Anime Time: Episode 72

The Ancient Puzzle of Pokémopolis

What happens when you get an actual real-live archaeologist to write a commentary on the episode of the Pokémon anime where they discover a bunch of artefacts from an ancient city?   Let’s find out.

The artefact known as the 'Unearthly Urn.'
The artefact known as the ‘Unearthly Urn.’

At the beginning of this episode, Ash and Brock are having a training battle out in the wilderness when a couple of stray attacks blow a hole in a hillside, revealing a buried shrine.  Brock finds a mottled orange dumbbell-shaped object lying on an altar, which is immediately snatched away from him by a young, blue-haired and inexplicably French archaeologist named Eve, who has a whole team of khaki-clad excavators with her.  Eve immediately presents the mysterious object to a senior professor in her group, excited because it apparently confirms an extremely important hypothesis of hers.  Once Eve’s initial bubbling enthusiasm has subsided, she brings the kids to her dig team’s camp and shows them some of her recent finds.  She claims that these artefacts – particularly the dumbbell that the kids just found, and a spoon made of the same orange material – are the first archaeological evidence of the location of an ancient city called Pokémopolis, where humans worshipped Pokémon as symbols of the power of nature.  Eve, despite her young age, is apparently the world’s foremost expert on this lost civilisation.  Her doting professor tells the kids that she had earned her PhD by the time she was eight years old, and published a best-selling book on Pokémopolis a year later.  At the moment, Eve is trying to figure out what to make of a stone tablet with a cryptic and ominous inscription: “Beware the two great powers of destruction.  The shadow of the Dark Device will grapple with the prisoner of the Unearthly Urn.  The sacred city will be no more as day is swallowed up by night.  Darker still for you when they return to lay waste the world, but no human knows the secret to soothe the powers and guide them back to the shadow world.”

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Anime Time: Episodes 69 and 70

Lights, Camera, Quack-tion – Go West, Young Meowth

We’re doing these two episodes together because the plot of the second follows directly on from the first, but to be honest Lights, Camera, Quack-tion is really not all that interesting an episode, and beyond giving a brief (hah!) synopsis of the story, as I usually do, I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.  Most of this entry is instead going to deal with Go West, Young Meowth.  That one is incredibly interesting because it’s the one that gives us Meowth’s backstory, and Meowth – the Pokémon who goes out of his way to act like a human – is in a position to say all kinds of neat things about what it means to be a Pokémon or a human.  So, not much time and a lot to say; pretty much par for the course around here.  Let’s get to it!

“Prepare for trouble!  No stun double!  To protect the movies from devastation!  To restore spectacle and imagination!  To make great epics of hate and love!  To direct the best films you've ever heard of!  Cleavon Schpielbunk!  Winner of the Golden Growlithe for best director at the Flea Collar Film Festival!  Lights!  Camera!  Hit your mark when I call action or prepare to fight; THAT'S RIGHT!”
“Prepare for trouble! No stun double! To protect the movies from devastation! To restore spectacle and imagination! To make great epics of hate and love! To direct the best films you’ve ever heard of! Cleavon Schpielbunk! Winner of the Golden Growlithe for best director at the Flea Collar Film Festival! Lights! Camera! Hit your mark when I call action or prepare to fight; THAT’S RIGHT!”

In Lights, Camera, Quack-tion, the kids are out looking for a good spot to settle down and train for a while when they blunder into the midst of a film crew, led by the legendary director Cleavon Schpielbunk.  Schpielbunk is known for artsy films that receive critical acclaim but suffer at the box office, like Brock’s favourite movie of all time, I Saw What You Ate Last Tuesday.  His next production is going to be called Pokémon in Love, and will only star Pokémon.  He’s looking for a Pokémon to co-star opposite his Wigglytuff, a foul-tempered, thin-skinned prima donna.  Several Pokémon audition: Pikachu, Psyduck, Vulpix, Jessie and James’ Arbok and Weezing, Meowth, a Raichu belonging to a trainer the kids met earlier, and a random Doduo, Hitmonlee and Tauros.  The first round of auditions, dance, eliminates the Pokémon we don’t care about.  The second requires a duet with Wigglytuff.  Meowth flat out refuses, telling Wigglytuff “I work alone,” and Arbok and Weezing’s cringe-inducing performances earn vicious Doubleslaps.  All the other Pokémon slink off, unwilling to risk Wigglytuff’s wrath… except Psyduck.  Schpielbunk shrugs and awards Psyduck the part, to a mixture of pride and bemusement from Misty, then explains the plot of his film.  Pokémon in Love is a tale of star-crossed lovers that essentially rips off a fairly significant portion of Romeo and Juliet; Misty comments that it doesn’t sound very original, but Ash and Brock are moved to tears (in fairness to Schpielbunk, Romeo and Juliet itself was basically ripping off the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid’s Metamorphoses).  The climactic scene calls for Wigglytuff and Psyduck to try to end a battle between their feuding families, only for Psyduck to be killed in the crossfire.  While the crew films this scene, Team Rocket shows up and deploys one of their patented godawful machines to capture all the Pokémon – except Psyduck.  Misty shouts at Psyduck until his headache-based superpowers kick in, and he is able to free all the Pokémon and hurl Team Rocket off into the sunset.  Schpielbunk calls cut, and decides he somehow has basically enough for an awesome movie.

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Anime Time: Episodes 68 and 71

Make Room for Gloom – To Master the Onixpected

Bulbasaur 'chasing the Dragonite' and biting off more than he can chew.  Or, uh... sniffing more than he can smell.  Yeah this metaphor is kinda getting away from me.
Bulbasaur ‘chasing the Dragonite’ and biting off more than he can chew. Or, uh… sniffing more than he can smell. Yeah this metaphor is kinda getting away from me.

As we join our heroes today, Ash is still at home in Pallet Town, staying with his mother Delia and her Mr. Mime, Mimey, and supposedly training for the Pokémon League tournament… not that he spends a lot of time doing that.  In fact, like a schoolkid with an impending exam, it’s largely while avoiding the process of actually training that he gets up to the stuff that happens over the course of these two episodes.  In the process, though, he inadvertently winds up learning some interesting things about what it means to be a trainer – and so can we.  Let’s get to it.

In Make Room for Gloom, Ash, as he tries to escape the horror of doing chores for his mother, inadvertently leads Misty and Brock to the very place she’d wanted them to pick up gardening supplies for her – a huge domed greenhouse called the Xanadu Nursery.  Ash spent a lot of time there with his mother when he was young, but thought it had closed years ago when the owner moved away.  The kids are let into the greenhouse by one of its workers, a man named Potter, and Ash decides to let Bulbasaur out to play among the plants.  Bulbasaur has great fun at first, getting high off a herb known as Pokénip (like catnip, geddit?), but soon runs into trouble when he sniffs another plant, stun stem, which can paralyse humans and Pokémon.  Luckily, the nursery’s new owner Florinda and her Gloom are on hand to help.  Having worked with stun stem for so long, Gloom has developed an immunity to the plant’s toxin, and can even produce an antidote nectar to cure other Pokémon who have been exposed.  While Bulbasaur promptly starts flirting with his saviour, Brock – in more or less the manner we have come to expect from him – takes the opportunity to get to know Florinda.  Florinda is cripplingly insecure, and believes that she’s a failure at both training Pokémon and running her family’s business.  Potter explains to Ash and Misty that when Florinda bought a Leaf Stone for her Gloom, it failed to evolve Gloom into Vileplume, and she believes this is because she’s a poor trainer.

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Anime Time: Episodes 66 and 67

The Evolution Solution – The Pi-Kahuna

Professor Oak did you really just spend all morning making this crappy Powerpoint of a Slowbro with question marks all over it?
Professor Oak did you really just spend all morning making this crappy Powerpoint of a Slowbro with question marks all over it?

These two episodes cover a brief (?) excursion to tropical Seafoam Island, where Delia and a group of her friends from Pallet Town are enjoying a relaxing holiday (it’s a very different place from the Seafoam Islands in the games).  Misty and Brock are both invited to join their group, but Ash – who is theoretically supposed to be training for the Pokémon League – is left behind, until he manages to con Professor Oak into giving him an excuse to go anyway.  The Evolution Solution, upon watching it again, is not as interesting an episode as I had hoped it would be, and The Pi-Kahuna has themes that are pretty standard for the Pokémon anime.  However, the former gives me an excuse to ramble at length about Shellder and Slowbro, while the latter… let’s just say its themes are open to creative reinterpretation.  Anyway – without further ado, let’s jump right in.

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Anime Time: Episode 65

Showdown at the Po-Ké Corral

That's it.  That's the episode.
That’s it. That’s the episode.

Now safely back in Pallet Town, Ash has to start preparing for the Pokémon League tournament – and in order to do that, he has to visit Professor Oak to find out when and where the tournament actually takes place (evidently, the answer is: in exactly two months, at exactly the same place as every year – the Indigo Plateau).  It apparently never occurred to him before now to look this stuff up.  When he arrives at the lab with Misty and Brock, Oak is apparently more excited to see Togepi than to see him, but nonetheless welcomes the gang into his sitting room, where they find out that – as always – Gary is two steps ahead of Ash.  They are almost immediately at each other’s throats, but Professor Oak protests that it would be a shame for there to be a feud between Pallet Town’s two “top trainers” – to the indignant disbelief of both.  Ash and Gary snipe each other for a while as the Professor examines their Pokédexes, and then it’s time for a tour of his facilities.

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Anime Time: Episode 38.5?

Holiday Hi-Jynx

Wait.

The next episode is something that makes thematic sense for me to do as a Christmas thing?  That never happens!

Strictly speaking, Holiday Hi-Jynx isn’t the next episode (you can tell because Charmander hasn’t evolved and Togepi hasn’t joined the team yet); it was probably meant to happen around the same time as Pikachu’s Goodbye but got derailed by the same mess surrounding the Porygon episode that caused Snow Way Out to be rescheduled.  But it’s usually been aired a couple of slots after It’s Mr. Mime Time, while Ash is theoretically supposed to be back in Pallet Town, and IT’S CHRISTMAS, DAMNIT so let’s talk about the Jynx episode, and then ramble about Christmas traditions and Santa for a while.

We begin with Team Rocket kidnapping Santa Claus as he comes down their chimney.  Because they are Team Rocket.

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Anime Time: Episode 64

It’s Mr. Mime Time

Yeah, this is totally happening again!  Because I feel like it!  At the moment!  To be honest there are probably a fair few people following me now who have no idea that I used to write ridiculously in-depth commentaries on episodes of the Pokémon anime, but that was totally a thing and it’s going to be again, so let’s get this calamitous misadventure on the road!  Now… where were we?  When last I left Ash, which was… over three years ago… eh-heh… (look; I’ve been doing other stuff, okay?)

When last I left Ash, he had just… well, I hesitate to use to use the word ‘won,’ so let’s say he ‘obtained’ his eighth and final official Pokémon League badge, the Earth Badge.  Now it’s just a hop, skip and a jump back home to Pallet Town so he can start training for the upcoming tournament – or, at least, it would be, if he hadn’t encountered an unexpected obstacle on the way.

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