Pokemon Episode 31 Analysis: Dig Those Diglett!

POKEMON EP31 TITLE
That sound was your heart bursting with too much cuteness.

CotD(s): The Foreman – Known only as The Foreman, he is obsessed with ridding his construction site of Diglett since they’re impeding his progress in building a huge dam.

Reappear?: No.

Pokemon: None.

Evolutions: Jessie’s Ekans -> Arbok

James’ Koffing -> Weezing

Plot: Ash, Misty and Brock are lost again (Shock beyond shocks) as they try to make their way to Fuchsia City to get Ash another badge. As they walk through the mountains, they hear several explosions and follow the sounds to a road where a huge convoy of trucks are carrying supplies to a spot on the mountain.

The convoy suddenly crashes due to a rock slide caused by some local Diglett. The construction foreman angrily explains to Ash and the others that the Diglett have been ruining his efforts to get supplies to the dam project time and time again. They’re driving him up a wall and damaging his business. Because of the Diglett problem, he states that he has basically set up a bounty on Diglett and is calling upon all skilled Pokemon trainers in the area to handle the Diglett problem. If they do, they get a free week at a fancy resort.

Ash, Misty and Brock agree to help out and are shocked to find that they’re not the only ones who have been sent on this mission. Gary and a slue of other Pokemon trainers arrive at the site to also help take care of the Diglett problem.

Ash is irked by Gary’s appearance and his typical sleights, and Gary is more than glad to take the first shot at the nuisance Diglett. However, he’s shocked when his Pokemon recall themselves back into their Pokeballs before they’re even fully released. No matter who’s being let out or what trainer is sending it out, everyone’s Pokemon refuse to come out of their Pokeballs and merely get returned to their respective trainers by the Diglett.

Seeing their efforts are futile, Gary decides his time is better spent returning to his Pokemon journey and takes his leave.

Later that night, as Ash, Misty and Brock are following some of the Diglett, Team Rocket considers the consequences and benefits to making Koffing and Ekans evolve. While they desperately want stronger Pokemon, they are very worried about what changing their bodies might do to their personalities.

As they hug and cry on their Pokemon, both Ekans and Koffing suddenly evolve into Arbok and Weezing.

Ash and the others are lead to a beautiful area where the Diglett are planting many trees with Dugtrio, their evolved form, plowing the ground for them. They realize that it’s likely that the Diglett and Dugtrio are probably responsible for planting a wide range of foliage not just in these mountains, but across the world. The Pokemon realized that earlier, which is why the refused to exit their Pokeballs and fight the Diglett. The Foreman points out that building the dam here will wipe all of the plants out and many Pokemon will be swept away in the water.

He decides to call off the project, but the group is interrupted by Team Rocket, who unveil their newly evolved Pokemon. Unfazed by their evolution, Ash starts the battle with Pikachu, Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur. Arbok and Weezing tunnel underground, but are met with the very angry group of Diglett and Dugtrio who prompted beat them up and blast them off into the dam, destroying it.

With the dam project canceled and the Diglett and Dugtrio free to beautify their mountains, Ash, Misty and Brock head off to the Fuchsia City Gym.

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– That blank map is sure helpful. According to Dogasu, this isn’t even a case of text removal, either. It’s just a really useless map.

POKEMON EP31 screen1

– Jessie: *her food bowl fell on her head* “I didn’t *num num* get a taste” You literally just took a taste as you were talking about not getting a taste.

– I will never tire of the haunting chant of the Diglett. I can’t resist those cute little guys.

– Uhm…..Gary’s fangirls think Brock is an old man?……..They’re clearly older than him. They can even drive, so they have to be at least 16 whereas Brock is slated as 15, I believe. Does Brock just look old?

– Even though I know the reasons behind it now (translation issues), Jessie randomly shouting out ‘MY NAME’S JESSIE!’ before shifting back to normal dialogue will never not be hilarious to me.

– I love that the Diglett are actually kind enough to return the Pokeballs to their respective trainers when their releases fail.

– I find it…..very strange that the show kinda tricks you into thinking Ash, Misty and Brock are all naked together in that hot spring. Ash is up to his chin in water, Brock is up to his waist and they make it a point to show Misty from the back, leaning on some rocks, with no visible bathing suit. It does seem like it’s a bit of a joke when Ash stands up and reveals they’re all wearing swimsuits. Am I looking too much into this? Because that really was the vibe I was getting.

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– Meowth may brush off their evolution as being their time to evolve, but they were clearly triggered by Jessie and James’ tears.

Also, just to get this slight rant out of the way, I do have to call this whole evo bunk. I, as much as anyone else, also wanted Koffing and Ekans to evolve. It was about time that Team Rocket had something new to work with, even if it is just slightly stronger versions of the Pokemon they already had.

The way they went about it and the subsequent results, however, are unsatisfactory to say the least. Yes, Koffing and Ekans, at this point, should have enough exp to evolve, if winning doesn’t mean anything anyway. And it is sweet that the tears of Jessie and James seemingly triggered the evolution. But this doesn’t make entirely much sense.

First off, Jessie and James were crying because they realized they might not want their Pokemon to evolve. That fear of what they will be afterward was what was causing them to cry, not the failure of making them evolve.

Second, I have a hard time believing a Pokemon can evolve just because their trainer really really wants it. If they have been refraining from evolving after reaching their proper levels and decided to let go after witnessing this, I guess that’s fine, but why would they be doing that?

I wouldn’t really be that upset about this if Arbok and Weezing got any limelight in their debut. They get defeated just as easily as they did when they were Ekans and Koffing. I’m not saying let Team Rocket win, but at least make it a substantially more difficult battle than usual.

– Dexter: “Dugtrio – the evolved form of Diglett. No specific information found.”

…..Wait, so Gary has a damn near encyclopedic knowledge base of Diglett, but even Dexter can’t think of a damn thing to say about Dugtrio, even if they’re nearly as dirt common as Diglett?….The hell?

– The Foreman: “The project’s canceled – I won’t build the dam” You’re just the construction foreman. I’m pretty sure the city or some private backer is the person who is really making this project happen. You have no authority to call it off. Even if you did just leave with your crew, the actual people calling for the building of the dam would just hire another crew.

POKEMON EP31 screen3

– Ash: “Aw, we can handle this, right, Pikachu? Charmander, Squirtle, Bulbasaur! Everyone, go!” Everyone, eh? Sure that’s….EVERYone?….ALL of your Pokemon…..There’s not like…..a bird or something you’d like to call out? Begins with a P…rhymes with ‘Smidgeotto’? Not ringing any bells? I can beat you in the head with a baseball bat until you remember, if that’ll help.

By the way, I’m completely convinced that these three were just let out to create the illusion that this battle is tougher. This is reflected when Ash doesn’t even call on them to do anything. He just relies on Messiahchu as usual.

Also, if they were really even trying to give this battle even a slight illusion of weight, they shouldn’t have started it with Ash basically rolling his eyes and brushing off Team Rocket like they were pointless obstacles. He doesn’t even give a quick “Whoa, what are they!?” at Weezing and Arbok. He doesn’t give the smallest of shits. He doesn’t even give them a quick scan with Dexter. They unveil their new forms and he just acts annoyed that he has to battle them again.

What makes this battle even more annoying and almost insulting to both Arbok and Weezing and the audience is that Arbok and Weezing, in their grand debut, aren’t even beaten by Ash. They dive underground and get beaten up OFF-SCREEN by the Diglett and Dugtrio. The only thing they do beforehand are a Smokescreen where the effects aren’t even shown or felt and Arbok dodging one attack by Pikachu. That. Is. It. That. Is. All.

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God Bless Team Rocket for actually giving their Pokemon their proper celebratory entrance, though.

– How the hell is it possible that a sign that says ‘Construction of Giva Dam – Canceled’ falls on James’ head as a result of plowing through the dam if the foreman canceled it mere minutes before Team Rocket showed up and crashed into the dam?

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All in all, I like half of this episode. Each plot element seemed to be half good and half bad.

I like that Gary made another appearance and, despite the fact that he was taking many potshots at Ash, I wasn’t annoyed by his taunts as much as I normally am. Maybe because he takes the time out to show a bit more of his technical knowledge with Pokemon and maybe because I’m at a point in the show where I am also shamelessly pointing out Ash’s flaws and failures. I mean, seriously guys, can we be honest here? None of what Gary was saying was false. He is way behind everyone else from Pallet. His capture rate is atrocious. It is in poor taste to show off your Pokemon like trophies. He really hasn’t been studying.

However, Gary’s time was, as usual, very brief and disappointing. We don’t get to see Gary battle and we don’t get to see Gary battle Ash. He mostly stood around, mocked Ash and said some smart things. Again, his appearance was just another reminder that we could be watching someone far more interesting and competent than Ash. But we’re not.

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The plotline with the Diglett was also good. I absolutely love Diglett. They are very adorable, funny and kind. I also liked how the Pokemon all refused to leave their Pokeballs to fight them even if them ALL figuring that out before they were even released isn’t very believable to me (Pokemon telepathy or something I guess?)

However, of course it amounted to another semi-environmentalist message to stop the construction, and of course this is another case of the construction foreman, for some reason, having all of the power to stop the project and having a drastic, almost out of character, change of heart. He was trying to smash them with a hammer earlier but aww they plant trees!

The biggest issue I have with this episode is obviously Ekans and Koffing evolving. This was just a terrible and almost insulting way to do it. A Pokemon’s evolution episode is supposed to be their time to shine either for the entirety of the plot or to have one kick-ass hurrah after the evolution takes place. You’re supposed to celebrate the occasion, even it is an enemy. Because, keep in mind, we know that Ekans and Koffing are good Pokemon (See: Island of the Giant Pokemon) – They just have bad people as trainers. They deserve to have their evolutions be a big deal.

Like I said, this doesn’t have to mean letting Team Rocket win. You could have the episode focus more on their efforts on making them evolve or their reasons for wanting them to evolve. Maybe Ekans and Koffing could’ve been depressed that they keep ‘failing’ their trainers and Jessie and James could’ve thought inducing evolution would make them feel stronger and more useful, but then they realized that they love them just as they are and their failures are just as much theirs as Ekans and Koffing’s. Maybe not shove this plot into a completely unrelated episode as a nearly glazed over subplot. Hell, even Ignoredeotto gets an episode all to himself on his evo episode.

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You could also just have more focus on the battle between them, have the reveal to Ash and co. actually have some impact and make the battle significantly more difficult than usual. They still lose, but they lose as a team and they think nothing worse of the others for it. They just keep plugging on.

But no. They evolve for unclear reasons, prompted by Jessie and James merely going, “Boy I wish our Pokemon didn’t suck. *gasp* We should try to force evolution so they don’t suck! It didn’t work. That sucks. But wait, they might be different after they evolve. I don’t want that. *cries and hugs*”

Then they get a slight hurrah in Jessie and James making a big deal out of their reveal, but it’s ruined by Ash not giving a shit and no one else reacting at all. They try to force the illusion of weight by having Ash call out (almost) all of his Pokemon for the battle, but they never even move a muscle in the battle outside of Pikachu, and their battle is horrendously short with no moves (all two of them) even hitting. Then Arbok and Weezing are beaten up off-screen by the adorable little eight-inch mole Pokemon and their slightly bigger brethren.

It’s like this whole evolution plot was a contractual obligation by the writers. ‘Dammit, we’re over 30 episodes in and Team Rocket’s still got the same Pokemon they’ve always had. They’re getting stale and boring. How can we freshen this up but not alter the status quo in the slightest? Oh if only we could just re-skin the Pokemon they have now…..Oh right, evolution! Do that. The Diglett plot for this episode isn’t strong enough for 22 minutes anyway.’

Arbok and Weezing are more than welcome, but I always hated the way they were shafted in the execution of it all.

Fun Depressing fact: For years I wracked my brain trying to figure out what episode Ekans and Koffing evolved in. I felt like I missed an episode or something. But then, years into syndication, I stumbled upon the familiar Diglett episode, gave it a re-watch and the light bulb went off. This plot is so shoved to the corner, I legit forgot about it for years.

Next episode, the Fuchsia City Gym battle for the Soul Badge.

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Pokemon Episode Analyses – Episode 1: Pokemon, I Choose You!

Aw, they’re already friends. ❤

I started rewatching Pokemon from scratch a while ago and while I was watching it I started making little snippets of notes in my personal blog on another website about certain episodes. Eventually, this lead to me making regular entries about the episodes, breaking them down and basically making mini-reviews. As of this writing, I am up to episode 156, which is really just a drop in the bucket compared to the 840+ that are out right now. I wanted to add this little series to my actual blog, but since I only have about 50-60 episodes worth of legit entries, I have to go back and start from scratch again. Well, at least for little bit. Plus, I’ll still be watching from where I am onwards as I’m doing it, so once I reach a certain point it’ll be much much much easier to make entries.

Here’s how it works. I give the full plot synopsis so I don’t have to go step by step and bore everyone with every single detail, and after that I give my notes on the specific episode whether it be errors or plot holes or just things that piss me off or make no sense, and I’ll be including aspects that I enjoy, of course. Then I’ll give a short review of the episode and a preview of the next. I’ll also be noting character debuts, characters of the day (CotD) and Gym Matches to be annoyingly thorough. Alright, let’s start!

Character Debuts:

Ash Ketchum: Our protagonist of the entire series, Ash Ketchum is loosely based on the protagonist from the first Pokemon games, Red. He is a ten year old boy just starting out on his Pokemon journey. He’s a bit cocky and stupid, especially later on, but he ultimately means well and does learn lessons sometimes.

Pikachu: Pikachu, or as I’ll not-so-lovingly nickname him throughout the series, Messiahchu, is an Electric rat Pokemon that Professor Oak gives Ash as a starter since all of the others were taken. He started out as a complete brat for some reason, but soon became the best of friends with his new trainer, Ash, after he tried to save his life. He’s also inexplicably powerful for some reason.

Professor Oak: The local Pokemon professor and the one who gives starters to new trainers in Kanto, Oak is a Pokemon researcher, grandfather of Gary and friend of Ash and Delia. He frequently gives Ash advice and information while taking care of his excess Pokemon not in his party.

Delia Ketchum: Delia is Ash’s mother who simultaneously dotes on him and overlooks him most of the time when he visits. Delia has an odd fixation on ensuring Ash changes his underwear, but is ultimately a kind woman. She eventually ‘captures’ a Mr. Mime who keeps her company and helps around the house.

Gary Oak: Gary is more strongly based on the rival from the first video games, Blue (or Green depending on what version of the game you’re playing or what manga you read.) Gary’s role here is basically the exact same thing. He shows up sometimes out of the blue, makes fun of Ash and then leaves. The biggest difference is that, unlike Blue, Ash rarely ever battles Gary at all over the course of the series. I think they battle a maximum of twice if I recall correctly. He’s a much more competent trainer than Ash is, and is chauffeured around in an expensive sports car by cheerleaders who are way older than him. It’s assumed that Gary took the Squirtle as a starter as he has a Blastoise later on.

Misty: The former Cerulean City Gym Leader, Misty aspires to be the best Water Pokemon trainer in the world. She is also Ash’s first companion under the excuse that she’s following him to make him pay for her bike that he ruined, but it’s not long until that’s pretty much forgotten and we assume that Misty follows Ash because they’re friends. Misty is also Ash’s love interest to a degree, but it doesn’t go anywhere. 😦

Plot: Ash Ketchum has just turned ten years old and he’s ready and raring to become a Pokemon Trainer. His dream is to become a Pokemon Master, and he gets started on achieving this dream (pfft) by getting his first starter Pokemon the next morning. Ash oversleeps and finds that all three of the starter Pokemon being given by Professor Oak, Squirtle, Bulbasaur and Charmander, have been given to other trainers. One of which, Squirtle, being given to Gary Oak, Professor Oak’s grandson and Ash’s rival. Bummed from not getting a starter, Oak decides to take pity on Ash and give him the temperamental Electric Pokemon, Pikachu.

He and Pikachu head off on their journey, but Pikachu severely dislikes Ash and needs to be literally dragged on the journey since he’s too much of a brat to even stay in his Pokeball.

Ash finds a Pokemon that he wants to catch and tries to get Pikachu to battle. He refuses, so Ash decides to assault the innocent animal with a rock. It turns out to be an ornery Spearow who calls his friends and begins to attack Ash and Pikachu. In an effort to save an injured Pikachu, Ash steals a nearby girl’s bike (Hi Misty!) and heads to the Pokemon Center.

They’re cornered by the Spearow and Ash decides to take the birds’ attacks to protect Pikachu. Seeing his sacrifice, Pikachu shocks the birds, saving Ash and starting a lifelong friendship as they finally arrive in Viridian City.

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– I cannot tell you how happy it makes me when I see the GameBoy game opening scene shift into the anime’s version. Especially since they seem to use the same music from the game too.

– What is up with this guy?

Where am I?!

– We see an odd green Pokeball, but it’s possible that it’s a Safari ball.

– It also may be possible that the silhouette of the trainer we see is Bruno, one of the Elite Four, though since this seems like a league match, I’m not sure why he’d be there. Unless the league mirrors the games in that regard and you get to fight the Elite Four after. I wouldn’t know, we never see Ash or anyone else get that far.

– Seeing all of the various Pokemon stuff in his room just makes me more angry for future episodes when he’ll have no idea what some of these Pokemon are like Voltorb, Clefairy and Zubat.

– It seems they don’t really pronounce Pokemon correctly in earlier episodes. It’s Poh-kay,mon, not Poh-kah-mon. Though, in all honesty, since it’s short for ‘pocket monsters’ it should be ‘pock-eh-mon’….Eh, semantics.

– In addition, it really seems like Veronica Taylor’s voice was fairly different in the first handful of episodes too. It was quite a bit deeper and she didn’t have as much excitement in his voice. I don’t know if she got more comfortable in the part or if her voice naturally got raspier with each recording and all his yelling. I’m kinda hardpressed to say that the first voice is bad. The acting’s toned down a bit much but I kinda like the first one.

– The title card’s all funny too. They use the English logo instead of just writing ‘Pokemon’ and the background’s all green, checkered and funny looking.

– Also, everyone please enjoy the pun-less titles while you can.

– It still bugs me to this day that we never find out who the other two trainers from Pallet Town were. That would’ve made for some great storylines. At least include Green/Blue (Green if you’re following more closely to the English manga, Blue if you’re more towards the original Japanese version) somewhere in there. She would’ve made a great anti-hero-ish character. Or hey include them in the Indigo League somewhere. Don’t just ignore that they exist….

– I love seeing all this Japanese text in a 4Kids production. It’s just an amazing example of how far they plummeted.

– It kinda bothers me that Gary, a 10 year old boy, has a personal cheer squad of girls who are 16+ (considering one of them drives after the Indigo League)

– Gary may be obnoxious, but I will defend to my dying day that he is a way better trainer and much more interesting character than Ash….

– Speaking of which, their first meeting is kinda weird now that I think about it. Gary acts like he’s never met Ash, but he’s heard of him. Ash acts like he knows Gary but hasn’t seen him in a long time. Much later, we learn that they were childhood friends (pre-10-years-old), so this is confusing both ways.

– Why do the Pokeballs have Japanese text on them in their first shot but not close up? ……Wait….*checks* Dammit, 4Kids, I was just praising you for this! I mean, including them from far away is better than not at all, but I am just disappointed.

– Speaking of which, all of these Pokeballs shouldn’t even be here if all of the starters are gone. Unless Oak transfers them between balls for whatever reason.

– Oak should’ve just saved Ash the trouble and told him that all of the starters were taken and not even let him in. Or at least he should’ve mentioned it and immediately taken Pikachu out to not waste his and subsequently our time by showing all of the Pokeballs being empty one by one.

– Seeing as how he chose Squirtle and was going through the choices in his dream in terms of difficulty, it seems Ash was willing to go with an intermediate choice erring on easier (Bulbasaur) for a second option and just settling on the hardest selection (Charmander) for last. Poor Charmander.

– Do we ever get the origin story of Pikachu? How’d Oak get it and why was it such an untrusting brat when it was first introduced?

– Also, seeing as how we see all of Ash’s Pokeballs several times and never see the lightning bolt mark again, I’m gonna assume it was just forgotten about in the art department. Not that it matters, he never uses it and the ball only appears a few times in Ash’s futile attempts to make him go in.

– Hey they show the skeletons when they’re electrocuted here! They removed that in Mew Mew Power! There, a legitimate change between early and late 4Kids. I feel I’ve accomplished something maybe.

– Delia: “I packed your sneakers…” Isn’t he wearing his sneakers? Or does he need an identical backup pair?

– Delia: “I thought all Pokemon stayed inside their Pokeballs.” Yes, Delia. They stay in there forever….and ever….and ever 

– And thus starts Delia’s odd fixation on Ash’s underwear. What a momentous day.

– This episode also really showcases how much Pikachu has slimmed down over the years. What, was pudgy Pikachu not ‘cute’ enough?

– Dexter really had a ‘tude in earlier episodes didn’t he? With his sarcasm and insults….He’s also a lot more talkative. He keeps chiming in all the time with new info but in later episodes he’s basically relegated to just Pokemon intros.

– I would call Ash out for throwing rocks at Pokemon to capture them….but….Safari Zone….It’s still messed up.

– I tend to like Misty, but she’s pretty much a bitch in the first handful of episodes. She pulls a clearly roughed up boy and a Pokemon out of the water and 1) all she cares about is the Pokemon, 2) She SLAPS Ash for no reason (it’s cut out of the dub) and 3) She instantly insinuates that HE did something to Pikachu even though no evidence is given to support that. I will grow to loathe Ash with every fiber of my being later on, so enjoy these few episodes where Ash is actually preferred over Misty….

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Overall, this is a really good start to the series. It introduces Ash pretty well and I’m much more accepting of his cluelessness in these earlier episodes than I am in later seasons. At least he has an excuse of actually being a complete beginner here, though considering how fixated he is on Pokemon basically being his life, it seems weird that he doesn’t even know the bare basics. The beginnings of Ash and Pikachu as a team is also pretty memorable, but still somewhat cliché.

The art and animation in this episode are actually fairly worse off than I remember. The electric shock scenes may have been changed later on to sate the newer rules about flashes that were brought on with the Porygon episode, so that may explain why they look insane choppy. There are just a slue of odd shots and weird animation that kept cropping up.

This episode also featured a lot less music than I’m used to with 4Kids. There’s almost always noise, but there are several periods without any BG music whatsoever and that weirded me out.

A lot of people, even I, praise the original episodes for being some of 4Kids’ better works. Deservingly so since this was one of if not their absolute first dubbing venture. However, there are still some 4Kids-isms left like erasing the text from the Pokeballs and cutting out a mere slap to the face. They also paint over a banner, but I’ll definitely let that slide since I know they could’ve just erased the whole thing and showed their support with a plain white banner.

The voice acting is somewhat stilted, and I think many of the actors, except maybe Rachel Lillis, were still getting used to their roles. They just don’t seem as comfortable or animated (if you’ll excuse the term) as they do later.

However, despite the various problems, it’s still a pretty good pilot episode that I can watch over and over. It is the start of an era afterall.

Next episode, Ash and Pikachu make it to the Pokemon Center in Viridian City, but the place is soon ransacked by Non-Comic-Relief Team Rocket. Yeah enjoy this one episode where they’re not comic relief. At least until the start of Best Wishes, where I believe they get changed back to comic relief later anyway.