A Pokémon Trainer is You! XLI: Perchance to Dream

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you dream about?

  • Your Pokémon
  • Blue

As the mountain cave fades away and the Clefairy’s strange song fills your head with fog, you come to realise, all of a sudden, that you’re back home, in Pallet Town.  You’re at school, on your lunch break – and so is Blue, who is mid-sentence saying something about why studying Pokémon scientifically is dumb.

You were never close with Blue, back in Pallet Town.  Obviously you knew him – you were at school together and he’s related to the Professor, so it would have been hard not to – you just didn’t feel like he had the qualities you wanted in a friendship.  And, I mean, fair play to you; he’s a piece of $#!t.  But you remember this day.  Your Pokémon Studies teacher had asked the class why people become trainers, and you and Blue had gotten into a fairly spirited argument about how much trainers should value strength and power, which spilled over into lunchtime.  You think it was about six months before you both left home.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XLI: Perchance to Dream”

RandomAccess asks:

Do you think it’d be fun if, for some reason, they remade the gen 1 and 2 games again and they made regional variants for some of the new Pokémon? Or even a regional variant for some new Pokémon that got retyped to fairy as their original typing? Maybe a fairy/normal Clefairy that even has the original light pink color scheme way different from the much more vivid pink clefairy we have today.

I’m not sure what you mean by the “original light pink colour scheme” – Clefairy in generations VI and VII is a noticeably paler shade of pink than in II through IV (especially II, where the sprites would, I think, be best described as “shocking pink”).  But as a general principle, I guess sure?  I’m decidedly unconvinced by the idea of re-remaking generations I and II, but if you were going to do it, details like that would give the exercise some point.

Inksword asks:

I thought they made the switch from clefairy because they wanted a more gender neutral pokemon and clefairy was too pink and girly? Or is that just a rumor that’s never had evidence?

Dunno.  It would kind of make sense?  I can’t find anything reputable online that discusses it in any detail.  Most people who talk about the decision are pretty clearly extrapolating from Bulbapedia’s rather bare-bones account.

Anonymous asks:

If you had the power to make any other Pokemon besides Pikachu the mascot, who would it be? (I would choose Poliwhirl)

You know, I’m honestly not sure that I would.  Pikachu being the mascot, like a lot of other stuff from Pokémon’s early development, kind of happened by accident.  Pokémon didn’t really have a mascot at first; Pikachu gained the spot because of the popularity of the anime, for which he was largely responsible.  But Pikachu being Ash’s starter and the most prominent Pokémon character in the anime was a last-minute change; he was originally supposed to be a Clefairy, and it’s not entirely clear why they made the switch.  Ultimately, he’s the mascot because people love him, and people love him because, objectively, he is adorable as f$%&.  Much as I like to complain about Pikachu spawning a line of irritating knock-offs in subsequent generations, it’s hard to deny that he earned his popularity.  So yeah.  I’d keep Pikachu.

Anime Time: Episode 62

Clefairy Tales

This episode is… tricky.

By “tricky” I mean that I’m not sure whether it’s the worst episode ever… or what the whole series should have been like.

I’ll… I’ll just give you the plot, shall I?

 ...I'm so sorry; I just couldn't resist.

So, they episode opens on Jigglypuff, who is strolling around the woods one night, singing to herself, leaving behind a trail of comatose forest Pokémon, with doodles all over their faces… but it’s not just the forest Pokémon that are being affected by her song.  A machine part falls from the sky and lands on her head, and she looks up to see a large yellow sphere hurtle through the sky and crash nearby in the woods.  Jigglypuff goes to investigate, and encounters a large group of Clefairy piling out of the sphere…

A few days later, as Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu relax outside an ice-cream parlour, a Clefairy approaches their table and starts doing the sort of cutesy things Clefairy are known for.  Misty declares that she must have this Clefairy, but the Pokémon isn’t interested in fighting, and bounces off, with the kids in hot pursuit.  Eventually, she slips away from them, and they return in defeat, only to find that their backpacks – and their ice-cream – have been stolen!  They go to the police station to report the theft to Officer Jenny #442, and quickly learn that they aren’t the only victims: dozens of people are lined up outside the station, complaining of increasingly bizarre thefts.  A bike horn, the buttons from a coat, the candles from a birthday cake… Misty wonders out loud who’d steal rubbish like this, and immediately gets an answer.  “ALIENS.”  The speaker is a scientist – and I use the term loosely – named Oswald, an enthusiastic conspiracy theorist whose self-proclaimed mission is to expose the hidden truths that the government doesn’t want people to know.  Oswald posits that these miscellaneous items are being purloined by Aliens for Alien Reasons, and produces a scrapbook filled with the standard blurry photographs normally used as evidence for this sort of thing.  The chef whose candles were stolen points to one picture and says that he recognises it, prompting Oswald to ask, hysterically, where he saw it and when, and whether the aliens took him aboard to probe him (no, I’m serious).  The chef stammers out that he saw the spacecraft over the forest three nights ago… which is just when the thefts began.  Oswald triumphantly joins the group and leads Ash and friends through town, sweeping the area with a bleeping ‘scanner.’

 THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!  Screenshots from filb.de/anime.

Then a pair of silver-skinned aliens land their spaceship in front of the group, calmly walk out, pick up Pikachu, and leave again.  Ash, apparently, is as dazed as I am by the way this episode is going and just blinks as they kidnap his best friend.  As the ship takes off, the kids notice that it’s being held up by a crane cable, and Ash sends Pidgeotto to snap it.  The aliens, who have stuffed Pikachu into a shockproof glass case, turn out to be Team Rocket in costume, and it looks like they’re ready to have their standard crushing defeat inflicted upon them, but instead something quite different happens.  A Clefairy appears, closely followed by an extremely irate Jigglypuff.  Oswald’s scanner starts making louder bleeping noises, and he declares that “according to my scanner, Clefairy is an alien!”  In fact, “Jigglypuff is also an alien!”  When Misty questions the scanner’s integrity, it indicates that she is also an alien, so she knocks it out of Oswald’s hand in irritation.  Meanwhile, the Clefairy steals Pikachu’s case and flees, casting a Light Screen to block Team Rocket’s pursuit before disappearing down a manhole.  Jigglypuff follows, bringing the team with her.  The manhole leads them into an underground hangar, where the Clefairy seem to have repaired their ship by cannibalising items stolen from the townsfolk, and constructed a massive rocket booster to relaunch it – and they’re going to use Pikachu to power the blasted thing.  Ash and Misty run to save Pikachu, Brock leaves to find reinforcements, and Oswald decides to stow away on the ship.  When they find Pikachu, still locked up, several Clefairy appear to guard him, but Jigglypuff bitchslaps them into submission before stalking off.  While Ash and Misty try to release Pikachu, Oswald and Jigglypuff find the bridge, where Jigglypuff furiously attacks the Clefairy captain.  Oswald starts playing with the controls and snaps the main joystick – Jigglypuff’s black marker, which she uses as a prop while singing due to its vague resemblance to a microphone.  Jigglypuff immediately grabs it and bursts into song, putting everyone on the ship to sleep, then leaves just before the launch countdown completes.  A machine whacks Pikachu with a hammer, prompting him to pour out electricity into the ship’s systems and begin the launch.


Up above, Officer Jenny asks Brock “do you really expect me to believe a bunch of Clefairy stole those things to make a spaceship?”  Right on cue, a huge section of the road retracts to form a launch ramp and the spaceship blasts off into the sky, leaving a trail of random stolen objects behind it.

This… this may well be my favourite scene of the whole series so far.

Pikachu’s electricity overwhelms the ship’s power core and his glass cage shatters.  As Ash and Misty wake up, the spacecraft begins to lean and wobble in its flight, so they quickly find their stuff and attempt to leave.  Bulbasaur, impressively, manages to snare a nearby skyscraper with his Vine Whips and swing them all onto the roof, more or less unharmed, as the spaceship passes it.  From the roof, Ash and Misty watch the ship sail off into the sky and reflect on what has been just about the most bizarre day of their lives as trainers.

Some hours later, the Clefairy ship crashes again near a lake.  As a crowd of people gathers around to see what’s going on, Oswald emerges, wearing a makeshift cardboard space suit and asking, in a muffled and heavily accented voice, “is this the planet of the Clefairy?”  Behind him, the Clefairy crew spill out of the ship to begin their crime spree anew…

I don’t know what the writers were on when they did this one, but I want some.

 I wonder how long it takes him to realise he's not on another planet?  Hours?  Days?

Clefairy are weird, weird Pokémon.  With few exceptions, they don’t have much contact with people, suggesting that most of them don’t really buy into the idea of the implied partnership with humanity which I am convinced is the basis of the way most Pokémon relate to us.  That could be indicative of a number of things, up to and including an entirely independent civilisation with its own culture and morality.  The anime really likes the “Clefairy are from space” angle, which I think was only a fairly minor detail in the games – some dude suggests that Clefairy might be from space because of their connection with the Moon Stone – but does seem to have been at least in the back of the designers’ minds from the beginning.  Whereas Clefairy and the Moon Stone suggested that they arrived on Earth riding a meteorite, however, Clefairy Tales has them piloting an honest-to-goodness spaceship.  One might initially assume that it wasn’t originally theirs, that they stole it from someone else, but they’re shown to be able to repair the damn thing using an incredibly eclectic array of parts pilfered from random townspeople, so clearly they know its technology inside out – and the thing only failed to fly in the end because Jigglypuff put the crew to sleep and Oswald sabotaged the controls.  This isn’t just intelligence; this is technological genius.  Coupled with the belief – which, if you accept my theories, is typical of Pokémon – that human ideas about morality are exactly that, human ideas… and we have a largely amoral (though not malicious) race of highly intelligent, technologically advanced Pokémon with formidable magic and, just for fun, the ability to use Metronome.  It’s a recipe for total chaos.  Quite honestly, I think these Clefairy would make fantastic recurring villains, partly because of the fact that they’re not really villainous, just genius kleptomaniacs with mysterious goals.  Figuring out where they’re from and what they’re up to could be a fascinating storyline in itself.

 "Visit Earth, they said; observe the fascinating local culture, they said... silly backwards little planet; remind me to nuke the place from orbit..."

Funnily enough, I don’t think it’s ever actually proven in the anime that the Clefairy come from outer space.  Everything seems to imply it, Seymour in Clefairy and the Moon Stone believes that all Pokémon came from space originally, and Oswald assumes that the Clefairy in Clefairy Tales are attempting to return to their homeworld.  On the other hand, though… there are plenty of Clefairy on Earth who apparently do not have spacecraft or other advanced technology, but simply worship meteorites and draw power from cosmic phenomena.  Their presence draws me toward one of two explanations.  The Clefairy may have been stranded on Earth somehow, losing most of their technology, so that some of them ‘went native’ and fully committed themselves to staying here, while others devote all their time and energy to rebuilding from scratch the starships they will need to return home (of which the ship from Clefairy Tales is perhaps only an early prototype).  Alternatively, the Clefairy may have been from Earth all along – again, there’s no proof that they aren’t – and simply developing a space program of their own in the same way as humanity did, their zeal further increased by their strange affinity for the cosmos.  As for where and how… well, they manage to construct an underground hangar in the middle of a city (and get their crashed ship inside, unseen) in the space of three days; I can only imagine what they could do out in the wilderness with several months to work with.  One final point I want to address briefly is that there are no Clefable in this group at all; not even the leader has evolved.  This implies that they do not have – and may never have had – ready access to Moon Stones.  I’m not sure that this necessarily favours one of my explanations over the other, although it does seem to suggest that the Clefairy in Kanto are divided into distinct groups, and that trade and exchange between these groups is not without restrictions.  If I were in a particularly speculative mood (which, let’s face it, is pretty much my baseline) I might even suggest a division into ‘religious’ and ‘scientific’ factions: one group focussed on community, tradition, and ritual, who use their Moon Stones to enhance their magical abilities through evolution, and another group focussed on exploration, discovery, and technology, who devote their energies to building spacecraft (or repairing them, depending on your interpretation).

This episode, like A Chansey Operation, is utterly crazy.  It’s not totally inconsistent with the rest of the series, which is extremely light-hearted, but it was clearly written with a rather different tone in mind.  I can only imagine how differently Pokémon – both the anime and the whole franchise – might have developed if the entire series had been so wholeheartedly zany.  As matters stand, though, I can’t help but love this episode for providing me with so much material that is so fun to work into the other details of the setting.  Perhaps in that respect it’s good that it stands out the way it does.

Anime Time: Episodes 5-7

Showdown at Pewter City – Clefairy and the Moon Stone – The Waterflowers of Cerulean City

In which Ash… earns… his first two Gym Badges.  Arguably.  Also stuff happens with some Clefairy.

 Some nice crisp art of Brock and his Rock Pokémon, by Fluna (http://fluna.deviantart.com/)

When Ash and Misty arrive in Pewter City, they are greeted by an aged hobo selling rocks.  Don’t scoff; rocks are the whole basis of Pewter City’s economy.  The hobo leads them to the Pokémon Centre where Misty points out a poster advertising the Indigo League tournament, which explains that contestants need to earn eight official Gym Badges to enter.  Ash… apparently didn’t know this.  Why the hell was he going to Pewter City?  If he didn’t know about collecting badges, what could he possibly have wanted to do there?  Buy rocks?  Misty cautions Ash not to rush into a Gym battle and offers to lend him some of her Pokémon, but Ash ignores her, challenges the local leader, Brock, and quickly learns that Brock’s signature Pokémon, Onix, is fifty times Pikachu’s size and invulnerable to electricity.  Ash surrenders to keep Pikachu from being turned into red paste, and leaves the Gym in despair.  On the street he meets the hobo, Flint, who explains that Brock is a very powerful trainer and could go much further than being Gym Leader of a hick town, but is kept in Pewter City by his countless younger siblings – Brock’s father ditched the family to become a Pokémon trainer, this sort of thing being socially acceptable in Kanto, and his mother died soon after (or… so the English translation claimed… long story).  Despite his sympathy for Brock, Flint provides Ash with a “strategy” to defeat him: overcharge Pikachu by hooking him up to a derelict hydroelectric paddle-wheel… which Ash will turn manually (realism is cast aside so Ash can work for his victory and prevent this whole episode from being a blatant exercise in cheating… I mean, it kind of is anyway, but they were trying).  Although Pikachu nearly explodes, Flint’s plan works: the next day, he fries Brock’s Geodude with relative ease.  Onix is still too strong, but unfortunately for Brock, Pikachu’s wild electrical blasts set off the Gym’s fire suppression systems, drenching Onix and rendering him vulnerable.  The characters’ reactions are fascinating.  Ash declares that he doesn’t want to win on a fluke and leaves the Gym, which makes sense; he’s still far too proud to accept this kind of victory.  Misty, who’s watching, seems to think Ash should have taken his lucky break and finished Onix, because all’s fair in Pokémon and war, so she clearly has no moral compass.  And Brock… Brock follows him and just gives him the Boulder Badge, because he doesn’t really give a damn about this whole Gym Leadering thing anyway.  Flint turns up and reveals himself as Brock’s father; apparently he was an appalling trainer and returned to Pewter City not long after leaving, but decided to become a rock salesman instead of going home to care for his vermin offspring.  I guess Ash has reminded him how not to be a massive jerk, because he’s decided to become a proper father again (and also run the Gym, presumably… despite being a self-confessed failure as a trainer…) so Brock can go on a road trip.

 Clefairy and Clefable.  Artwork by Ken Sugimori; twinkle twinkle, little star, how I wonder whether you'll come after me for copyright infringement.

Ash, Misty and Brock leave Pewter City together and travel past Mt. Moon, where they meet a… ‘scientist’… named Seymour and have to deal with Team Rocket, who are trying to steal an ancient meteorite known as the Moon Stone from Mt. Moon (this meteorite, presumably, is the source of all the smaller Moon Stones we’re familiar with from the games).  Team Rocket is dealt with quite comprehensively by the community of Clefairy who inhabit Mt. Moon; their Metronome chorus results in a powerful explosion that actually blows the Moon Stone itself to smithereens, but no-one seems to mind because the shards cause many of the Clefairy to evolve into Clefable.  Then Seymour decides to go and live with the Clefairy because he’s nuts.  Honestly, I could probably spend an entire entry just talking about this episode.  It’s the first time we see a Pokémon using an evolutionary stone in the anime, which is interesting in itself, but the Clefairy and Clefable relate to the Moon Stone in a way that’s so weird and unique that it adds a whole extra dimension to the matter.  Sadly that doesn’t really fit with the ideas I want to talk about today, but I’ll probably come back to it when I discuss episode fourteen (which is definitely getting a whole entry to itself).

Despite Misty’s inexplicable protests, the group’s next destination is Cerulean City, where Ash wants to try for his second badge in as many weeks.  When they reach the city, Misty vanishes in a huff, and Brock wanders off to take care of some unspecified “stuff,” returning only at the end of the episode.  Ash makes his way to the Cerulean Gym-cum-aquarium, where – to his surprise – he witnesses the end of a water ballet performed by a trio known as the “Sensational Sisters.”  As he explores the Gym later, he meets the sisters, Lily, Violet and Daisy, and learns that the three of them are, in fact, the Gym Leaders.  As it turns out, however, they’re just as sick of their Gym Leader gig as Brock was, having just suffered three devastating losses to the other three trainers who left Pallet Town at the same time as Ash.  In fact, apart from a Goldeen and a low-level Seel, all of their Pokémon are resting at the Pokémon Centre.  Lily, Violet and Daisy would rather focus on the water ballets that have made their Gym famous than deal with challenges so, with a collective shrug, they decide to hand Ash his Cascade Badge just for the asking… until Misty bursts in.  Misty, it turns out, is the family’s fourth and youngest sister, and she is none too pleased about the way her sisters are handling their Gym (or failing to).  She answers Ash’s challenge herself, and soundly defeats his Butterfree with her Staryu.  They both switch Pokémon, and Pidgeotto nearly beats Misty’s Starmie, but Team Rocket interrupts the battle by attacking the Gym with some kind of giant vacuum cobbled together from cannibalised household appliances they stole earlier in the episode.  They intend to use this godawful device to suck up all the water in the Gym, and all the Water Pokémon with it, but Ash, of course, defeats Team Rocket and saves the sisters’ last few Pokémon.  Lily, Violet and Daisy decide to award Ash the Cascade Badge for services rendered to the Cerulean Gym, and point out to Misty that Pikachu could have flattened her Water Pokémon anyway if he’d wanted to (Pikachu refused to fight a friend – he doesn’t yet follow all of Ash’s orders without question; he can also be troublesome about going into battles he doesn’t think he can win).  They meet up with Brock, who never does explain what his “stuff” involved, and move on to their next misadventure.

 Misty and Starmie.  People seem to think Misty forgets about Starmie as the series goes on, because she doesn't use it much, but it's actually her go-to Pokémon for most situations... it's just Starmie suffers the most from Psyduck's tendency to come out when Misty wants a different Pokémon.

These episodes begin Ash’s extremely chequered career of earning Gym Badges under questionable circumstances.  Of his eight Kanto badges, only three were totally legitimate (you could certainly make arguments for some of the other five, but they’re definitely suspect). Gym Leaders appear to have a lot of latitude in running their Gyms and handing out their badges, and once you get your hands on one of the things, no-one ever really questions it.  Strange as it might seem, this is actually something I would like to put in the games; Black and White made a decent effort at showing the Gym Leaders as people rather than just bosses, but Claire from Gold and Silver remains the only one in history ever to demand something other than a battle as proof of a player’s worthiness.  A Gym Leader’s job is to certify that a challenger possesses a certain degree of skill as a trainer, and a battle is the most straightforward and obvious way to do that, but it’s plainly not the only way.  Providing a service to the Gym or to the city, in a manner that demonstrates one’s abilities to the satisfaction of the Gym Leader, seems like a perfectly sensible way to earn a badge.  Arguably, so is putting up a good fight when your main Pokémon is plainly unsuited to the task at hand.  Happening to show up just as the Gym Leader gets sick of battling… not so much.  How Lily, Violet and Daisy became the Gym Leaders of Cerulean City in the first place is beyond me, since they don’t appear to have much commitment to their position, which suggests to me that general oversight for the whole system is relatively slack.  I think two or three years pass before someone picks up on their uselessness and Misty has to come home and run the gym for them.  Honestly I suspect that the Pokémon League just quietly overlooks Cerulean City in exchange for a percentage of their ticket sales.

The other important thing about these episodes is that they introduce Brock and fill in Misty’s backstory.  Brock is the oldest (I don’t know if his age is ever mentioned but I think he’s supposed to be about sixteen) and most responsible member of the team… until he sees an attractive woman, at which point he turns into a drooling idiot.  He’s used to taking care of a huge family, and probably finds it a welcome break to have only two demented children on his hands.  Although Brock is quite powerful, he doesn’t actually like fighting and wants to become a Pokémon Breeder – a somewhat nebulous term in the anime, since any actual ‘breeding’ would probably spoil the show’s G-rating; basically Brock is a specialist in Pokémon nutrition and general healthcare.  Misty is a lot of fun.  She’s often described as a tomboy – she normally wears boyish clothes and she’s as adventurous, outgoing and stubborn as Ash – but she does regularly show interest in stereotypically ‘girly’ things, and loves anything that’s pink, cute, sparkly, or all three, so I think the tomboy aspect is something she developed as a gesture of rebellion against her sisters’ obsession with fashion and beauty.  She can be superficial at times and is prone to romanticising, but she’s also capable of being a very determined, practical person when she needs to be.  Misty and Brock will, of course, both get fuller treatment in episodes to come… so let’s get going!