Today’s episode marks the beginning of the 18th season of the Pokemon anime! I could make a whole bunch of jokes about the show reaching the age of consent, and whatnot, but I think we all realize that Pokemon has gone on for much longer than anyone could have anticipated back in 1998. So instead, let us celebrate the continuing domination of the Pokemon “fad” and dive into the next chapter of Ash’s never-ending story!
The first clue for us Westerners that a new season has begun is the appearance of a fresh title track. My first impression is that I liked last season’s Pokemon Theme redux better. The current song, “Hero,” is just another in a line of hero-themed songs. Frankly I preferred Advanced Generation’s “I Wanna Be A Hero.” Plus after Season 17’s frequent GenWun leanings, was it too much to ask for a remix of “Pokemon World” for Season 18?
In any event, not much has changed since the break from last season; the suits at Nintendo haven’t even come up with a special title for the new series, like “Kalos Khronicles” or something equally cheesy.
Instead, we are apparently still in the midst of “Pokemon the Series XY,” () and Ash and company are still in the midst of traveling towards Serena’s first Pokemon Showcase.
Our heroes have decided to take a break to indulge in Ash’s second favorite activity behind Pokemon – eating. Serena has spent enough time traveling with her unrequited love (a full year in real-world time) to learn how best to ingratiate herself to him. She has taken over the cooking duties that for so long fell to Mama Brock, which is definitely pleasing to Ash who smiles contentedly like a full Snorlax after the meal. They say a quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so who knows, perhaps Serena will be able to replicate or even improve upon the homoerotic bond formerly shared between Pokemon’s two leading men, Ash and his “Brock-o.”
But not everyone is as content as Pallet Town’s village idiot. Serena had baked up some of her signature PokePuffs, but unfortunately Chespin the glutton has eaten all of them again. This does not sit well with Pancham, Serena’s tough new partner, and he lets the Spiny Nut Pokemon know it. The ensuing roughhousing is a cause for concern to Serena and Clemont (Pokemon fighting? How outrageous!), although Ash, still lazy from the meal, seems to have adopted a boy’s will be boy’s type attitude, shrugging and suggesting, “man, what’re you going to do?” Disregarding the scolding they receive from their trainers, Pancham and Chespin continue wrestling right through the bushes until they collide with a Farfetch’d and
Oh, oh my… What is it?
“It” is apparently called “Nini” – no relation to Nenê, but equally as ugly. (They’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to character names aren’t they?) Nini is apparently another aspiring Pokemon Performer, and is appalled that Chespin and Pancham have done something so vulgar as bumping into her Farfetch’d. (Although I’d wager its tears are more from having to continually look at its trainer than from any physical harm…) Serena and Clemont apologize to Nini in the most honorabru Japanese style. However, she becomes unglued the second she finds out that Serena is training for a Pokemon Showcase as well, and she rushes the honey-haired Vaniville native with crazy in her eyes, demanding that Serena watch her performance and critique it. So while Nini takes a moment to apply even more lip gloss to her already overburdened lip, Serena uses her Pokedex to check out Nini’s Pokemon, the aforementioned GenWun duck Farfetch’d, and Smoochum – the baby racism Pokemon.
Nini’s performance largely consists of her and her Pokemon flipping around surrounded by falling objects, such as Smoochum’s Powder Snow and Fury Cut-ed Heart Stamp, before a grand finale of selfie-worthy kissy faces from everyone. (I believe the kids are calling them “Duck Faces,” how appropriate for Farfetch’d…)
Upon completion, Nini asks Serena, “is there something I could fix?” (besides her face, I assume…) and Serena mentions that the dancing wasn’t totally synchronized, and Ash butts in to offer his unsolicited two-cents as well, declaring that the Heart Stamp/Fury Cutter combination wasn’t up to snuff. Nini studiously copies down the criticism, and then quite reasonably asks to see Serena do a performance too. Our heroine tries to modestly back out (clearly not wanting to give away her trade secrets to a potential rival), but after prompting from Bonnie, Clemont, and most importantly, her unwitting boyfriend Ash Ketchum, she decides to go ahead and have Fennekin and Pancham run through their routine.
But before they can begin, Chespin butts heads with Pancham again, jealous that the Playful Pokemon will hog the spotlight. Serena asks if Chespin would like to perform and the Spiny Nut agrees, but its trainer Clemont has something sinister in mind for Chespin’s performance. Declaring that once again, “the future is now thanks to science!” Clemont reveals his “Only Lonely Dancing Robot Partner” mecha. (Geez Clemont, now we know what you get up to at night. Oh well, fortunately it isn’t a masturbatory robot arm, a la Howard on the Big Bang Theory… at least not yet) Unfortunately for Chespin, the Only Lonely Dancing Robot Partner goes the same way as all of Clemont’s previous inventions, and explodes with an almighty crash – leaving everyone black-faced and kinky-haired. (And yet Jynx can’t have black skin anymore? Stop trying to censor my childhood!)
Serena begins her Pokemon performance with Fennekin providing the flame wheels for Pancham to bravely leap through – earning the love of Smoochum in the process, but more important than this display of Pokemon pageantry are the assembled villains watching from nearby. Team Rocket has arrived!
Jessie spots Smoochum and immediately decides that the baby Kiss Pokemon will be Team Rocket’s next acquisition – going all gooey-eyed in the process (and bringing to mind her previous attraction to Smoochum in episodes like the Screen Actor’s Guilt and Three Jynx and a Baby). James asks, “what happened to capturing Pikachu?” but to no avail. Jessie is the Bitch Goddess Queen (as Dodgemaster Tim used to say) of Team Rocket after all, and she has a new plan – steal Smoochum and force everyone else to recognize her beauty as the rightful Kalos Queen!
(Funny how Jessie’s figure has changed over the years, isn’t it, but I suppose so has James’…)
Back in the clearing, Serena completes her performance with a shower of Fennekin’s embers. Unfortunately, Nini has some criticism for her performance as well, and Serena’s companions agree: Pancham just doesn’t mesh that well with Serena and Fennekin. Smoochum, however, is quite taken with Serena’s playful panda, and she proves it by performing a dance floor duet. Seeing how well these two Pokemon get along, Nini proposes a trade to Serena, to the absolute delight of Smoochum and Chespin, and the abject horror of Farfetch’d, who seems to realize who will be the odd Pokemon out in Nini’s desire to acquire Pancham. However, Serena proves reluctant to trade the first Pokemon she ever caught (as if the writers would allow a current generation Pokemon to be traded for one that first debuted over 800 episodes ago…).
All of a sudden, a white car pulls up in front of the assembled children and out steps two bizarre looking adults, a red-haired woman in thick shades with a Grace Jones hairdo and a blue-haired man with an exposed upper chest, a similar pair of sunglasses, and a wad of bubblegum. These two adults and their furry-faced midget friend are apparently famous choreographers. The effeminate blue-haired man explains that the red-haired woman has “created dozens of queens” (and little do the twerps realize that they are looking at one of them). Grace Jones offers to provide dancing lessons free of charge, and she even demonstrates her bodacious bona fides for the benefit of Pokemon fans everywhere.
After an exhausting workout that seems to mostly involve goose-stepping in place, Grace Jones unveils her secret training device – a balloon in which the Pokemon can learn to dance more economically. Pancham, Fennekin, Farfetch’d, and Smoochum all get inside, as does jealous Chespin, but all of a sudden – the balloon seals itself up and a larger Meowth-shaped hot air balloon descends from the sky. That wasn’t Grace Jones and her choreographers at all!
It’s Team Rocket!
Even though James doesn’t seem at all happy that Meowth has perched himself on his head, Jessie is estatic, she has completed step one of her plan to become Kalos Queen! Meowth drops a smoke bomb and just like that, Team Rocket are gone. (And traveling at the speed of wind at that!) Ash sends out Fletchinder to do some scouting, but for now it seems that Team Rocket have won.
Back inside the balloon trap, Chespin and Pancham are still having it out, and their fighting actually manages to free them from Team Rocket’s grasp. The villains bring their balloon down and attempt to get the purloined Pokemon back, and Chespin and Pancham can’t seem to agree on who should lead the defensive effort. James and Inkay can hardly believe it – Team Rocket is usually the one to shoot themselves in the foot through fraternal squabbling. In any event, as might have been predicted, Pancham and Chespin make up just as it seems that Team Rocket will defeat them and give Inkay and Pumpkaboo a good spanking. And right on time, the cavalry has arrived! Not to be outdone, Ash orders a Thunderbolt and sends Team Rocket blasting off again. James mutters about Jessie’s behavior “not befitting a queen” (and he should know), and with that, another episode of Pokemon comes to a close.
Our heroes bid farewell to Nini (please be a Character of the Day, please be a Character of the Day) and set off for parts unknown. Until next time, Pokemon fans.
Final thoughts: The first episode of the new season, and it was a dud. Oh well. At least we got to see Jessie shake her money maker. Hopefully this means the next few episodes will be better. After all, I see that there is one in the pipeline the Japanese have entitled “Satashi and Serena’s First Date?!” so buckle-up, AmourShippers.