A Very (Somewhat Banned) Pokemon Holiday Special Analysis: Holiday Hi-Jynx

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CotD(s): None, unless you count Santa and…is it really necessary to talk about him?

Pre-Analysis Notes: Hah! Gotcha! You thought I had reviewed all of the Christmas specials for Pokemon? Nope! There’s still one, technically two-ish more, but there’s a reason why I haven’t reviewed them yet.

You guys remember how I talked about the Pokemon Shock incident and how it screwed up the episode order? Well, Holiday Hi-Jynx, their first foray into Christmas, and Snow Way Out were both booted from the planned lineup entirely, which is the main reason why they were subsequently thrown off my analysis lineup for the moment as well since I’m strictly going in numerical order as listed on Bulbapedia. Technically, these episodes have no official numbers. They were originally set to air right around Christmastime in 1997, but since the producers didn’t want to air a Christmas special and a winter-themed episode in April/May, they opted to air the two episodes as specials much later.

I don’t why they bothered, really, because they ended up actually releasing the episodes both on October 5, 1998. Yeah, airing Christmas/winter themed episodes is so much more fitting in the dead of fall, a month before Halloween. Good job.

At least the US had their ducks in a more uniform row, because they aired the dub on December 11, 1999. (Snow Way Out airing a week later on December 18th.)

Despite this being a more fitting airing spot, this did cause some major confusion. Back when I was a kid, these episodes premiered with no fanfare or explanation of what happened. And the reason this was necessary was because, out of nowhere, Ash’s troublesome Charizard was back to being a lovable Charmander, and Misty no longer had Togepi yet still had her Starmie and Horsea, which she had left at the Cerulean Gym at that point. I chalked it up to being an old episode I must’ve missed, but it still nagged me, especially considering that, at the time of this airing in the States, Ash was prepping for the Indigo League tournament.

The trouble doesn’t end there.

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Say hello to Jynx! She is the reason this episode is kinda, sorta, somewhat, ehhh maybe, but not really, depending on how you look at it, banned.

Jynx was heavily criticized as being a racist depiction of a black woman shortly after this episode aired in the US. As a result, the episode was taken out of rotation after a handful of airings and has never reappeared in syndication.

Unlike most banned episodes, however, you can still find this episode fairly easily. It’s on the VHS and the original volume 3 of the Indigo League DVD set, it’s on Cartoon Network Video and Cartoon Network’s On Demand service, it’s available on Boomerang and you can find it on the Japanese versions of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu.

Subsequent airings have been edited to change Jynx’s skin color to purple to avoid controversy (Kinda like how Mr. Popo’s skin was changed to bright Genie-from-Aladdin blue during his appearances in DBZKai.) but several sources and countries show the original version.

Despite this, the episode is still quietly banned in certain regions. It’s not listed on Pokemon.com, it’s not available on Netflix, it wasn’t included in the re-release of volume 3 of the Indigo League DVD set, and it’s not included in the Indigo League complete collection DVD set. Additionally, the episode is fully banned in South Korea, and India only aired it once before taking it out of rotation entirely.

The edited version has not been applied to the English Dub, so that makes up for a decent amount of the trouble in obtaining this episode.

This initial backlash caused a ripple effect. While Jynx is not a forbidden Pokemon in the anime like Porygon basically is, 4Kids opted to skip over another episode – Ep250: The Ice Cave – because Jynx was so prevalent in it to the point where removing her scenes would destroy the footage and reduce the runtime too much. Episode 287 – All Things Bright and Beautifly – was also edited in the English dub to remove a sequence with Jynx.

Even the Gen II games and the manga were retroactively edited in the west to change Jynx’s skin to purple. Eventually, Game Freak would choose to officially change the character’s skin color to purple to allow it to be featured in the anime and games without additional edits in other areas.

As for why Jynx was designed this way, well, I can’t bring myself to say outright that the designers gunned for a clear black woman stereotype for the sake of being bigots. I don’t like slinging accusations of that caliber around so flippantly without firm evidence. However, it’s hard not to see it.

There’s a theory that she is based on ganguro style, which was popular in the 90s. Ganguro involves dying your hair blond, heavy tanning and wearing a lot of makeup. The actual style, while being rather gaudy, shows the person’s skin as being very orange. You might remember Jessie and James sported ganguro style during the first part of the St. Anne arc.

With that in mind, it’s hard to say that it was taking inspiration from that. By logic, Jynx’s skin would be orange or burnt orange, not black.

However….

There are even more extreme versions of ganguro – Yamanba and Manba, where the tanning is much darker (being dark brown, not orange) and the makeup, accessories and hairstyles are even more outlandish. However, considering this gained popularity long after this episode was created, around 2004, I doubt either of these were the inspiration.

Plus, it’s really hard to seek justification in something where the name, ganguro, can literally translate to ‘black face’………

I’m having trouble getting that anyway because what relation would ganguro have with either psychic powers or ice? You’d think with the requirement of getting so much tanning you might as well jettison yourself into the sun that such a thing couldn’t be further from ice.

Despite having no connection to Santa in the games, it’s also been theorized that, considering Jynx’s role as Santa’s helper in this episode, it might be based on Zwarte Piet or Black Pete, who is a companion of Santa in Dutch folklore……………and…..it’s still racist because, even though the character himself is black, most portrayals of him are done by white people in blackface…

Also, I doubt that theory too because Jynx is clearly designed as a female.

Finally, there’s the theory that it was based on Hel, the Nordic goddess of the underworld who ruled Niflheim, a land of ice and snow. This theory seems to have the best logic to it, but Hel’s face is either meant to be half-blue and half-flesh colored or half-black and half-flesh colored; not fully black. So either they screwed up the facial design or this theory is wrong too.

I never much cared for Jynx either way. I find her to be very creepy on all fronts (Creepy design, creepy voice, creepy movement, creepy blushing, creepy kissing attack – creepycreepycreepy) but I think it’s a good thing that she was changed to purple over the years.

Even if her entire existence is a big question mark in regards to intentions, there’s really no getting around the implications, especially considering only one of the three viable theories I read didn’t include mentions of flatout blackface (It’s also theorized that Jynx are based on opera singers, given their overweight appearance and musical ability, but this confuses me just as much as the others, quite frankly.) Changing her to purple was a much better course of action than trying to justify her offensive appearance – if they even have a justification.

Keep in mind, everything I just discussed were fan theories on her origins – people coming up with less offensive possibilities for Jynx’s existence. I don’t think an official explanation was ever given, which is fairly suspect. Even if it is meant to be a racist depiction of a black woman, which is, of course, insanely messed up, what does that have to do with ice or psychic powers? What were they going for? I just don’t understand Jynx at all.

I don’t really want to press this matter into even worse implications, but I can’t help but ask this question. If people find that Santa’s elves are basically slaves…and taking Jynx as being a depiction of a stereotypical black woman…..Does that mean I’m technically watching a Christmas special with depictions of black people as Santa’s slaves? I really wish I had turned my brain off before it went down that route, because if you lock onto that idea, this episode just gets so much worse. It’s bad enough that Jynx technically are indeed ‘owned’ by their Trainers in the first place……

To be honest, other than having ice powers and being human-like, I don’t know why Jynx was the Pokemon chosen to be stand-ins for Santa’s elves to begin with. I know Delibird doesn’t exist yet, but certainly there’s a better option.

M…merry…Christmas…..I’m really uncomfortable now.

Plot: On Christmas Eve, Team Rocket plans on trapping Santa and taking all of the presents for themselves. Jessie has a vendetta against Santa, believing him to be a thief who stole her doll when he visited on Christmas ten years ago….Only ‘he’ was actually a Jynx working for Santa that she believes was actually Santa.

Meanwhile, Ash tries to capture what he thinks is a wild Jynx waiting on a beach. After a failed attempt, they surmise that it has a Trainer after seeing it holding a boot belonging to none other than Santa Claus! Jynx Psychically transmits her story to Ash and the others – some time ago, she was shining Santa’s boot when the ice she was standing on broke away. She drifted to shore and is desperate to reach Santa.

Ash, Misty and Brock agree to help her out, worried that Santa won’t be able to deliver gifts without his Jynx or his other boot. They grab a raft and head off in the direction of the North Pole, using their Water Pokemon to help pull them along. After a long, long while and exhausting their Pokemon, Ash finds one of Santa’s telepathic Lapras who has been following them for a while. Realizing their intentions are good, it decides to pull them along for the rest of the ride.

When they arrive, however, Team Rocket springs up. They trap Ash and the others in a net and capture Jynx, whom Jessie still mistakenly believes is Santa. They then head to the workshop to steal all of the toys. Jessie spots the real Santa and they hold him hostage so all of the Jynx will hand over the presents. Ash and the others try to intervene, but hold themselves back to protect Santa.

Jessie chats with Santa who asks why she’s doing this. After explaining her story, Jynx perks up and runs off to retrieve Jessie’s doll – now fixed. Santa explains that his Jynx had gone to deliver presents to her and noticed her broken dolly on the floor. She took it to get fixed, but they couldn’t return it since Jessie no longer believed in him and he’s not allowed to tread in the homes of hearts that don’t believe in him.

While she tearfully reunited with her doll, Jessie continues her plan anyway. However, they’re all stopped by Lapras, who freezes their sub with Ice Beam. Ash uses Charmander to free them all from the ropes and commands him to use Fire Spin on the sub. The ice melts and Team Rocket escapes.

Santa commands his legion of Jynx to use Psywave to pick up their sub, shake out all of the presents, destroy the sub and blast off Team Rocket.

With Santa and the presents safe, Santa heads off on his sleigh to bring Christmas to people all over the world. Jynx and Lapras deliver presents to Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu, bringing them all Christmas cheer.

Meanwhile, a beaten up Team Rocket lies in bed, waiting for Santa to hopefully deliver gifts to them despite their actions. He does show up, but all that happens is Jynx uses Lovely Kiss on them all to make them sleep. It may not be the best Christmas for them, but they certainly didn’t do anything to get on the nice list this year.

——————–

– Whose castle is Team Rocket staying in?

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– I kinda understand why Jessie’s doing the title card read today, but it’s also a little weird.

– Jessie has a really nice house for a kid who supposedly grew up so poor that her mother fed her snow….

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– If Santa sends out his Jynx to deliver presents….what…exactly…does HE do?

– Why is Ash so gung-ho about catching a Jynx?

– I love how Misty and Ash are claiming it’s very weird to leave a Pokemon alone outside, but they’ve left Pokemon in the middle of a street sitting in a kiddie pool before….

– Why is Jynx blushing when it looks at the boot? Is she in love with him?

– If Jynx could transmit messages telepathically, why did she even need to waste time with the boot?

– Couldn’t Jynx have just used Ice Beam to create a bridge to get back to shore?

– Is Brock seriously asking how Santa’s going to deliver presents without his Jynx? You don’t even know what she does as Santa’s Pokemon.

– Look, I’m trying to give this episode some modicum of leeway in the logic department, because it’s a kid’s show trying to talk about Santa, but Ash and the others are really planning to head to the North Pole on a wooden raft they either found or somehow made in about ten seconds. Unless the North Pole is much closer to Kanto in the Pokemon world than it is in our world, they’re either going to die, their Pokemon are going to die from exhaustion, both or they’ll all be lost adrift at sea for a long, long time.

– Huh, Misty’s actually being accommodating to Psyduck. It’s a Christmas miracle.

– Hey, the Gyarados sub! Yay!

– I sincerely doubt Ash has the strength to pull that raft at any reasonable speed. Also, did none of them think to just bring oars?

– So a non-Psychic Lapras can telepathically speak, but Psychic Jynx can only project images and only through touch……….Kay.

Also, why is Lapras glowing so brightly when it first meets Ash?

– I feel I should call BS on Misty not knowing what a Lapras is, but I’ll refrain from making a ‘Why Use the Pokedex?’ note since I have no way of knowing if she does. Would be weird of someone who is currently trying to be a Water Pokemon Master is all.

– Lapras has been watching them for ‘some time’ but didn’t think to offer them a ride or a tow? Jerk.

– Okay, so Lapras’ logic with not appearing sooner was not knowing their intentions….but she can speak telepathically, which means she must be able to read minds and thus easily know their intentions immediately. Or it could’ve just asked the Jynx telepathically if she trusted these kids. Also, Lapras, it’s a bunch of kids on a wooden raft in the middle of the ocean trying to get to the North Pole to deliver Santa’s Jynx back to him. You can’t get much more wholesome that that. You’re just a jerk, Lapras; which sucks because I adore Lapras.

– It’s really nice and cool of Jynx to use her hair as an umbrella for Misty…….That sure is a unique sentence.

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– I just realized that they were heading to the North Pole without any winter clothes….now that I think about it, in the next episode they head into snowy mountains without winter clothes. Delia constantly asks Ash if he has clean underwear on but never thinks to ask if he has weather-appropriate attire for his journeys?

– Santa Claus lives on a spiky ice island of death?……COOL!

– Hah, I like how the motto music sped up when Jessie and James realized how cold it was.

– Neither Jynx nor Lapras did anything to the missile or net when it was being so slowly deployed.

– How does Santa not have a second pair of boots? Also, Jynx has been gone for some time, supposedly, so how has Santa not made or otherwise obtained another pair in the meantime? Has he been walking around outside with one shoe?

– This version of Santa’s pretty lame. Not only does he have a bunch of Jynx do most of his work, but he also apparently is not all-seeing because he doesn’t realize Jessie and James are bad guys and probably naughty list recipients.

– What is up with how fast Meowth’s lips are moving when he’s telling the Jynx to load up the gifts? That’s not typical Japanese to English lip flap syncing trouble, that’s almost like they sped up the footage.

– I’m realizing now that, even accepting the silliness of Jessie believing a Jynx is Santa, why is she still insisting SantaJynx is male? She keeps using male pronouns, but not only is Jynx clearly female-based, but her species is 100% female.

– I’m surprised Jessie was so emotionally impacted by Jynx stealing her doll…the one she broke in a fit of unjustified rage and didn’t react much when it happened.

– Okay, wait, wait, time out. Jessie broke her doll, Jynx came to deliver presents….didn’t do that, grabbed her doll off the floor and took it, ran off to get it fixed, but couldn’t return it for ten years because Jessie didn’t believe in Santa anymore after that?

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First of all;

Santa: “There, you see? I knew my Jynx would never steal anything.” She took someone’s property from their house and didn’t return it. That’s stealing.

Second of all;

Santa: “I repaired it in my sleigh….” Wait, that means you repaired it right then and there….Why wouldn’t you just instantly give it back then?

Third;

Santa: “We tried to go back, but you didn’t believe in me anymore, and I’m powerless to go where hearts are closed.” Powerless to go where hearts are closed….that’s a new one. And a stupid one.

If you repaired it in the sleigh, that means Jessie instantly stopped believing in you when Jynx went up the chimney. That’s a bit extreme.

She never stopped believing in Santa Claus anyway. If she did, she wouldn’t be in the North Pole right now. She just mistakenly believed Jynx was Santa.

Does this mean Santa can’t enter most houses? Because most parents don’t believe in Santa, and many older kids don’t either. If he can’t enter the home of non-believers entirely, his trip must be much shorter than we think.

Even if all of that was true, why take the doll with you? Why not put it on her windowsill or, oh I dunno, send your non-Santa-and-thus-not-restricted-by-the-belief-thing back down the chimney to return what she stole?

– Oh my God, Ash, why would you have Charmander burn the ropes and give you all third degree burns when you could have just had him untie you? Come to think of it, you must have a decent amount of movement capability if you could find, grab and send out Charmander’s Pokeball….

– Yes, Charmander, Fire Spin the thing that currently holds all of the presents for all of the little girls and boys of the world. I hope they asked Santa for asbestos….

– I get that Team Rocket’s Pokemon are perfectly fine following the orders of either Jessie or James, but why does Jessie have Weezing’s Pokeball?

– Also, Team Rocket has a point – Ash just helped by thawing them out after Lapras froze them. Why would he even consider doing that?

– If these Jynx all know Psywave, then they’ve all been given the TM to learn it. I’d think another good TM to give them would be Teleport so it would make deliveries essentially instantaneous. You wouldn’t even need the sleigh and none of your Jynx would ever get lost.

– I should question the flying Rapidash, but I moreso want to comment on Santa saying ‘No reindeer.’ Oh, Santa, just wait a gen.

– That snow effect is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t even look like snow. It looks like fully white ladybugs crawling on the screen in four intersecting lines. I make better snow animations than that, and that’s just sad.

– Aw it’s nice that they got presents. I hope it’s winter clothes because some of you have to be losing some appendages at this point.

– Pikachu getting a gift is really cute and nice, but I really hope Santa has gifts for all of their Pokemon, otherwise this little note is actually quite unfair and more blatant favoritism – and this time not even from Ash!

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————————————

I’ve always remembered this episode as being really weird, really confusing and just strange, but I guess it’s not a particularly terrible Christmas special. There are so many other better holiday Pokemon specials out there that I certainly wouldn’t place this at the top tier of your Christmas must-watch list, but it’s alright.

Amid all of the controversy and other messes this episode was wrapped up in, you’d hope this episode would be one worth waiting for, but it’s really not. I still think it’s really weird, really confusing and just strange. There are so many questionable writing choices made in this episode, both Japanese and English, that it’s actually somewhat impressive what a massive tangle of nonsensical weird they made out of a Christmas special.

Jynx’s mere existence may be enough to put some people off of this episode, especially if your brain runs a little wild with the implications like mine did. I really hope I’m just reading too far into things again. Otherwise, it’s an okay-ish watch around the holidays. Nearly any other entry in the ‘Pikachu’s Winter Vacation’ series would be a better alternative, though.


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One thought on “A Very (Somewhat Banned) Pokemon Holiday Special Analysis: Holiday Hi-Jynx

  1. I remember catching that episode when I was a kid. Back then I thought it was weird, but as an adult…oh you see where this is going, don’t you? Her and Mr. Popo invoke obvious sambo/blackface/minstrel show imagery. I do have to give you points for mentioning Zwarte Piet. I actually never heard of that Dutch character until recently when I saw a news story of a black Dutch child gets called that in front of her mom by a white couple and the mom rightfully calls them out on their racism. The Santa association doesn’t help and the fact that in the Western parts of the Netherlands considers Zwarte Piet to be of demonic origin, so the implications are even worse. That’s why imagery and the implications can be extremely hurtful and can lead to horrific things. Keep in mind the Netherlands would eventually colonize South Africa, and they did genocides and apartheid there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VmSlNye5dU

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