Pre-Analysis Notes: This set of notes will be very brief since, unlike Holiday Hi-Jynx, this episode was treated like any other once it was finally released.
Snow Way Out was an episode that also got bumped back in air date due seemingly to focusing on snow and winter (it’s not really winter, they’re just on a snowy mountain) when the episodes, due to being reordered after the Pokemon Shock incident hiatus, would not air in wintertime. Instead, the episode aired alongside Holiday Hi-Jynx (Rougela’s Christmas) on October 5th 1998, and one week after Holiday Hi-Jynx in the English dub in America on December 18th 1999.
Like in Holiday Hi-Jynx, this airing spawned some confusion because, again, Charizard was back to being a Charmander and actually showcasing his care and devotion to Ash.
Unlike Holiday Hi-Jynx, which left me feeling mostly confused and weirded out, this episode turned out to be one of my personal favorites. It’s not perfect by any means, but I’ve always really loved it.
You may be wondering why I’m lumping this in with my holiday special series…….Well………Snow…..Errr…..LOOK OVER THERE! *runs away*
Plot: On his way to his next Gym match, Ash and the others come to a fork in the road. They don’t know which way to go, but the path Ash wants to traverse surely goes through a mountain range. Misty and Brock try to talk him out of going that way, but he won’t listen – welcoming the challenge of the mountain like a ‘true Pokemon Master.’
They quickly realize the mountains are vast and frigid, and it doesn’t take them long to get lost. When a blizzard hits, they try to set up camp, but Pikachu suddenly gets blown away. Ash pursues him, but Brock stops Misty from following out of fear of them all getting even more lost, leaving Ash and his Pokemon out in the snowy wilderness alone.
Ash finds Pikachu through the snow by the echoing sounds of his voice. He’s hanging from the edge of a cliff side. Ash nearly loses Pikachu, but uses Bulbasaur to save him. Realizing Misty and Brock are nowhere to be found, Ash decides to make a snow cave with Charmander’s fire. Once him and his other Pokemon seal the cave off with snow, they warm up by Charmander’s tail flame.
Meanwhile, Jessie enjoys herself in the snow with fond memories of her mother feeding her foods made out of snow – what she called a ‘snowgasbord,’ much to the disgust of James and Meowth. However, later, they find themselves wrapped up in the same blizzard and try to keep themselves warm in an igloo with a candle and some burned out matches, to no avail.
Back with Ash and the other Pokemon, Charmander’s tail flame is weakening. He’s expelling too much energy, but doesn’t want to go back in his Pokeball because he both wants to stay by Ash and he knows he’s a great source of heat for him, being his only Fire Pokemon. Ash forces him to go anyway – same for Squirtle and Bulbasaur, who are equally resistant. He can’t force Pikachu, however, who is desperate to help keep Ash warm no matter what.
Ash further keeps his Pokemon warm by wrapping up his Pokeballs in his vest. However, his situation soon becomes worse when a large hole develops in the snow wall that is sealing up the cave. He uses his back to plug the hole and retain the warmth in the cave, but his back being exposed to the wind is causing him to become much colder.
He once again demands that Pikachu go into his Pokeball to keep warm, but Pikachu is adamant against it. Ash’s Pokemon all release themselves from their Pokeballs and cuddle around Ash to keep him warm.
Touched by their sacrifice, Ash relents and tearfully allows them to stay out, holding them close as they try to bear the cold of the storm.
The following morning, the storm lets up. Ash is found by Brock and Misty who relay that they had a remarkably comfortable night near a hot spring that Onix dug out for them when they were making a snow cave of their own. Furthermore, they reveal that they found Team Rocket’s balloon. It’s out of fuel, but Brock utilizes Vulpix’s flame to get them airborne and head to the nearest town for some much needed warmth and food.
Team Rocket, seeing their balloon, tries to give chase, but they fall into a hot spring. The delightful warmth is most welcome after the chilly night, but they soon find themselves in a pickle. It’s too cold to get out of the spring, but it’s also too hot to stay in. Don’t worry, though – they’ll eventually find their way back.
– I love how Ash calls Pikachu ‘Pik’ here. Apparently I’m in the minority, though, because most people seem to hate it.
– It should be noted that they did pack blankets – Brock and Misty are draped in a couple – but Ash didn’t? I guess Brock might be carrying all of the important items – after all, he does carry the camping stuff, the cooking tools, the map, the compass, the medicine etc. but do they not realize how misguided and, quite frankly, unfair it is to have one person carrying all of this important stuff? I mean, golly, it’d sure be unfortunate if Misty or, say, Ash got separated from Brock in a dangerous area, leaving them without any survival gear or even the bare necessities….But that’d never happen! 😀
– Wow, Ash using Pidgeotto in a clever manner. Consider this moment cherished.
– I understand that it’s still snowy and cold, but it seems weird that James, who is the most dressed person in the main cast (Wearing a long-sleeve shirt with an undershirt as well as gloves and boots) is shivering. Meanwhile, hothead Ash is walking along in his regular clothes with no blanket and is not bothered in the slightest.
– I actually find it kinda funny that Meowth is also taken aback by Jessie’s childhood story of eating a bunch of ‘foods’ made of snow. Yes, it’s weird, but Meowth, being a former street cat, most likely had to eat out of the garbage for a good chunk of his life.
– Since we’ll probably never get a chance to discuss this here, let me take some time out to explore more of Jessie’s backstory – more specifically, her mother. (Courtesy of Dogasu at Bulbagarden who gave a great synopsis of the radio/CD drama in which this story unfolds, which I highly suggest you read if you’d like to learn more about this story or the backstory of Pokemon the First Movie)
Prepare yourself, because I’m about to make a super depressing episode of Pokemon about a million times sadder.
Our story starts 20 years ago (which kinda adds more confusion to Jessie’s age…) Jessie’s mom, who is never given an English name, but whose Japanese name is Miyamoto, was a Team Rocket agent who was hard up for money because she wanted to give her daughter a good life. One day, Miyamoto recorded the sounds of a Mew in the Andes Mountains in South America. If they could capture Mew, her boss, who was Giovanni’s mother, would be extremely pleased and Miyamoto would be able to give Musashi (Jessie) a great life.
Spurred by this information, Miyamoto is sent on a mission with two other Team Rocket agents to explore the area in which the footage was recorded, find Mew and capture it.
Sadly, she would never return.
And even sadder, this story would take a turn that, probably very unintentionally, is somewhat reminiscent of both Jessie’s story and the current story unfolding.
Miyamoto and her team got lost in the snowy mountains. Her two teammates were separated from her some time ago, and she’s been lost for years, constantly keeping hold of a lone photograph of her and her daughter. Despite the horrible situation she’s in, she continues the pursuit of Mew in hopes of capturing it, returning home and giving Musashi that great life she always planned to give her.
As she’s caught in a blizzard, the snow suddenly stops and Mew appears close to her. She’s ecstatic. She actually ASKS Mew if it will let itself be captured because she wants to use the money to pay for pre-school and daycare, but Mew runs off. Miyamoto takes chase, but ends up getting wrapped up in an avalanche that propels her even further into the tundra.
They seem to imply that Miyamoto dies, but the other episodes show brief glimpses of Miyamoto – she’s still alive. She’s been lost in the snowy mountains ever since then, waiting for Mew, each time skip giving her a new reason to want money for her daughter (elementary school, entrance exams, a wedding etc.) Eventually, she develops mental problems or memory issues because she seemingly forgets Musashi and why she needed to capture Mew in the first place, but she knows she’s determined to capture Mew no matter what.
According to Team Rocket’s logs, her whereabouts remain unknown and she’s considered dead.
I’ve known for quite some time that Jessie’s mom was a fellow Team Rocket member, but I never read the drama’s full story before. And all I can say is…..wow. Miyamoto was so concerned over giving her daughter a good life that she basically sacrificed hers to have that chance. (Also, the other Team Rocket members who were with her supposedly died, considering the narration states none of them were ever heard from again.)
Now she’s a mentally-diminished old lady waiting on a frigid mountaintop for a Mew who might not even be there at all (It’s quite possible the first sighting was a hallucination – but I’ll concede that the audio recording was real) all for…something she can’t even remember anymore.
That hits the top of the list of saddest stories told in the Pokemon anime. Sure, she was still a criminal, but she was a criminal for the sake of her daughter – a daughter who probably doesn’t remember her at all since she was likely just a baby when Miyamoto left.
And let’s not overlook the fact that I guess Musashi never had a father either.
It’s especially sad considering how Jessie turned out. She’s incredibly vain, selfish and mean. I won’t go far as to say she’s evil, but she aspires to be. And she lives a rather terrible existence otherwise. She spends her days starving to death in a hot air balloon following around a ten-year-old potato and his Pikachu in the hopes of maybe catching some Pokemon to make her boss happy.
She did need Miyamoto. She did need that money. Who knows how Jessie’s life would have turned out had Miyamoto caught Mew or even if she simply returned and waited for another big score while caring for her daughter.
I doubt Musashi even knows this story. Her mother is seldom brought up in the first place, this episode being pretty much the only allusion to her, and she doesn’t bring up how brave her mom was or how much she misses her or a desire to get money so she can go to South America to find her mother.
It’s questionable whether the woman in the episode is Miyamoto given the timelines. It’s quite possible it’s a foster mother/adoptive mother or guardian, but I like to believe it is Miyamoto just because it’s even more depressing to believe Miyamoto did all of that for a daughter who doesn’t even remember her while simultaneously suffering for a daughter she doesn’t remember. Maybe just have it so Musashi never knew her mother was a Team Rocket member or something, or that she was so low-ranked that no one else bothered to tell her about her.
– Wait, so all of their food and supplies are in the balloon. Jessie, with a brilliant idea to keep them from starving, offers to make snow rolls. However, she can’t make snow rolls without soy sauce, which is in the balloon, so she decides to continue pursuing the balloon, but James and Meowth don’t seem to want to do that, which is weird because if they find the balloon….they’ll get back their food and supplies and really won’t need to eat Jessie’s weird soy sauce’d snow rolls.
– So either no one offered Ash a blanket even when the blizzard started rolling in, he was too stubborn to take one, he doesn’t have his own and/or Brock didn’t pack one for him. All of these options are equally stupid.
– It was really a good idea to get Ash to relent on making camp by explaining that a real Pokemon Master would never wander around in a snowstorm in the dark. However, a real Pokemon Master probably wouldn’t choose to traverse a snowy mountain range for no reason simply as a ‘challenge’ when there is a perfectly safe and warm trail available.
– The wind is strong enough to blow Pikachu out of Ash’s arms and hurdle him like a quarter mile away, but Ash’s hat stays firmly on his head.
– The entire sequence in the blizzard is very powerful. I remember being legitimately shocked when Ash couldn’t grab Pikachu’s paw and he fell.
– Hey he’s using Bulbasaur’s abilities cleverly too. Yay!
However, in any other circumstance, like the one that follows, Bulbasaur would just grab Pikachu by wrapping him in the vines, not have Pikachu try to hold onto the vine in all this wind and snow.
– Lol Pikachu’s Brock impression.
– Brock never said anything about making a snow cave. He just said ‘It’s best to dig in and let it (the storm) blow over.’
– Using Charmander in a clever way! I like Ash so much in this episode….I mean….not in the minutes leading up to them getting lost because he’s being a stubborn idiot, but now I do!
– Another good use of Charmander, but if Charmander is shivering too, how will his own tail flame heat him up? Does that make sense or no?
– You want to know what else I was thinking about during this particular part of the episode? It sure reminds me of the Orange League episode where Charizard finally behaves.
In that episode, Charizard was frozen in a block of ice by an enemy Poliwrath. His life was in danger because of it. In a desperate effort to warm Charizard up and keep his tail flame from going out, Ash spent all night rubbing Charizard with blankets and his bare hands, resulting in his hands getting roughed up and him becoming exhausted. It was through this display of caring and devotion that Charizard finally broke free of his dumbass-with-amnesia-I-guess syndrome and finally stopped being a jerk.
I have to wonder if either of them remembered this moment in that Orange League episode, because it’s rather poignant. When Charizard was a Charmander, he suffered to save Ash’s life by warming him up, then much later down the line Ash does the same for him.
It’s something sweet to ponder anyway.
– Team Rocket has no emergency supplies, blankets, nothing….but one of them, for some reason, had a birthday candle on them.
(I’m aware it’s a digitally painted match)
Being fair, though, warming up by a candle is much more efficient than using a match.
– Wait, what? When it’s lit, they have to paint the match to look like a candle. But when it’s not lit/burned out, they can show the matches no problem. Again, 4Kids, you’re kinda screwing up your message. I assume you don’t want kids to play with matches, which is why you censored the lit one, but showing a lit match shows kids that matches start fires, which is important information for them to know and acts as a warning to not play with them.
Also, for the sake of transparency, 24 seconds of footage was removed from this episode purely because of shots with Team Rocket holding lit matches. Time well spent…
– It’s really sweet how none of the Pokemon want to leave Ash to go into their Pokeballs…..but why is Pikachu the only one he allows to stay out?
– I refuse to believe Ash doesn’t have anything useful in his backpack. Surely he at least has 30 changes of underwear his mother packed for him that he can huddle under.
– I love how Ash is freezing to death but he’s more concerned about his Pokemon, who are even now in their Pokeballs.
– Ash sacrificing his vest to help keep his Pokeballs warm is really, no pun intended, heart-warming.
– I really do love this episode, but Ash is a major idiot for jumping at the hole in the snow wall and plugging it….with his back. The snow wall is meant to help keep the warmth contained and him from freezing to death. Kinda doesn’t work if you’re using your back to plug it up. Use your useless backpack or get more snow – anything instead of using your body.
– This whole climactic sequence still brings tears to my eyes. From Pikachu vehemently refusing to go in his Pokeball to the point where he’s refusing it as an order, to the music, to the other Pokemon letting themselves out of their Pokeballs to all of the Pokemon cuddling Ash to keep him warm to “You win….guess we’ll all be cold together.” – it is by far one of the best and most touching moments of the series. (I especially love Bulbasaur on Ash’s lap. That is too adorable for words.)
– I love how Ash is gone all night, him and his Pokemon nearly freeze to death, and the first thing Misty tells him is that Onix dug into a hot spring (poor Onix – it hates water.) and they were super comfy in their snow cave. Tact it up, Misty.
(By the way, in case you were wondering as to what the hell the Japanese title of this episode means – Iwark the Bivouac – Iwark is Onix’s Japanese name and bivouac is a term for a temporary camp. Of course, Iwark MADE a bivouac, it didn’t become one, so the weird title doesn’t even make sense in context.)
Bonus points for creative use of Onix, though.
– Bonus points for creative use of Vulpix!
– Ash and friends just stole Team Rocket’s property. Good job.
Also, Ash and co. show absolutely no concern over Team Rocket when they find their crashed balloon in the snowy mountains. They could be dead for all you know. Double good job.
– Team Rocket’s predicament is actually rather serious because, if they get out of the hot spring, it’s not just that they’ll have to deal with the cold. They’ll have to deal with the cold while being soaked to the bone, which basically guarantees they’ll suffer severe frostbite.
And that was Snow Way Out! an episode I remember loving a lot when I was a kid, and I’m happy to report I still love with all my heart. It has its flaws, of course, but it’s such an emotional and surprisingly serious episode. The moments between Ash and his Pokemon were absolutely beautiful, their situation was realistically dire, even if Ash being a dunderhead was the reason they were in that mess to begin with, and so many Pokemon got utilized creatively and appreciated properly.
About the only person who did jack squat in this episode was Misty, but considering she only has Water Pokemon, she can’t be of much help anyway.
I also like how Team Rocket’s plot was completely separate from Ash and co.’s (A Team Rocket run-in would’ve somewhat ruined this episode.) and I like how, in the end, they weren’t really pointless. In fact, they facilitated the group’s escape to civilization…..even if Team Rocket had to die a horrible death to do it.
This episode is made substantially sadder when you put Jessie’s mom into the equation. I know the backstory of Miyamoto hadn’t been written back then, but it’s still extremely sad that, in canon, Jessie’s mom has been lost on a snowy mountain for 20 years, losing her memory and endlessly searching for Mew in the hopes of getting money for the daughter she doesn’t even remember anymore.
Even if she found and captured Mew, what then? She doesn’t remember her daughter, so she can’t track her down. She might not even remember she’s in Team Rocket anymore. She might not be able to get out of the mountain range either. It’s a really dark story, especially for Pokemon.
At least Jessie probably still has fond memories of her mother. I choose to believe that, anyway.
I would say I hope they reunite some day, but, to be blunt, I don’t really trust the anime writers to handle this story well enough to be a decent payoff. Hopefully, maybe, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up, especially when the story is so old.
Stay warm, everyone. ~♥
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