Showdown at Dark City – The Song of Jigglypuff – A Chansey Operation
Ash’s Location: Somalia
I’m slowly learning that whenever I try to stuff three episodes into a single entry, the length of my synopses quickly becomes unmanageable. This isn’t going to stop me from doing it, but I am going to make an honest effort to cut down on that stuff, so I have time to… y’know… actually say stuff about the episodes. This is another one of those entries where I’ve just thrown three episodes together because I can just about cram them all into my vaguely defined “Pokémon and Society” heading. Without further ado…
In the first of today’s episodes, Ash and his friends have the misfortune to stumble into Dark City, where the locals hate and fear Pokémon Trainers because of a violent gang war between the city’s two unofficial Pokémon Gyms, the Yas Gym and the Kaz Gym. Each Gym has ambitions to become the sole official Gym of Dark City, and is desperate to destroy the other before the arrival of a Pokémon League inspector a few days hence. They’ve given up on formal battles, and mostly just brawl in the street, trainers and Pokémon alike. The kids run into some of the Kaz Gym’s trainers – who turn out to be Jessie and James – forcing a restaurant to supply their Gym with food, and Brock roasts them with Vulpix, which prompts one of the Yas trainers to recruit them. Misty insists that they use false names to keep their reputations from being damaged, so they enter the Yas Gym as Tom Ato, Ann Chovy, and Caesar Salad (I kid you not) to speak to the Yas leader. He tries to test Ash with his Scyther, but Pikachu uses a ketchup bottle he picked up in the restaurant to squirt Scyther in the eyes, driving him berserk and forcing the leader to recall him. Ash makes a big dramatic speech about how both sides are dreadful, ruins the effect by slipping on some ketchup, and gets chased out of the Gym. Ash learns from the Pokédex that both Scyther and the Kaz Gym’s strongest Pokémon, Electabuzz, are enraged by the colour red, so when the Yas and Kaz trainers meet up for their final showdown he and the downtrodden citizens drop barrels of ketchup all over both sides to sabotage the battle. The Gym Leaders unite to destroy Ash, but Pikachu smites them with Thunder, and the Pokémon League inspector is revealed to have been in Dark City the whole time, hidden behind a trench coat and a surgical mask – none other than Nurse Joy #1, the Supreme Joy. She declares both Gyms utterly reprehensible and orders the leaders to submit to Ash for instruction, forcing Ash to explain his theory of Pokémon training. “Sure, you try to win, but you don’t try to beat each other! Um…”
Dark City is a dreadful portrait of just how badly wrong this setting can go. The worst part is that it seems like an entirely realistic scenario. If it comes to a fight, very few people will have any hope of beating an experienced Pokémon trainer without Pokémon of their own. The only thing stopping the whole world from dissolving into chaos is the fact that, as a rule, the most powerful trainers tend to be decent people, since most Pokémon respond better to kindness than abuse. Sure, the ketchup strategy was clever and caused the gangs no small amount of pain, but if Ash and Pikachu hadn’t been there, the civilians would have been toast once the Gym Leaders decided to join forces. In fact, let’s put some thought into how this situation could have deteriorated without Ash’s presence. Nurse Joy seems to have no weapon in this conflict besides her authority. The anime has never portrayed Chansey, her only Pokémon, as a powerful fighter, and it should have been obvious to her within minutes of arriving in Dark City that both Gyms were nauseating stains on the honour of all trainers. Had she been able to end the fighting, she would already have done so. If either Gym had lost interest in winning official status, Joy would have been powerless. One hopes that she could have called in reinforcements from the Pokémon League, but given their conspicuous failure to deal with a powerful rogue Gym Leader in the past, it is difficult to be optimistic. The civilians might eventually have become organised; they might even have developed the same plan as Ash did to set the Yas and Kaz forces fighting amongst themselves, but they would have been crushed in short order once the two Gyms decided to join up. Eventually, one Gym would win the street war, unless they chose to unite permanently. Either way, Dark City would be ruled absolutely by violent robbers. They might even start handing out badges, claiming to be an official Gym, and reaping many of the benefits of being one without paying lip service to the Pokémon League. This is all prevented solely by the fact that, with Electabuzz and Scyther out of the picture, the highest-level Pokémon left in the town happens to belong to Ash. Hooray…?
Later, they go to Las Vegas!
Well, the show calls it Neon Town, but… it’s a big city in the middle of the desert filled with bright flashing lights and casinos. Trust me, it’s Vegas. Everyone in Vegas is a misanthropic sociopath because they’re all massively sleep-deprived, so the kids stay there for as little time as possible before returning to the woods, where they find a wild Jigglypuff. Misty wants to catch her, of course, so she summons Staryu and has it whack Jigglypuff, who bursts into tears (they all find this really bizarre for some reason). They realise that this Jigglypuff can’t sing. Misty says she’s still cute – which cheers her up a bit – but who wants a Jigglypuff who can’t sing? – which starts her crying again. Then this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpoq_fcMixc happens (and ends exactly the way every other fight with Team Rocket ends). Misty and Pikachu try to teach Jigglypuff to sing and fail (and Jigglypuff is a real bitch to Pikachu about his singing, too), but Brock finds a rare fruit that can be used to soothe an inflamed throat, which works. Jigglypuff can sing at last! Unfortunately, no-one can sit through her song without falling asleep… not even Psyduck. Jigglypuff is enraged and scribbles on everyone’s faces with a marker as they sleep. The kids decide to take Jigglypuff back to Vegas with them, since those jerks never seem to sleep. Team Rocket disguise themselves as a rock band and offer to let Jigglypuff use their outdoor stage, planning to stay awake using earplugs and rob everyone blind, but the earplugs fail and they fall asleep, along with every other person in Vegas. When the kids wake up, Jigglypuff is nowhere to be seen, but the people of Las Vegas have suddenly become halfway decent after their first proper night’s sleep in decades. That, in a roundabout way, constitutes the kids’ good deed for the day, so they return to… whatever it is they were doing, now with Jigglypuff following them, ready to resurface whenever it’s most inconvenient for everyone.
In The Song of Jigglypuff, Ash and his friends use a Pokémon to cure insomnia. I just want to point out that the last time someone tried that, a whole bunch of kids went insane and ran away from home to live as Pokémon in the city park. Just so we’re clear on that. Anyway. Jigglypuff is a weird little Pokémon in the anime. Although her Doubleslap is useful against other small, physically weak Pokémon, she can’t really fight. Her trump card is her song, which Team Rocket try to capture on tape in this episode. I can’t think of anything that’s ever managed to stay awake through the whole thing and thus avoid provoking Jigglypuff’s fury. Strangely, even though she continues to follow Ash around for years, after this episode both Misty and Team Rocket seem to lose all interest in catching her, possibly because they’re all terrified of her. How anyone ever manages to train a Jigglypuff is beyond me; if their songs will put everyone within a good twenty metres to sleep, using one would surely put an end to most battles by rendering both trainers unconscious, as well as any spectators. They’re extremely rare Pokémon, it’s true, and tend to live far away from humans, but presumably trainers must bring them into towns from time to time. In order to maintain some semblance of sanity, you almost have to assume that the Jigglypuff Ash meets in this episode has an especially enchanting voice, and that a typical Jigglypuff isn’t quite so soporific. The kids clearly don’t anticipate the sheer power of her song; they go back to Vegas fully expecting that many of the citizens will be able to shake it off, and haven’t given any thought to what might happen if anyone happened to be driving a car during Jigglypuff’s performance.
A Chansey Operation, my last episode for today, begins with Pikachu swallowing a whole apple and nearly choking to death. Ash panics because there’s no Pokémon Centre nearby, so they rush to a hospital instead. There is exactly one doctor in this hospital, and he refuses to do anything because he’s off duty, until Misty uses her cute girl powers on him. Dr. Proctor (for this is his name) sticks his hand down Pikachu’s throat and retrieves the apple. Once Pikachu is saved, the emergency phone line rings. Dr. Proctor, however, is still stubbornly off duty, so Ash answers it. Jessie and James have caused a horrible accident on a highway by means of their massive incompetence, badly injuring a truckload of Pokémon. The Pokémon Centre in the next town is overwhelmed, so Nurse Joy #29 is pressing Dr. Proctor into service as backup. Since he is still the only doctor in the entire hospital, he gives lab coats to Ash, Misty and Brock and declares them to be doctors. Medicine is easy, right? Especially as Dr. Proctor’s solution to every injury imaginable is copious amounts of superglue. When Arbok and Weezing come in for treatment, Ash gets a crash course on the Hippocratic Oath (from this guy? Mr. “screw that, I’m off duty”? I get the distinct impression he was “off duty” when his class swore the damn oath) and Jessie and James join the team. At some point Dr. Proctor accidentally anaesthetises himself trying to get close to an angry Dodrio, and goes to sleep for several hours, leaving Ash to figure out how to calm the thing down himself (Ash’s panacea turns out to be “Pikachu, THUNDERBOLT!”). Team Rocket, inevitably, betray the kids eventually and attack them with evil hospital equipment, but Arbok and Weezing are unwilling to fight the Chansey who helped to heal them. Dr. Proctor wakes up and reveals that his lab coat contains a veritable arsenal of scalpels and syringes, which scares off Jessie and James quickly enough. All the injured Pokémon have been patched up now, so Dr. Proctor says goodbye to the kids – but not without suggesting that they stay and be doctors at the hospital. Medical school? Pfft. Dr. Proctor got his MD watching reruns of Doogie Howser.
By some appalling mischance, this episode was my very first direct exposure to Pokémon as a child.
You can imagine my reaction.
I… I would comment on this episode but I honestly think it speaks for itself. It’s one of those delightfully mad episodes you get from time to time which reminds you that, really, everyone in this universe is just a little bit nutty. I don’t think A Chansey Operation really tells us anything meaningful about how the Pokémon world works, but if nothing else, it’s a lot of fun to watch.