Pokémon Generations: Episodes 5 and 6

Two episodes, okay; let’s do this thing.  Today we’re looking at two of the supporting characters from the Johto games: the rival character, Silver, and the “mystery man” pursuing Suicune, Eusine.  Jim the Editor and I have discussed Silver at some length in the past, as part of a series on all the rival characters of the core games.  Eusine I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about in detail before; he’s not a terribly deep character in his own right, but he’s sort of interesting as a prelude to the rapidly expanding role that legendary Pokémon have in the games’ storylines from the Hoenn games onward.  So here we go: Silver.

Silver’s episode takes place at the Indigo Plateau, where he is about the challenge the Elite Four.  This could be either at the same time as the player’s first challenge, or at the end of the game, after the player has earned eight Kanto badges; we see him there at both of those times, but I lean towards this being the latter, based on the point he seems to be at in his character development.  Outside the Pokémon League building, he runs into Looker, who has discovered that he is Giovanni’s son and wants to question him on his father’s whereabouts.  Silver is reticent, so Looker gives him a brief account of the Radio Tower crisis, presumably to impress on him the importance of the investigation.  We know, of course, that Silver was actually there and knows all about it, but he listens anyway, perhaps to humour Looker.  Archer’s Team Rocket took over the Radio Tower as a display of strength, believing that the revival of Team Rocket (and the special broadcast they put out) would cajole Giovanni to return from exile, but he never showed up.  In the games, this eventually turns out to be because of the manipulations of Celebi, who later sends the player back in time to the moment of the crisis to do battle with Giovanni at his hiding place in the Tohjo Falls caves – but neither Looker nor Silver knows about any of that.  Silver, grudgingly, recounts his own last meeting with his father, just after Giovanni’s final defeat at the Viridian Gym at the hands of Blue and Red.  Celebi allows the player to witness this conversation as well.  In both versions, Silver protests that Giovanni had said he was the strongest trainer in the world, only to lose to a couple of kids.  Giovanni attributes his failure to not making the best possible use of his organisation, and explains that he needs to leave for now and train in secret so he can return and build an even greater Team Rocket in the future.  Silver responds angrily that Giovanni was weak all along, and only used Team Rocket to pretend to be strong, vowing that he will never be like his father and will become strong on his own.  After telling his story to Looker, Silver reaffirms his commitment to personal strength (together with his Pokémon) and declares his intention to stay out of Giovanni’s business, then leaves to begin his Pokémon League challenge.

The scene with Giovanni and Silver outside of Viridian City is, in my opinion, one of the best additions that Heart Gold and Soul Silver made to the story of the original games, even if it was annoyingly hidden away in the Celebi event.  I might have preferred that Generations cover something relevant to Silver’s character that wasn’t explicitly shown in the games, as it did with Blue’s Elite Four challenge.  For instance, I would have really enjoyed seeing Silver visit Professor Elm’s lab at the end of the game, ask for forgiveness, and offer to return his starter Pokémon (we’re told that this happens by one of the lab minions, but never actually see it); that could have been one hell of a character moment, for both Silver and Elm.  On the other hand, this is a very important scene for Silver’s character, and is much more obscure than most of the stuff that we see in the games, so putting it in a Generations short does make a great deal of sense.  What we see in this scene is, essentially, why Silver is the way he is, and why he has the obsessive beliefs about personal strength (as well as the hatred for Team Rocket) that he shows throughout the games’ story.  Silver has the same annoying habit as Blue did of never acknowledging (or at times even noticing) that he’s lost a battle; he just goes on calling the player “weak” even after multiple devastating losses.  I think the scene illustrated in this episode, though, shows us that what Silver has in mind when he talks about “strength” and “weakness” is not the same as just being a powerful trainer and winning battles.  Despite his losses to Red and Blue, Giovanni was without question exceptionally powerful.  However, he rarely chose to rely on his personal strength, instead using others around him to do his work and protect himself, and when he did suffer a personal defeat, he fled and vowed to create an even greater organisation to surround himself in the future.  In Silver’s mind, Giovanni’s defeat only demonstrated the uselessness of organisational strength as a general principle.  From that point on, he understands strength and weakness in terms of standing on your own, not backing down, and taking responsibility for your own failings – all things Giovanni failed to do.  Of course, that kind of philosophy runs into problems when Silver becomes a trainer and has to rely on his Pokémon, and he has to spend most of the game ironing out the contradictions inherent in those beliefs, eventually resulting in the much mellower kid that Looker meets here at the end of the game.

Moving along – on the same day as Silver’s episode, we got one for Eusine too.  Eusine is a character who wasn’t in the original Gold and Silver versions; he was introduced in Crystal version, and returned for the remakes.  He studies legendary Pokémon, particularly Suicine, whom he has been tracking for years.  In this short, he is visiting the Burned Tower (formerly the Brass Tower) in Ecruteak City, and narrates for us the story of its destruction – again, stuff we more or less know from various bits of dialogue in the games, but haven’t really been shown all at once before.  The Burned Tower was once a great and beautiful landmark of Ecruteak City.  We’re told in the games that Lugia once roosted at its pinnacle, just as Ho-oh did at the top of the Tin Tower, though we don’t see that here.  However, during a great storm, it was struck by lightning and caught fire.  This is what the games tell us, and we see the lightning in the animation here, but for some reason Eusine’s narration instead mentions that “it was a time of constant warring,” apparently implying that he believes the tower was destroyed in a battle.  The fire claimed the lives of “three nameless Pokémon” – later Suicune, Entei and Raikou – who lived in the tower (incidentally, we see them in silhouette and hear their voices in this episode, finally confirming that they are supposed to be dog-like).  After the fire was put out by rain, Ho-oh descended from the clouds and resurrected the three Pokémon with its rainbow light, in the process granting them new powers.  However, the watching people of Ecruteak City were afraid of the incredible power of these Pokémon who had defied death, and drove them away (this is why Suicune, Entei and Raikou have no permanent home in the games, but wander around Johto at random).  Eusine tells us that, according to legend, the Pokémon will return when they are convinced once more that they can trust humans – and he wants to make that happen, to show them that they no longer have anything to fear from humanity.  As he wanders through the ruins of the Burned Tower, Suicune appears to him, briefly, before vanishing again.  Satisfied for now, and with renewed faith in his quest, Eusine leaves.

A brief side note, here: Jim the Editor was very much unconvinced by the decision to have this episode done almost entirely as a narrative flashback.  He felt this was boring and unsuited to the visual medium, and would have preferred a sort of montage of Eusine’s various meetings with Suicune over the years, set within the context of a conversation between Eusine and Ethan.  I think that avoiding flat monologues of the type we get here is fair as a general principle, but that the narrative format actually does work for this episode specifically, simply because of what it is; we’re listening to someone tell a story that has been passed down in exactly this manner for over a hundred years.  Narration is how Eusine would have learned all of this himself, originally; narration is what this story is.  I think it’s fine like this, but maybe you’ll disagree.

One of the themes of the Johto games – which lack the rather apocalyptic role played by legendary Pokémon in the later stories – is the idea of trying to restore a lost golden age by bringing back legendary Pokémon who have abandoned the world of humans.  This is made a lot more explicit in the remakes by the Kimono Girls, who are actively working to bring about the return of Ho-oh and Lugia, and possess the appropriate rituals to call on them.  Even in the original games, though, we get hints of this idea from Eusine (as well as from Morty, the Ecruteak Gym Leader).  The legendary Pokémon of Johto have abandoned humanity out of despair, feeling that they cannot live safely among humans.  This might explain Eusine’s otherwise incomprehensible comment about “a time of constant warring,” which contradicts everything else we know about the destruction of the Brass Tower – it has nothing to do with the tower’s fall; rather, it sets the tone for Ecruteak City being abandoned by its guardian Pokémon, who had come to view human nature with pessimism.  The Kimono Girls and others tell us that the Pokémon will return for a trainer who is talented, kind and pure of heart.  Eusine believes that he can become the “worthy” trainer that Suicune is searching for, but in the games is eventually forced to acknowledge that the player has won its respect instead.  Still, Eusine does tell us in the games that Suicune has appeared to him more than once, and we actually see that happen in Generations.  It’s not clear when this episode is supposed to have happened – possibly at some point during the events of Heart Gold and Soul Silver, but it could also be before Eusine ever meets the player.  Suicune isn’t quite sure about him at this point, the way it eventually is about Ethan and Lyra, but it does sense something that it likes, something that deserves encouragement and inspiration – his dedication?  His optimism about human nature?  His ridiculous cape?  The Burned Tower is a ruin of the past, but it’s also the site of an incredible miracle of rebirth, a place that shows – just as Eusine hopes – that the past is never truly gone.

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