Japanese Broadcast: April 1st, 1997 American Broadcast: September 8th, 1998
This is the classic first episode of Pokémon that everyone fell in love with and truly has become iconic. This is the start of the journey for Ash Ketcham, a boy from Pallet Town who after oversleeping nearly misses his chance to get a starter Pokémon and start his quest. Luckily though after some convincing he receives Pikachu from Professor Oak and the pair start off on a pretty rocky road. Unlike most Pokémon Pikachu refuses to get inside his Pokéball or work as a team with Ash laughing at his rookie mistakes. Yet when Ash pisses off a group of Sparrow Pikachu sees how Ash is willing to sacrifice himself to save Pikachu and finds the strength not only to defeat the swarm of Sparrow but also form a friendship with Ash that will carry us through the 1000+ episodes to follow.
The characters are also all really likable and fun. Ash is a dorky kid who constantly fails but will continue to stand no matter what which makes him likable and sweet. The ending especially with him willing to sacrifice himself for Pikachu plays really well and forces you to like him to at least some degree. Dexter is really wonderful as the sassy bitch that calls Ash stupid at every chance he gets but honestly if there was one standout it would be Gary. Sure we don't get much of him but the scene where he greets Ash with his cheering party and cheerleaders was honestly incredible. He is so over the top but comes off as so funny because of it, they know how to use his character perfectly and honestly he is the thing I am most excited to revisit in this watch through considering I really remember nearly nothing about him.
On a deeper level this episode also has plenty to say. Considering my last serious time watching this show was when I was a child I don't remember a ton of the messages and deeper themes this show had but it is clear to me this episode was trying to say something about being different. Specifically with Pikachu considering he rejects so many of the normal ideas of what being a Pokémon is. He is constantly looked down upon and judged for decisions like not wanting to be in his Pokéball (We literally see Ash's mom do this immediately) which leads to him not liking people. When he sees Ash standing up for him despite this is when he is able to find the friendship and connection with Ash, when he knows he is accepted for who he is.
If there was one thing that stood out in a negative sense it would be some of the animation. Sure this was from the 90's and what we got wasn't bad in context of that but being in 2019 a lot of the lower frame-rates were clearly noticeable as were some of the background art. Though in the animation there was one moment that really stood out to me which was a moment where we switched perspectives into that of a Sparrow, the entire animation style switches to a simplistic black and white style that is completely different from anything else in the episode and really stood out. I don't remember any other scenes like this but hopefully a few will pop up and surprise me. Overall though a very strong first episode that has become just iconic, the question is if the show will continue to this level as we get into later episodes.
Earlier this week twitter exploded when in the new Sun and Moon Pokémon anime Ash finally came in first place in a Pokémon league. After 1080 episodes finally Ash had achieved his goal. For the last few years I have had an itch to revisit Pokémon considering growing up it was my favorite show and I have so many fond memories of it. Yet due to other projects I wanted to focus on and just how huge of a project rewatching Pokémon would be I never got around to actually seriously starting it. Yet when I saw that Ash finally had completed his goal and rumors of a complete reboot started to pop up I knew this was the perfect time for me to start my quest. Sure this is going to be a long series (Even if I did 2 reviews a week it would take me 10 years!) but I also am really excited to revisit such a huge part of my childhood. This show has meant so much to so many and I am excited to really dive in and see if I can find the reason it has. Let's begin as I set off to watch and blog every single episode of Pokémon!