Pokemon Episode 51 Analysis – Bulbasaur’s Mysterious Garden

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CotD(s): None.

Plot: Ash is in the middle of a battle with a man and his Rhyhorn with Bulbasaur at the helm. Bulbasaur takes a Take Down attack full on, and Ash tries to recall him, but Bulbasaur refuses. He wants to prove he can defeat his opponent. He manages to hit a Razor Leaf and Vine Whip and Bulbasaur wins the match. However, it appears to be in great pain and its bulb is glowing.

Ash rushes Bulbasaur to the Pokemon Center and begs Joy to save him. Once treatment has been completed, Joy reveals that Bulbasaur’s not badly wounded, he’s just preparing to evolve.

Every year, Bulbasaur from all over the world gather in a mysterious garden to evolve into Ivysaur. The garden is nearby, and they’re just in time for the festivities. Bulbasaur, however, is less than pleased with this turn of events.

That night, he has a heart to heart with Pikachu about his views on his evolution when he’s suddenly dragged away by a slue of Bulbasaur who forcibly take him to the garden to partake in the festival.

Pikachu wakes up Ash and the others and they run into the forest to find Bulbasaur. The forest is going crazy and they make it just in time before the entire area is blocked off with a wall of vines.

They arrive at the meeting area to find a massive group of Bulbasaur gathering around a large dead tree. They chant and the sparkling pollen in the air revives the tree. Out from the tree emerges a massive Venusaur, who starts the festival off.

They all chant together and the Bulbasaur start glowing. Soon, they all evolve into Ivysaur. They cheer in celebration until they realize one Bulbsaur has yet to evolve – Ash’s. In fact, he’s doing everything in his power to not evolve.

Venusaur and the Ivysaur all call him out for denying his evolution, and Bulbasaur fiercely argues back. Venusaur attacks Bulbasaur with a Vine Whip, but Ash jumps in the way and takes the hit. He protects his Bulbasaur stating they have no right to force Bulbasaur to evolve. It’s up to him to make that decision.

Suddenly, Team Rocket flies overhead in their balloon and start sucking up all of the Ivysaur with a giant vacuum. Venusaur makes a valiant effort to save them, but an increase in power to the vacuum makes it start to lose its footing.

Team Rocket seems like they might get away this time as only Bulbasaur is left standing. They mock Bulbasaur and refuse to steal him, seeing him as a runt and a wimp. Bulbasaur gets incredibly angry and gives a deafening yell.

The sun rises and Bulbasaur’s bulb starts collecting energy from the sun, revealing him to have learned Solar Beam. He launches the beam at the balloon, destroys the vacuum and frees the Ivysaur. Team Rocket crashes down and looks in horror as all of the Ivysaur as well as the Venusaur and Bulbasaur glare at them angrily. Venusaur sends them blasting off with a swift hit from its Vine Whip.

Venusaur walks up to Bulbasaur and extends a vine to him. They shake vines, showing that Venusaur respects Bulbasaur and his decision to stay as it is.

Later, the festival ends and the vine walls fall. They bid farewell to the Venusaur and Ivysaur as the mysterious garden disappears as quickly as it appeared.

Bulbasaur looks on with a smile, knowing he’s great just the way he is. No matter if or when Bulbasaur evolves, that will never change.

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– I want to preface this episode by saying Ivysaur is my favorite Pokemon, so seeing a bunch of them gathered like this is really cool.

However, we never really explore what makes Ivysaur cool and interesting (and, really, most starter mid-evos have this problem) and we are robbed of Ash getting an Ivysaur on his team, which disappointed me immensely.

– Misty: “That Rhyhorn must be at a high level!”….Tsk……We’ll come back to this.

– Heheh, now Bulbasaur won’t obey him. Get your shit together, Ash.

Being fair, out of all of Ash’s Pokemon, Bulbasaur is the one you’d think would’ve had behavior problems from the get-go. Squirtle being a close second. Not. Charmander…..

– Also, Rhyhorn’s Take Down is like getting hit by a tank, according to Brock. Bulbasaur gets hits head-on, literally, and only has a bump on his head.

– Opponent: “You must be a lousy trainer, kid. It won’t even listen to you.” I know, right?

– Bulbasaur did Vine Whip without being commanded to do so too.

– Lumberjack-Themed Opponent: “You sure chopped me down to size, kid.” Hehehe, I’m a lumberjack. I chop wood. Get it?

– Even though we’ll never see it again in the series, I love the added touch of flowers blooming around soon-to-evolve Bulbasaur and later with Venusaur just willing it to happen.

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– I have a bunch of questions about this festival.

1) It seems to completely ignore the concept of levels entirely, which is weird given that Misty just brought up levels again out of the blue literally a minute ago. Maybe they are taking levels into consideration and only those who have reached a certain level can participate in the festival, but it’s still odd. Why do they need a special festival to evolve if they’re already at the proper level to do so? No other Pokemon does that, to my knowledge.

How annoying would it be if you trained really hard to have your Bulbasaur evolve but you couldn’t just because, ahp, ya missed the festival. Try again next year.

It’s not like you get a formal invitation or anything, either. Ash and the others just happened to be in the exact area of the mysterious garden on the night of the festival.

Plus:

Joy: “No one knows why they choose that time. It’s different every year.” Great.

“But it seems to have something to do with the alignment of the planets and the phases of the moon.”

Just say ‘They gather in spring because it’s the blossoming of plant life’ or whatnot. No need to all this astronomy in there.

2) If there’s a festival for Bulbasaur to evolve into Ivysaur, is there another festival for Ivysaur to evolve into Venusaur?

3) Why exactly is it so vital to the other Bulbasaur to literally drag Ash’s Bulbasaur to the festival? I imagine some of it is tradition or something, but does that mean they can’t leave any Bulbasaur as a Bulbasaur?

4) I would ask a lot of questions about this specific location and why merely being there and yelling ‘SAUR!’ triggers the evolution, but the title of the episode says it’s mysterious so I guess it’s not meant to be questioned.

5) I do have to ask how it is no human being has ever set foot in it. That seems ridiculously unlikely. If this event calls Bulbasaur from all over the world, trained or not, surely some of their trainers or some researchers have followed them. The walls do pose a problem, but Ash and the others will later make it through without much issue, and you can fly right over it like Team Rocket does.

I do like the area, though. A beautiful garden just for the ‘saur line, locked by a wall of vines and meant purely for this event. Pretty cool.

5) Bulbasaur gather from all over the world to partake in this event. Is this mostly wild Bulbasaur or do trainers have to take a considerable amount of time out of their lives to travel the world to get to this event?

I assume this can’t be the only mysterious garden or evolution festival in the entire world….right?

– I am a little peeved that Bulbasaur has such a sullen expression when Ash mentions Ivysaur. I get that he just…for some reason, doesn’t want to evolve, but Ivysaur’s great. You shut up.

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– As much as I like the subtitle-free conversation with Bulbasaur and Pikachu about his troubles, much in the same realm as Pikachu’s conversation with Caterpie many moons ago…..Uh…this is actually one conversation I’d like to hear considering we never get a good reason why Bulbasaur has such an issue with evolving.

This episode is pretty similar to the one where Pikachu is given the option to evolve. In a way, Pikachu was also kinda being cornered into evolving. While Ash was very respectful of whatever option Pikachu chose, he felt like he kinda had to because, otherwise, Ash might not get his badge.

However, evolving for Pikachu was both a point of not wanting to change his appearance (and possibly personality?) and a point of pride as a Pikachu, if you will. He didn’t want to evolve into a Raichu to beat Surge’s Raichu because it would proving Surge right – Pokemon need to evolve in order to be at their best. He didn’t want to bow to his views and say ‘yeah, you’re right. Raichu’s just better because it’s a Raichu and I’m a lowly Pikachu.’

Pikachu gave a speech to Ash about this, which Ash seemingly understood, but was mostly translated to the audience through Meowth. It allowed us to fully understand why Pikachu was refusing, even though the viewer could get most of the message through the story.

….Not that any of that really matters because, as we’ll later see, Pikachu IS an evolved Pokemon.

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Here, there is no real ‘story’ so far. Bulbasaur’s just being faced with possible forced evolution and he straight up doesn’t want to. He’s telling Pikachu why he’s so conflicted, but the ‘story’ so far and body language aren’t nearly enough for us to understand why he’s so troubled beyond ‘eh, I dun wanna.’

In the aforementioned Caterpie moment, while that also didn’t have subtitles, the very end showed us Caterpie’s daydream of being a Butterfree, and that was more than enough for us to understand. I don’t know what they would’ve shown here, but something is better than nothing.

– Also, the music in this scene is very unfitting. It’s goofy lazy BGM that doesn’t belong in a scene where Bulbasaur’s having a heartfelt conversation with Pikachu about an important issue.

– The next scene with Bulbasaur yelling to Pikachu is a bit better because we can kinda infer what he’s saying due to the tone, desperation in Bulbasaur’s voice and Pikachu’s clear understanding….but it’s still difficult to get down pat. Pikachu stopped because of what he said, and I think he’s begging Pikachu to get Ash, but it also sounds like he might be begging Pikachu himself to help.

– Haha, Pikachu’s Bulbasaur impression is adorable.

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– Team Rocket showed up and got blasted off within thirty seconds. It was entirely unnecessary to have them there to begin with.

– They got blasted off, but they landed closeby enough to land immediately behind Ash and the others as they trailed Bulbasaur. That scene is even more unnecessary now.

– Misty: “There’s only one way to go now – into the garden.” You’re technically already in it.

Also, is Venusaur’s consciousness manipulating the vines or is this an actual magical forest?

– Out of curiosity, why is it so important to keep everyone out of the garden when the festival is happening? Is their evolution such a secret? I think when Bulbasaur go in and Ivysaur come out, they’ll make the connection.

– The Bulbasaur all singing is adorable.

– The whole sequence before Venusaur arrives is wonderfully done. It’s beautiful in color, tone and even audio.

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– I don’t think that tree is big enough to have Venusaur walk that far within it without exiting it.

– Fantastic entrance for Venusaur. He even got a commercial break cliffhanger reveal.

Why Use the Pokedex? He knows what a Venusaur is,

– I feel like there was a miscommunication with the animators and writers. Misty reminds Ash that Bulbasaur has a bandage on his head, allowing them to know which Bulbasaur is his. The bandage in question is a little band-aid. Pikachu points out Ash’s Bulbasaur, but they’re seeing him from behind, meaning we can’t see the band-aid. I think Bulbasaur was probably meant to have a bandage wrap on his head rather than a band-aid so we could actually tell from the back who it was, but the animators didn’t get the memo.

Either that or they originally set Bulbasaur to have the wrap but the higher ups thought it made it look like Bulbasaur was too injured and kids might get concerned? I dunno.

– Brock: “Hey! Don’t forget, human beings aren’t supposed to be here!” I get why the other Bulbasaur might not see them standing in plain view because their backs are facing them, but Venusaur is facing the Bulbasaur, meaning it should be able to see Ash and co.

– The chanting to start the evolution process is pretty cool. And I really like the way the Bulbasaur all glow blue before their evolution starts.

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– And the entire flow of the scene is ruined by Team Rocket. Hooray.

– I like how they show the leaves on Bulbasaur’s bulb opening when it evolves.

– IVYSAUR! YAY!

Why Use the Pokedex? He explained earlier that he knew what an Ivysaur was.

– I like that they also have a celebratory chant after the evolution is over.

– Ash: “This must be their evolution festival.”….Ash….sweetie….go back to the Pokemon Center and get a CAT scan. For me. I am deeply concerned about you.

– I’ll ignore how Brock seems to be able to tell that Bulbasaur is actively trying not to evolve, but what is forcing its evolution? We can surmise that Squirtle and Pidgeotto are also long since overdue for evolution, yet you don’t see them slamming their internal B buttons regularly when they ‘level up.’

My best guess is this magical glittery pollen is somehow triggering the evolution, but that just raises a multitude of questions.

Kinda have to wonder how one resists evolution in the first place. I imagine it’s like trying desperately not to have a muscle spasm. It’s something your body is just kinda doing, you can’t really stop it.

– The scene with Bulbasaur arguing with the Ivysaur and Venusaur doesn’t really need subtitles. We can infer most of what’s going on through the story at this point and body language. Bulbasaur doesn’t want to evolve, this makes the others salty (Venusaur looks incredibly offended, to be honest), they try to force him, Venusaur even tries to convince him that evolving is great by making the dead tree bloom with thousands of beautiful flowers, but he won’t budge. Problem is, like before, we don’t know why Bulbasaur doesn’t want to evolve, so the emotional impact is significantly lower than what it could be.

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If you wanted to be really cynical, Bulbasaur could come off as a petulant child who doesn’t want to ‘grow up’ per se. Afterall, the one consistent theme throughout this episode is ‘wow, Bulbasaur is stubborn.’

– I really like how Ash jumped in the way of the Venusaur’s Vine Whip. That was pretty cool. I like when we get scenes that show how much Ash cares for his Non-Pika Pokemon.

– In the end, no matter Bulbasaur’s reasons, Ash is right – no one has the right to force a Pokemon to evolve. They evolve or ‘grow up’ when they’re ready. Shame that we’ve already gone over this moral several times in the series.

– I love how even Ash and the others are annoyed by Team Rocket’s intrusion. This would be a really great episode if these buffoons didn’t keep barging in.

– Misty: *As all of the Ivysaur are being sucked into Team Rocket’s vacuum* “It’s a vacuum!”

Ash: “No kidding!”

Hahahaha! They really should just let Ash be snarky more often. It suits him, when it’s not in a dickish way.

– I love how Venusaur’s all badass and grabs them all at once. However, it let numerous Ivysaur get sucked up beforehand…

Still, it shows how awesome Venusaur is while simultaneously showing how much Venusaur cares about its brethren.

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– How are Bulbasaur and Pikachu not flying away? They’re significantly lighter than the Ivysaur and even Venusaur is being lifted up a bit now. Even Ash and the others should be grabbing onto trees or something, yet they’re not even really have trouble standing. Hell, even Ash’s hat is still glued to his head.

– I get that Team Rocket’s just laughing at the idea of taking a Bulbasaur when they now have a bag full of Ivysaur, but it’s still a starter Pokemon. They’re very rare and valuable.

– I don’t like how Meowth’s mouth moves up and down but his chin stays still when he says ‘What a wimp!’

– Also, Bulbasaur’s a wimp? How?

– Bulbasaur yelling out loud to Team Rocket has always been a really impacting moment in the series to me. Not only does it lead to his learning Solar Beam (which means Bulbsaur’s at least level 48, meaning he should long since be a Venusaur by now. Hey, they brought up levels this episode, so I can bring this up.) but, man, his voice actor is just having at it. It’s great.

– This is also a perfect time for Bulbasaur to learn Solar Beam. Ash is getting closer to the Indigo League and he needs some more power to back him up.

– Ash: “Smokin’” If that was a reference to The Mask, I will hurt you.

– Apparently, all Ivysaur are cats and always land on their feet.

– N’aw Venusaur and Bulbasaur shaking vines.

– Narrator: “No one knows if or when Bulbasaur will finally decide to evolve – no one, that is, except Bulbasaur.” Aw that’s sweet. Also, in hindsight, that line’s very fitting just because it decided to include ‘if’ in there. Bulbasaur, to this day, has never evolved and probably never will.

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Overall, I really love this episode. Not sure I’d place it as a favorite, but it’s still really good. We get Ivysaur, a cool look into the ‘saur line’s (weird, in regards to Pokemon as a whole and possibly non-canon in the future) evolutionary behaviors and Bulbasaur learns Solar Beam.

It has a good, but already overused at this point, message about not forcing people to be something they’re not, especially if they’re not ready for whatever change you’re imposing on them, and has a lot of awesome moments.

The only two things that really damage it are Bulbasaur’s unclear motives behind resisting evolution (All I want is an Ivysaur to be a regular character, dammit!) and Team Rocket’s annoying intrusions.

This is definitely one of the most memorable episodes simply because of how unique it is and how beautiful the visuals are, but I can’t help thinking it could’ve been a little better.

Next episode, it’s Princess Day! Misty vs. Jessie!

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