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Episode Review Time: In the company of cheerful idiots

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by , 20th February 2011 at 09:41 AM (350 Views)
Heven't done one of these in a while, so...

Today, a cartoon about battling monsters tries to do an episode about non-violent resistance, and makes Ghandi weep passive yet manly tears.

Episode 173: Wobbu-Palooza!

Our merry band encounter a Wobbuffet in the forest! Aghh, it’s Team Rocket! Wait a minute, no it isn’t. Our heroes suddenly twig that there might be more than one Wobbuffet in existence, a theory proved correct when lots more Wobbuffet appear. The Wobbuffet lead them to a village called Wobbuffet Village which is about to hold a festival called the... can you guess? Yes, the Wobbuffet Festival. Meanwhile, Team Rocket are just outside the village, seemingly about to drop dead from a combination of exhaustion and starvation, when Character of the Day Lulu pops up and invites them to her house to eat. Lulu is a Wobbuffet nut too, and is impressed with Jessie’s Wobbuffet. Team Rocket find out about the festival, and Jessie’s Wobbuffet gets a yellow headband which Team Rocket find hilarious for some reason.

Three bad guys watch the festival from afar and do some bad guy plotting. They have Fighting-type Pokémon, too, which indicates a high degree of badness. Pretty soon, reports are coming in across the village of Wobbuffet being beaten up by a mystery trio. Team Rocket choose this exact moment to get caught lurking around the festival’s food store. Ash immediately declares them the culprits, because Jessie and James are obviously all about beating up random Pokémon for no reason. Lulu, their friend from earlier, sticks up for them, and a new report of an attack on the other side of the village exonerates them. Ash is literally seething with rage at being denied the opportunity to inflict pain on Team Rocket, but reluctantly leaves to investigate the new attack.

The three thugs and their Fighting-types are in the middle of the festival, beating up more Wobbuffet. You might be wondering at this point why the Wobbuffet aren’t fighting back. Well, apparently the village has a rule that Pokémon battles are forbidden during the Wobbuffet Festival, in honour of Wobbuffet’s habit of never attacking first. Which... doesn’t quite add up, given that Wobbuffet is designed to retaliate, but I suppose they’re entitled to their nutty traditions. Officer Jenny and Lulu show up (Officer Jenny has a Wobbuffet in a police hat which is kind of awesome), and it turns out that the thugs first attacked the village some time ago, because they thought that having their Pokémon smack buildings would be a good way to train them. This doesn’t work in the games, by the way; I’ve tried. Lulu’s Wobbuffet proceeded to show them precisely why it’s banned from competitive play, and the thugs ran off, swearing revenge.

Now, the thugs have returned to beat up every Wobbuffet in the village, and nobody can stop them. Ash and co want to battle them, but Officer Jenny forbids it, because that would be against the rules. Jessie and Meowth, watching from the bushes, are incredulous at the whole, bizarre thing, but James declares that the villagers are showing how much they respect their Wobbuffet by honouring some self-imposed tradition and thus allowing them to be brutalised. Uh, okay. The thugs then decide to have their Pokémon wreck the “festival symbol”, which is a giant Wobbuffet statue-thing. Well, I suppose that’s not as bad as beating up actual Wobbuffet, right? Apparently it’s worse, somehow, because this is when Team Rocket decide to step in and assist these noble, principled idiots.

See, Team Rocket don’t play by the rules, being nominally evil and all, and so challenge the thugs to a battle, tradition be damned. Arbok and Victreebel get clobbered, but – you guessed it – it’s Wobbuffet that sends them packing. The Pokémon even get blasted off, Team Rocket style! Yeah! I suppose that means Team Rocket are safe for this episode, right?

Right?

The thugs scarper, and everybody thanks Team Rocket for saving them from having to break their own stupid rules, but Officer Jenny is still pissed off that said stupid rules were broken. So Team Rocket decide to leave. Aww. But wait... despite doing the right thing and helping the village in its hour of need, they’re still stealing all the food. Ash and friends chase their balloon into the forest, and Misty’s Staryu brings it down. Team Rocket still think that they’re safe, because Ash is too much of a wimp to break the nutty no-battling rule, but Officer Jenny points out that they’re not in the village anymore, and so nutty rules no longer apply. Thus, the only sane people in this episode get Thunderbolted into the stratosphere as usual, while Ash and his accomplices get to go and enjoy the festival beneath the mysteriously rebuilt Wobbuffet statue.

The moral of the story: Non-violent resistance is a great philosophy if you can get somebody else to do your fighting for you. Rules should be obeyed no matter how stupid. Destroying an inanimate object is worse than inflicting pain on a living being. Stealing food is worse than both of these things.

Pokémon of the day: Wobbuffet. Here, Wobbuffet’s in-game purpose as a specialised counter-attacker is grossly misrepresented to make it look as if they never battle under any circumstances.

Character of the day: Lulu. She’s just as nutty as everyone else in the village, but I did rather like her, perhaps because it’s so rare to see a fat woman in this series (or, you know, any anime at all), plus her Wobbuffet is pretty badass. It’s a shame that her reputation is probably ruined after she stuck up for Team Rocket just before they tried to steal all of the festival’s food...

Pokémon and their uses: Wobbuffet seem to hold some sort of mystical significance to this charming village of loons. We’re told that everybody has a Wobbuffet, and no other Pokémon are seen there. I’m guessing that the kids who came home with a Sentret or whatever were disowned and banished.

Ash is an idiot: He’s ready to blame Team Rocket for the attacks before he even knows they’re in the village. He’s actually angry when the evidence exonerates them.

Disproportionate response: This is... kind of galling, really. Team Rocket save the village, and yet they get blasted off anyway just for stealing food. The real villains, the guys who cheerfully beat up a little girl’s pet in front of her, apparently get away scot-free.

Thoughts: This isn’t a bad episode. In fact, I really quite enjoyed it. However, it makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever.

The very valid philosophy of non-violence is made to look absolutely insane, partly because the violence isn’t being inflicted on people, but Pokémon. It’s one thing for a person to refuse to fight back due to personal philosophy. But what was happening here was very different. Pokémon were being attacked, and their trainers refused to let their Pokémon fight back because of a tradition. Think about that. “I refuse to let my companion and pet defend itself due to an arbitrary rule that was never meant to apply to situations like this anyway.”

Team Rocket really got shafted in this one, too. Not just by the characters, but by the writers. Dramatically, it didn’t make any sense for them to go on and steal the food after helping the village. The logical thing would be for them to quietly put the food back, after which the village forgives them for breaking the crazy tradition and they get to eat the food anyway at the festival. But then Ash wouldn’t get the sadistic pleasure of electrocuting them, so...

Really, we’re only scratching the surface of things that didn’t make sense. When the thugs are attacking the festival, the villagers immediately send for Lulu and Officer Jenny, despite the fact that they’re not allowed to do anything to stop them. Come to think of it, nobody mentioned a festival rule against rugby-tackling the thugs to the ground and truncheoning them upside the head, but perhaps Officer Jenny had a bad back that day or something. This episode also has an amazing bit of lampshade-hanging, where Lulu gives Jessie’s Wobbuffet a headband explicitly so that we’ll be able to tell it apart from all the other Wobbuffet in the episode.

Conclusion: There was a time in the eighties and early nineties where every kids’ cartoon either produced or dubbed in the US had to contain a moral message for the nation’s youth. Having seen the warped morals of this episode, I’m almost nostalgic for those days.

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