Call me crazy, but I felt that the first half of this episode was actually better than the second. Obviously the events in this episode allow a friendly relationship between Ash and Kotetsu to develop, and they highlight Kotetsu’s on-screen battling debut. Unfortunately, the writers’ attempt at doing all of this during a GYM BATTLE EPISODE is where the plotline just turned sour for me.
Like I had mentioned above, Kotetsu is the main subject of this episode. He debuted in the middle of the previous episode, and his presence (and annoying pun-based parlor tricks) shrugged away what little amount of time the writers had in giving Dawn a proper sendoff. I had disliked the writers’ choice to debut a character that adopted personality traits from Ash and some of his more notable rivals near the end of an important story arc. Not surprisingly, I did not like Kotetsu at first, and I felt that his character would quickly become dull.
Even though my impression of Kotetsu as a “been there, done that” type of character had not changed that much after this episode, I am still glad that he is actually the first BW series rival to truly interact with Ash on a deep personal level. For once, Ash had interacted with a major character that was just as dense, if not even more so, than he was. I might have disliked the writers on past occasions for putting Ash in situations that exaggerates his relative stupidity (and/or lack of practical knowledge) compared to his peers, but Ash’s notable personality trait had actually worked to the writers’ advantage for this episode. Ash and Kotetsu’s shared impatience to arrive to Seigaiha City ironically led the two characters astray on a separate path from their more competent travelling partners. This allowed Iris
and Cilan to stay out of the picture for the first half of the episode so Ash, Kotetsu, their pokemon, and Meloetta
can finally interact with one another on their own.
Like I had mentioned above, this plotline had been incorporated numerous times in the past. Like Morrison, Kotetsu had a main pokemon who stayed beside him outside of a Poke Ball that interacted with Ash’s Pikachu
. Like the relationship that Ash and Richie had before, both characters had bonded over their shared goals and love for pokemon (they even featured Ash and Kotetsu looking at a starlit night sky and making out pokemon-shaped constellations out of them). Like the relationship that Ash and Gary had, both characters were willing to save one another from close death once they gained complete respect for one another.
So yes, very little of the “Ash and rival bonding” dynamic had changed over the past fifteen years. The way that the writers handled Kotetsu is a reminder that the generation of children who is currently watching the anime was not the same one that had initially watched similar episodes in previous series. Still, an episode where characters are actually seen bonding even on this level is quite rare these days, and I am glad Ash and Kotetsu actually have a genuine connection with one another that extends beyond the tournament arcs.
And for once, Meloetta
doesn’t just stand around and cheers its name, or disappears when it gets startled. Meloetta had actually contributed to the plotline of this episode. It still retains its affection towards Ash, as evidenced when Meloetta had held and protected Ash’s hat when he fell into a sinkhole. Meloetta had also risked its life to gather fruit for Ash and the others to eat. There were also brief moments during the episode in which Pikachu
, Meloetta, and Riolu
had played with one another. Meloetta even cheered for Kotetsu during his gym battle.
The second half of this episode is where everything just becomes bad for me. After spending an entire night in the middle of a forest, Ash and Kotetsu just happen to find their way to Seigaiha City. And much to the audience’s amusement, Iris and Cilan have been sitting in front of the gym for almost a day, and annoyed that they have not met up with Ash or Kotetsu yet. When Ash and Kotetsu try to find their way to the gym, the Gym Leader (Marlon) just happens to show up with his Wailord
and reunite the two characters with their friends. This felt like a lazy way for the writers to resolve this separation. Why bother spend eight or so minutes with Ash and Kotetsu struggling to get to the Seigaiha Gym if its Gym Leader was going to bring them there anyway?
Unfortunately, because the writers spent the first half of this episode with the Ash and Kotetsu separation plotline, the gym battle during the second half felt rushed. Kotetsu’s inevitable win here—we know Kotetsu’s important because he replaced Dawn in the opening—would have made Marlon’s anime debut into an underwhelming “COTD” appearance. Considering that the other Gym Leaders in the Unova Region have appeared for more than one episode (like Kotetsu, Drayden is also destined for an important appearance soon), I was disappointed that Marlon was treated as a second fiddle here.
Since this battle had to be resolved in less than seven minutes, the writers decided to make what would have been a 3-on-3 battle into a 2-on-2. And considering that the first match in this gym battle (Ferrothorn
) ended within forty seconds, this is not saying much. Jellicent got knocked out by just one attack, something that made the eliminations during Bianca’s gym battle against Elesa appear longer in comparison. Similarly, Ferrothorn got knocked out by Mantine
by just a few attacks (and Mantine apparently did not take any damage from Ferrothorn’s ability).
There was absolutely little strategy during this gym battle, which was a negative for me. Kotetsu simply went with his gut and used a pokemon that had a type advantage, without taking the battlefield or his opponent’s pokemon into account. (Again, Kotetsu’s lack of common sense is his main selling point). The only part of this gym battle that entertained me so was Jellicent’s pseudo-seizure reaction once its Cursed Body ability activated.
The battles in this match had resolved so quickly that it made me wonder if Ferrothorn would have been able to sweep the entire gym if its Thunderbolt were not sealed away by Cursed Body.
The second half of this gym battle (Samurott
vs. Mantine) also failed to deliver anything spectacular for the record books. I was impressed that both characters used the underwater component of the battlefield for a while, but like before this match-up was not truly fought on even terms. Kotetsu’s Samurott, supposedly his ace pokemon, was made out to be ridiculously overpowered here. Just one Aqua Jet from Samurott was enough to almost completely render Mantine unable to continue battling. Samurott’s well-timed double Razor Shell attack to deflect Mantine’s Bullet Seed near the end of the match was cool, but the match had been established in a way that Marlon had absolutely little chance in fighting back. Of course, it is natural for Kotetsu to be a skilled trainer, as he already earned seven badges in the Unova region.
Perhaps I am so used to pokemon trainers battling powerful gym leaders for their final regional badges (Ash nearly lost to Volkner in DP and Roxie in BW Season 1), so these complaints appear to be natural. Marlon simply felt like a gym leader whose battling skill and finesse were average, even though he is the final GL you fight in BW2.
Once again, the writers attempted to do too much in a short amount of time, and the screenplay of the entire episode suffered because of it. I would have wanted the writers to separate the events of the two halves into separate episodes so that Marlon’s anime debut didn’t feel like a shoehorn. Kotetsu certainly had a lot of presence in this episode, but his “partner” Riolu
had spent nearly half of the entire episode on the sidelines watching its trainer. This was ironic because it appeared that Kotetsu had wanted to use Riolu during the gym battle.
Overall, this episode was below-average. Next week’s episode appears to be a somewhat comical filler comfortably sandwiched between two main story arcs, so it should be interesting to give a review for it after it airs.