This is the second episode of the Higaki Conference, and so far the first round isn't that different from previous competitions. As usual, we get the montage battles from the recurring rivals, and they are 1-on-1 eliminations. This tournament is different, however, in that Ash battles against his "primary" rival in the very first round of the tournament; a first in the anime history. Of course, we have all been dreading this match-up because we knew that Trip had to lose so Ash could advance. And considering what the match-up is (Pikachu vs. Serperior), I had to call foul here.
The episode starts out with the continuation of Ash and Trip's battle. As it had during its previous battles, Serperior effortlessly dodges all of its opponent's moves, and counterattacks with Dragon Tail. Even though Ash's Pikachu is very agile, he still cannot measure up to Serperior's speed. Pikachu's close-range moves are ineffective due to Serperior moving out of the way, while Pikachu's long-range Electro Ball couldn't make contact because of Serperior's body shape. Meanwhile, Pikachu continues to get worn down from Serperior's Dragon Tails.
When I first watched this match, I was expecting Serperior to get paralyzed with Static just as some of Pikachu's other opponents were inflicted in the past so Pikachu could win against an otherwise unbeatable opponent. But no, Static was never used in this battle. Instead, Serperior was able to constrict Pikachu with his Wrap attack. When Pikachu tried to use Thunderbolt, Trip had Serperior dig its tail into the ground as a lightningrod to reduce the damage he would have taken. It seems that Trip's training paid off: he truly raised Serperior into a powerful pokemon. Even though Trip miscalculated and forgot to constrict Pikachu's tail, which made it possible for Pikachu to escape Serperior's grasp with Iron Tail, Pikachu still couldn't match up to Serperior's power and agility. Pikachu was completely thrown back when he collided his Iron Tail with his Dragon Tail.
Still, Pikachu's will to win was strong, and Ash decided to improvise (as he would have done during his DP days); combining two of his moves into one. Pikachu once collided his Iron Tail into Dragon Tail; this time, having his Iron Tail powered up with Electro Ball. A dust collision occurs, and this is perhaps the worst part of it all. Somehow, the tired and exhausted Pikachu who repeatedly took damage from Serperior's moves survived that collision. Meanwhile, Serperior, who only took damage from Pikachu's Thunderbolt, was defeated. This was a ridiculous way for the writers to give Ash a victory here. The writers basically took a strategy that they used for Pikachu to tie with Tobias' Latios (at the time, Pikachu combined Volt Tackle and Iron Tail), and changed it around so that Pikachu could instead win over his opponent this time. Pikachu did not deserve a victory here, and it is sad that the writers decided to eliminate Trip first so they could focus on his other rivals. Trip did not deserve such a crappy sendoff. Trip said that he won't lose to Ash again, and he will become strong enough to surpass Alder. Good luck with that, Trip; that is, if we ever get to see you again after this tournament.
As expected, all of Ash's other rivals made it past the Top 128 round. There was a brief comedic moment in which Pikachu and Oshawott were relaxing in a hot spring inside the Pokemon Center. Riolu came in, and with his entrance water splashed on Oshawott. Surprisingly, Oshawott wasn't the one who got pissed; this time, Pikachu was upset for some reason and decided to splash Riolu. Riolu stares briefly at Pikachu, and both begin to splash each other. Eventually, Pikachu decides to "tease" Riolu by using Thunderbolt on the pool. Riolu jumped out of the pool in time, and Oshawott got electrocuted. It's interesting to see Pikachu with his playful personality, and interacting with Riolu as if they were competing against one another. The writers are definitely pairing those two up for a battle at some point.
The Top 64 round began the next day, and it is almost the same as the first round except the battles in this round are 2-on-2. As expected, the writers paired Bianca and Kotetsu for the second round. Since there were only a few minutes left in this episode, I watched this battle expecting a few quick defeats. Bianca starts off with her Escavalier, and Kotetsu his Samurott. Samurott goes on the offensive, but all Bianca does is order Escavalier to dodge Samurott's moves and to increase its defense with Iron Defense. I was surprised that Bianca, who had battled very recklessly in the past, pulled off such a strategy. It showed how far this trainer had progressed on her journey, and that she was very flexible with any battle style that her pokemon had. Bianca had Escavalier repeat its defense boosts until Samurott makes contact with a Razor Shell. Escavalier blocked it off due to its increased defensive power.
Once more, Kotetsu pulls his headband to clinch his head so he could come up with a strategy. Kotetsu realizes that there is a possibility for Razor Shell to make a critical hit, which would negate any of Escavalier's defense boosts when damage is calculated. Kotetsu had Samurott use two Razor Shells. Bianca fended the first one off by having Escavalier use Twineedle, but Escavalier could not block the second one. Escavalier was hit, and at first it seemed that he had resisted the move. Bianca was even taunting Kotetsu for his strategy. Once the camera switches its angle, we see that Escavalier is in a lot of pain and eventually faints.
The second match-up (Emboar vs. Samurott) would have played out to Kotetsu's victory if it were not for Emboar learning Attract. Kotetsu did not know that his pokemon could dodge Attract, so he had Samurott do nothing. Big mistake, because it turned out that Samurott's gender (female) was the opposite of Emboar's (male). Samurott just stands there infatauted while Emboar uses his fighting-type moves to win. The Attract card has been played many times before, so I didn't feel that this was a true victory for Bianca. This result had no bearing on either trainer's skill; it was merely luck that decided the end result. If Samurott was male, Attract would not have worked, and Bianca probably would have lost already.
The third match-up (Emboar vs. Riolu) was an interesting one. This is the first time that we have seen Riolu battle since its debut 11 episodes ago, and I wanted to confirm that the move Riolu used in the opening was Vacuum Wave. Indeed, it was, but Riolu had plenty of other interesting moves that are rarely used in the anime. Other than the "standard" Focus Palm (because we have seen many Lucario use Focus Palm in the past), Riolu also had access to Copycat and Circle Throw. Riolu may have had a disadvantage in terms of size, but it was able to compensate due to its speed and surprising moves. Bianca didn't expect Riolu to use Circle Throw on Emboar, or to use Copycat to mimic Emboar's Flamethrower. I was surprised that Flamethrower did a lot of damage on a FIRE type (Emboar), but at least it was not enough to stop it. Riolu won due to its "signature" move, Vacuum Wave. While it was true that Emboar took a lot of damage battling Samurott, I felt that Kotetsu and Riolu still would have won even if Emboar was already at full strength when they fought.
I am a little disappointed that Bianca got eliminated early. We never got to see her use more than three pokemon, and because her character isn't going to be in the download tournament for BW2, we'll never see what other pokemon she has. Alas, this is the price that we all have to pay so other rivals can advance farther in this tournament. I wanted both Trip and Bianca to have many more battles under their belt during this tournament. Instead, we have to deal with rivals that were just introduced a few episodes ago as Ash's final Unova League opponents.
The next episode is going to be a ridiculous filler in which Axew gets into trouble again. I am not expecting anything to happen in this episode, but I hope Bianca uses some of her other pokemon here to help find Axew (as unlikely as that will be). Since Ash and Stephan will not be paired up in this round, maybe we get to see a few brief second round montages for Ash to advance.
This episode was better than the last one. I liked the Bianca and Kotetsu battle, but I hated how Ash defeated Trip here. Overall, this episode was slightly above average.