This week’s Generations short focuses on a moment from the background of the original games, something we knew about but never saw: the rival character’s Elite Four challenge, which ends with him becoming the Champion for all of seventeen minutes before losing to the player.
The episode opens with the members of the Kanto Elite Four – Lorelei, Bruno, Agatha and Lance – emerging from their personal chambers in their palace to discuss the prospect of an upcoming challenge. Agatha comments here that it has been a long time since any trainer has managed to collect the eight gym badges required to challenge them (contrast the anime’s usual stance: the badges get you into a tournament which, while fairly exclusive, still involves over a hundred trainers each year). Meanwhile, outside, the challenger readies himself, confident that he is the most powerful trainer in the world. We then see snippets of Blue’s battles with each of the Elite Four. Against Lorelei, his Alakazam teleports around her Lapras’ attacks, then psychically lifts it into the air, flips it over, and slams it into the floor. His Pidgeot overpowers Bruno’s Machamp with a devastating Wing Attack. We see Blue’s Rhydon finishing off Agatha’s Arbok, then after a brief conversational interlude, we see her bring out her Gengar, whose Pokéball is set in the head of her walking stick (as you can also see in Sugimori’s official art of her from Fire Red and Leaf Green). Finally, his Blastoise and Lance’s Dragonite trade blows, Flamethrower against Hydro Pump. We don’t see that duel end, instead cutting straight to Blue sitting on the Champion’s throne, waiting patiently for his first challenger – Red, who arrives at the very end of the episode.
This episode is mainly interesting for showing us what Blue is like around characters other than Red – and it seems like he’s just as arrogant and self-assured as ever. “See that?” he says to Lorelei as her Lapras falls. “I happen to be an incredible genius.” After defeating Bruno, he claims that he and his Pokémon haven’t even started to fight seriously yet. Probably the most interesting part of the episode is his interaction with Agatha who, unlike her colleagues, manages to get under Blue’s skin. When we challenge her in the games, Agatha expresses disdain for Professor Oak, an “old duff” who was once a powerful Pokémon trainer but now spends all his time on research; she assumes that the player, as Oak’s protégé, will be just as obsessed with the Pokédex project. She makes a similar suggestion to Blue, Oak’s grandson, who furiously responds “don’t you compare me with that old man!” and declares that he only cares about the Pokédex as a way to become stronger. He doesn’t really say much of interest during his fight with Lance, just more of the usual trash talk and bravado.
I have very mixed feelings on this. I like the idea; it shows us a series of moments from the games that we never actually saw, but clearly must have happened, and gives us more insight into Blue’s character. On the other hand, I think it could easily have been much better done. What I would have liked to see here is a focus on just one of the four battles, with a similar sort of presentation to, say, Red’s battle with Brock in Origins. None of the individual members of the Elite Four gets enough screen time here for us to really learn anything about them beyond what we already know from their in-game dialogue, and the constant cutting from one battle to the next, without any big central sequence to tie the whole thing together, just makes it feel choppy. My initial thought was that it would have made the most sense to have the whole short focus on Blue’s battle with Lance, and get some idea of the contrast between their training styles and of Lance’s impressions of the would-be Champion. On the other hand, having now watched this, I would actually be really curious to see the whole of his battle with Agatha, because it’s clear that she bothers him a lot by mentioning his grandfather. I don’t think we ever really see anyone else break his cool and confident façade in the same way until his final defeat at the end of the game, so it’s really interesting that Agatha manages to make him so angry even when he’s clearly winning. There could have been a lot of space there to expand on how Agatha and Professor Oak knew each other when they were younger, and what Blue’s relationship with his grandfather is like – has it been strained for a while, even before Oak expresses such utter disappointment in Blue’s abilities and temperament after Red’s victory? So I guess, again, the verdict on this episode of Generations is “well, sure… but couldn’t you have done a lot more with this?”