Episode Review Time: Pikachu is a Terrorist
by, 27th August 2010 at 01:05 PM (454 Views)
And here we have another of those episode reviews I created a while back.
Episode 2: Pokémon Emergency
It's Viridian City, and Officer Jenny announces over what seems to be some sort of city-wide tannoy that there are Pokémon thieves in the area. Clearly, a small boy carrying an injured Pokémon in his arms is a suspicious character, so Ash is pulled in to help Jenny with her enquiries. Some lightning-fast deduction later, Jenny concludes that Ash is a legitimate Pokémon trainer, and not a thief, based on the fact that he has a Pokédex. The fact that he's also a ten year old child doesn't factor into it, apparently. Ash is annoyed that Gary apparently got to the city first (Hey, Ash... Gary didn't spend the day trying to catch a Pidgey with his coat. He also left Pallet in a car.) but Pikachu still needs to get to the hospital. Officer Jenny makes up for her rambling conversation thus far by dumping Ash in her sidecar and driving them to the Pokémon Centre, almost running over Misty, who is chasing after Ash with her ruined bike.
There's a wanted poster displaying Team Rocket. Team Rocket can't be having that; they might be spotted! So they get rid of it, with the help of their enormous, inconspicuous Meowth-shaped hot air balloon. Jessie and James plot and make us aware how much their voices have changed since this episode. Meowth opens his mouth and sounds weird as hell. I shouldn't blame the voice actor; it's not his fault he isn't Maddie Blaustein. See, Meowth was recast pretty early on with the voice he's most known for. James was recast after a few episodes too, which explains the oddness of his voice here. Jessie... er... kept the same actress for hundreds of episodes. Her strange voice here is just the result of Rachael Lillis trying to sound threatening. She'd soon twig that Jessie really wasn't that kind of character. Nevertheless, this episode does seem to be building up Team Rocket as actual adversaries. Anyway, yeah, they're the thieves, in case you were wondering.
Suddenly it's night, and Officer Jenny pulls of an insanely illegal bike stunt to cut a few seconds off Ash's journey to the Pokémon Centre. Then they meet Nurse Joy, who has the most confusing personality you can possibly imagine. First she's angry with Jenny, then she's urgently giving orders, then she's calm, then she's berating Ash for being an idiot and then she's being friendly and comforting, all while wearing the same fixed expression. She takes Pikachu into surgery (or whatever it requires for its poorly-defined injuries; I don’t get quite what's wrong with it) and a bewildered Ash is left in the waiting room. He decides that now would be a good time to call his mother for some reassurance. She tells her clearly bruised and dejected son that he's probably doing just fine, and then hangs up.
Ash sees a set of murals on the wall depicting Pokémon (apparently Arcanine, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres). He thinks Articuno looks like the Ho-oh he saw at the end of the previous episode, and then Professor Oak calls him. The two of them go on for far too long with one joke, and then the professor makes Ash feel like an idiot again. Ash tells Professor Oak about the Pokémon he saw, and the professor is somehow able to look at something on the same wall as whatever camera he's using, which is impossible, in order to tell Ash that he must have been mistaken. Which he was, technically, but it doesn't really matter as Oak is presumably just making it up at this point.
Misty arrives, still carrying her damaged bike, which looks like it's been set on fire. I'm assuming that it's Pikachu's attack on the Spearow that's supposed to have damaged the bike, but I'm pretty sure electricity doesn't actually work like that. Anyway, Misty demands a new bike from Ash, but Ash manages to distract her by suggesting his Pikachu is on the verge of death. Just on cue, Nurse Joy comes out of the operating theatre and says Pikachu is fine, although he does now have a light bulb stuck to his head. Officer Jenny's voice comes over the tannoy and announces that they've just detected an aircraft belonging to Pokémon thieves… using radar. This is the very same aircraft that was over the police station earlier, so their radar may still need a little fine-tuning.
Jessie and James are still doing their sinister act, and they chuck their Poké balls through the Pokémon Centre roof. Koffing fills the place with smoke, and Ekans... just sort of sits there. Then they do the motto. I'm so used to Team Rocket being pantomime villains, and the motto being the silliest part of their act, that seeing it done with a straight face is really strange. So, yeah, Team Rocket have come to steal the Pokémon, but they're only interested in rare, powerful ones. My, how their standards have slipped over the years. Their Pokémon attack, Ekans seems to eat a computer, and Ash, Misty and Nurse Joy hide in a room with a load of Poké balls. Then the power goes off. It's okay, though, because Nurse Joy has a backup system, which consists of a load of Pikachu on a treadmill. So... wait, is the power coming from the Pikachu or from their running?
Nurse Joy starts teleporting all of the Poké balls to another Pokémon Centre. Then Team Rocket bust into the room. Misty tells Ash to use the Pokémon in the balls, and so he does... getting a Pidgey, then an empty one, and then a Rattata. Wow, he just can't catch a break at the moment. There's some terrible dialogue, and then Misty sends out her Goldeen to fight Team Rocket. Then she immediately recalls it, because it can’t fight on land. Hmm...
I think Misty was trying to stall Team Rocket, but for the sake of one gag, the writers effectively screwed up the mechanics of most Water Pokémon for the rest of the series. In the games, all Water types can fight on land. It doesn't really make sense, but that's how it is. In the 3D games, they generally sort of... hover, swimming in the air. The anime instead decided to take the realistic route (in this show about magical battling monsters) and rendered half of Misty's Pokémon useless at any time when she isn't near a river, lake or puddle.
Anyway, I digress. Ash makes a break for it with Pikachu, but Koffing and Ekans chase him. Why? Team Rocket explicitly stated they weren't interested in Pikachu earlier on. All of the emergency-power Pikachu team up with Ash's Pikachu, and they shock Team Rocket. Meowth (who seems to be in charge of Team Rocket, at least in this episode) decides that he wants Pikachu after all, after that display of power. What happens next is sort of hard to describe because I don't fully understand it. Ash decides that Pikachu saying 2pika" means that it wants more power... which is quite a leap of intuition, given that "pika" constitutes two of the three syllables Pikachu is able to say. Ash gets on Misty's bike and pedals. Pikachu, still with a light bulb on his head, sits on the headlight. Team Rocket get shocked, again, and we see the same few frames of animation repeated over and over again. I'm thinking they may have had to make a few cuts to flashy bits following that whole ludicrous seizure affair, and thus had to loop some footage to fill in... whatever it is, it looks weird and goes on for way too long. Then, Koffing seems to ignite and everything explodes in a ridiculous fireball. Officer Jenny stops outside the blazing Pokémon Centre and makes a quip about fireworks, rather than the more expected response of horror at the knowledge that every person and Pokémon inside the building is now most likely dead.
Except... apparently not. Team Rocket drift off, hanging from their balloon, and it seems like everyone in the smoking ruins of the Pokémon Centre somehow survived too. Ash, Pikachu and Misty, meanwhile, have left the scene of the crime and are in Viridian Forest. Misty, until now a maelstrom of barely-concealed rage, freaks out at the sight of a Caterpie. Because she's a girl, get it? Ash decides to catch it, and the show that just blew up a hospital earlier in the episode tries to make a cliffhanger out of whether or not Ash can catch a tiny bug.
The moral of the story: If your pet gets hurt, expect a stern telling-off from everybody, even if it wasn't your fault. If your pet blows up a hospital, there will be no negative repercussions whatsoever.
Pokémon and their uses: The Pokémon Centre uses Pikachu as a backup generator. This is sort of logical, I suppose, but as noted above, the exact mechanics of this system are very confusing.
Disproportionate response: This section will be appearing from time to time, to deal with the fact that, in later episodes, Ash seems to develop a perverse pleasure from causing pain to Team Rocket, and even minor infractions are punished with horrible, horrible thunder. As for this episode? Well, being their first appearance, they were being properly evil on a fairly large scale, and so they probably had it coming. On the other hand, Pikachu blew up a hospital.
Thoughts: This episode had it all. Villains! Action! Explosions! A life-or-death operation! And yet somehow, it was all kind of boring.
I'll give the odd voices a pass, since this kind of thing is inevitable when you look at old episodes. James and Meowth were recast, as I mentioned earlier. Jessie, Joy and Jenny all sounded off in various ways too, though. Jessie was being played as a genuine villain (fair enough at this point), Joy was just all over the place, and Jenny sounded like a complete airhead. The actual voice was there, but the delivery was completely at odds with the script.
Regarding the script... it felt as if this episode was originally just ten minutes long, and various parts were just lengthened at the last minute. Ash being questioned by Officer Jenny, Ash's conversation with Oak, Misty confronting Team Rocket... all of these were stretched out to such an extent that everyone involved ended up looking stupid. Often, this is down to a bad dub script, but I'm not so sure here. The whole episode felt as empty and desolate as the dialogue.
And speaking of empty and desolate, I've just realised what bothered me about Viridian City. No people. Throughout the entire episode, the only human residents we met were Jenny and Joy. This either means that the city has a population of two, with Jenny making tannoy announcements to the deserted streets to keep herself sane, or perhaps Jenny's warnings of Pokémon thieves have the residents so terrified that they're all holed up in their homes, hiding under tables and doors propped up at a sixty-degree angle.
Also, the lead-up to the explosion seemed strange to me. Ash pedaling on a broken bike gave Pikachu more power, I suppose, but I don't really get how this energy was transferred. It seemed to have something to do with the headlight – which was still working despite the bike looking as if it'd been dumped in a volcano – and possibly the bulb that Pikachu had stuck to his head, I think. The precise mechanics of it evade me, though.
Conclusion: Pikachu blew up a hospital. Did you get that? He blew up a friggin' hospital.
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