Chapter 6: To Evolve or Not to Evolve That is the Question
For the curious, that’s the actual title. And yes, for some reason, they omit the comma.
Probably the best thing about adaptations is that while they can make an exciting concept duller (cough, cough, Hunger Games, cough,) they can also do the reverse. The last two chapters have demonstrated this point incredibly well, but for today’s chapter (as well as the next,) really drive the idea home. If “The Flame Pokémon-athon” was average, “The Battling Eevee Brothers” was like watching paint dry. It was an interesting concept for an episode, but the potential was squandered on yet another “Team Rocket tries to steal everything that isn’t nailed down” episode. Okay, I realize that the show was just starting out, but this seems like one of the only cards they ever played back in Kanto.
So, with an opening like that, we can only have a good chapter of EToP. And, true to typical EToP style, we have a completely different plot from the source episode.
We kick off shortly after the last chapter as Misty learns that Ash and Brock are going to the Seafoam Islands to go Pokémon-hunting. She decides to tag along, on the condition that they stop at a place called Stone Town on the way so that she can pick up an evolution stone. True to form, Brock acts like a responsible adult while Ash acts like a bratty child at the suggestion. Bottom line, Misty comes along.
Cut to several hours later, on what looks like the coolest boat ever designed. Ash gambles his lunch away to Misty in a Pokémon trivia contest. In fairness to Ash, he loses his fries to a question that asks him to name every single one of Chansey’s attacks. Poor kid. Although, no matter how unreasonable Misty’s being, Brock’s no slouch either, refusing sympathy to Ash, who paid money for that food.
Cut to even more hours later when Ash loses his dinner as well to Misty over a question that seems justified this time around- naming all five evolution stone types in the 1st Gen. Brock implies that he’s only doing it to flirt with Misty, and a thousand shippers squee’ed in delight.
Outside a shop window, Misty complains about the absurdly high prices that are being asked for evolution stones ($1000, and assuming that PokéDollars are analogous to the Yen, at the time of writing, she’s coughing up 77,770 PKD- funny how that happened. Also, credit to Google for the conversion.) Ash and Brock make fun of her for a while. A passing young boy with an Eevee on his head taps Misty’s shoulder, hands her an evolution stone set, and runs away.
Some time later at what I assume to be a Pokémon Center, the group learns that the set is from a charity group called the Knights of the E-Stone. The woman they’re talking to, who I assume is Nurse Joy, guesses that he didn’t want to evolve his Eevee. Intrigued, the group decides to sit in on a meeting, where they watch the young boy, Mikey, being initiated into the group. Or… almost initiated. Turns out, you need to use an evolution stone to evolve your Pokémon to join. At the revelation that the poor kid’s Eevee is still an Eevee, the charity group becomes a mob in a matter of seconds, calling for a forced evolution.
Ash, deciding that he’s had enough, charges in, confronting the Head Knight about how there’s nothing superior about evolved Pokémon. Talk to my Victreebel, kid. Embracing a twisted combination of my logic and the classic bullying excuse of “I was only kidding,” Mikey’s own brother from the sideline tells Ash to take a long walk off a short pier. Ash tries to get Mikey to walk out, but Brock puts forth an argument for Ash to find an alternative strategy in such a surreal manner, there’s no way that it isn’t an untranslatable Japanese pun.
Basically, the core of Brock’s argument is this- give Mikey a chance to battle Eevee against each of its evolved forms. If he wins all three fights, he ought to be admitted without evolving Eevee. If he loses, he has to abide by the guild’s rules for entry. The Head Knight agrees to these terms, and makes the mistake of allowing Mikey to team up with Ash during the trial. As a side note, probably the best part of this chapter is hearing Ash simply referred to as “that annoying kid,” as though his name doesn’t matter.
That night, Ash and company stay over at Mikey’s Mansion. Ash spends most of dinner being Ash, and accidentally intimidating the poor kid. Unfortunately, this ends up attracting the ire of Mikey’s brothers (Pyro, Rainer, and Sparky.) Remember from above that ass hat who tried to justify the guild’s actions to Ash? Yeah, there’s three of that ass hat.
They berate him for not evolving his Eevee and joining the guild, as is apparently a family tradition. Misty has to step in to defend the kid, which raises the question of their parents’ whereabouts. They taunt Mikey, and then vanish in a puff of smoke (and you guys probably don’t need me to drop a “No, seriously” here- you know I’m not joking.)
Mikey and Misty hang out in the garden later, and Misty tries to return the evolution stone set. Mikey states that as long as she’s happy with it he’ll be fine, and Misty realizes that he has a crush on her. We get a not-so-subtle reminder that in this series, Misty likes little boys (Again? Really?) Thankfully, Ash shows up to stop this stupidity before it goes anywhere.
The next morning, Ash and Mikey show up at the headquarters of the Knights of the E-Stone, ready to battle. Round 1- vs two Vaporeons! We have geysers, skintight suits, and the power of the elements themselves! Before the fight has a chance to get interesting, Pikachu curbstomps both foes, and they advance to the next room. Round 2- vs two Flareons! We have pyrotechnics, skintight suits, and the flames of damnation! Before the fight has a chance to get interesting, Pikachu curbstomps both foes, and they advance to the next room.
Now, by this point you’ve probably noticed that one Pokémon’s been doing all the fighting. Well, so does the Head Knight. Now, in order for Mikey to be admitted to the order, he has to fight the final foe by himself. And finally, we have Round 3- vs a single Jolteon! We have lightning, skintight suits, and the thunders of damnation! Okay, I take it back- the best part of the chapter is this exchange here:
Sparky: “Prepare for the Thunder of Damnation!!”
Ash: “Is “damnation” all these guys talk about?”
Sparky: “Yes! If you were hit by the Thunder of Salvation, you would be saved, wouldn’t you?”
Ash: “I’m looking for originality here!”
Anyway, the fight kicks off with Mikey revealing that Eevee only has Tackle as far as offensive moves go. They try to go with that, but Jolteon turns its Speed stat into Evasion (which makes some sense, given that these battles aren’t exactly turn-based.) Eevee’s about to take a hit, when Ash calls for time out to use a TM. As a side note, the design used for TMs in this series (a box-shaped capsule that is opened and held on either side of the Pokémon to teach the move) is vastly superior and less nonsensical than what the games eventually went with.
Ash tells Mikey to wait until Jolteon attacks to use the new move, Mimic. The reflected Pin Missile attack is enough to OHKO Jolteon, and Mikey is admitted to the guild. As a side note, Mikey’s ass hat brothers are so very proud of him (note the lack of karmic comeuppance they so truly deserved.) Ash is offered membership, but cuts out because of the ridiculous uniform.
This chapter is probably one of the best- along with “Haunting My Dreams,” it fits in the Top 3 chapters. The story is a lot of fun, the characters are memorable, and Ash isn’t as annoying as he could have been. It’s probably the second-best example of making a poor story thrilling. Now, next time, we have the #1 spot- the best chapter, and the best example of an improved story. Ever.