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Episode Review Time: Metapod bisected

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by , 29th August 2010 at 12:28 PM (2832 Views)
Today, Ash wants his little monster to get hard, but will it prove to be hard enough? Don't worry, it's all perfectly innocent (apart from all the violence). It's time for another episode review.

Episode 4: Challenge of the Samurai

Before the action starts, we get a lengthy recap of everything that happened over the previous episodes, although Pikachu blowing up a hospital is artfully sidestepped. Then the episode proper kicks off with a strange cow-related pun that evidently hasn't survived the translation process. It beats me why the localisation team will waste their time excising harmless things such as Japanese text, rice balls and inflatable boobies, yet leave in jokes that are doomed to fail in English. So, Misty is still being frightened by bugs, being in a forest and everything, and Ash is still being a dick about her phobia. While he tries to catch a Weedle, she runs off and ends up meeting a crazy kid called Samurai, who's dressed as... well, a Samurai, complete with a sword that he likes to wave in people's faces. He wants to challenge a trainer from Pallet Town, apparently.

Ash is about to catch his Weedle, when Samurai interrupts, waves his sword around again, and challenges Ash. The Weedle gets away in the meantime, which pisses Ash off, because it's not as if there's a million other Weedle in the forest, right? Anyway, since Ash can be persuaded to do almost anything if it's phrased in the form of a challenge, he agrees to battle Samurai and sends out Pidgeotto... which is tired from its "battle" with Weedle. A bit weird, since said battle seemed to consist of flying around a bit, which you'd think a bird would be used to. Samurai sends out a Pinsir, which proceeds to laugh heartily at type advantages and kick Pidgeotto's arse. Hmm, Pidgeotto really is turning out to be the whipping boy of this team. So, Ash follows the obvious strategy and switches in Pikachu. Oh, wait, no he doesn't. Pikachu seems uninterested in battling at the moment, and Ash doesn't voice any objections to this, because... um, I don't really know why. The plot demands it, I suppose. Ash actually sends out Metapod, because the obvious counter to a vicious stag beetle-thing is an immobile cocoon.

Samurai claims that his Pinsir will cut Metapod in half! That's a bit graphic for a series that scrupulously avoids any realistic depiction of violence, you might think. Metapod cut in half? Yikes, imagine that! Oh, you don't have to, because we get to see exactly what that would look like. Eew. But Metapod uses Harden, and instead of being bisected, its hardness cracks Pinsir's horns. This, too, is more damage than the show usually depicts, but if it's between that and seeing Metapod cut in half, I'll go along with it.

Samurai seems to be impressed with this strategy (it's a strategy?) and sends out... his own Metapod. Both trainers instruct their Pokémon to use Harden. Repeatedly. For hours. Suddenly this isn't about battling anymore, it's about achieving – as Ash puts it – "maximum hardness".

We cut to Team Rocket, who are walking through the forest with a cardboard box over their heads. It's a tank, apparently, to protect them from Beedrill. So... why is Meowth riding on the top of it?

Back we go to the Freudian battle of hardness. Ash and Samurai both fall over from exhaustion (their Metapod, however, are just standing there. I think they may have fallen asleep). Suddenly, a swarm of Beedrill appear. Samurai guesses that the Weedle Ash tried to capture has summoned them. Noble warrior that he is, he recalls his Metapod and does a runner. Ash, seeing the swarm closing in on him, thinks this might be a good time to check out the Pokédex's entry on Beedrill. One of them swoops down and grabs Metapod, then flies away. Pikachu finally decides to do something and shocks another (as well as Ash). Ash, Misty and Pikachu run after Samurai, away from the swarm.

They escape by hiding in amongst some trees. There, they discover a whole load of Kakuna hanging from a nearby tree, and Metapod is with them. Ash calls out to Metapod, the Kakuna hear him, and they all choose that precise moment to transform in Beedrill. More chasing ensues, and the gang hide inside Samurai's conveniently-located cabin.

Inside, Samurai berates Ash for abandoning his Pokémon, and reveals that he fought the three other trainers from Pallet (he lost to them all). The next morning, Ash sneaks back to the tree where Metapod had been left. The Beedrill are sleeping in the tree, though. Better be quiet, Ash! This time, though, Team Rocket appear. What could they possibly want?

Pikachu, obviously. These days, that's assumed knowledge, but in these early episodes they had to spell it out. Jessie and James insist on reciting their full motto as loud as possible, despite the sleeping Beedrill nearby. Their pyrotechnics finally wake the insects up. Ash runs underneath the incoming swarm to get to Metapod, leaving Team Rocket to face its brunt. Oh, and their cardboard tank was eaten by Weedle. Anyway, Metapod won't get into its Pokéball because... well, it's not clear why. Ash decides it must be because he abandoned it, and certainly not because it's dramatically convenient. He picks Metapod up and runs off, blaming Samurai for all of this. Then he falls over, drops Metapod and admits that, actually, everything is his fault. Ash really does think in black and white terms, it would seem.

Suddenly, a Beedrill lunges at Ash! Oh, and Misty, Pikachu and Samurai are now there for some reason. Metapod sort of... flips upwards to block the impact. Wait... it can move? Why did it spend a day sitting under that tree, then? Uh, anyway, the impact breaks off one of the Beedrill's spike thingies, and tears a gouge in Metapod's side. Bloody hell, this show is violent. Right after I'm done with this review, I'm going to round up the rest of the PTA and head off to Japan to protest.

But all is not lost, as Metapod's injury prompts it to evolve into Butterfree. As more Beedrill approach, Ash tells it to use Sleep Powder on them. There's no indication of how he knows Butterfree can use Sleep Powder... he just does. The attack knocks out the Beedrill (and also Team Rocket) and of course, Samurai is hugely impressed that Ash can handle his newly evolved Pokémon so well. Ash jumps up and down in celebration for slightly too long.

Samurai directs Ash, Misty and Pikachu to Pewter City from the edge of the forest. Ash offers to continue their battle, but Samurai has decided that Ash is now so awesome that no battle is necessary. They depart, promising to meet again. They never do. Oh, and Team Rocket are now dangling from a tree disguised as Kakuna.

The moral of the story: Assume responsibility for everything that goes wrong, whether you had anything to do with it or not. It's your fault for not being better!

Pokémon of the day: Metapod. Metapod is famous for a few things. Amongst them is the fact that its design is so confusing that nobody, not even the game designers themselves, knows which bit is the front. Also, it's vaguely phallic and knows moves like Harden and String Shot. Innuendo. Do you see? Its English voice is unbelievably bad. Caterpie and Butterfree make cute, animalistic squeals. Metapod's voice is a random bloke saying "Metapod, Metapod." Guys, I know its tough to give character to a mostly-inanimate cocoon, but you could at least try.

Character of the day: Samurai. Both the design and concept behind this character are great: a fat kid dressed as a samurai, waving a sword around like a maniac and catching insects. The script, however, does everything it possibly can to ruin the fun.

Ash is an idiot: In a curious display of self-awareness, Ash calls himself out on his own idiocy in this episode. But, being an idiot, he blames himself for the wrong things while ignoring his genuine idiocy earlier in the episode (up to and including the Freudian Battle of Maximum Hardness).

G-G-G-Gary: Gary gets a brief mention as one of the trainers that defeated Samurai.

Bizarre dialogue: The Pokédex is still trying to be funny, this time with its entry on Weedle. It seems like they were playing with the idea of giving it a personality, at least in the dub, before they realised how stupid it seemed. On a more positive note, plenty of Samurai's dialogue is insane in a good way. "Greetings, o shrieking maiden..."

Thoughts: The only part of this episode that anybody remembers is the Metapod battle. This was based on something that could actually happen early on in the games if you encountered a Metapod while levelling one of your own. However, it's sort of undermined by the previous episode in this case. Metapod should still know String Shot, right? Which the anime established as an awesome finishing move capable of taking out Team Rocket, right? So why... eh, I give up.

This episode was a long string of things that didn't make sense, but occurred because they were necessary for story advancement. Pikachu doesn't feel like battling today. Pidgeotto is tired from flying around a bit. Metapod suddenly doesn't want to get into its Pokéball. Oh, look, now it has the ability to do back flips. Samurai, obsessed with fighting worthy opponents, suddenly decides that Ash is too worthy and declines to battle. I mean, I could go on. I really could go on.

Ash's angsting is bothersome too. Sure, he has plenty of idiocy to reflect upon, but none of the stuff he blamed himself for in this episode was really his fault. Metapod's capture just came out of nowhere (and didn't really make anyway, since the Beedrill's problem was with Ash and Pidgeotto, not some Metapod they'd never met). Moreover, he only aborted the first rescue due to the very real prospect of being stung to death by angry giant insects. I suppose it's true that he could have gone back during the night, rather than waiting until the next day, but that's not a decision that the story really dwells upon.

And oh my, the violence. This episode had stabbing, bits falling off, and a daydream that showed us a Pokémon being chopped in half. While hardly graphic, it's still more than you'd expect on a fighting monsters show that usually does its utmost to shield us from any realistic depictions of fighting.

Elsewhere, Team Rocket still sound weird as hell and are occasionally menacing, but show signs of becoming the fall guys we're familiar with today. Another thing that stands out – at least to me – is that the convention for all Pokémon names being irregular plurals hasn't yet established itself in the minds of the translators. So we hear lots of talk of "Beedrills", which is surprisingly jarring to a linguistic pedant like me.

Conclusion: Watch this episode with the sound off. You'll still be able to enjoy Samurai's entertaining design and gawk at the unusual levels of violence, but you won't be troubled by the maddening story.

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  1. SnorlaxMonster's Avatar
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    Of course, if this episode was made more recently, instead of Pinsir's horn cracking, there would have been a huge smoke explosion for no particular reason, an ad break, then Pinsir would stumble a few steps back from Metapod, dazed.

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