So far in this 18th season of Pokemon, our heroes have been marred in the mid-generation blahs. There have been nothing but filler episodes so far, and not even good ones. Today’s episode is not technically a filler since it features both a recurring character and an evolution (Haha, oops, spoiler alert! But which Pokemon? Stay tuned to find out!), but it still isn’t particularly good.
Ash is doing some Pokemon training while Serena, Bonnie, and Clemont sit on and watch. (Is this how they spend all of their time when we aren’t watching? Must be quite the boring existence…) When all of a sudden, something comes floating down the river – it’s Sanpei the ninja boy!
Everyone notes how nice it is to see Sanpei again – after all, he just got upgraded from Character of the Day to Recurring Character! Ash, however, is more interested in the identity of Sanpei’s Pokemon. It seems that his Frogadier evolved into a Greninja, and both Ash and the pre-evolved Froakie are very impressed.
But all of a sudden – ninja attack!
Our heroes are ambushed by what appears to be Fuchsia City Gym Leader Koga wearing a Shiftry mask and his Barbaracle. It seems that he is after some kind of “secret scroll” in Sanpei’s possession (which was undoubtedly ruined in the water – no?), and he is willing to fight to get it. Froakie and Pikachu are spoiling for a battle, and jump in to defend Sanpei’s honor, while in the bushes nearby, Team Rocket look on. Jessie makes a snide comment about our heroes “twerpish baby brains” (which is true enough, but she is no Einstein herself), and Team Rocket make a good point – there are a surprising number of ninjas around. Is this France or feudal Japan? In his defense though, Sanpei does make the rather French decision to flee from battle rather than stand and fight. He unleashes a secret ninja leaf tornado technique and in a flash our heroes have absconded to the woods along with the secret scroll that Shiftry-Koga wants so badly.
Sanpei explains that he was given the task to deliver the scroll to a nearby mansion by his sensei, Saizo … who is clearly the guy beneath the Shiftry mask, right down to the same gi, sword, and red scarf! Geez, apparently Sanpei is as easy to fool as dumb-Ash. All it takes for Team Rocket to fool the twerps most days is to do their hair up slightly differently.
Luckily Clemont was “anticipating this very situation” and created a robotic walking device featuring cardboard cutouts of Ash, Serena, Bonnie, Clemont, and Sanpei! (Apparently he was anticipating this very specific situation…) The group’s resident inventor and John Denver lookalike sends his machine marching off down the path, confident that it will confuse Sanpei’s ninja enemy (can we just go ahead and call him Saizo?), but surely only someone very stupid would confuse Clemont’s two-dimensional artwork for the genuine twerps – and as luck would have it, two such people arrive on the scene.
“Prepare for trouble, I’ve seen enough!” declares Jessie.
“And make it double, we’re quick and tough!” adds James, unconvincingly trying to butch it up.
But smarter heads prevail (Meowth and Wobbuffet), and stop everyone’s favorite beautiful but brainless villains mid-motto. Jessie is understandably miffed at having been duped by “the science twerp,” and she releases her bitch goddess rage on Clemont’s invention, only for it to go the way of all Clemontic devices and explode, leaving Team Rocket a little worse for wear.
Coming to a formidable mountain obstacle, Sanpei worries that he will not be able to deliver the secret scroll to the mansion in the valley beyond by nightfall, as instructed by his sensei (whom he still hasn’t realized is the same ninja stalking him). Bonnie displays all the intelligence of a MR.F by suggesting that maybe they could simply fly over the mountain. (Which honestly isn’t that bad of an idea, except that Pallet Town’s village idiot decided that he no longer needed the services of his giant flying Pokemon Charizard and Pidgeot)
So instead, Sanpei leads everyone along a rickety wooden ledge built around the mountain, which predictably breaks (just like every other bridge and piece of transportational infrastructure in the communistic shitopia that is the Pokemon universe) causing Serena and Clemont to fall to their grizzly deaths.
In a scene lifted straight from a perverted fanfiction, Greninja lashes its long lascivious tongue around Serena’s body as Froakie shoots its sticky white goo at Clemont and the two amphibians haul the humans back to the comparative safety of the rickety mountainside ledge.
Displaying none of H.P. Lovecraft’s sexualized fears, our heroes descend into the dark, dank depths of a nearby cave, with the promise of Sanpei’s destination on the other side. However, a horde of Golbat soon awakens and swarm with viscous Air Cutter attacks – reminding everyone why it is that James and Mr. Lovecraft wisely avoid all vagina-like places, including this cavern.
Ash and Sanpei manage to make like the Doors and break on through to the other side, but Serena, Clemont, and Bonnie are missing! Our hero doesn’t even have time to dedicate what little brain power he has to this mystery, though, (that is if he hasn’t already forgotten who Serena, Clemont, and Bonnie are…) because the still-disguised Saizo has returned with Barbaracle to do battle once again. Ash and his stupid little ninja pal order duel Double Teams from Froakie and Greninja and they surround Barbaracle, which manages to avoid a 360 degree Water Shuriken / Water Pulse attack. Ash decides that two-against-one wasn’t already unfair enough to Saizo and sends Pikachu into the fray with an Electro Ball as well. As if to prove to Ash that cheating never pays, the Collective Pokemon metaphorically laughs at Pikachu’s feeble attempts to defeat it. (Although Barbaracle would do well to consider that Pikachu can be a real bad ass when it wants to be)
And nobody understands this last point better than Team Rocket, who arrive on screen in their latest attempt to enslave the little yellow rodent and deliver it unto their boss Giovanni after only eighteen short years of trying. But Saizo and Barbaracle have other ideas and tear Meowth’s net to shreds with their claws and katana – to the utter surprise of Ash and Sanpei. (Seriously dude? You don’t realize this is your sensei yet?) Jessie and James complain that it is only Pikachu that they are after, and that Still-Officially-Nameless-Mystery-Ninja-Man-Who-Definitely-Isn’t-Saizo has no business interfering. When he refuses to back down, Team Rocket sends in the ultimate attack team: Meowth and Wobbuffet! (Wobbuffet used Flailing Windmill Club-arms attack! It’s super effective!)
Sufficient to say, Team Rocket is soon blasting off again, wondering just where they went wrong this time.
With the halftime festivities out of the way, the ninjas + Ash return to their battle. A viscous Mud Slap from Barbaracle lays out Pikachu and Greninja, and sends Froakie crashing behind a pile of rocks. The Collective Pokemon ominously moves forward with his claws glowing pink – promising to deliver a much stronger Poison Jab than the love taps that Brock used to get from Croagunk. But just when everything seems hopeless … remember that evolution I promised you earlier?
It’s Frogadier time!
Ash’s newly-evolved Bubble Frog proves it can do alone what Sanpei’s evolved version couldn’t do with assistance, by whooping Barbaracles’s big rocky ass. Frogadier gets under Barbaracle’s Poison Jab with an Aerial Ace (hahahahaha, remember how long it took Swellow to learn that same move?) and kicks the ever-loving shit out of the Collective Pokemon. Rather than admit defeat like an honorabru Japanese ninja – Saizo uses the same leaf tornado trick Sanpei used earlier and disappears.
So with that, Ash willingly abandons his friends – who for all he knows are still trapped somewhere on the mountain, possibly in mortal danger – and follows Sanpei down to the mansion below to deliver the secret scroll. Fortunately for Ash, he soon discovers that his companions have already safely arrived.
But there are still more surprises in store. As it turns out:
Saizo was the secret masked ninja the WHOLE TIME!
Also, Sanpei’s secret scroll has nothing written on it (he didn’t think to read it? Or is he as illiterate as he is face-blind?), the whole point of the exercise was for Saizo to test his padawan’s ninja skills.
So that basically brings the episode to a close. All we have time for is for miffed Bonnie to beg a nervous Frogadier to devolve so she can see it evolve again herself. Ash and Sanpei begin battling their blue ninja frogs, but the camera freezes and artistically blurs before we can see the outcome of the battle. (Although judging by their performances against Barbaracle, I have a good idea of who won…)
Final thoughts: This new season is slowly picking up. We’ve seen our share of contrived evolution episodes on this show, but this one was actually better than most. It was cool to see Ash’s Frogadier measure up against Sanpei and his Greninja. Hopefully we can see them battle again (perhaps when Frogadier is a Greninja itself) and see conclusively which one is better. (Ash just better hope Sanpei doesn’t enter the Kalos league, his battle record is much spottier when it comes to league matches…) Team Rocket were great as always. I loved how only Jessie and James could be stupid enough to fall for Clemont’s decoy, and I also enjoyed Jessie sending loyal but bumbling Wobbuffet into battle. Hopefully the new season will only continue to get better.