Welcome to Generation IV and the tenth season of the Pokemon anime! This is my first experience with the series that outside the Original Series seems to be the most popular among members of the Pokemon fandom. I’m pretty excited to get started, so let’s head off to Sinnoh, shall we? I’ve decided to kick things off with a triple episode review since the first three episodes tell a continuous story, and were originally released together when the Diamond & Pearl series debuted.
When last we saw Ash Ketchum, he had just won his first Pokemon tournament since the minor league Orange Islands circuit way back in Season Two. Pallet Town’s village idiot had somehow managed to secure an offer of steady employment – as a Frontier Brain of all things – but turned it down to continue his vagabond existence and a chance to follow his secret nephew Gary Oak to the Sinnoh Region. As he did after his marathon death march through Johto, Ash jettisoned his friends and Pokemon and set sail for a new region accompanied just by Pikachu and his loyal stalkers: Aipom and Team Rocket. However, Following a Maiden’s Voyage does not begin with any of these established characters, but with a new girl. Who’s that girl? It’s Dawn!
Dawn is a supposedly ten year old from Twinleaf Town who is about to begin her Pokemon journey – because as May proved last series, it is futile to try and remain apathetic about Pokemon. The reason I question Dawn’s stated age is because despite their repeated infractions, I refuse to believe the animators would so blatantly sexualize a preadolescent girl. First of all, Dawn is wearing a skirt that is the shortest thing this side of Misty’s rolled-up jean shorts. And although she is less … developed than May, Dawn will soon exhibit the kind of behavior that is unbecoming of someone as young and theoretically innocent as she. For that reason, henceforth I’m going to pretend that Dawn is simply a particularly underdeveloped seventeen-year-old whom the translators insist is ten to make her more identifiable to the show’s audience; after all, Ash should be about twenty now in normal years.
Dawn’s day begins with breakfast with her mother and a steaming cup of joe. (See?! What kind of parent would give their ten-year-old coffee?) Johanna asks her daughter if she has finished packing for her journey and whether she remembered the postcard from Professor Rowan that entitles her to a free starter Pokemon – courtesy of the glorious Sinnoh People’s Republic. Dawn wonders out loud which Pokemon she should choose to begin her journey, and she introduces them to us in a series of daydreams much as Ash did with the Kanto starters in the very first episode. Sinnoh trainers can choose from Chimchar – a little monkey with a flaming tail and a swirly turd-shaped haircut; Piplup – a baby blue penguin; or Turtwig – a green turtle with a twig growing from its head.Dawn concludes her pretend performance by bowing and lifting her already short skirt even higher still. Apparently our new heroine dreams of becoming a world-famous Pokemon Contest Champion – much like her mother before her. (Perhaps we’ll see May, Drew, or even more importantly Harley along the way?) Johanna reminds her daughter that before this dream can become a reality, Dawn must first become a competent Pokemon trainer, and to do that she needs to get her barely-concealed ass out the door and on the road to Professor Rowan’s lab. Dawn declares that she is packed and ready to go and wheels out a giant piece of luggage that consists entirely of clothing – “that and some jewelry, and face stuff.” Johanna pulls one particularly revealing piece of lingerie (ten-year-old my ass) out of the suitcase with a look of revulsion crossing her face when she realizes her daughter apparently intends on turning tricks on every street corner between here and the Pokemon League. (To be fair, at least Dawn has a plan for making money, unlike welfare queen Ash Ketchum) Flabbergasted but undaunted, Johanna gives Dawn a backpack, telling her that she will want to pack lightly on her journey. The former contest champion also gives her daughter a parting gift: a battered contest ribbon that was the prize of Johanna’s first ever victory. And with one last goodbye, Dawn sets off down the road on her bicycle … well … oh my … that is just wrong! The animators provide us with a zoomed-in shot of Dawn’s derrière as she cycles away in her barely-there skirt, and what I can only hope is a very substantial (and existent) pair of underwear. (Oh Dawn, just wait until Brock meets you…)
But perhaps Dawn is not as worldly as she seems, because upon arriving in Sandgem Town, it becomes apparent that our new heroine has never even been as far away from home as the next dot on the map. Dawn stops outside of a building claiming that she would recognize Professor Rowan’s laboratory anywhere, before bursting inside what turns out to be a restaurant and declaring that she is here for her Pokemon! (Mmm… Pikachu fried rice…) The rest of her search goes equally poorly as Dawn proves to be a regular dumb-Ash at following written instructions. Fatefully, our young Lolita bumps right up against a distinguished older gentleman who offers to take her back to his place, but fortunately he turns out to be Professor Rowan – a stern but distinguished Victorian looking man with mutton chops and a thick mustache – and not a randy sex-hound like Professors Oak and Sycamore.
The scene shifts to the Rowan Pokemon Laboratory where the gentleman professor’s assistants are busy feeding and readying the starter Pokemon for the arrival of the rookie trainers. Another assistant wheels in a Starly and Staraptor – two flying types – on a cart, while everyone reminisces about catching either Starly or Bidoof (the Pidgey and Rattata of Sinnoh) as their first Pokemon. So while the lab assistants have their backs turned, the Chimchar engages in some harmless monkey business by reaching into the Piplup’s food dish and snagging some Pokemon food pellets. Piplup completely overreacts and angrily unleashes a BubbleBeam attack cheap-shot at the fire monkey. Hmm, a Penguin with a short fuse and a bad attitude? …This Piplup is Ulf Samuelsson! – the ice hockey cheap-shot artist that Wikipedia describes as “the dirtiest player in the history of the NHL.” Pipl-Ulf Samuelsson ignores the pleading of Rowan’s assistants to stop acting like a spoiled child, and continues launching its BubbleBeam indiscriminately – eventually striking Starly and Staraptor and causing the Predator Pokemon to unleash a nasty Whirlwind that destroys the window and allows all the Pokemon to escape the lab; except for tubby Turtwig, who continues to slowly munch away from its food dish.
Rowan’s assistants pledge to quickly find the Pokemon and restore the lab to good condition before their employer comes back and finds out what happened…
It’s at this precise moment that Professor Rowan makes his return with Dawn in tow. The Victorian scholar takes the destruction of his laboratory in stride, demonstrating that characteristically British stiff upper lip. However, his schoolmarm grimace is enough to make even gentle Turtwig tremble in fear. I get the feeling that Rowan is an old-school chalkboard all-work-and-no-fun type of Professor; sort of like an anti-Birch. Dawn volunteers to lead the expedition to recover the lost Pokemon, and Professor Rowan – who just recently discovered the girl who was too stupid to follow written instructions to his lab – inexplicably agrees to send Dawn out into the woods on her own with no Pokemon for her protection; what could possibly go wrong? The professor does give her some bizarre advice: Dawn should crouch down and address the Pokemon from their height. Is Rowan trying to get Dawn to bend over? Perhaps he’s more like Oak than I originally thought…
Dawn succeeds at locating Pipl-Ulf, who is still angrily trying to injure Chimchar. The ornery penguin chases its target into the woods, and soon finds itself imprisoned in an Ariodos’ web – along with some other woodland critters. Dawn quickly becomes the target of Ariados herself; and this spider is a lot less friendly than Charlotte. Dawn dodges several Sludge Bomb attacks from the Long Leg Pokemon before she formulates a plan. Running around in a circle, she positions herself between Ariados and the web, dodges a Sludge Bomb, and allows the venom to burn through the silk enough to free Piplup. Dawn grabs the little blue penguin and runs – apparently leaving the other Pokemon in the web to die. But if she was expecting a warm reception from Pipl-Ulf she is sorely mistaken, as the angry penguin gives her a taste of his pecker in her face.
Dawn discovers that the path to any man’s heart often leads through his stomach, and manages to win Piplup over with the offer of food. But they aren’t out of the woods yet, either figuratively or literally, as the Ariados has returned with some of its brethren. The evil spiders manage to corral Dawn with Poison Stings and web threads, but Piplup intervenes with BubbleBeam, which allows our heroine to escape…
One Ariados manages to snare Dawn around the ankle, which conveniently provides the animators an opportunity to draw an up-skirt shot of Dawn laying prone on the ground. Dawn encourages Piplup to save himself, but it seems that little Ulfie’s heart has grown three sizes today. The angry Penguin Pokemon jumps between Dawn and an onslaught of Poison Stings and Sludge Bombs. Glowing white, Piplup absorbs the damage caused by the Ariados and pays it back double – displaying the signature technique of the Pewter City Gym in Generation I. “Bide is one of the coolest moves I’ve ever seen!” gushes Dawn. Um … haaaave you met Brock?
Dawn and Piplup make their way back to the lab, while Chimchar is simultaneously air delivered by Staraptor. However, it wouldn’t be the first episode of a new generation without a quick sighting of a legendary Pokemon, and Dawn and Piplup do just that when a shadowy Mespirit emerges from Lake Verity and quickly disappears. With that out of the way, Professor Rowan presents Dawn with a Pokedex, Pokeballs, and her choice of a starter. In a shocking turn of events, our heroine declines to pick boring old Turtwig (the Hufflepuff of Sinnoh starters), or Chimchar, and instead picks the same Piplup that she spent most of the episode bonding with! Who could have guessed? So as Dawn prepares to begin her Pokemon journey, the action shifts to another trainer who is about ten years into his.
Ash Ketchum has arrived in Sinnoh and places a video call from the docks to let his secret father Professor Oak and Brock’s lame-o aborted replacement Tracey Sketchit know he and Pikachu made it safely, along with stow-away stalker Aipom. Suddenly, our hero discovers that Aipom wasn’t the only Ash-obsessed creature to follow him to Sinnoh – Team Rocket are here as well! James fires a rocket-propelled arm at Pikachu and drags the electric mouse into the classic Meowth balloon (which begs the question of why our villains didn’t just float to Sinnoh instead of grabbing hold of the outside of an ocean liner?) But before they can get away, an argument between Meowth and Jessie leads the Scratch Cat to threaten the voluptuous villainess with his Fury Swipes. Jessie tells Wobbuffet to handle this, and the resulting Counter attack by the Patient Pokemon causes the balloon to explode and sends Team Rocket blasting off for the first time in Sinnoh, with Pikachu sailing away in another direction. “When it comes to Countering,” notes James, “the Wobster rules.”
While all this was going on, Dawn has been trying to prove her mettle as a Pokemon trainer. Encountering a Buneary, she orders Piplup to attack it, but her angry penguin gets the worse of its altercation with the Rabbit Pokemon. As Buneary hops away leaving a battered Piplup behind, Dawn decides to lift his spirits with the same technique she uses on all of her gentleman friends – by kneeling on all fours and providing a glimpse down her shirt. Dawn and Piplup vow to do better next time, and an opportunity soon presents itself in the form of a Burmy hanging from a nearby tree limb. This time Piplup has no problem softening its prey up for capture, but in typical newb fashion, Dawn takes too long celebrating and the Burmy manages to escape before she can ready a Poke Ball. Once again, Dawn and Piplup vow to do better next time, and fate immediately smiles upon them for a third time. An exhausted looking Pikachu stumbles out of the bushes and collapses on the ground, allowing Dawn to get a Pokedex reading. Deciding to continue kicking this Pokemon while its down, our heroine orders a BubbleBeam from Pilpl-Ulf Samuelsson – but for once the cheap-shot artist got what was coming to him. The Pikachu overpowers the BubbleBeam with a Thunderbolt and unleashes another wickedly powerful bolt of electricity that both fries Piplup and Dawn’s bicycle. Wait a second, a Pikachu that likes to destroy girls’ bikes? … THAT’S ASH’S PIKACHU! Dawn soon comes to a similar conclusion when she throws a Poke Ball at the yellow rodent and it bounces off without even engaging the capture mechanism. Pikachu attempts to flee back into the forest, but it quickly finds itself surrounded by Seviper, Cacnea, Dustox, and Meowth.
“Whoa! A talking Meowth!” exclaims Dawn – giving the Scratch Cat the kind of recognition for his rare talents that he seldom gets on the show. Soon Meowth’s teammates arrive as well, and Jessie bulldozes through the fourth wall by informing Dawn that Team Rocket has “been after Pikachu so long we’re trademarked!” Our villains cannot resist the urge to perform their Advanced Generation motto one last time, even without Ash present to hear it. Gaymes also utilizes the opportunity to make Dawn aware of his unique lifestyle choice by sliding across the screen with his hair sexily askew and little feathers dancing in the background. “Team Rocket is feared by little kids all over the Kanto Region!” Jessie adds, just in case our new heroine doesn’t realize the caliber of the criminals she is currently dealing with. Unfortunately for our beautiful baddies, Dawn fails to heed their warnings and teams up with Pikachu to send Team Rocket blasting off once again with a combined Thunderbolt/BubbleBeam.
Dawn rushes Pikachu to a nearby Pokemon Center and places a phone call to her mother, who has the opportunity to witness her daughter take it in the face from Piplup’s pecker. However, much like Season One Ash with Pikachu, Dawn’s willingness to take physical abuse from her Pokemon seems to have solidified her bond with the angry blue penguin. Dawn likewise informs Professor Rowan about discovering Pikachu, which will become important in a minute because meanwhile, back near Sandgem Town, Ash Ketchum is sitting in a field contemplating how difficult it would be to continue the series with Aipom as the franchise’s new mascot. Fortunately, Officer Jenny arrives on her motorbike to put an end to this particularly dark line of thought. Ash explains how Team Rocket has absconded with his Pikachu, but Jenny urges him to “leave that to me” – which isn’t particularly reassuring since no Jenny has ever solved a crime on this show without the police work being done almost entirely by Ash and his merry band of followers. (Perhaps she smells the opportunity to make a dirty buck or two and doesn’t want Ash meddling…) Jenny drops Ash off at Rowan Laboratories, but our hero isn’t there long – the news that Dawn is on the way there with Pikachu sends him running off with the hope of intercepting her.
Meanwhile, somewhere nearby, Team Rocket have fortuitously fallen to the earth right outside of another one of James’ family’s large portfolio of real estate holdings. “Our second summer cottage,” James gayly declares, “we come here when the other one needs cleaning!” And in a display of the eccentricities that often accompany the extremely wealthy, the front gate is decorated not with a sign informing passersby of who lives within, or a message to keep out, but with a child’s drawing of what appears to be Lil’ James and some other mysterious characters. Inside the spacious abode, Team Rocket takes some time to relax, while James returns to his childhood bedroom – with the decor revealing that even from a young age James must have known he was a “friend of Dorothy.” But the rainbow paint job isn’t the only thing awaiting Gaymes inside his bedroom, there is a box on the floor as well that contains an old bottle cap collection, and a Poké Ball?! (Surely whatever was inside must have starved to death by now?) Fortunately, Poké Balls apparently have some kind of carbonite-esque life stasis mechanism, because instead of the grisly site of a shriveled Pokemon corpse, we are introduced to James’ new/old companion – Carnivine: a combination of a venus flytrap and Mayor McCheese. “You see,” informs James, “Victreebel’s not the only Pokémon who likes to take a nip at my noggin!” What a delightfully dirty line! Oh James, you blowhard! Jessie’s stomach makes an undignified rumble, and she asks her rich teammate if he can scrounge up any food. So with Carnivine’s mouth still firmly clasped around James’ head (tee-hee!), Lil’ Jimmy strikes up the campiest pose he can muster (quite a feat indeed) and calls his manservant Mr. Cheeves over the intercom to make some lunch for him and his friends.
The aforementioned butler (who is unfortunately sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache – perhaps he fled to Sinnoh to escape the trials at Nuremberg?), cooks up a veritable feast for Team Rocket to consume, but he brings more than food with him to the dinner table. Mr. Cheeves has taken the liberty of informing his employers that their son is safe and residing at their Sinnoh summer cottage, and James’ parents have decided to swing by to pay their prodigal progeny a visit – along with his fiancée Jessebelle! Beautiful but not-so-bright Jessie apparently has more important things to remember than the plot of her own show, and asks, “Jessebelle who?” Fortunately Meowth at least has been paying attention, and reminds her and the audience of the antagonist from the Season One episode, Holy Matrimony: the Southern belle with an uncanny resemblance to Jessie who wants to marry James and force him to recant his homosexual lifestyle.
Well this latest turn of events has James understandably rattled, and he insists to the consternation of his teammates that they abandon the cushy hang-out they only recently discovered and go back to living the hard life of street criminals. There is only one thing that can get Jessie off the couch and Meowth and Wobbuffet away from the television (Pokemon playing Pokemon on Pokemon? That is so meta!), and that is the promise of even greater wealth that will surely come Team Rocket’s way when they become the undisputed masters of the Sinnoh region! Meowth wastes no time in putting through a long distance call on James’ big-screen TV/videophone to Da Boss himself! The Team Rocket trio informs Giovanni that having conquered Hoenn for him (or being conquered by it, as James asides), they have decided to put the Sinnoh region under his control as well. Boss Rocket declares that Meowth’s plans aren’t worth a cup of coffee, but he has been looking to expand into Sinnoh, and he might as well give these three stooges the first knock since they are already there. Our villains take their boss’ condescending acquiescence to their plans as a sign of good things to come, but after hanging up the phone, Giovanni confirms what I had always suspected – that despite their unwavering devotion and disturbing daydreams about the Team Rocket leader – he has no idea who Jessie, James, and Meowth are! “Remind me who those three buffoons were,” Giovanni says to his Persian, as the scene shifts back to the show’s main characters.
[Warning: what follows is one of the most enjoyable segments in Pokémon history]
We rejoin Ash Ketchum as he is running down Route 202, desperate to be reunited with his Pikachu and rescued from a terrible world where Aipom – the ass-arm Pokemon – is the franchise mascot. Suddenly Ash is passed by a tractor trailer decked out in a Magikarp paint job that halts to a stop. Is our hero about to be hi-jacked by inbred rednecks? Not quite. The door opens, and oh man – it’s Brock! Yes, after only one episode apart, Pokémon’s resident horny virgin has returned to inexplicably follow Ash on yet another journey … or has he? For you see, Brock was not driving the truck as I originally thought based on which door he hopped out of (it seems people in Sinnoh, much like Japan, drive on the wrong side of the road). As a matter of fact, Brock is already on a journey with someone else: the driver of the truck – a busty white trash gal named Claudina. Yes, Brock actually has no plans on resuming his travels with Ash, because he finally found a girl with low enough standards to spend some alone time with him, and then he just happened to run across the one person on earth that he could gloat to. (See Ash, I am straight!) Brock takes Ash aside and tries to resort to his original wise older mentor persona. “It’s a long and complicated journey when you want to become the very best,” says the Pewter City gym leader – borrowing a phrase from the show’s original theme song – before explaining how he and Claudina met, “I was hitchhiking from Pewter City when we hooked up.” HOLD UP! What exactly does Brock mean by “hooked up?” Is our squinty-eyed breeder a virgin no more? But before Brock can elaborate and/or depart with his trailer park queen, Claudina gets a phone call … from her boyfriend! Wow, poor Brock – losing out to a guy who most likely dresses in a combination of camouflage and Confederate flag apparel! Claudina decides to hightail it over to her man as fast as her 18 wheels can carry her, and luckily for her, Brock found a friend so now she doesn’t feel bad about leaving him by the side of the road. She thanks Brock for lunch – and dinner – before leaving her distraught suitor in a trail of dust.
Let’s take a moment to dissect what we just witnessed. Brock, the show’s would-be lady’s man who has a history of terrible luck with women, somehow managed to score what he (probably correctly) thought was a chick loose enough to sleep with him. He plied her with gifts of fine dining and accompanied her on what he assumed was a kinky vacation to the Sinnoh region. On the way, who should he discover but his longtime traveling companion and sexual alter-ego, Ash Ketchum – a guy who has no interest in women, and yet finds himself constantly surrounded by girls lusting after him. Still unable to fully believe his good fortune himself, Brock cannot help but ask Claudina to pull over so that he can gloat to Ash about how he has finally moved on from his lonely days following Pallet Town’s village idiot around as an awkward third-wheel. It is at this exact moment that Brock’s would-be savior finally reveals that she has a boyfriend and leaves him on the side of the road in an unfamiliar country with no option except to continue to follow his idiot friend on yet another Pokemon journey!
Hahahaha, oh man… Welcome back to the team, Brock!
In the last ninety seconds, Brock’s entire future came crashing down around him. Abandoned by a woman for the umpteenth time, and alone in the world except for the young man that he has shared his life with for the better part of the past ten years, Brock makes a reckless proclamation. “Alright Ash, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do,” the squinty-eyed gym leader declares, “and these two men are going to do it with or without a good woman at their side!” So … I guess Brock is gay now? BoulderShippers rejoice, ten years of sexual tension have finally boiled to the surface! Dumb-Ash, not getting it as usual, adds fuel to the fire by enthusing, “Yeah! That’s what I like to hear!”
You should be expecting a welcome packet in the mail from James any day now Brock.
Continuing down the road, Ash explains the situation vis-a-vis Pikachu, and Brock temporarily reverts to his heterosexual ways at the mention of Nurse Joy’s name. Suddenly Aipom swings right into a Starly and begins to pick a fight with the Starling Pokemon. Ash initially admonishes his ass-armed monkey for fooling around, but upon scanning Starly with Dexter and discovering that it is a Normal/Flying type, our hero decides to add it to his growing list of generational flying bitch Pokémon. Aipom successfully defeats Starly in pitched combat, and even despite the fact that Ash didn’t spin his hat backwards for good luck, he manages to catch the small avian Pokemon. Our hero expresses sadness afterward, noting that Pikachu is usually around to celebrate moments like this, but Brock reminds dumb-Ash that the whole reason he caught Starly in the first place was to find Pikachu. (Neither short- nor long-term memory is Ash’s strong suit…) At least Ash is being honest about the utilitarian future that awaits this generation’s flying-type bitch (No complaining Starly! Accept your largely unimportant background role with all the dignity of noble Pidgeotto!)
Ash gives his little winged warrior its first assignment: find Pikachu, dammit! Starly almost immediately spots a blast of lightning in the distance that is visible to Ash and Brock as well. (Almost makes Starly redundant, doesn’t it?) Rushing to the source of the electricity, our heroes don’t discover the yellow mascot of the Pokémon franchise, but rather an Elekid owned by a character who will quickly become one of my favorites. Paul is a purple-haired trainer who possesses all of the douchey confidence that made Gary Oak so beloved – all he is missing is Gary’s pedigree, money, and cheerleaders. Ash asks the stranger if he has seen a Pikachu and Paul responds in the negative, while also telling Ash that he witnessed the earlier capture of his Starly and questions whether this particular member of the species is strong enough. Paul insists that he only wants the strongest of Pokemon and reveals that he has already captured three Starly in the forest. He scans them with his Pokedex, and discovers that only one of his Starling Pokemon knows the move Aerial Ace. Thoroughly disgusted, Paul releases the other two weaklings back into the wild. (I really like this guy!) Ash responds with his typical mushy sentiments that all Pokemon can become strong if you give them love and attention. Paul dismisses the trainer from Pallet and walks off, but looks back and takes notice when Ash and Brock go chasing after another blast of electrical energy.
This time Pikachu is the source of the lightning, as the little electrical mouse is presently using its Volt Tackle to protect Dawn and Piplup from Team Rocket’s newest mecha. Meowth responds to Dawn’s objections over Team Rocket’s behavior by peeking over the fourth wall once again to paradoxically note that “We’ve been in Pika-pursuit since you’ve been alive!” (So why is Ash still roughly the same age as Dawn? Perhaps our favorite idiot managed to stumble across that spring from Tuck Everlasting somewhere along his journeys?) Ash and Brock arrive at last, and our idiotic hero decides that where magical Pokemon attacks failed to damage Team Rocket’s mecha, his fragile child’s body will surely succeed. After pausing for the debut of Team Rocket’s new Sinnoh motto, Ash launches himself at the robot and fails to pry Pikachu from its mechanical claws (duh), but he does manage to make Team Rocket accidentally punch their mecha with its own arms. Our villains blast off once again, but Ash and Pikachu fail to escape the explosion in time and they are crushed to death beneath a pile of metallic rubble, bringing the anime to a surprise end.
Having demonstrated the indestructibility that apparently accompanies his eternal youth, Ash takes a moment to properly introduce himself to the girl who has been chaperoning his Pikachu. Brock introduces himself as well, and although its hard to tell with his permanently-squinty Asian eyes, if you follow Brock’s gaze to its destination around Dawn’s crotch, it would appear that her itsy-bitsy skirt has miraculously cured Brock’s brief detour to homosexuality. So with the crime of the theft of Pikachu resolved and the criminals long gone, it is finally time for the return of the Pokemon world’s corruptly incompetent sheriff: Officer Jenny! Despite her complete failure to notice a giant criminal robot stomping around her precinct, or to do anything to stop it, Ash stupidly thanks Officer Jenny for her “help” in getting his Pikachu back. And speaking of getting things back, Brock’s mojo is working once more, and he demonstrates it by crushing all over Jenny … and there are absolutely no consequences for his actions! Yes for the first time in an unbearably long time, annoying little Max is not here to do his stolen version of Misty’s cock-Blrock™ ear pull. Dawn and Ash simply stand back and stare in dumb surprise/dumb everything else as Brock slobbers all over Jenny.
Returning to Professor Rowan’s lab, the Victorian scholar presents Ash with a new wardrobe his mother sent from Pallet Town – which is fortunate since his Hoenn clothing was all but finished off in the wake of the recent robot explosion. Stupid Satoshi has sense enough to call home and thank his mother for his quadrennial change of clothing, and Delia Ketchum implores her son to call his bastard daddy, which Ash promptly does by dialing up Professor Oak. Dawn is excited to meet the renowned Samuel Oak, although she knows him more for his poetry than his scholarly work. (What can I say, old Sammy horn-dog is a Renaissance man of many talents) Rowan cannot help but overhear the conversation and butts in to chastise his younger colleague for his rock star lifestyle. “Perhaps you could spend a little less time reading Pokemon poetry on television and more time doing your Pokemon research, eh Samuel?” chides the stern Victorian professor. Dawn mentions her desire to become the top contest coordinator in the Sinnoh region, and Ash acts like he forgot about Dre May; failing to mention to Dawn that he knows several of the premier coordinators from both the Hoenn and Kanto regions. Ash does have the courtesy to invite Dawn to accompany Brock and himself through Sinnoh, and Pewter City’s horniest virgin doesn’t need to be asked twice if he wants to go on a trip with Dawn and her unbelievably short skirt.
But before Ash and Friends, 4th ed., can embark on their journey through Sinnoh, Paul is back! The former Beatles bass guitarist challenges Ash to a battle now that Paul’s requirement of three Pokemon each has been met. (Little does he know that seasoned trainer Ash Ketchum could have triple battled him ten times over with just his collection of Tauros alone…) Ever the proper British gentleman, Professor Rowan invites everyone out to his back garden for the ensuing battle (as well as tea and light refreshments). Paul mocks Ash and his newish voice actress Sarah Natochenny by declaring, “you talk like such a little kid!” (Dude must be a Veronica Taylor fan…) The first leg of the battle provides Paul with an opportunity to prove that his Starly is much superior to the one that Ash caught, as well as a chance to mock Ash’s (complete lack of a) battle strategy. Round two pits Aipom against Paul’s Chimchar, and in this instance, the ass-armed monkey proves greater than swirly-turd-shaped-hair monkey. In a refreshing departure from the tendency of characters on this show to congratulate their Pokemon for losing battles, Paul bluntly tells his unconscious fire monkey that it is “still just as useless as can be.” (Did I mention I really like this guy?) The title match features two electric Pokemon: Pikachu and Elekid. But it seems that Paul is himself a viewer of the Pokemon anime because he uses the same Protect and then attack strategy with the pre-evolved Elekid that Gary employed just a few episodes previously with his Electrivire. Ash persists with his straight-ahead attacking style, but Elekid holds its own and Pikachu is the first to fall – although Elekid faints soon after and the match is called a draw. (It seems that Pikachu has undergone yet another intergenerational power-drain. Despite the fact that it should be level 5 million by now, Pikachu has gone from defeating a Battle Frontier Brain’s semi-legendary Regice, to holding its own against an Electrivire owned by Gary Oak, to drawing with a rookie trainer’s Elekid in quick succession)
If Ash was hoping that battling Paul would make the two friends, he is sorely mistaken. The fantastically douchey new rival releases his Starly, despite the fact that it won its battle and departs Professor Rowan’s garden in his trademark edgy and moody fashion, drawing the continuing ire of Ash. Our hero demands a rematch, but he will have to wait until a future date. Until then, we can enjoy the thought that Paul will be around for the foreseeable future, and rejoice in a show that is finally getting really interesting for the first time in far too long.
Final thoughts: What a start to the Diamond & Pearl series! For a show that has been merely hit-or-miss at the best of times since the Johto Journeys, the writers seem to have finally rounded back into something resembling Kanto form. Obviously it is impossible to judge an entire series based on the first three episodes, but there are plenty of great things to work with here. First of all, Max is gone (addition by subtraction), and May’s replacement is a character who so far demonstrates a great combination of May’s occasional ditziness and slutty attire with Misty’s quick-to-anger attitude. It is wonderful to see Team Rocket ramping up the comedic excellence, and it sounds like the new voice actors have finally gotten the hang of voicing the terrible trio in a more understandable manner than the rapid-talking and constantly singing Battle Frontier version of Team Rocket. What else can I say about the nature of Brock’s return to the group? Even though you might argue why the writers felt the need to continue to employ him in the show’s cast, you cannot argue with how they chose to reintroduce him to Ash’s life – it was truly one of the premier segments in Pokemon history. Finally, Paul marks the return of a true rival for Ash. Gary Oak was a constant menace to Ash in Season One, either in person or in thought, but his appearances declined throughout Johto and were basically non-existant in Hoenn. Ash went the whole third generation without ever getting a real rival (not counting Morrison, who only existed for the length of the Hoenn League Tournament), so it is nice to finally have someone that will drive Ash to get better. Additionally, Paul is a striking contrast to almost every other character in the Pokemon universe – he actually uses Pokemon the way that people play the video game: catching multiple Pokemon of the same species and picking the strongest one, releasing the ones you don’t want, and generally treating Pokemon like the strings of binary data that they are. Paul is the greatest dick this side of Gary Oak, and I cannot wait to see more of him.