Fresh off of their most captivating adventure in recent memory, Ash and friends have arrived in Laverre City – home of our dim-witted hero's next gym challenge.
Eat your heart out Sabrina
Serena is more than happy to introduce her boyfriend to the leader of the Laverre gym. Valerie is a gym leader, goth, AND a fashion designer – one-upping her Saffron City counterpart.
Apparently the Laverre Gym doubles as a trendy boutique, which has to be the most French thing that I have ever heard (if only Valerie wore striped shirts, a beret, and chain-smoked cigarettes…)
It seems to me that every gym should have a built-in gift shop – it would be like Disney World! Plus Brock would finally have somewhere to flog his distinctive line of Pewter City men's wear.
Entering the gym, everyone encounters Valerie's toadies – the Furisode Girls (Why is Kalos so Japanese?) – busily moving boxes around. (Are they anticipating a bust by the Feds?)
So far the Laverre Gym seems like an amalgamation of the Celadon Gym and Ecruteak's Kimono Girls
Standing at the reception desk is the same green-haired vest and cargo-shorts wearing trainer who challenged Clemont back when he was (failing) to prepare for his showdown with Ash. None of that matters to Pallet Town's village idiot except for the bit about the gym not being open today. "But I came all this way! he whines, as if this will somehow convince Valerie to postpone her event and battle him right here and now.
Meanwhile, Bonnie takes one look at the Furisode Girl manning the reception desk and realizes she would make the perfect wife for her hopelessly single brother. "I don't need your help," Clemont declares as he yanks Bonnie away with the mechanical Aipom arm on his backpack. "I can find my own girlfriend thank you!" "When?!" his exasperated sister responds, clearly exhausted with the effort of taking care of Lumiose City's most famous virgin.
The green-haired trainer is revealed to be Sawyer, Clemont's aforementioned challenger – despite the fact that he was named "Scottie" back then… As someone who wasn't even strong enough to defeat Clemont, Sawyer is flabbergasted that Ash has five badges. (I actually have his count at forty-nine, plus seven Frontier Symbols…) [A note from your friendly neighborhood Nintendo representative: We only recognize Kalos gym badges at this time. Please dispose of any previous Pokemon-related products and buy Pokemon X and Y. Do it! Do it now!]
Sawyer rightly wonders why gym leader Clemont isn't, you know, running his gym. Clement says that Clembot has everything under control (like soon the human race…), and invents some cock and bull story about how he is "gaining valuable experience watching Ash battle." Sawyer (who appears to be a thinly-veiled attempt by Nintendo to push it's Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire cartridges), reveals that he began his Pokemon journey with a Treecko. Ash resists the tempation to mention that he also had a Treecko (it's a Sceptile now, n.b.d.), but it soon becomes clear that young Sawyer doesn't need any persuasion to crush hard on Pallet Town's village idiot, and Ash seems pleased by the fawning attention – as if he doesn't get enough of that already. (TreeckoShipping anyone?)
Sawyer is lucky that Serena is not around to get jealous of his blossoming love for Ash. She and Bonnie are off giggling with glee over Valerie's various Pokemon-inspired fashion designs. What she doesn't realizes is that a couple of high school Mean Girls lurking in the shadows have taken an interest in her. She better hope that the Regina George looking one doesn't decide to ruin her life… Get in loser, we're going shopping!
Meanwhile, Ash's battle with Sawyer is heating up. Ash's lucha libre Pokemon discovers why Bagon are known for their rock-hard heads when Hawlucha tries to deliver a Karate Chop (Brock mastered a similar motion during all those long nights on the road with visions of Nurse Joy dancing in his head…). Our dim-witted hero realizes he will have to come up with a new strategy. Since one Karate Chop didn't work, Ash orders – "lots of Karate Chops!" (Nice thinking Ashy-boy)
Serena really seems to be getting to know her man, "Of course Ash is having a battle," she remarks when she realizes that he isn't watching her shopping for clothes. "What else?" Bonnie says, adding sagely, "it's what Ash does."
Sawyer may think his Treecko has a type advantage over Frogadier, but type match-ups don't matter when you're facing an opponent who is too stupid to remember them. Plus, ninja frogs armed with Cut lightsabers trump all type disadvantages.
Serena is brought to an audience before Valerie – but more importantly her Mr. Mime: the gay clown Pokemon! (Who finally has a befitting Fairy typing…)
Ash cut a battle short to attend a fashion show?! Clemont can't seem to believe it either, but for different reasons. "Bonnie! What in the world are you doing?!" "I'm modeling of course." duh. (I love Bonnie so much).
I'm not sure who seems more uncomfortable with Serena's new modeling career, her or her boyfriend
Sawyer's hero-worship kicks into overdrive when he comes to believe that Ash is "traveling with a gym leader and models?!" Ash quickly deflates that balloon/insults Serena, "no, not exactly" (what a douche) – at least he didn't mention that his ex-girlfriend was a swimsuit model, and also his mom – plus let's not forget his persistent gender-switching stalker…
Ash gets super-excited when Valerie mentions that her clothes are specifically designed to look good in battle – "What?! A battle?! Where?!" But one of the gym leader's henchwomen wisely picks Sawyer out of the audience as the trainer most likely to make her boss look good by sucking in battle. True to form, despite an opportunity to secure a Fairy Badge ahead of his new messiah, Sawyer idiotically sends out his Dragon-type Bagon, which is easily dispatched by Spritzee – Valerie's flying pink nose.
Ash's Pokemon prove that they have definitely taken after their trainer by shoveling their food down and immediately moving to battle (shouldn't there be a half-hour waiting period, like with swimming?). When Ash invites his new stalker to join him in training, this becomes too much for Serena, who immediately scarfs down her own dinner and follows jealously. Now that another episode of Pokemon has come to an end, I'm forced to once again question – rice and chopsticks? Why is Kalos so Japanese?!
Final thoughts: Sawyer is an absolutely fantastic addition to the growing pantheon of XY recurring characters. Not because he is good – he's a whiny loser. But because I find his weird fascination with Ash to be hilarious. We've seen all kinds of rivals for Ash before, and as long as Sawyer remains a fawning bumbling "little buddy," we'll get along just fine. However, if Ash emotionally loses at the Kalos league to him, a-la Ritchie, I may put a foot through my television. You've been warned, Nintendo.