PokeManiac Monday – Rewatching the Pokemon Anime (Episode 2: Pokemon Emergency!)

These criminals are hardly smooth.

Team Rocket in the Pokemon anime: James, Jessie and Mewoth
Image Source: OLM via Netflix

It may be hard to believe, but 2023 will mark 25 years since the Pokemon anime first premiered in the west. That’s a quarter century of battles, exploration, and boneheaded decisions by Ash Ketchum.

To commemorate this momentous landmark, we’re taking a look back by rewatching the earliest days of Pallet Town and beyond. Join us on this most marvellous trip down memory lane, and remember to stock up on Super Potions for the journey ahead!

PREVIOUS EPISODE: Episode 1: Pokemon – I Choose You!

Pokemon Episode 2: Pokemon Emergency!

First Aired: April 8, 1997 (Japan), September 9, 1998 (US)

Fresh off a busy day of fighting birds, Ash at long last arrives in Viridian City. He is eager to deliver Pikachu to the Pokemon Center, where he intends to receive free health care for the animal he himself wounded through gross incompetence.

The local constabulary, Officer Jenny, is in the middle of reporting an increase of Pokemon thefts when she spots a dirty child running her way with a malnourished Pikachu in his arms.

“Shit,” she thinks. “That’s kind of suspicious.”

Officer Jenny apprehends Ash in the Pokemon anime
“Prepubescent boy, huh? Definitely a hardened criminal.” | Image Source: OLM via Netflix

She stops him in his tracks and demands he show some ID to verify he didn’t kidnap Pikachu. Like most ten-year-olds, Ash doesn’t have a driver’s license on-hand, but fortunately his PokeDex comes in with the save by announcing him as a registered Pokemon trainer.

Me personally, I’m not sure how this proves that he didn’t swipe the Pikachu. If I were a Pokemon trainer, I would steal so many Pokemon on a daily basis. You’re telling me I could have a free eldritch mosquito bodybuilder if I just pinch a ball the size of a bath bomb?

Hell yeah. Welcome to the team Buzzwole, I’m your trainer now. I hope you like Enya, because she’s all I ever listen to.

Jenny is suitably convinced, however, that Ash is on the up and up. Although she’s clearly not great at her job, she does at least offer him a lift to the Pokemon Center. As they tear off in an act of reckless driving that would make Trevor Philips blush, a nearby wanted poster is slowly peeled off the wall by a hook suspended from above.

You’d be excused for thinking that simply walking up and tearing it down would be less suspicious than hovering over it in a hot air balloon shaped like a cat.

Team Rocket in their hot air balloon
Catfishing. | Image Source: OLM via Netflix

This serves as our introduction to the nefarious duo of Jessie and James; a pair of Team Rocket agents who will play the role of recurring antagonists for the next 20+ years. They are on the hunt for rare and valuable Pokemon to steal, causing mayhem and mischief alongside their talking Meowth, Meowth.

By now, Officer Jenny has successfully escorted Ash to the Pokemon Center (no doubt having caused four or five fatalities along the way). Nurse Joy, a person who is allegedly a qualified caregiver of Pokemon, observes that the injured creature “looks like a Pikachu,” a Pokemon literally found in the nearby forest.

It’s certainly cause for concern — if I took my beagle to the vet and the first thing they told me was that it “looks like a dog,” I might consider going somewhere else.

Ash asks if there’s anything he can do, to which Joy chides that he can be more responsible. Apparently the theme of everyone hating this kid has followed him into a new municipality.

Pikachu is rushed off for a vague procedure that could range from invasive surgery to just strapping a lightbulb to its head and saying “yeah, nailed it,” so Ash FaceTimes his mom and Professor Oak to kill some time.

Ash reveals to Oak that he had seen one of the monsters portrayed on a nearby mural of legendary Pokemon, to which the old bastard retorts that trainers have searched their whole lives and never seen it. If that dismissal isn’t bad enough, let’s not ignore that one of the depicted Pokemon is just an Arcanine. The only way you never saw that is if you played the Blue version and got Ninetales instead.

Misty comes charging into the Pokemon Center with her busted ass bicycle in tow. She wants a new bike and she wants it RIGHT FUCKING NOW, and the fact that she somehow caught up while carrying a full-sized two-wheeler over her shoulder suggests she is not someone to be messed with.

Before she can give Ash the business, Joy returns with a recovering Pikachu. Phew, saved by his own dereliction of duty!

Ash's Pikachu is injured in the Pokemon anime
I KNEW IT. NURSE JOY IS A HACK. | Image Source: OLM via Netflix

The reunion is short-lived, as Team Rocket elect to spring their attack now. Their intention is to make off with the injured Pokemon presently stored at the Center, and you might notice that this early version of the characters is quite unlike the personas we would grow to know and love.

They have their trademark vanity, but they’re otherwise rather measured and capable. It’s almost hard to believe how they would shift into bumbling henchman territory over time. At the very least, they already have their opening spiel prepped, and I have to giggle every time poor Ted Lewis has to stretch the word James across three separate lip flaps.

The character’s Japanese name is Kojiro, you see, so the only way you can kind of make it work is by adding a few extra A’s in the middle, ala Jaaaaaaames.

…You probably read that in his voice, didn’t you?

They send out their minions Koffing and Ekans to start wrecking up the place like Richard Nixon, forcing Ash, Misty and Joy to retreat into the Pokemon storage area. In the fracas, the lights are briefly cut, however the clinic has access to a backup generator powered by a team of Pikachus on a treadmill. That’s not just a cute visual, it might become relevant to the plot in a minute.

Joy sets about evacuating the Pokemon to the next Center in Pewter City until the baddies bust the door down. With Pikachu still unconscious, Ash desperately tries to fend them off with the nearby Poke Balls, only managing to summon a Pidgey, a Rattata, and the very notion of emptiness itself.

Ekans simply responds with some mean-mugging, so Misty steps up to buy time for Ash to get Pikachu to safety. She does this by showing off her fish Goldeen, who flops about on the floor, and is for all intents and purposes being publicly suffocated.

Team Rocket are equal parts unimpressed and disgusted, ignoring her entirely to pursue Ash instead. Miraculously, they are rescued at the last moment by the pack of generator Pikachu, who let out a fearsome electric attack that both punishes the enemies and recharges Ash’s Pokemon.

Now fresh as a daisy, Pikachu demands more power (for it is no longer baby). Ash commences pedalling Misty’s bike in order to start up its tiny little light, completely ignoring the nearby table of electrified vermin who would perhaps prove a more suitable option.

The gambit pays off, and Pikachu fries its foes in a rather bizarre sequence of shots that resembles an Andy Warhol fever dream.

Pikachu shocks Team Rocket in Pokemon anime
Gotta pad that runtime somehow, I guess. | Image Source: OLM via Netflix

The sparks combine with Koffing’s gases, and kaboom! The Pokemon Center combusts, killing everyone in a fifty yard radius and ending Ash’s adventure in tragic fashion.

We hope you enjoyed this look back on the Pokemon anime! It was a lot shorter and more traumatic than I remembered, but I certainly learnt a valuable lesson on the dangers of ignition and… Oh wait, scratch that. Ash and Pikachu are inexplicably unscathed by this explosion that pretty much obliterates the entire Pokemon Center, proving that the only thing more potent than Acid Armor is the vaunted Plot Armor.

For that matter, we don’t even get a clear picture of how Team Rocket left the scene, as the next shot portrays them hanging off a rope from their hot air balloon. I suppose they could have been launched in that direction, and yet I like to think they just said “my hair is ruined, screw this mission” and angrily departed on-foot.

In any event, seeing the raw power of Ash’s Pikachu has convinced them that they should focus their future efforts on absconding with it. Say what you will about Team Rocket’s villainy, that these two don’t get fired when their monthly KPI’s are consistently at zero is indicative of a positive workplace environment.

Having successfully destroyed the only form of respite for beginning Pokemon trainers in the Viridian region, Ash and Misty press on into the nearby forest. A chance encounter with a Caterpie gives Ash an opportunity to finally make his first capture, so he takes his Poke Ball in-hand and — having learnt nothing in the last episode about weakening the target first — hurls it in the direction of the unassuming insect.

Ash throws a Poke Ball at Caterpie in the Pokemon anime. Misty and Pikachu help by doing nothing.
Pictured: My reaction whenever I see a spider. | Image Source: OLM via Netflix

The episode ends on a cliffhanger, and as exciting as that is, I’m mostly just disappointed that weren’t confronted by the drunk old man who usually blocks the entire exit to Viridian Forest with his bloated ass.

We did it! That’s another episode down, putting us 0.16% of the way toward covering the whole series. …Yikes! That sounded much more manageable in my head.

Anyway, according to the narrator the next episode will answer if Ash captures the Caterpie, what sinister plans are being concocted by Team Rocket, and whether Misty will ever get a new bicycle. He’s totally lying though, as that last one is very much not answered. Smell ya later!

NEXT EPISODE: Episode 3: Ash Catches a Pokemon

About the author

Tony Cocking

A miserable little pile of secrets. Unabashed Nintendo stan, Resident Evil fancier and obscure anime enthusiast who insists everything is funnier when the rule of three is applied. Oh, and once I saw a blimp!