When last we saw them, Ash and friends made it to Shalour City at last – with the former determined to challenge Korrina for her Rumble Badge right away and the latter equally determined to slow him down with dancing lessons and the insistence that his Pokemon were not yet adequately trained. In the end, Ash’s friends prevailed and everyone spent the episode alternatively dancing and then protecting Korrina’s grandfather’s “Scroll of Secrets” from the clutches of Team Rocket (although the scroll ended up being less impressive than it sounded – almost makes you wish the villains had managed to complete the heist and present it to Giovanni only for him to reject it in disgust, like with Togepi in the Battle of the Badge). This episode begins where the last one left off, with Ash and Korrina facing off inside the gym/skate park portion of her grandfather Gurkinn’s Tower of Mastery home.
Ash is confident he has what it takes to win this three on three gym title match, and he seems to have already decided which Pokemon he will use against Korrina’s fighting types because he has left Froakie sitting up in the bleachers with his cheering section. The Bubble Frog Pokemon is none too pleased with his master’s battle strategy (although choosing to use two Flying types and ace Pikachu is actually a fairly sensible decision), and Ash douchefully tries to assuage him by telling Froakie he can “cheer me on in rhythm” from the sidelines. Wow – Froakie is like that enthusiastic but uncoordinated kid that goes out for football and the coach feels so sorry for him he makes him the team manager; Froakie is literally a water boy.
Korrina’s first Pokemon is Mienfoo: a sort of weasel looking kung-fu practitioner. Ash believes his newly adopted rhythm technique will win the day, but Clemont has major doubts and begins a whole diatribe about how difficult and special gym battles are. (I think Ash knows a thing or two about winning gym battles, Clemont. And at least he never got locked out of his own gym by an evilly self-aware robot he invented) Ash’s first Pokemon is his Mexican wrestling bird, Hawlucha. With Ash and Pikachu trying to keep time from the trainer’s box, Hawlucha is repeatedly ordered to dodge, parry, and attack Mienfoo using its “rhythm,” but this does not work out well for the Wrestling Pokemon, who starts to take a Rocky Balboa-esque beating from Korrina’s little weasel. Ash is thrown for a loop – why isn’t Tierno’s rhythmic battling style working? (Hmm, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to take battling advice from a fat tub of lard with zero gym badges…) The product of Delia Ketchum and Professor Oak’s forbidden love does something next that is completely out of character – recalling prior knowledge. Thinking back to the previous episode, Ash remembers Serena’s failed attempt to teach him to dance and recalls her statement about his own “special” sense of rhythm. Our hero finally comes to the same conclusion that I have been preaching all along – it is stupid for Ash to try and emulate Tierno, especially considering that Ash is already something of an expert on winning Pokemon battles (as long as they take place outside of the Pokemon League tournaments). Ash tells Pikachu and Hawlucha to abandon the original play call, and Korrina jeers with derision about Ash’s decision to change strategy in the middle of a battle, but like a Peyton Manning touchdown drive, Ash’s audibles prove extremely astute. Hawlucha dodges a Hi Jump Kick from Mienfoo before flattening it like a pancake with a Flying Press to win the bout.
Meanwhile, Team Rocket have arrived with their usual gym episode Pokemon stealing plan: while everyone is distracted with the fighting, Team Rocket will steal their Pokemon! It hasn’t worked yet, but why mess with a classic? Back on the field, Korrina has dipped into the first generation well for a classic fighting type choice: Machoke! Ash switches in his Flechinder for some additional flying type super effectiveness, and OLM blows the animation budget for the year on a first perspective shot of Ash’s Ember Pokemon looping the loop around the rafters of the Shalour Gym. Machoke is unimpressed and attempts to quickly put Fletchinder out of commission with a powerful Karate Chop and Low Sweep. Fletchinder responds with a Steel Wing and a Razor Wind, but Korrina is looking for a decisive victory and orders a Focus Blast for the win. Machoke looks impressive enough harnessing the ball of energy like a Kamehameha Wave, but Fletchinder is able to get under it and devastates Korrina’s Super Saiyan Machoke with a Flame Charge attack to put Ash up 2-0.
Ash’s cheering section goes ecstatic, but the mood turns somber when they realize that Korrina’s remaining Pokemon must be her ace-in-the-hole Mega Lucario. Everyone looks on with tense anticipation – all except for Dedenne that is, who has better things to do – and Korrina indeed chooses her aura-powered fox, which mega evolves right away. Ash smartly takes advantage of Lucario’s steel typing with a Flame Charge, but the mega evolved menace shakes it off like Taylor Swift and punches Ash’s small bird into the ground for the victory.
Ash sends Hawlucha back out, but before we can witness this latest match-up, the Rocket Gang arrives on the scene at last. Froakie tries to justy his worth by intercepting Team Rocket and alerting the other twerps to their presence. Little Bonnie has the audacity to ask the voluptuous villains, “why do you even have to be here?” (because the audience loves them!) Jessie and James order Pumpkaboo and Inkay to attack, but the three Kalos starters coordinate their attacks to send Team Rocket blasting off again – all without Ash realizing it. Pallet Town’s village idiot sees the smoke rising from the balcony, a hole in the ceiling that wasn’t there before, and Clemont recalling a Pokemon and asks his friends if anything just happened. Serena coyly responds, “noooo…” – and Ash believes her! If Ash was hoping Hawlucha would fare better than Fletchinder against Mega Lucario, he is sorely mistaken, because it takes only one Aura Sphere to put the Mexican wrestling bird down and out for good.
With both gym leader and challenger down to their last Pokemon, it is finally time for the battle that everyone was anticipating from the start: Mega Lucario versus Pikachu. The enigmatic electric mouse is a maddeningly inconsistent battler to say the least. One day it’s going toe-to-toe with legendary Pokemon or taking down the undefeated Orange Islands Champion Dragonite, and the next day it can’t even handle some rookie trainer’s starter Pokemon. In this regard, Pikachu is very French (as Dodgemaster Tim frequently argued), because it has the ability to be good, but it often can’t be bothered with putting in the effort. In any event, it’s time for Pikachu to put up or shut up, as it has yet to defeat Lucario mega-evolved or not. The two aces trade blows with Pikachu landing a devastating Thunderbolt but Mega Lucario grounding it with an Aura Sphere. Pikachu blasts through a Metal Sound with Thunderbolt and uses an Iron Tail to elevate itself over an Aura Sphere attack – much like it did against Tyrunt’s Draco Meteor in Cyllage City. Mega Lucario jumps up to meet Pikachu with a super effective Bone Rush, but Pikachu crashes down on to it with a gravity-boosted Iron Tail. Korrina and Ash take a moment to complement each other as their Pokemon catch their breath, and each orders another barrage of attacks. Both Pokemon match blow for blow, but Pikachu finally manages to connect on a super-powered Thunderbolt which brings knocks out Lucario and causes it to devolve.
Take that Lucario! You may be a pseudo-mascot since Generation IV, but don’t forget who the real mascot is. To mis-quote the Godfather, “Do you know I am? I’m mother-f***ing Pikachu! I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!”
Korrina presents Ash with his Rumble Badge and our hero adds it to his growing collection of Kalos winnings. Outside of the Tower of Mastery, Gurkinn points Ash and friends towards Coumarine City, home of a Pokemon gym – and also a monorail, which seems to excite Serena and Bonnie for some reason. Ash makes his usual promise to come back and visit the character of the day again (he won’t), and with that, our heroes depart for their next adventure!
Final thoughts: It seems that the extended focus on Korrina and her Lucario has finally come to an end. There were some good times, but on the whole I’m glad to be moving on to other adventures in the Kalos region. As I mentioned above, I get tired of all the attention that Lucario gets. It’s an alright Pokemon, but I certainly don’t think it deserves its popularity. Plus, we’re in Kalos now, let’s see some new Pokemon featured in the gyms Game Freak! (Unless they’re first generation, of course, you can never have too many of those…) Overall though, this was a great gym battle for Ash. It was good to see him discard Tierno’s stupid rhythm strategy and go with his instincts, and the Pikachu/Mega Lucario bout was especially entertaining.