Posted on May 1st 2022
The first series of the Pokémon anime, roughly following the plot of the Generation I Pokémon games, was widely considered a hit. But what happens after Ash goes to the tournament at the Indigo Plateau? It had been decided that the Pokémon anime would continue beyond that point and follow the plot of the next games, Pokémon Gold and Silver. But the games were delayed, and the first anime series wrapped up before Generation II was ready. At the time, going on hiatus was not an option, and so, the Pokémon anime had to come up with a filler arc.
In anime series that are based on something else, a filler arc serves the purpose of keeping the show running and relevant while buying time for the next installment of the source material. Something interesting enough needs to happen to continue the show, but nothing of consequence can happen that might conflict with the source material when it finally arrives.
The Pokémon anime team created the Orange Islands arc for this purpose. In this part of the show, Ash visits the Orange Islands, which didn't exist in the games, were never mentioned before, and will never be mentioned again. His task is to retrieve the mysterious GS Ball from Professor Ivy in the Orange Islands, and then bring it back again to Professor Oak in Pallet Town. Ash's quest was specifically designed to be circular, so that he can go out, have his filler adventures for as long as required on infinitely many islands as needed, and when it's time to start making episodes based on Pokémon Gold and Silver, Ash can be quickly retrieved back to Pallet Town where he started, as if nothing happened. In the meanwhile, he can participate in the Orange Islands tournament, which also has an unspecified number of Gym Leaders so that it can also be as long or as short as needed.
Back when this arc first aired on TV, we heard that it wasn't as good - that nothing of importance was happening in the plot, and that Brock was gone from the main cast. So, at the time, we didn't really watch it. We weren't alone. The Orange Islands gained a reputation in the fandom as not being worth watching, and apparently, in Finland, they didn't even bother airing this arc on television at all, but skipped from Kanto directly to Johto.
About 15 years later, we were rewatching the Pokémon anime from the beginning. Once we got to the end of the Kanto arc, we asked each other, should we watch the infamous Orange Islands episodes and see if they really are as bad as everyone said? Let's find out!
While we were watching, we wrote down our thoughts about each episode, and eventually coalesced them into this article. For the record, we watched only the 4Kids English dub, so our comments may or may not apply to any other version. Also there has been some discussion about what even constitutes a season in the Pokémon anime, and what exactly even are the Orange Islands episodes. Here, we're using our completely personal definition of: the episodes from after the Indigo Tournament is over until when Ash sets out for Johto.
We split this article in two parts for ease of navigation. Part 1 has our thoughts episode-by-episode, and Part 2 has our thoughts on the Orange Islands arc as a whole.
- Part 1
- Part 2
Pallet Party Panic
Ash has just come back from his spectacular, embarrassing loss at the Indigo Plateau. Although Ash will brag about having made it to the top sixteen for a long time, in reality, his showing was absolutely awful. He was almost disqualified for being late, and it was only because his opponent Ritchie insisted on waiting that the battle happened at all. Then Ash repaid the kind favor by having the gall to send out Charizard, knowing that Charizard was poorly trained and chronically disobedient and had no place in a serious tournament. Predictably, Charizard didn't obey Ash, and just took a nap in the middle of the arena until the referee decided enough is enough, you've made enough of a fool of us all, and so declared Ash the loser.
Everyone in Pallet Town watched this on TV. They saw Ash show up late in in his over-dramatic way, and then display just how untrained his Pokémon were. He didn't even get to lose by losing. He lost by being too pathetic.
In spite of this, in this episode, Ash goes back to Pallet Town and is greeted with a party in his honor. Ash, you are the pride and joy of Pallet Town! For embarrassing us beyond belief. Here's a party for you! Good job.
At the party, the Team Rocket trio are disguised as caterers. Somehow, Meowth was allowed to say wasabi in the 4Kids dub. Gasp! The forbidden Japanese!
When Team Rocket attacks, Ash is able to blast them off with the help of Pidgeotto. Everyone makes the point of how reliable Pidgeotto is.
That's why we're going to do away with it in three, two, one. Bye!
So Pidgeotto evolves into Pidgeot, and since now it's a fully evolved Pokémon that would be really useful to have around, not to mention a good mode of transportation, Ash dumps it.
Apparently, the Pidgeys outside of Pallet Town need guidance and help against the rival Spearows, which are now led by a monster Fearow, which is revealed to have been the same individual Spearow that Ash hit with a rock back in Episode 1. We weren't expecting that callback.
But do the Pidgeys actually need or want Pidgeot's help? When Ash and Pidgeotto tried to help them initially, they told the Pidgeys that it was safe to fly, but then they were all immediately attacked by Fearow. Good job. There is never a moment where the Pidgeys ever make it known that they like Pidgeot and want it as their leader, because, really, they should all be wanting it dead after such a betrayal. Maybe that's why Ash will never get Pidgeot back, because the Pidgeys killed it.
At one point in this episode, Ash decides to collaborate with Team Rocket, who are also stuck on a tree because of the Fearow menace, and Team Rocket are genuine about it, but Ash, after being all thank yous and smiles, dupes them and gleefully leaves them to be attacked by the Fearow. Ash, you monster.
A Scare In The Air
It's the S. S. Anne episode but with a blimp. The twerps and Team Rocket are all on a blimp which is in danger of crashing, and mayhem ensues!
We do like the idea that Giovanni has all these old blimps that he hasn't been maintaining, so he wants Jessie, James, and Meowth to use them in their mission, because they're sure to crash. And then he can get the insurance money (yes, he says that out loud). Plus, this scheme lets him get rid of Jessie, James, and Meowth. Two birds with one stone. Wow.
Then there's the joke of, after they crash the blimp, Jessie, James, and Meowth rebuild it, because they think that the boss will be really upset that they've crashed it. The other shoe will never drop... we never hear if the boss was actually mad that he couldn't get his insurance money.
This is the episode with Professor Ivy.
Back in the day, Denise read on the Internet people joking about Professor Ivy being an evil perverted dominatrix with bedroom eyes, and she thought they were just making stuff up and being hyperbolic. They weren't. Professor Ivy's eyes never ever fully open. And she somehow gets Brock to clean her entire mess of a house, cook dinner, fix the roof... And even though he's standing right there, she talks about Brock as if he weren't capable of understanding human speech. "It looks like Brock wants to stay". As if he were a puppy.
Brock sees an unkempt house, and has this sick reaction of wanting to fix it due to his home life of having to be the sole caretaker of his nine younger siblings. When Brock insists that Ash and Misty go on without him, they assume that he's happy, but this is directly feeding his unhealthy compulsion.
Yes, this is the episode where Brock leaves the party, deciding to stay with Professor Ivy. The writers dumped Brock even less ceremoniously than some of Ash's Pokémon. Poor Brock.
But why did they dump Brock? Because the anime team was worried that Brock would be seen as racist because of the way his eyes are drawn. One point to the anime team for trying to be sensitive... minus two for really not understanding.
Thankfully, after the fandom made known that Brock was missed, and after the anime team apparently had trouble writing for Tracey ✽, they backpedaled on this decision and brought Brock back.
But, let's imagine for a moment that the anime team stuck with the plan and that this was to be Brock's very last appearance. They kicked him off the show like a disgraced Japanese celebrity that must never be spoken of again. Brock gets no reminiscing flashback sequence, no conflict about leaving, no tearful goodbyes. It's just, oh, Brock is not coming. Okay, bye. And nevermind the fact that Brock is a major character that has been on the show since episode 5. We can absolutely see how this send-off was a slap in the face for the audience, and especially since the anime team was wrong and the non-Japanese audience not only had no problems with Brock, but even actively liked him. We can see how this soured the audience for the whole show afterwards, and why the Orange Islands arc got the reputation of being a stinker. How good could the show possibly be to make up for this betrayal?
But back on this episode... Other than an unkempt house, permanent bedroom eyes, and threatening bazongas, Professor Ivy also has three nubile assistants. Who are they? Why are they living in her basement? Oh, you know why they live in her basement...
As a side note, at one point, Ivy says that she read Professor Oak's paper about the trouble of anthropomorphic Pokémon living in human society. We want to read that so bad.
The Lost Lapras
The episode starts with some punks beating up a baby Lapras on the shore. Abusing baby sea animals is up there with kicking puppies and having mechanical arms in terms of evilness.
Because it's been abused, now Lapras doesn't trust humans. So Ash's plan to help Lapras is to insist upon forcing an interaction with it, with no respect for Lapras' personal space, its needs, its fears, or anything. Just like with poor Tooi from the Deoxys movie. Not that his plan works, since Team Rocket comes in and we don't get to see the end of that.
When, during their hijinks, they all fall off a cliff together, Lapras kinda has to save this poor drowning human, and because they went through a near-death experience together, now Ash and Lapras are bffs. Ash rides Lapras back to shore yelling, "I CAUGHT LAPRAS!!!". Misty points out that he caught Lapras in his dreams. But then Ash will be shown in future episodes putting Lapras back into its Pokéball... so did he catch it or not? If yes, when exactly? Offscreen? Why offscreen?
This is also the episode where Tracey shows up. In this episode, he acts like... kinda like a doctor, and he's also an artist. And he has a crush on Professor Oak. Funny how this will end up. In this episode, Tracey doesn't do much beyond being strangely creepy and somehow knowing everything - but we can chalk it up to the anime team not having his character fully defined yet, because he will never act so weird again.
Now that they have the vehicle and the sidekick of this arc, they can finally start doing something useful, right? Well, limited to the fact that this is the filler arc, but still...
Fit to be Tide
First Gym match of this arc! Except this is the Orange Islands League, so instead of just a battle, they have to do the fucking olympics, with target shooting and surfing and whatnot.
It is cool that this challenge is different than just a plain-ass battle. But, when we think about it, this Gym match is really unfair for the challenger. The Gym Leader Cissy can practice with her Pokémon every day to shoot the cans and surf around. Ash shows up and has no way of knowing what the challenge is going to be in advance, and his Pokémon have to try all these feats for the first time unprepared against this opponent who practices every day. What is this even meant to prove?
If something, if Ash wins, it's not so much to his credit, as to Cissy's discredit, beaten in her own house with her own rules.
Ash wins, of course.
Meanwhile, Tracey drew her instead of the Pokémon. We suspect the anime team still hadn't completely figured out how they wanted to differentiate Tracey from Brock yet, so here he is being a bit of a horndog, just like Brock. This character trait goes away over time.
It's a pity that Misty, who says Water Pokémon are her specialty, didn't really say or do anything in this entire episode centered around Water Pokémon and their unique skills.
In spite of this being the filler arc, we feel like so far they've been pulling all the stops. First Pidgeotto evolves into Pidgeot and it's super awesome, so awesome that Ash has to dump it immediately. Then there's essentially the S. S. Anne arc again, which was one of the highlights of the Kanto season, but here it is, already, in episodes 2 and 3. Then Ash gets Lapras, and we meet a new friend, and Ash has a Gym Leader battle, which is completely unlike any other Gym Leader battle before.
Now they're bringing back Butch and Cassidy, who were also a highlight of the Kanto season. They're also kinda redoing the Hypno's Naptime episode, where everyone is being hypnotized. Except this time, it's Butch and Cassidy using Drowzee to turn all the Pokémon against their trainers, ooooo. 4Kids used the clips from this episode in the opening sequence and like all their music videos, including the one that comes right after this episode. We mean, this episode looks great, so it makes sense.
While we like that Jessie and James teamed up with the twerps to defeat the greater evil, they agreed to help Ash because Butch and Cassidy had kidnapped Pikachu and they couldn't stand to see Ash so sad. ...Aren't they trying to kidnap Pikachu every other episode?
The writers could have made anything else be Jessie and James's motivation to help Ash. They could have been the ones who wanted to get Pikachu, so they can't let Butch and Cassidy get their mark. Or they needed to get their own Pokémon back, since they had been hypnotized and taken away too. Anything. Why do they care that Ash is crying? He cries all the time. And this time, he barely sobbed once, then the moment that Jessie and James agreed, he lifts his head to reveal no tears. He's a monster.
This episode has all the makings of being amazing, and we thought it was good, but maybe it could have been better yet. The animation is incredible, though. Look at Drowzee dance.
The Crystal Onix
Does your art seem too static and boring? How could you bring a dynamic sense to your creations? The answer: Attack the wildlife! Especially the rare and endangered wildlife! That will give you the inspiration you need to greatly improve your creative output!
This episode is about a glass sculptor who is dissatisfied with his work, saying it doesn't have enough life. Apparently, his late grandfather, who was a master sculptor, became a true master the day he witnessed the wondrous crystal Onix, which filled him with a lifetime of inspiration. Now, his grandson is convinced he needs the same inspiration to follow in his grandfather's footsteps. So he needs to find the crystal Onix... and... fight it. For his muse. This will help.
But, in the meanwhile that this guy is having this crisis, he's just smashing whatever perfectly fine sculpture he made, meaning that he has nothing to sell, which means that he can't support himself and his five-year-old little sister. How about selling the things that you maybe aren't perfectly happy with instead of smashing them? As artists, we know that you're not always going to be personally satisfied with what you make, but that doesn't mean that it's not good, and that someone else won't appreciate it, or even that you won't appreciate it tomorrow when you look at it with a clear head. You can't make only top masterpieces every single time. And, for his clients, evidently even the things that he considers failures are fine enough. We see them, and the twerps see them, and no one can find anything wrong with them but him.
Tracey is a Pokémon Watcher and an artist, and he's seeing this guy have an artistic breakdown, and he has nothing to say as a fellow artist. He could have instructed this sculptor guy to simply, you know, observe the Pokémon to improve his realism. Isn't that kinda his entire deal? Sigh. What a missed opportunity for Tracey's character.
By the way, this town consists of nothing but glass sculptors. How do any of them make any money all competing with each other? This place must be a complete tourist trap, like Venice, where every shop can offer glasswork for sale, and they can all manage to stay in business. So, dude, just sell something, at least one tourist is gonna like it enough to buy it.
The neighbors of this guy are also glass sculptors, and they get all their kicks by insulting the kid next door because he doesn't have any sculptures to sell. The kid whose grandpa just died and who is grieving too hard and having a breakdown on top of that. They even torment his five-year-old little sister. Their reasoning is that the kid's shop is making their own shop look bad by... not having any merchandise? Uh, why is that bad for their business? That's one less competitor. Wouldn't that be a boon?
But anyway, the twerps decide to help this bozo get his inspiration by finding the crystal Onix, which is also beneficial for Ash, who wants to see it and potentially fight it too.
Tracey asks his Venonat to help them find the Onix with its anime-only radar powers. Venonat ends up finding a pile of rocks that, seen from a certain angle, looks a lot like an Onix. This would be a special bonus in Pokémon Snap, but Tracey is annoyed. Chill out, Tracey, Venonat did a good job.
So they ask Tracey's other Pokémon: Marill! An early Generation II reveal!! This was really important at the time. And the writers knew this was a big deal, because Marill gets a whole extended introduction of absolute adorable.
To find the Onix, they need to go to the neighboring island, but this is somehow difficult, until a mystical sandbar appears to provide a walkway. It's a good thing that the two islands are connected by a mystical sandbar, or else the twerps would never be able to like, ride Lapras over there or anything. Or even swim across that distance personally.
Glass dude says some seemingly profound dialogue that maybe, even though we can't see it, they are actually both part of one single unified island. ...That's deep, man.
As they cross the sandbar, Misty gets inexplicably dark:
Whoa, Misty, calm down, what the fuck.
By the way, in this episode 4Kids was on a real roll. When Team Rocket gets the twerps in a hole trap, this exchange happens:
4Kids injected this English pun themselves, but it's amazing. In fact, this pun is so amazing that it creates a rift in the plotline: no one has the slightest reaction to James's amazing comeback, which is frankly unrealistic.
How did the twerps get out of Team Rocket's hole trap? How did Team Rocket get out of their backfired traps? Everyone managed to escape offscreen without any explanation. 4Kids hung a lampshade on it by having Jessie and James explain that it is a Team Rocket secret that not even "the writers" know about.
But anyway, in the end the twerps and the twerps of the day find the crystal Onix, and we have the pivotal moment when the sculptor locks eyes with the crystal Onix.
Reflected in the eye of the sculptor is the Onix, and reflected in the glass of the Onix is the reflection of the sculptor, and reflected in the eye of the reflection is the reflection of the Onix and reflected in the reflection of the Onix is the eye of the sculptor and...
Woaaaaah, trippy dude.
The only reason why this clip didn't become a meme at the time is because the Internet couldn't handle a gif of this size and quality.
That's how you become a good artist. Just put two mirrors next to each other and trip out.
In the Pink
Ash and friends arrive at a mysterious, seemingly deserted island filled with rare Pokémon. The twerps are told that they must leave the island. Team Rocket shows up and tries to steal all the rare Pokémon, but fail. In the end, everyone decides to keep the island a secret in order to protect the mysterious Pokémon that live there.
The rare Pokémon on Pinkan Island are rare because they are pink. Officer Jenny explains that they are pink because they eat a certain berry that dyes them.
The anime team must have gotten feedback from Game Freak at this point that harvestable berries and Pokémon of different colors would be important in the then-upcoming Pokémon Gold and Silver, hence this plot.
It's also really cute and nostalgic for this pre-Generation II era to hear Tracey expounding on how there could be new Pokémon to discover, and wouldn't that be exciting!
Later in the episode, Professor Oak offers a conflicting explanation for why the Pinkan Island Pokémon are pink: because these Pokémon live on a hard-to-reach island, they have evolved separately from the Pokémon from the mainland, meaning they have developed in this special way. Why did the writers put both theories in the same episode? Especially since it is easy to tell that Professor Oak is wrong. Pikachu isn't from Pinkan Island, but it also starts turning pink after eating the berries. Officer Jenny reassures Ash that Pikachu will be back to its manly yellow self after the pink dye wears off... which happens by the time we are back from the commercial break. Doesn't this experimentally disprove the idea that Pinkan Island Pokémon are unique in their ability to turn pink, and suggest that any Pokémon that continues to eat the berries would become temporarily pink? And that if the Pinkan Island Pokémon were to stop eating the berries, they would just revert to their more usual coloration? Or, did Professor Oak mean something like, the Pinkan Island Pokémon are adapted to extract all necessary nutrition from nothing but these particular berries, and so they have lost their ability to digest anything else?
In that case, shouldn't the berries need special protection? If an evil poacher were to steal the berries and feed them to any random Rattata, it would turn pink, and then they can much more easily create their scams. Imagine a Pokémon "breeder" selling an "ultra-rare" "specially-bred" designer pink Rattata for a hefty sum. After the scammer takes the money and leaves town, the dye wears off and the sucker is left with just a regular Rattata (and a lesson in valuing Pokémon as individuals, rather than for their looks).
A much bigger threat to the welfare of the Pokémon on Pinkan Island would be if the berries were to be illegally harvested to the point of disrupting the ecosystem. If it is the case that the Pinkan Island Pokémon cannot digest anything but these berries, without the berries, they would all die.
But the episode doesn't go this way at all. Officer Jenny and Professor Oak both explain that they need to stop cruel poachers looking to make a quick buck by exhibiting exotic pink Pokémon. That's why it's perfectly justified for everyone to attack Team Rocket and leave them for dead.
Now, hold on. At the beginning of the episode, Ash tries to catch the pink Rhyhorn simply because it's pink and rare. He'd probably do nothing with it, but gloat and send it to Professor Oak. His carelessness disrupts Tracey's peaceful Pokémon Watching and puts the Rhyhorn into a dangerous situation. Even though Ash's intentions were terrible, he gets let off with a minor scolding.
Meanwhile, Jessie, James, and Meowth later try to catch the pink Pokémon because they're pink and rare. They envision a wonderful theme park celebrating the wonders of Pokémon, where the pink Pokémon all dance happily for the cheering crowds. We are sure that Jessie and James would treat these Pokémon right, feed them well, keep them happy, and maybe even inadvertently teach the spectators to treasure important Pokémon habitats like Pinkan Island.
But Team Rocket must die for their sins, and Pinkan Island remains a secret that the general populace is not allowed to know about, just in case a few people might maybe be evil. Great.
Ash and friends arrive at a mysterious, seemingly deserted island filled with rare Pokémon. The twerps are told that they must leave the island. Team Rocket shows up and tries to steal all the rare Pokémon, but fail. In the end, everyone decides to keep the island a secret in order to protect the mysterious Pokémon that live there.
It's the exact same plot as the previous episode!
Just, in this case, instead of rare pink Pokémon, it's mysterious fossils that are actually dormant Kabuto. And instead of them being protected as a nature preserve that is actually secret for reasons unknown, they are protected by a hokey old man who believes in some weird ~prophecy~ and resorts to attempted murder to make everyone leave. And instead of Ash and company defeating Team Rocket and going on their way, in this case the Kabuto come alive, defeat Team Rocket, and make the entire island disintegrate as they move elsewhere. And instead of needing to keep the island secret because it's the law (?!?), they decide to keep the island secret because ...reasons. To protect the Kabuto, apparently, but... what difference does it make if the island is gone now and who knows where the Kabuto are going now?
By the way, the scientists are investigating Kabuto because it produces an oil that is said to confer immortality -- or at least some major health benefits. It turns out that the Kabuto are indeed apparently immortal... but they are dormant most of the time. They are long-lived like the naked mole rat is long-lived... mostly dormant and only actually living in small spurts here and there. Some immortality.
The concept of a Pokémon circus is really stupid. Circus acts with animals are impressive because animals don't usually understand human language, and they are trained to do impressive acts that normal animals can't do. But Pokémon just fucking shoot fire on command all the time, and many Pokémon are basically people. What's the point?
But this turns out to be the voice actor circus. The Pokémon are all acting and the people are dubbing over their lines to give the impression they're talking.
This girl who works with the circus goes up to Ash all, it must be nice to be so close (to Pikachu). CreeeEEEPY.
Her problem is that her Raichu won't act. Ash tried to coach them in forging a trusting bond, and he's saying things that are actually surprisingly intelligent, until Misty points out that he's repeating what Brock taught him. Nooo! Too soon!
Raichu won't do anything because it turns out that the first time it met the girl, it shocked her, and she's been afraid of being shocked ever since, and so Raichu is afraid that it might shock her by accident, and so they are in a fear loop. Wouldn't it be more conducive to teach Raichu not to shock her by accident, rather than to train her to be comfortable with being shocked all the time, as Ash is trying to do? Ash survives the 10,000 volts all the time with no visible repercussions, but that's just because of main character powers, and he's got no more brain cells to lose at this point.
In the end, she and Ash do a circus act together, voice acting over Raichu and Pikachu, and 4Kids couldn't resist giving Ash the line of, "It's hard to match the lip flaps".
Bye Bye Psyduck
In which Psyduck does not go bye bye. It's actually in its Pokéball for the whole time. Misty is having a battle with the character of the day, who at first acts friendly and cutey but she's actually mean. Misty thinks that Psyduck finally evolved because now there's a Golduck fighting for her, but it turns out the Golduck was wild and was just showing off to impress her and any other girl.
Overall, we don't have too much to say about the plot of this episode, except for the moment of fear when we saw the title. To us, the more important thing about this episode is that this is the one where the Who's That Pokémon? spot is Mewtwo. Tasked with the challenge of inventing the quintessential sound of Mewtwo, 4Kids cut that one line in the movie where Mewtwo introduces itself so that when the kids do their sing-songy "It's Mewtwo!" the reply is a deadpan "Mewtwo.". They demoted Mewtwo to any random Pokémon that can only say its name! Then again, we don't know what we would have done in their place, and we are glad for the hilarious result.
The Joy of Pokémon
This episode is about a particular Nurse Joy who goes around island to island in a boat and saves Pokémon. Even though the twerps are impressed by how strong and amazing and competent she is, and she just keeps proving over and over again how amazing she is, more amazing than they ever expected... the moment that she has to go save a Pokémon during a storm, and she tells them that it will be safer for them to stay behind and she's got this, these untrained twerps that don't know how to deal with the sea, or the storm, or the Pokémon, decide to go after her to help her. Just a bunch of wimps with a Lapras. Of course, they end up almost dying, and Joy has to go back to save them. And she doesn't even hold it against them at all.
Let her do her fucking job and leave her alone, and stop doubting her every second. She's been doing this for her entire life.
Navel maneuvers... sigh. 4Kids...
The Gym Leader of Navel Island, Danny, is a pretty cool guy. We think his approach to being a Gym Leader is similar to Brock's take - he is good-natured and is holding back a bit to be able to provide a fair test.
Ash wins this challenge only because of his main character powers. Lapras lost the freezing contest, and that was that. For the bobsled-building contest, Charizard doesn't listen, and just blasts fire at Ash, but, when Ash ducks and the fire hits the ice, it is somehow made into the exact shape of a bobsled. It's not even clear if Charizard did this on purpose or at random. Then, during the sledding contest, Ash is solidly behind for the whole race, and even accidentally goes off course into the woods, which, logically, should have further slowed him down... but somehow at the last moment Ash pops out from nowhere and wins the race. There's no explanation for how this happens. What kind of storytelling is this?
The episode had a great concept and some cute moments, but Ash has ridiculous main character powers.
The twerps arrive at a bunch of islands famous for their grapefruits. But they're currently undergoing a crisis where a Snorlax is eating the entire grapefruit harvest. A Snorlax that swims from island to island, because Snorlax can learn Surf. It does the butterfly stroke.
Jigglypuff ex machina comes to put Snorlax to sleep. So far, nobody has ever resisted the power of Jigglypuff's lullaby, even in life or death situations. But this time, Ash somehow resists the sleep and catches the Snorlax. Even though every other time he conked out with everyone else. The writers broke their own rules just so that Ash could get a Pokémon which will be rarely seen, will have no plot-important role, and will be dumped at Professor Oak even before the end of this arc.
The twist at the end of the episode is, even though Snorlax ate the entire grapefruit harvest, apparently it was also helping the trees regrow, because there are sprouts wherever Snorlax... went.
Whatever it is.
A Shipful of Shivers
A recent underwater expedition found this old trophy of the Orange League in a sunken ship. The trophy is now on display in the official Orange League museum, and Professor Oak suggests that the twerps go see it. But they can't, because Team Rocket goes Mission Impossible in the night and steals the trophy! They did a pretty good job, hanging James from a rope and making him lift the trophy case through all the laser beams. The twerps chase them, and they all end up on a haunted ship. The ship is haunted by actual literal ghosts, which were the Pokémon of the captain who won the trophy. It's convenient they were always Ghost-type Pokémon, so now they can haunt the haunted ship. Also, the trophy is said to be 300 years old, so these Pokémon are at least 300 years old. Are Gastly immortal? Er, undead?
Now, from the perspective of the captain's Pokémon, the trophy was stolen from the sunken ship, and they are annoyed, because it still belongs to their captain, so they rose the ship from the bottom of the sea to go get it back. Team Rocket serendipitously arrived on the ship with the trophy, and the Gastly attack them because they have the trophy. But from the Ghost Pokémon's perspective, wouldn't they think Team Rocket are good guys that have come to bring the trophy back? Why are they hostile towards the ones bringing the trophy back?
Then the twerps arrive, and are just as gung-ho as Team Rocket about acquiring the trophy, motivated by wanting to return it to the museum, but, for the twerps' benefit, the Gastly possess Meowth while Jessie and James are passed out and use him to explain the whole story, and say that the trophy should stay on the boat. So the twerps get this Ghost Pokémon theater of explanation; Team Rocket does not. When Jessie and James wake up, instead of bothering to explain anything to them, everyone just attacks them. Just because the twerps are the good guys, they get the benefit of an explanation. Unfair.
We are also annoyed that the twerps made no effort to try to convince the Pokémon that the trophy can go in the museum, and they can haunt the museum instead. It will still be their master's trophy. In fact, now their story could even go on the plaque and they could be part of the exhibit for forever. But no, instead the ship flies to the moon like Peter Pan.
It's a TV show law that there has to be the episode in which someone gets mistaken for a god, and now they have to choose between their ego and their friends. This is that episode of the Pokémon anime.
Meowth is the one who gets mistaken for a deity, the Great Meowth of Bounty who can use Pay Day and give everyone money. Meowth is happily enjoying the food, throwing the twerps and Jessie and James into the sea so they don't mess up his gig, until "Pay Day" comes around. Apparently, the effort Meowth put into learning to talk makes it unable to learn Pay Day. Maybe Talking is filling one of his four move slots. But the cult people think Meowth just needs more experience, which they supply by following the video game logic of endless grinding against overpowered foes. Poor Meowth.
Even though Meowth had betrayed them, Jessie and James use their last pocket change and James's precious bottle caps to fake Pay Day for Meowth, in order to save him from the endless grinding. Meowth chooses to reunite with them, because he already had what made him happy. Daw.
It's one of the rare Team Rocket-centric episodes, so much that the twerps have essentially a cameo role. There are lots of interesting little bits about Meowth and his relationship with Jessie and James, but the overarching plot doesn't matter. We found the episode itself to be uninteresting, but you can take what we learn in this episode and run with it for your fanfiction needs.
Tracey Gets Bugged
The twerps arrive to the island of bugs. Misty is terrified, but while they walk, she mentions to Tracey, good thing that none of your Pokémon are bugs! ...just as Venonat is walking right there in front of them. We had our laugh at that. But, thinking about it a little further, Misty previously had no problems with Ash's Butterfree, and will have no problems with Scyther, so we wonder if her bug phobia is actually a phobia of specifically worms (Caterpie and Weedle) and cocoons (Metapod and Kakuna). Beedrill doesn't count because everyone is rightfully afraid of Beedrill.
Along the road, the twerps find a dying Scyther and, despite its very obvious wishes to be left alone, they insist on healing it. It won't take a potion, so Tracey catches it! With friends like these, who needs enemies? Scyther was already dying, but now it can't even do that, it gets to be reanimated against its wishes and be trapped with Tracey for the rest of its life. This whole part makes catching Pokémon seem really cruel.
They bring the Scyther to the Pokémon Center, where they learn that the Scyther have a culture where the strongest Scyther is the leader. This Scyther was the leader, but was defeated by a younger Scyther, and according to their customs, the loser gets to be exiled and die alone. The twerps interfered, and the fact that they rescued and healed the old Scyther is humiliating and disrespectful.
As soon as Scyther is awake, it busts through the wall like Raikou and runs away. In the meanwhile, Team Rocket has been capturing the rest of the swarm. Apparently the old Scyther heard the commotion from all the way in the Pokémon Center, and left to try to save the swarm.
The twerps arrive and they're all, Team Rocket, you're terrible, catching these wild Pokémon legitimately! You're supposed to find one that is dying on the ground and wants to be left alone and catch that. They fight, and of course the old Scyther saves everyone's asses, and he makes up with the young Scyther, but in the end it has to go with Tracey, because it was caught in a Pokéball and Tracey recalls it to the ball.
A Way Off Day Off
This is the recap episode, which is also set as the mostly inconsequential vacation episode. We get to see all the Pokémon that everyone has at this point, and all the Orange League badges that Ash has won. The only new information presented in this episode is that Scyther and Charizard likehate each other, because they are the badass Pokémon of the group rather than the little cuties that can run around being cute. However, this rivalry will never be explored any further - we suspect this filler season wound up ending before they got to an episode about it, and so this is the only trace of whatever the writers had in mind. The set-up would have been interesting, with Charizard and Scyther having a rivalry which is absolutely not shared by Ash and Tracey, and they need to keep their Pokémon under control, without any hatred for each other. But alas, it never happened.
The Mandarin Island Miss Match
After all this fluff, here's an important episode with character development. This is the episode where the twerps meet Prima, who is the anime version of Elite Four Lorelei.
Notoriously, this is a character introduced in the games who has a different name in the anime. Ever since this episode first came out, we've been hearing on the internet that 4Kids changed her name because her Japanese name, Kanna, is too different from Lorelei in terms of lip flaps. You'll find this explanation on Bulbapedia as well, apparently "according to 4Kids", but without any citation. We've been looking for this citation and we haven't been able to find it. So, at this point, we are wondering if this is actually just a fandom hypothesis that, over the years, has gotten mistaken as fact. We are not usually coming to the defense of 4Kids, but we don't think this explanation fits their usual modus operandi. After all, Ash's Japanese name is Satoshi, Misty's Japanese name is Kasumi, and Brock's Japanese name is Takeshi, and all of these have different syllables and sounds, yet they made their names work in every single episode. We have enough faith in 4Kids that they could have gotten Lorelei to fit in the lip flaps for this one episode if they tried.
We wonder if what happened is that 4Kids did not realize that this Kanna was an anime appearance of an existing character that already had a name. Perhaps they thought they had free choice to bestow a name on what they thought to be a one-off anime-only character, and they playfully named her Prima, possibly as a nod to the series of Pokémon video game strategy guides from the time, and fitting her role as a super-competent mentor. If it went this way, 4Kids was being very cute and very creative, just unfortunately at the wrong time, by mistake.
For the record, this anime version of Lorelei appears in the game Pokémon Puzzle Quest, which 4Kids was heavily involved in. There, her name is Lorelei, and not Prima. This makes us think they realized their mistake and wanted to correct it, rather than insisting that this character's name should be Prima now.
And if 4Kids didn't realize that this character was supposed to be Lorelei, we really cannot blame them. Another notorious thing about the anime appearance of Lorelei is that... she looks very little like Lorelei from the games. Or maybe we should say, very big.
For some reason, the anime team made Lorelei into a titmonster, with tits practically spilling out of her clothing. We have nothing against big boobs (we'd have to hate ourselves if we did), but this is all in the framing. And boy, the framing. The camerawork is weirdly horny. Prima will come onto the screen from stage right, and the first thing you'll see is just her disembodied boob protruding into the shot before the rest of her catches up. Then the camera will needlessly pan up from her underboob, and then angle into her cleavage. It's nearly impossible to take a screenshot of her that doesn't look like it's from the prologue of a hentai. Thinking about it, both adult women introduced so far in the Orange League series, Professor Ivy and now Prima, have ginormous boobs that are magnetized to the camera, and a sorta half-asleep demeanor. Someone had a fetish.
And the weirdest thing about it is, while the camera is being a horndog, there is nothing in the plot itself or in any of the characters' reactions which is even remotely inappropriate. On the one hand, that's great, because we didn't want to see Ash or Tracey or even the ghost of Brock leering over Prima... but it's weird to see the camera doing that while all the characters are perfectly couth. Prima is the booby elephant in the room.
Prima is introduced as being a Water-type Master, which means that Misty idolizes her. In the games, Lorelei's specialty is Ice-type Pokémon, but when you look at her team, since almost everything that was Ice-type in Generation I was also Water-type (we'll rant about this another time), it is true that most of her team is indeed Water/Ice Pokémon. Plus, she's got Slowbro, for some reason, which isn't Ice-type at all, but rather Water/Psychic. Did Game Freak at any point mean for Slowbro to be Ice-type? It has the Shellder on the tail, and Cloyster is half-Ice...
Anyway, when the twerps meet her, Prima completely ignores everything everyone has to say, and just spaces out, and comments about how nice is the sun and the wind and the sea. Ash gets needlessly aggressive at her and keeps touting that he placed in the top sixteen of the Indigo League, and Prima is essentially like, that's nice honey.
Because Ash can't get Prima to fight with him, he goes and fights with some random dude instead. Unbeknownst to everyone, Prima watches Ash's battle. Power move. Ash tries to use Charizard for reasons inexplicable, and it goes out of control as always, and Prima has to bring out Slowbro and psychically sedate it.
Later that day, the twerps get to watch Prima do a sample tournament with someone else, and she just mows down everything. They call it a lecture, but it's just a battle. We guess the opponent is the one who got schooled. We were expecting to see her at a podium giving a speech, and were waiting to hear her talk about something cool, but all we get is a montage of Prima winning battles. It's like dropping that Professor Oak wrote a paper about the struggles of anthropomorphic Pokémon, and that's all we ever know of that. Can we know more?
Afterwards, Prima surprises the twerps by inviting them all to her house for tea. Tracey and Misty are beside themselves and star-struck, but Ash is all OOOOH, you're trying to use Perverse Psychology on me. Yes, yes she is, but no, Ash, no.
Ash taunts that Prima just won't battle him because she's scared to lose, since he studied her strategy during the lecture, and he thinks he could totally beat her. And Prima is mostly just... lol, fine.
So she gives him the privilege of a Pokémon battle, and she wins in like 30 seconds. Despite going with Pokémon with a type disadvantage, Water Pokémon against Pikachu. Just to rub it in.
She tells Ash that he's gotten so hung up on his badges and his top sixteen bullshit that he's forgotten that he's only won as much as he has because his Pokémon love and support him, not because he's hot shit, and he owes everything to them, and he needs to remember and respect that.
And Ash... gets it. And his ego chills out for a few episodes.
Prima seems like such a character that is going to be reappearing. It feels like Ash will meet her later in another tournament, and she will see how much he's learned, or help him learn a new lesson, and so on and so on... But this is just a filler episode of the filler arc, and she is never seen or heard of again.
Which is especially sad for Denise because she really liked Lorelei in the games. All she had to go on at the time was the sprite and how she was illustrated in Pokémon Adventures, her Ice-type specialty, and a few lines of dialogue, but she was a successful adult woman, who also had glasses and long dark hair, who little Denise could look up to. Denise also appreciated that Lorelei was clearly qualified to be a member of the Elite Four, but she is the one who greets you and tests you first. If you had asked Denise which Pokémon character from the games she would have wanted to know more about, it would have been Lorelei, hands down. ✽
So, when Denise learned back in the day that Lorelei appeared in the anime, she was excited! But... they changed her name to Prima?? And they made her into a boob monster???? And she never appears again???? Denise was pissed.
Now that Denise actually got to see this episode for the first time so many years later... the way the anime dealt with the character of Lorelei/Prima is pretty good. She's very skilled, well-known, and well-respected, but without any ego, and she's calm, and confident, and not going to let you waste her time, but she's also willing to invite you into her house and dispense wisdom as slowly as you need it to be dispensed. And it is satisfying that she absolutely schooled Ash. If it weren't for the design departure and for the horny camera and for the unfortunate misnaming, Lorelei would have gotten a perfect anime appearance.
Overall, this episode is good - one of the better ones from the Orange Islands season.
Wherefore Art Thou Pokémon
Dear 4Kids: Like "Lest", the word "Wherefore" doesn't mean what you think it means. "Wherefore" means "Why", not "Where". At no point during this episode was there a question of, oh, why, oh, why are you a Pokémon. The question was where.
It's interesting that it took the show this long to make an episode that draws attention to the fact that there is a Nidoran male and a Nidoran female, but whatever. Otherwise, it's an extremely forgettable episode, except for Team Rocket's disguise.
Get Along Little Pokémon
Wow, the concept of this episode.
First of all, the twerps have landed on an island that is apparently Australia. It will take days of walking in the wilderness for them to reach a town, and they are in the Kanto-esque badlands, except it's one of the Orange Islands?? How big is this island??
Then they meet a wandering ranch of Magnemite. The herd(?) of Magnemite wander freely, attracted to thunderstorms, where they get hit by lightning and recharged. The rancher or shepherd or whatever you'd call him, with the help of his electric sheep-dog Jolteon, makes sure the herd stays safe and none of them gets lost, and he makes a living by selling their electricity. The fact that this profession exists in the Pokémon World immediately contradicts any time the anime tries to play up a blackout for drama, because this guy rents out his Magnemite to hospitals throughout the Orange Islands as backup power. If this one guy and his seventeen Magnemite can keep the entire Orange Archipelago safe from blackouts, there's no excuse for this plot contrivance in the Pokémon universe.
Anyway, oh no, there's a blackout in the next city. They do make the point that the Pokémon Center has a bunch of backup Magnemites already, but they're getting tired after an entire day of no power. So Magnemite Man has to go there with his Magnemites.
In a fight with Team Rocket, Magnemite Man gets his arm hurt, which means that he absolutely cannot drive his Tauros wagon, for reasons inexplicable. So, instead, he sends Ash riding on Magnemite Man's Tauros, so that Ash can arrive in town with the Magnemite as soon as possible.
On the way there, Ash loses sight of one of the Magnemites, has another fight with Team Rocket, and one of the Magnemites ends up evolving (not by merging with other two Magnemites, just, sprouting two more Magnemites somehow). He gets to town, and then like three minutes later, the wagon arrives. So Ash got there about three minutes faster than if they had just all ridden in the wagon, and he and the Magnemites were exposed to needless danger. What was that about?
At the end, there is this strange scene of Magnemite Man, like, wanting to adopt Ash???? But Ash has to be a Pokémon Master, so he declines and leaves. That was strange.
But overall, clever concept. Just, contrived Ash powers.
The Mystery Menace
It's the sewer level of the Pokémon anime!
Team Rocket is doing their hole trap thing again. This time, they go so hardcore that they cause an entire acre to collapse. So both themselves and the twerps end up in some city's sewer system. There, they encounter The Tentacle. Bulbasaur gets Tentacled and dragged under the water, and that's the last we see of it. Finally found by Officer Jenny, the twerps get up to the surface, with Misty and Tracey forcibly dragging Ash away from screaming about Bulbasaur... and then they find themselves in jail.
Jenny decides that okay, the twerps weren't doing anything wrong, and is going to release them, but then the mayor shows up and wants to keep them in jail until after his re-election, so that they can't tell anybody about The Tentacle, which would surely cost him the election, because he thinks that his electorate will not like the idea that he let a Tentacle run rampant in their sewers. So yeah, he wants to keep three innocent children in jail for no reason except fooling his voters.
But Jenny has a conscience and won't let him do that, so she lets the twerps go free.
In the meanwhile, the mayor gets together a secret swat team to obliterate The Tentacle. Jenny is mad because this is going above the police force. Joy is mad because they're killing an unidentified Pokémon. Joy helps the twerps get into the sewer so they can save Bulbasaur and The Tentacle.
The swat team can't find The Tentacle, but they half-see Team Rocket instead, so they report that they found three scary things in the sewer. The mayor calls this a lost cause, and wants the entire sewer system cemented shut until after the re-election. While children are inside. Not his problem, they weren't supposed to go in the sewer, he says as he enjoys a luxurious bath.
Ash brings out Muk to look around, cause it's a sewer anyway, so what's a bit more stink. Muk points to where it thinks Bulbasaur is, and that's Muk's big appearance of this arc.
Misty is taken away by The Tentacle too, so Ash and Tracey follow her by swimming through raw sewage. Dear lord. They find Misty, Bulbasaur, and The Tentacle, which is a giant Bulbasaur. It was grabbing people because it was lonely.
However, since the sewer system was cemented shut, the mayor's bath water has nowhere to go, so the mayoral home floods, and the twerps emerge from the sewers in his house. Then we learn that the giant Bulbasaur was the mayor's childhood pet that he abandoned in the sewer because it wasn't strong enough. This Bulbasaur just spent like 40 years in the sewers alone. This story getting out ruins the mayor's chances of re-election.
This episode was so SimCity, with lots of Maxis humor. Which is great, just very unPokémon.
Misty Meets Her Match
Or rather, she meets a version of Kaiba who sucks, but actually has a sex drive (that is not Blue Eyes White Dragon-related).
The episode opens with a little girl stuck in a whirlpool clinging to her Seel for dear life and screaming for help. At one point she says, you need to save me for my brother. We see that her brother is on top of a cliff with binoculars watching this scene unfold with his underlings, making no effort to go save his sister. The twerps don't know this, though, and Misty dives into the water and saves the girl, and apparently looks really hot as she does it.
Kaibaboy decides she is the one.
So, he had his four-year-old little sister be in physical danger of drowning as a ploy to meet hot girls.
He turns out to be also the Gym Leader of this island, but that doesn't really matter, because now he's trying to seduce Misty with flowers and attention and a dinner date. At first, Misty seems flattered, but it keeps escalating to, won't you become the older sister of my little sister who wants a big sister, and stay here forever, and marry me for my sister? And the little sister, being like four, thinks this is all wonderful and doubles on it.
So, he's using his four-year-old little sister, which earlier that day he sent to die in a whirlpool, as fuel to guilt-trip hot girls into marrying him.
Anyway, Kaibaboy tells Misty to please decide what to do after the match with Ash the next day. He's assuming that his glorious victory over Ash will just seal the deal.
Except Ash has main character powers, so he's not just gonna lose. And while Misty watches, she makes up her mind, and roots for Ash very loudly and vigorously, making Kaibaboy's boner completely deflate.
So Ash wins, and good riddance Kaibaboy. We hope his sister got taken away and he went to jail.
Bound for Trouble
Obligatory episode in which the enemies end up handcuffed together. Except this time it's not Lupin and Zenigata, it's Meowth and Pikachu.
The episode starts with Team Rocket being really on point. At first the twerps see a basket of fruit in the middle of the road, and Misty goes, wait a moment, that has to be a trap. So instead they go to a nearby apple tree, and it turns out THAT is the trap. The fruit basket was perfectly safe, the apple in the tree was fake. Good job.
Team Rocket kidnaps Pikachu, and for extra insurance, they chain it to Meowth. Except that a giant Pidgeot attacks them and takes Pikachu and Meowth away. For once, it wasn't a Fearow.
Jessie has the key, so Pikachu can't get free. Meowth is trying to reunite with Jessie and James, and Pikachu with the twerps.
Eventually, of course, things go so that Meowth and Pikachu need to work together... but Pikachu is a sociopath. Even when Meowth is willing to have a truce, Pikachu is still so cruel and takes any excuse to shock Meowth. And Meowth develops like the stockholms on Pikachu. He's there all, if things had been different when we met, we could have been friends... with flashbacks of all the times Pikachu has shocked him in his life. Such wonderful memories. Pikachu is asleep though, and missed all this gayness.
In the end, the twerps win, Pikachu goes free and unpunished, and Team Rocket blasts off.
Not a great episode, except for the hole trap.
Thank god. We've been waiting for Charizard to chill for like 50 episodes.
Some douche heard that Ash defeated Kaibaboy, so he wants to fight Ash. During the battle, Ash stupidly sends out Charizard, who doesn't listen, and Douche hits it with an Ice Beam and freezes it solid. This episode is based on the Generation I Pokémon game mechanics, so getting frozen is essentially death.
Charizard is in critical condition, so Ash needs to light fires around Charizard and rub it for warmth until his hands are raw. Meanwhile, Charizard remembers, oh yeah, I used to be a Charmander and I wasn't an asshole, and Ash saved my life and all that. Maybe I should stop being an asshole.
So now Charizard is fine. Ash and Charizard fight Douche again, and this time they win.
Why was Charizard ever such a jerk to Ash? Why did it forget that it used to love Ash when it was Charmander? It got bigger and had to be a jerk?
Then, why couldn't this have been a gradual rebuilding of trust rather than one single incident in which Ash kinda had to try to save Charizard? There was never one single attempt from Ash's part to actually train Charizard and make peace. Instead, he just kept sending it out at critical moments and expecting it to listen. There was never any fallout over the fact that Charizard was the reason why Ash lost the Indigo League. Could this have been ... written????
If all it took was Charizard remembering that Ash once saved its life, couldn't this have happened at like, any time in the plot?
The Pokémon Water War
In the Pokémon World, there are Nurse Joys, Officer Jennies, and ... Fire Fighter Joes.
The twerps arrive at a burning warehouse (it's always a burning warehouse), where Officer Jenny is desperately trying to keep all the nosy people away from the burning warehouse. Ash and Misty decide they are above the law, and run to the warehouse with Squirtle and Staryu. Their little Water Gun attacks are nothing against the blaze, and a burning wall collapses, and they all almost die, except Fire Fighter Joe and his team of Fire Fighting Wartortles arrive and save them.
Ash's Squirtle is pissy because it was shown up by a Wartortle at fire-fighting, which it feels is its specialty because it and its Squirtle Squad Yakuza became good guys on the day they fought a fire and saved the town. Squirtle even dons its Squirtle Squad shades in a pissy protest (and so that you can distinguish it from the other Squirtles that are going to be on screen very soon). It's kinda funny and cute how Ash and Misty are all "ooo" at the glasses, and Tracey is all, what, what, and they can say, oh, right, you weren't there, and explain the backstory for Tracey's (and the viewers') benefit.
Fire Fighter Joe is very accommodating of Squirtle's pissy rivalry with the Lead Wartortle, and lets Squirtle train with the Wartortles at the Fire House. Turns out he is maybe selfishly doing this as something of a morale booster for the Wartortle to make them try harder.
It's also a nice point that the Fire Fighters have Team Squirtle to get in tight places, and Team Blastoise to put out the really big fires, and Team Wartortle as the intermediates that are good at putting out fires and still pretty mobile. They all have their role in fire fighting.
Anyway, at fire fighting training, Squirtle and the Wartortles are blasting down disc things with their Water Gun attacks when a strange disc (marked with a red R) flies erratically around. Team Rocket swoops in, they say the motto (as James cutely continues to play with the remote-control flying saucer), and they steal all the Wartortle and Ash's Squirtle, and they even manage to grab Pikachu, and they get away.
Meanwhile, there's another fucking burning warehouse, with a kid inside!!! But Team Squirtle is too small and Team Blastoise is too big, and they need Team Wartortle which would be juuust right, so now the pressure is on to save the Wartortles before the warehouse burns down, with the kid inside.
What's up with all these burning warehouses? We were expecting there to be an arsonist revealed at the end of the episode. This can't be normal. And why was there a kid in an abandoned warehouse?
By the way, we want an interlude here to say how... all these episodes are like... doing the drama. It can't just be that Ash is helping the Magnemite Man with his Magnemite herding business, there has to be a Blackout at a Hospital full of Dying People. It can't just be that Nurse Joy goes around helping the Pokémon and Ash and his friends help her out for the day, there have to be Sick Dying Seel at the Island in the Hurricane. It can't just be that Ash has a touching conversation with Charizard, it has to be Charizard Frozen on the Brink of Death with the Tail Flame Going Out and Ash's Hands Bleeding with Love. It can't just be they meet a misunderstood Pokémon in the sewer, it has to be a Pokémon Abandoned by the Mayor 40 Years Ago with the SWAT Teams and the Cemented Manhole Covers and Sending Dissidents to Jail. The Orange Islands arc has no chill.
It's not just that Team Rocket kidnaps the Wartortles and now they have to save them, there's the Burning Warehouse and the Kid Trapped Inside and the Blastoises Blocked by the Whatever.
Anyway they manage to save the Wartortles from Team Rocket, Squirtle teams up with the Wartortles, and they respect each other now, and they save the kid.
Here is where we were fully expecting Squirtle to stay with this firefighting team. Squirtle was first introduced as a firefighter, and now there's another episode with firefighters, they had the whole connection back to the Squirtle Squad, and this episode just had that feeling of, Squirtle, you'll be happier here, goodbye... but no. That's ok, just very strange.
Adding to the strangeness, later in the Johto arc, after several episodes where Squirtle does nothing of importance, there's a strange contrived reason for them to meet up again with this firefighting team and the Squirtle Squad, and that is when Squirtle does leave Ash. If they were going to dump him on the firefighters later, why didn't they dump him now? It's not like there's any shortage of Water Pokémon in the twerps' parties. Ash even currently has Lapras. Why did it go this way?
Pokémon Food Fight
This is another one of those episodes that just belongs to another show. Something more Looney Tunes-like.
There's this guy with literal plants for hair, and the twerps piss him off, and Snorlax's Pokéball breaks, and now they have to move Snorlax over a mountain and various hijinks ensue. Eventually, they get over the mountain, where the next town over is about to receive a crate of food from a plane, and Team Rocket comes in with a Mecha-Meowth and grabs the food, and says they'll trade the food to the starving Pokémon in exchange for Pikachu, turning all the desperate townsfolk against Ash and Pikachu. Plants-for-hair shows up again, and he's all, how dare you, you should be ashamed to think that! And he fights alongside Ash, and they defeat Mecha-Meowth, and ... Snorlax eats the food.
? ? ? ?????????
It's like a fever dream of a Pokémon episode.
Pokémon Double Trouble
Ash and friends reach another island, when suddenly a lady tackles Ash, all OMG MY SON YOU'RE BACK! And no, it's Ash, not her son... and her son looks nothing like Ash in her flashbacks anyway... He had a Pikachu and a hat, and that was about it.
Anyway, her name is Luana, she's actually the Gym Leader of this town, and she owns the hotel, and she's actually kinda cool despite this strange introduction. And she's not a boob monster! Yay!
She has a double battle with Ash, and she has an Alakazam, and even the show addresses that the Psychic type is overpowered, lol. What is Ash going to use against it? Bug or Ghost? Both are the wrong choice, and, besides, Ash doesn't have a Pokémon of either type.
He uses Pikachu with Charizard, and although Charizard is no longer a jerk to Ash, that doesn't mean that it likes Pikachu, even though Pikachu was also doing the vigil when Charizard was dying. Pikachu and Charizard end up fighting each other more often than their enemies, and only later they decide to work together, and somehow they win by main character powers.
The Wacky Watcher
The highlight of this episode is what 4Kids did with Dr. Quincy Quackenpoker. He's Groucho Marx. Why did they do this.
Very out of place in the Pokémon anime, but hilarious.
The episode in itself is about Magikarp and how they spawn and evolve into Gyarados, and it is centered on Tracey. It's just a nice episode of actually seeing the Pokémon in nature and focusing on the occupation of a Pokémon Watcher. They don't do anything skeevy, they just get the data and bring it back to the scientists to do whatever with. The only skeevy thing was blasting off Team Rocket for catching wild Pokémon, once again.
The Stun Spore Detour
Obligatory episode in which everyone is sick and someone needs to find the medicine. And again, it's another Misty-centric episode, which we're glad she's getting, but why does she only get them in the filler arc?
Tracey and Ash accidentally sniff a Vileplume and get paralyzed. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the same forest, Jessie did the same thing and also got paralyzed. Misty has to look for the antidote while James and Meowth are also looking for the antidote. They all know that it's a weed that can be found in ponds with Poliwag. James and Meowth find a Poliwag with the weed on its tail and try to catch it, but because they're bad guys they can't catch a wild Pokémon or help their friend. Misty "saves" the Poliwag, Team Rocket retreats, and the Poliwag loves Misty and helps her get all the seaweed she needs, and follows her home.
On the way, James and Meowth are still determined to help Jessie, so they set out all these traps for Misty. They leave dresses, and food, and makeup, and a tea set, and though she's tempted, the thought of saving her friends keeps Misty from investigating these obvious traps and falling into any of the holes. Finally, James dresses up as a southern belle with her baby in a stroller, and gives the sob story of how it's paralyzed and she'd give anything for the antidote to see her baby smile one last time, like it's gonna die or something, and the story is so touching that Meowth, posing as the baby in the stroller, burst into tears over the baby and exclaims how sad it is, blowing the cover. So Misty knocks them off a cliff??? But leaves behind some seaweed for them to find and help Jessie.
Why couldn't she have just directly helped them?
Anyway, everyone is better, but since Jessie is better, she's ready to go attack the twerps. Which fails mainly because of James and Meowth being all, dude, no... They carry Jessie away.
At the beginning of the episode, the twerps see a mysterious Pokémon that has been traced from Mewtwo Strikes Back.
Anyway, this is the episode where the twerps finally reach the champion of the Orange League and the battle begins. Drake is the stand-in for Lance, who never got to be in the show until it no longer mattered. Drake is undefeated, even though there are other people in the Hall of Fame (maybe they fought a previous Champion?), and he has a Dragonite. Drake is tired of being undefeated and hopes for a good challenge. Sadly, he gets Ash.
Ash's Snorlax is in a food coma, and so Ash has to swap with one of his other Pokémon in Professor Oak's lab. What do you want, Ash? Kingler, who was unexpectedly amazing in the Indigo League and loves you? Muk, who was also unexpectedly amazing in the Indigo League and loves you? Or one of these thirty interchangeable Tauroses that you never even wanted and only caught by accident way back last season as a joke, in the episode that ended up getting cut outside of Japan?
Ash decides to randomly pick one of his thirty never-before-looked-at Tauroses and bring it to a final tournament. Misty tries to talk him out of it, but Ash insists. Tracey goes, well, beginner's luck could be a factor... and Ash goes, yeah! Exactly! His entire strategy hinges on beginner luck! Um, Ash, Tracey was just being polite...
This is going to be the first ever six-on-six Pokémon battle in the anime. It takes two whole episodes, which is why they don't do this very much.
Anyway, first round is Ditto vs Pikachu. Pikachu wins because Ditto isn't as physically fit as Pikachu, even though it's the Champion's Ditto. Whatever. Pikachu wins but it's tired, so it retreats.
Then Drake gets out Onix, and Ash gets out Squirtle. Somehow Squirtle wins, even though all logic would point to Squirtle getting crunched and killed. But Squirtle is very tired and retreats.
Then Drake gets out Gengar, and Ash brings out Tauros????????? Because Gengar doesn't have Levitate yet, so he can hit it with Earthquake. But it doesn't really work, so Ash retreats Tauros. He then sends out Lapras, which has Ice Beam and would be his only counter to Dragonite which he knows Drake to have... and they obliterate each other.
Enter the Dragonite
Instead of sending Charizard against Venusaur, Ash chooses Tauros again. Whatever, Tauros wins. He sends Bulbasaur against Electabuzz, touting about what a wonderful type match that is, and Bulbasaur gets eaten. He then sends Charizard against Electabuzz, Flying against Electric, but somehow wins because level apparently. All these bullshit explanations. Why would Ash have a Pokémon that is a higher level than the undefeated Champion. Is level even a thing in the Pokémon anime?
Drake keeps the Dragonite's Pokéball on a necklace, which just seems... erotic, somehow.
Dragonite destroys all that remains of Ash's team, though Ash was planning for this, his goal being to whittle down Dragonite with all the last remnants of his team. Of course it has to end with Pikachu, and Ash only wins because Dragonite plops backwards one second before Pikachu does.
This is Ash's first win in a tournament ever, and will be his only win in a tournament for many, many years. It's barely a victory, and it happened in the filler season which will never be mentioned again. Ouch.
Viva Las Lapras
Because this arc is about to end, they need to get rid of the useful vehicle. Lapras sees the school from which it had been separated, and it goes to reunite with them, but then, speaking of the Orange Island arc having no chill, it is Spurned by Its Own Mother. Ouch.
Apparently because it has humans on it and human pirates have been attacking the Lapras, so they won't trust anyone who has come into contact with humans.
So Ash has to fight the pirates and their Tentacruels, and the twerps distract all the Tentacruels so the Lapras can escape, but now the twerps are going to die, but then the Lapras come back with Ice Beam and they could have defended themselves all along but didn't?????
Anyway, bye Lapras.
Team Rocket gets arrested though they did nothing wrong this episode. They were actually rooting for the twerps, and were going to help Officer Jenny until she mentioned putting them in jail too. We mean, they have enough previous crimes to last them a lifetime, but why did the writers think this was the time to do this? Shouldn't they get some sort of pardon today?
The Underground Round Up
This episode is centered on a town that has become overrun with Electrodes. In this episode, apparently Voltorb was created by a scientist and escaped from its lab. But rather than swear revenge on the humans that created it, Voltorb has been multiplying. Somehow. Maybe there were also lab Dittos that escaped. So now the town is full of dangerous exploding Electrodes, forcing there to be an evacuation. They put a very clear warning sign about the deadly Electrode danger.
This is the only way to go to Pallet Town, so Ash and twerps just go past the sign.
They almost die from the exploding Electrode, but they are saved by Clint Eastwood. He's in charge of a ranch of Digletts (what's up with this season and strange Pokémon ranches?) and he's been using the Digletts to tunnel under the Electrodes and carry them through the tunnel to a safe field where all the Electrodes can live in harmony and peace. Apparently they're becoming so explody because of Electrode overpopulation in the city, which is too cramped for them. But the mayor or whatever (what is up with this season and strange despotic mayors? Maybe it's the same one from the Bulbasaur episode?) doesn't like his plan, because it takes too long. To be fair, Clint Eastwood has been doing this for months, but the city is still full of Electrodes. They probably multiply faster than he can carry them away.
It turns out the mayor has hired Team Rocket to take care of the Electrodes. Team Rocket's plan is to make them explode safely so they knock themselves out, and then carry them away while they don't have enough energy to explode again.
Somehow, this is a villainous and evil plan that must be stopped, even though it's safer and more efficient for everyone involved. It's cruel that they make the Electrodes explode. Except that they seem to explode all the time for fun? And it's made clear that when that happens, they don't die or anything, they just pass out for a while until they recharge. What, are they trying to argue that using anesthetic is inhumane?
So, the counterplan is to disregard the fact that Team Rocket got hired legally with a contract, and attack them. And Clint Eastwood Digletts all the Electrodes away in five minutes. Proving that the mayor was indeed right that he was dillydallying the fuck out, and that this all could have been solved in an afternoon, and somehow it had been going on for months.
Who's the villain here?
Now the Electrodes live happily in the field. And Team Rocket is evil because they have a job apparently? This seems to keep happening to them.
A Tent Situation
So now the twerps have made it all the way back to Pallet Town, and they first visit Ash's mom. There, they find Brock. Apparently, something unspeakably horrible happened to him at Professor Ivy's, so bad that he somehow traveled all the way back to Kanto alone, and went straight to Ash's mom for support. He's been cleaning the dishes there ever since. As long as Ash's mom doesn't ask him what happened, he's perfectly happy to do whatever he can for her.
It will never be explained what exactly happened. But the fanon explanation is rape.
Denise never saw this episode before, and knew of the fanon explanation, but she hoped people were exaggerating. But given the way Brock acts? Yeah, it seems really likely. The mere mention of Ivy, even in the middle of another word, and he curls up in a ball unable to speak with blue lines coming out of him.
Misty keeps saying that she must have rejected him or something, but we've seen Brock rejected by ladies before, and he sure didn't act like this.
We also want to appreciate that, in his time of crisis, Brock sought out aid from Mrs. Ketchum. He couldn't go home to his abusive parents or his younger siblings. Who else could he turn to? We are so glad he thought of Mrs. Ketchum as there could be no better person to help him to recover.
Later, the twerps all go to Professor Oak. It's really nice that for this moment, Tracey and Brock are in the same scene, and everyone is interacting with each other. Tracey shows his sketchbooks to Professor Oak, and he's dying in the meanwhile that Professor Oak is doing the thing of silently judging his art without saying anything, and we can just really empathize with Tracey here.
But Professor Oak doesn't get to explain, because Team Rocket tries to catch everything that's in the lab. During the fight, Gary shows up and defeats Team Rocket.
The Rivalry Revival
And because they didn't get to do this in the first season, at last Ash and Gary have an actual battle. It's one on one. Pikachu vs Eevee, making Pokémon Yellow retroactively canon.
Ash gets his ass handed to him, which is good.
While all we've seen of Gary until now was a giant ass jerk, this time Gary is so much more mature than Ash, it's almost painful to see how Ash is so embarrassing. Gary no longer has cheerleaders, and no longer says "smell ya later". He tells Ash that he is really good, and they'll both have to work hard for their next rematch. But Ash is all HGNNNGHH THAT ASSHOLE!! I HATE HIM!!! HOW COULD HE WIN I WAS IN THE TOP SIXTEEN I'M GOING TO BEAT HIM NEXT TIME!
At the end, Professor Oak and Tracey come out as gay lovers, and Tracey is staying with Professor Oak. That's a joke, but it is true that the way Professor Oak and Tracey announce this new partnership is so gay. Ash is like, okay let's go! and Tracey is all, oh no, I'm not going. And then Professor Oak is all, oh, you haven't realized? He's going to be my new assistant! And actually, they never formally agreed to this before now, they just read each other's minds that this is what they wanted. And apparently happily ever after. We will see Tracey every once in a while in the background of Oak's laboratory.
And then Ash goes to Johto.
The official driving force of the Orange Island arc was that, back in the first episode, Professor Oak needed Ash to retrieve the GS Ball from Professor Ivy, and bring it back to him eventually, so that he could try to learn its secrets. But no secrets were learned, so let's try again. Now, Professor Oak wants Ash to bring the GS Ball to Kurt in Johto. This ball gets to be the driving force behind two whole seasons! However, after Ash brings the ball to Kurt, it will never be mentioned again. The anime team has since confirmed that their plan was that the GS Ball would contain Celebi, but then they decided to introduce Celebi in the fourth movie instead, so the ball was, quite literally, dropped.
This concludes our episode-by-episode review of the Orange Islands arc. Continue reading to Part 2 for our more overarching thoughts on the whole arc.
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Takeshi Shudo mentions on his blog that the anime team had trouble nailing down Tracey's personality, and he felt that what they ended up with wasn't as compelling as Brock's character.
- In fact, little Denise did write her own private self-insert Pokémon trainer fanfic where she got to travel through the Pokémon World with incognito Lorelei (hey, if Ash can travel with two Gym Leaders, I can travel with one Elite Four member). Denise and Lorelei were going on their Pokémon journey to try to find Articuno together. So Denise liked Lorelei -- (and Rosy interjects it's because Denise is a huge lesbian). Ehehehe.