Pokemon I choose you!
So here we are at the very beginning of Pokemon. Starting in 1997 and still running to this day. This episode is where it all began.
It starts off with a small simple scene of two monsters attacking each other, which is a recreation of the opening scene in Pokemon Red and Blue games. It then opens out into an anime stadium with more animated movement to push forward the statement that itís not just in monochrome game boy screens anymore. This first battle between two silhouetted trainers is actually pretty interesting. With a snappy pace, the Gengar has the edge till the other trainer recalls his Pokemon and calls out Onix. We then zoom out to see this battle being played out on TV and we catch sight of the viewer. A young boy named Ash whoís just getting ready for his own Pokemon Adventure.
You see; in this world Pokemon takes place in, at the age of 10 kids are considered responsible enough to look after them selves and are allowed to get a Pokemon License and leave home to battle Gyms around the region in order to enter the Pokemon League and become a Champion and ďPokemon MasterĒ. Ash is pretty psyched about this prospect. Not even his mom telling him to go to bed quells that fire (though it seems weird that 10 year olds are practically considered adults and yet parents still treat them like kids).
Just before going to bed, Ash learns of the Pokemon available to beginners. Grass type Bulbasaur, Water type Squrtle and Fire type Charmander. He falls asleep and dreams of owning each Pokemon and muses about their qualities. To 4Kids credit they actually keep Ashís speech accurate to the game. Bulbasaur is best for the early gyms, Squirtle is middle of the road and Charmander is great later on.
Ash wakes up late and dashes to the lab for his Pokemon. As he gets there he meets Gary who quickly makes it known he considers himself in a league of his own (or at least several leagues higher than Ash). After some introductory banter between the two, Gary leaves and Ash meets Professor Oak. Heís told heís too late for the main starters, but Oak suggests a possible other Pokemon, though itís a bit dangerous. Thus we meet Pikachu for the first time.
Pikachu is actually sort of interesting for a character. In the early episodes of the series heís drawn really chubby. Pikachuís also very short tempered in this first episode, inclined to thundershock at slightest offence and generally isnít bothered about anyone other than itself. Both traits largely go out the window after this episode. Itís a bit weird that Ash and Pikachu get on so well after this episode considering how much of a jerk Pikachu is here.
After gaining his first Pokemon Ash is greeted by a ragtag crowd cheering him on and his mom whos got him all packed and ready to get going. She notices Pikachu by his side and wonders why he isnít in a pokeball (the means by which trainers normally catch and carry their Pokemon) and notes that she considers that strange. Pikachu shocks everyone. Oak suggests using Rubber Gloves so Pikachu canít shock ash.
So the journey begins with Ash dragging a reluctant Pikachu along using string and rubber gloves. He tries talking to Pikachu and attempts to get Pikachu to go in the Pokeball again; he gets out his Pokedex to further prove his point, only for Pikachu to press a button continuing the entry that claims some Pokemon hate being confined in a Pokeball. Ash accepts this and lets the subject go. They then spy a Pidgey and Ash wants to try catching it. However Pikachu refuses to battle. So Ash tries taking on the Pokemon alone.
At this point itís pretty clear that for a new trainer Ash really is quite dim. In a way that works to help the audience relate to him at this early stage (this episode and the next were most peopleís introduction to Pokemon after all). But in comparison to the rest of the series and how Pokemon are such a big part of the world. Itís rather surprising Ash knows so little about them considering he seems quite passionate about being a trainer. He grows up and becomes a better trainer during later seasons but he bumbles though a majority of this first season.
The Pidgey resists capture and letís loose a gust attack and a sand storm. Pikachu giggles away as Ash then notices a Rattata in backpack. He consults his Pokedex, who in turn suggests Rattata would only steal food from ďdumb trainersĒ. Ash is annoyed (because even his digital pocket encyclopaedia is mocking him you understand) and throws a rock at the Pidgey he spies in the grass. Unfortunately itís not Pidgey but a Spearrow, another bird Pokemon whoís more inclined to peck your face off. However it attacks Pikachu instead. Pikachu hits the bird with a thundershock, who retaliates by calling its pack. Ash and Pikachu make a run for it and Ash tries to assure Pikachu heíll protect him. Pikachu isnít exactly convinced after Ashís performance a moment ago and dashes off, only to be pecked away at. Ash manages to scoop up his Pokemon as they make a dive down the waterfall nearby. It all starts to get a bit noble and heroic at this point.
Both boy and his Pokemon are fished out by a young girl. However the Spearrow are still after them and Ash takes the girls bike, promising to return it someday. They cycle as fast as possible till they hit rocky ground and both fall tumbling down. Pikachuís quite weak from the whole ordeal (I donít quite get why, maybe because heís low level at this point) and Ash asks his Pokemon one last time for the sake of its safety to get back in the Pokeball. The scene becomes sentimental and bittersweet; as Japanese anime characters tend to do, through all the silliness and so on Ash is very passionate about what heís doing and this is sort of the defining point where the journey begins. Or something deep like that. Pikachu realises Ash isnít really all that bad and leaps over his shoulder to deliver an almighty thunderbolt which fries the entire Spearrow pack. After recovering Ash gets moving again and carries Pikachu, intending to get to the nearest Pokemon center.
This doesnít exactly make much sense; Pikachu is quite low in level at this point and very weak. I suppose itís got something to do with power of friendship and it does knock Pikachu out cold but it never takes out a group of Pokemon like that again afterwards. Still Pikachuís strength tends to vary depending on what the plot calls for anyways. Then again it also doesnt make sense that Ash survives the electrocution eather but nevermind
This first episode is a great introduction to the franchise and to the two main characters of the series. Looking back now when you consider how long the series has been running and now Ash himself is a more mature trainer and Pikachu a firm friend. Itís interesting to note the shaky beginnings of Ash as a rookie. While the series has been somewhat samey over the years, the character development is constant at least.