys.
– Recycled footage from this episode doubling as recycled footage from the Pikachu in episode two. Wow. That’s really lazy.
– Nice to know that the captain and crew of the St. Anne don’t bother checking the weather report for storms strong enough to capsize a ship. Did no one even look out the window?
– Captain: “This ship is unsinkable!” Wow, that foreshadowing was so big, you could say it was Titanic!
– Captain: “Attention; anyone who did not leave the ship safely, please say ‘aye’!….Good, everyone’s safe then!”
You’re a goddamn idiot, and I hope you fall overboard.
– Narrator: “How will they escape their watery fate? I don’t know, but I have a terrible sinking feeling.” That’s it, you’re grounded until the next episode, mister.
This is the start of a rare three-parter, with actual continuity, and it’s one of my favorite arcs in all of Pokemon. While not all of the pieces fit perfectly together (the final episode in the arc is particularly disjointed) the first two episodes are a great arc to the series. The cliffhanger is exciting, they brought on the concept of trading…even though trading in the anime has always made me a bit uneasy since you’re meant to grow emotionally connected to the Pokemon…Team Rocket actually did something….. even if, in hindsight, it was just an insanely stupid plan….And we get our first sneak peak at Giovanni….who ultimately amounts to nothing—wow, looking back at these episodes sometimes just makes me sad.
I did really enjoy this episode, but my favorite of the arc is coming up next. It’s one of my favorite episodes of Pokemon period, and while I’m aware of some wonky things with it, I hope the watch won’t be tarnished after reevaluating it.