Pokemon Episode 23 Analysis – The Tower of Terror

Pokemon ep 23 title

CotD: None

Captures (Ehhhhh kinda maybe?): Ash’s (?) Haunter – Whether or not Ash truly ‘caught’ Haunter is up for debate. I’m on the side of him not catching Haunter because we never see the capture, Haunter is never in his Pokeball and it’s more heavily implied that Haunter is helping him with this one task and will then go back home.

Haunter is my favorite of the Gastly line, and the Haunter here is pretty funny. Sure his antics get a little tired, but he’s mostly funny.

Plot Synopsis: After making their way through a dense and scary fog, the group arrives in Lavender Town – Home of the Pokemon Tower that is famed for its Ghost Pokemon.

Team Rocket has arrived ahead of time, and they get a sneak peak at the ghosts around the tower as they try to lay a trap for Pikachu. A nearby Gastly has some fun with Team Rocket and sends them crashing through the floor.

Ash and the others make their way into the tower with only a candle to light their way. They are continuously freaked out by the sounds of the tower such as screaming (by Team Rocket) and strange laughter (Gastly, Haunter and Gengar watching TV). Suddenly, the lights turn on and reveal a nearby feast. They pull a string, which triggers an explosion of confetti and a welcome banner.

The food and furniture then float around and attack the group, forcing them out of the room and giving Gastly, Haunter and Gengar a good laugh.

Misty, Brock, Charmander and Pikachu want nothing more to do with the Pokemon Tower. Ash is only able to convince Charmander and Pikachu to go back with him. He believes he’s found a Ghost Pokemon in its vapor form and tries to capture it, but he unknowingly attacks Team Rocket instead.

They suddenly come face to face with Haunter and try to battle it, but to no avail. Charmander succumbs to a Lick attack by Haunter and Ash is forced to recall him.

Suddenly, Gengar shows up and the two try to make Ash laugh with some slapstick humor, but Ash is less than impressed. Depressed at their failure and Ash’s comments on their comedy act, they start to disappear under the floor. Ash tries to grab them before they leave, but just crashes into the floor.

The impact rattles an overhead chandelier, which crashes into Ash and Pikachu. As they lie unconscious, Haunter grabs their spirits from their bodies, wanting to fly around with them for a while. Ash has a bit of trouble believing he’s a ghost at first, but quickly decides to have some fun by flying around and picking up Misty.

After some more fun, the three ghosts lead Ash and Pikachu back to the tower where they show them their play room. Ash deducts that these ghosts are not really threats but simply want to play with the visitors of the tower since they’re bored and lonely being stuck in the tower all the time. Despite having a good time with them, he explains that he has to go back to his body and life his life, so the ghosts tearfully part with him.

Misty and Brock, having drug Ash and Pikachu’s bodies from out of the chandelier, try desperately to wake them up, fearing the worst. Ash and Pikachu quickly return to their bodies and reunite with their friends.

The next morning, Ash and the others leave Pokemon Tower empty-handed. Brock asks how Ash will beat Sabrina without a Ghost Pokemon when Haunter reappears and jokingly scares Brock and Misty away. It has decided to hang out with Ash for the time being and help him in his rematch with Sabrina.

———————————-

– Gotta love that trope where someone sees something scary, tells another character to look where they’re looking and by the time they look it’s gone. I’ll also say it’s a part of that trope to have the person who saw the scary thing shriek at the top of their lungs yet no one finds that odd.

– While I do like this episode just fine, I do find it to be a horrible waste in regards to what this town really is. As many fans of the games know, Lavender Town is a surprisingly depressing town and the Pokemon Tower is home to one of the saddest moments in any of the games. Lavender Town is filled with grieving people who share stories of their Pokemon who have passed away. The Pokemon Tower is essentially one giant Pokemon cemetery littered with Ghost Pokemon and the ghosts of Pokemon who cannot rest.

Within Lavender Town is Mr. Fuji’s House where he cares for abandoned or orphaned Pokemon. When the player arrives, he explains that he’s currently caring for a Cubone who recently lost its mother when it was killed by Team Rocket. Once the player obtains the Silph Scope and becomes able to identify the ghosts within the Pokemon Tower, he finds the ghost of Cubone’s mom and the player has to defeat her in order to allow her spirit to pass on. It’s also kinda implied that a good chunk of the Pokemon within Pokemon Tower were killed by Team Rocket.

In the anime, however, it’s just a tower where a bunch of Ghost Pokemon hang out and Lavender Town isn’t even explored. I get that Pokemon is far from a dark or deep show, but watering Lavender Town and Pokemon Tower down this much just seems really weak. At least they make up for it in Pokemon Origins.

– While I, again, like that Ash thought to use a Pokemon to solve a problem, yet again using Charmander as a lantern, there is seriously no excuse now for him to not be carrying a flashlight. At the very least Brock should have one. Ash really has a random skull mask in his backpack but not a flashlight?

– So wait, they never even tried to turn on the lights? Nullify my last half-compliment.

– I don’t know how Ash managed to coerce Pikachu and Charmander into going back into the tower by saying they can’t beat Sabrina without it. He asks them if they want to lose again, but Charmander never battled to begin with. Also, if you’re getting a Ghost Pokemon to beat Sabrina, it won’t help THEM beat her Pokemon, will it? That flashback Pikachu has about getting beat by Kadabra is also kinda sad. It acknowledges that it failed and feels very sad about it, but, again, getting a Ghost Pokemon won’t help it beat Kadabra.

– Ash clearly hears people talking down a hole in the floor so his first instinct is to shock it with Pikachu and set it on fire with Charmander? I know it was Team Rocket (so haha, they deserve it by default) and he thought they were Ghost Pokemon but he didn’t even try to see what was down there before attacking it. He could’ve been attacking an innocent person.

– Also, why is Dexter so mysterious about Ghost Pokemon’s forms now? Just a few episodes ago, we met a Ghost Pokemon – Gastly. And it was indeed in another form – The ghost of Maiden’s Peak. However, it had no difficulty finding the entry of the Pokemon when Ash was able to aim the Pokedex towards the main ghost form.

– They did the “Ah, something’s behind you!” *they look* “You’re seeing things” schtick again….

– Dexter: “Haunter – The Gaseous Pokemon. No further information found.” No furth—It’s Gastly’s evolved form. Ash even already has the Pokedex info for Gastly. You honestly don’t know that much? You’re being particularly useless today, Dexter.

Ash: “Ah?! Is that all?!” My sentiments exactly, Ash.

– Why did Charmander start making funny faces at Haunter when it was told to use Leer?

– Dexter: “Gengar – No information found.” Are you friggin’ kidding me? Gengar was the first ever Pokemon to be shown on this show. We know people own them, so there’s no excuse as to why there’s absolutely no information on them, not even a classification.

– Ash, king of terrible puns, is making fun of Gengar and Haunter’s slapstick. Pot, kettle, black.

– I guess if we accept that Ash and Pikachu died we also have to accept that Haunter was a big enough dick to laugh at someone dying.

– Alright; we can just say Ash and Pikachu got knocked out by the chandelier at this point. It does make a little bit of sense with the proceeding scenes. It’s widely accepted by many beliefs that we’re closer to the realm of spirits when we’re asleep, knocked out or nearly dead. It’s possible Ash and Pikachu are unconscious and, because they’re closer to the spirit world now, Haunter was able to pluck their spirits from their bodies and later return them.

Plus, if Ash really did die, you’d think his reaction would be more dramatic than ‘Oh no!….Oh well, let’s fly around and have fun! Wheeee!’

– Wow, Ash, you could’ve killed Misty by dropping her from that height. You don’t know if Brock would’ve been able to catch her. What an ass. It’s even worse considering that, before he grabbed her, she was talking about how worried she was of Ash and Ash even heard her say that. He doesn’t even feel bad that his friends are so worried.

– Okay, so if the Pokemon Tower in the anime is not a giant Pokemon cemetery, what exactly is it? I know it’s a place where Ghost Pokemon hang out, but it’s only these three and there are a bunch of things here that could not be around without people like toys and carnival rides and huge feasts. This stuff is fully functional and not covered in dust. Who built this place? Why is it abandoned? Who used to live here?

– Gastly, Haunter and Gengar only scare visitors to the tower because they’re trying to play with them. Okay.

They want to play with them because they’re incredibly bored being stuck in a tower all the time.

Why are they stuck there?

I know the lore of ghosts commonly has them being anchored to locations where they must haunt because it has a strong connection to their life or death. However, these are Pokemon – not people. And we’ve seen that they can come and go as they please. Hell, they just flew around town and the local woods with Ash just a few shots ago, and Haunter will make its way all the way to Saffron City in the next episode, even staying with Sabrina. Why are they staying at this tower if they’re so bored and lonely?

You can’t even say that they stay there for a majority of the day or something because, as was established in The Ghost of Maiden’s Peak, sun+ghosts=bad (except when it’s not), but Haunter goes into clear sunlight in the next scene and the next episode.

– Haunter needs to intervene to take their souls out of their bodies, but getting back in just requires laying down on the floor on top of them?

– Ash and Pikachu made it out of that without even a slight injury?

– Aw, Misty crying because she thought Ash was dead, aw.

– Brock: “Then how will you beat the Psychic Pokemon?”

Ash: “Hmm….Maybe I’ll just have to use my sense of humor!”

It’s kinda funny because that is exactly how he beats the Psychic Pokemon of Sabrina.

– The Ghosts are harmless, eh? They’ve tied up Team Rocket and are spinning them around endlessly on a merry-go-round. That’s not very harmless.

——————————

I thought this episode was better than it ended up being upon the rewatch. The first half is kinda boring, especially since we already have a slight grasp on Ghost Pokemon at this point, despite them changing the rules. It’s not even so much of a story as it is a crap ton of padding to get to Haunter randomly deciding to follow Ash (and subsequently abandon his friends at the tower) to help him beat Sabrina, which is particularly weird on the episode most people remember as ‘the one where Ash and Pikachu die.’ Even that’s not a big plot point.

It wasn’t even necessary, nor was it even truly a legitimate ‘death’. They could’ve flown them around and had fun with them without them being ghosts.

Team Rocket’s role was entirely pointless. While I don’t like their intrusions a bulk of the time, they literally just show up to be pushed out of the way and are relegated to slapstick comic relief for the rest of the episode.

I could forgive them completely gutting Lavender Town and Pokemon Tower if they replaced it with something of far more substance, but they didn’t deliver at all. There’s absolutely no story attached to this place or these Pokemon – They just exist. This also seemed like a lazy way of introducing two new Pokemon (Haunter and technically Gengar) at once.

It’s not an awful episode, but it’s incredibly poorly handled and could’ve been so much better.

Next episode, Ash has his rematch with Sabrina. Will Haunter be enough to help him take her down, or will his new ghostly friend let him down?

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