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!
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.
– 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?
– 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 at least one of them drives)
– 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….
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 insanely 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.