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Pokemon – Season 1 Episode 1 Retro Review: A Fun Blast From the Past

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the anime I watched when I was a kid. In fact, the first anime I ever saw was Pokemon. I recently stumbled upon my collection of Pokemon cards and I started feeling nostalgic. That was when I decided that I would review every single episode of Pokemon along with all the other anime that I watched while growing up. There are a lot of episodes ahead of us, so let’s get started.

I love how the first episode starts. You hear the familiar sound of a Game Boy turning on and then a familiar scene plays out before you. Do you remember that old intro from Pokemon Red and Blue where Nidorino and Gengar are fighting? Well this episode starts off with that only to have it then transition into a full on Pokemon battle that the main character, Ash Ketchum, is watching on TV. Now that Ash is ten years old, he can get his Pokemon License and begin his journey.

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Ash’s mom walks in and yells at him, telling him he needs to go to bed. After watching an instructional video about the three starter Pokemon, Ash goes to bed and dreams about which one he wants to choose. By chance, the Voltorb alarm clock falls into Ash’s hand and he throws it across the room while he is still asleep. Of course, with a destroyed alarm clock Ash wakes up later in the day. Still in his pajamas, he runs to Professor Oak’s lab. There Ash has a run in with his soon-to-be rival, Gary Oak.

After thanking the crowd for seeing him off, Gary hops into a car and drives off. Not really sure what the point of having a car is as there doesn’t seem to be many roads that are suited for using one, let alone any highways. With all the biking and walking people have to do to get anywhere, the population of Kanto must be in really good shape. Ash follows Professor Oak into his lab, hoping to get his own Pokemon. This hope is quickly dashed when he discovers that all three starter Pokemon are gone, taken by the kids who managed to get there on time.

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Professor Oak then unlocks a fourth pokeball from the machine. This one has a lightning symbol on it, and Professor Oak warns Ash that there is something wrong with the Pokemon inside. Ash ignores, Oak’s warning and decides he wants that Pokemon anyway. He opens the ball and the iconic Pikachu appears in a burst of light. Ash is delighted to meet Pikachu and picks him up.

Unfortunately for Ash, Pikachu appears to have a bit of an attitude and electrocutes him. After receiving his Pokedex and a set of pokeballs from Professor Oak, Ash walks outside to see a small group of people led by his Mother there cheering him on and congratulating him. After Ash’s Mom calls Pikachu weird, he proceeds to electrocute Ash along with the entire crowd. To keep Pikachu from constantly zapping him, Ash leaves town while wearing pink rubber gloves and dragging Pikachu along using a clothesline.

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As that plan is getting him nowhere fast, Ash decides to untie Pikachu and take off the gloves in hopes of gaining Pikachu’s trust. This doesn’t work either. A Pidgey approaches and after scanning it with his Pokedex, Ash tries to get Pikachu to attack it. Pikachu ignores Ash and climbs up a tree, making fun of Ash’s repeated failures to capture the Pidgey. Ash then comes up with a series of not-so-smart ideas on how to capture Pokemon without Pikachu’s help. Ultimately this leads to Ash throwing a rock at a nearby Spearow, angering it. The Spearow then attacks both Pikachu and Ash, apparently wild Pokemon have a tendency to be jealous of tamed Pokemon.

Pikachu zaps the Spearow, injuring it. The Spearow then calls for back up and a large flock of Spearows fly toward Ash and Pikachu. Outnumbered, their only option is to run. While running away from the Spearows like a scene right out of The Birds, Pikachu gets badly injured by the Spearows. Ash has to carry Pikachu while running, and he falls into a river in an attempt to lose their attackers. Meanwhile, further down stream, we see Misty fishing. She gets a bite and yanks her catch out, only to get Ash and Pikachu. Misty criticizes Ash for allowing Pikachu to get so badly injured and points him to the nearest Pokemon Center. The Spearow flock shows up again and Ash steals Misty’s bike in an attempt to get away.

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Eventually, Ash and Pikachu fall off the bicycle and the Spearows are not too far behind. As it starts to rain heavily, Ash puts a pokeball in front of Pikachu and urges him to go into it so that he has a chance of escaping from the Spearows. Seeing that Ash is about to sacrifice himself, Pikachu jumps in as the Spearow swoop toward Ash. Pikachu unleashes a massive lightning bolt upon the flock of Spearows. The storm clears up as the battered and wounded pair celebrate their victory. They look up into the sky and see Ho-Oh flying along the rainbow, and in that moment Ash and Pikachu realize that this is only the beginning of their journey together.

So how does the first episode of Pokemon hold up after fifteen years? Really well actually. You can still watch the episode years later and get the same enjoyment as you did when it first aired so many years ago. The music is impressive and engaging as I remember it being when I watched Pokemon every Saturday morning. The episode contained a small story that wrapped itself up neatly, leaving the viewer with a desire to keep watching episode after episode after episode.

PS1E1_screenshot2Although if there is anything that has shown it’s age it would be the voice acting on some occasions. While I’m not the biggest fan of Ash’s voice, I can tolerate it. Gary’s voice made me cringe when I heard it for the first time in years. Also, the way they pronounce Pokemon is really odd but I do remember that they changed it back to the pronunciation that most everyone uses early on in the first season.  Also there are some strange moments in the episode.  When Pikachu electrocutes Ash and various other people early on, the image gets noticeably darker and the frame rate goes down drastically.  This only seems to happen early on and isn’t really an issue in later episodes so I don’t know why it happened in this episode.

But overall, Pokemon starts off really well.  I’m actually looking forward to reviewing this series, which I wasn’t sure if I would at first.  So sit back and relax ladies and gentlemen, we still have a lot of episodes to take a look at. I intend to see how far I can get into this series. I’ll be reviewing episode 2 in the near future.



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