Category Archives: Generation I

Related to Generation 1

Base Set: Water

Side note: I am aware that rotation on the anime has started.  I have begun writing episode reviews, and those will start going up when the Base Set Review finishes.

 

Water Types:  In general, Water-types fall into two categories- attackers with scaling damage based on the number of energies attached, or glass cannons with questionable usability.  The former can often be very powerful, while the latter…  not so much.

 

The majority of Water-types are weak to Electric-types, something that is not helped by Electric’s higher versatility and generally high damage.  However, a few eschew this route, and are instead hampered by a Grass-type weakness, something that can be devastating to them.

 

Overall, Water can be very useful for damage, and can become incredibly powerful late-game due to Blastoise’s Pokémon Power, but caution should be exercised when using them.

 

023: Base Set Squirtle

 

Alright, so here we have a prime example of a card type that shows up way too often in the early days- the one-trick pony masquerading as a versatile ‘mon.  40 HP means that durability is shot straight to hell, and the electric-type weakness is a major hurdle.  Its single damaging attack, Bubble, makes it seem like a slightly better Caterpie, what with the identical effect and Energy cost (one Energy matching the card’s type.)  However, its second attack is Withdraw.  One Water and one Colorless feature an effect identical to Metapod’s Stiffen- a fifty-fifty shot at taking no damage.  If Squirtle were tankier, I may have considered this worthwhile, but it didn’t work on Metapod.  Metapod, who has 30 more HP than the tiny turtle.

 

Start with it if you must, but only if you feel that you can’t pull off any other start.

 

024: Base Set Wartortle

 

Remember how I indicated that Squirtle is like a Caterpie pretending it’s versatile?  Wartortle is still hiding under that disguise, but it’s grown out of it, and is starting to show that it’s a whole different animal underneath.

 

Hopefully, that metaphor didn’t fall apart near the end there.

 

Anyway, Wartortle’s stell got Withdraw.  It hasn’t improved.  What has are it HP and damage output.  For a shockingly good one Water and two Colorless, this powerhouse can drop 40 damage with no additional effects.  Now, that entails letting it live long enough to deal it, and 70 HP has the potential to let it get at least one good hit in.  However, the Electric weakness is back to ruin your day, and that adds the final ingredient to the mixed bag that is Wartortle.

 

025: Base Set Blastoise

 

I think I hear a Latin choir chanting in the background.

 

So, rounding out our Starter trio, we have Blastoise.  Is he worth the hell his pre-evolutions put you through?

 

Yes.  A thousand times yes.

 

100 HP means that this guy is a powerhouse, and he’s finally managed to become worth the weakness.  His Pokémon Power, Rain Dance, has become legendarily associated with brokenness in this game.  As many times as you like, you can stack Water Energies from your hand onto any of your Water-type Pokémon.

 

Allow me to reiterate this.  Any.  Time.  You.  Like.

 

Now, obviously, you can only do this on your turn.  But what does this mean for, say, Blastoise’s own Hydro Pump?  Three Water Energies does 40 damage.  Alright, nothing to write home about- until you discover that this attack increases in power for every additional Water Energy attached to Blastoise.

 

Getting the picture yet?

 

Obviously, this guy’s a beast, and is totally worth slogging through the previous two stages.  This is a final evolution.  This is a starter at its most powerful.  High power, low cost…  It’s everything you could ask for in this game.

 

And yet, this is not the most horribly borked card in the set.  No word yet on that one, but you’ll know it when you hear of it.

 

026: Base Set Poliwag

 

So, right away, you’ve probably noticed the one glaring feature of this card- its Grass-type weakness.  No card so far has been this dead on arrival, but let’s look a bit at the card before tossing it into the fire.

 

40 HP- still not good.  Its attack is decent- one Water deals 10 damage, and the damage increases for every extra Water Energy attached, but capping at 30 damage.

 

So what’s wrong with this card?  It folds like tissue paper fighting Grass-types.  Hypothetical game- 50% chance of doing any damage to Caterpie at all.  At its best, it could only almost KO Weedle.  Against Bulbasaur, it might get 30 damage in before being one-shotted.  Koffing it could probably kill, but only if it got really lucky.

 

Are you seeing the problem here?

 

An Electric weakness on other Water-types is mitigated somewhat by the nigh-ubiquitous Fighting-type weakness on Electric-types.  A Grass-type weakness means that to be functional, you need to prepare for one or both potential weaknesses that Grass-types can have, or just be very tanky.  Poliwag is not the former, and spanning three types is just too much of a risk.

 

027: Base Set Poliwhirl

 

60 HP, and the Grass weakness is still a problem.  Right off the bat, this thing needs to perform well in order to survive.  Move-wise, it has a two-Water disabling attack (potential for fighting Stage 2s with Pokémon Powers, but not much.)  Its second is a 30x coin flipping move for two Water and one Colorless.

 

Basically, this thing fares no better than its pre-evolution- most Grass-types at Stage 1 or higher can take it on with zero issue, and anyone who whips Fire out at it can still take it down with a bit of luck.

 

028: Base Set Poliwrath

 

Finally, something we can kind-of-sort-of-maybe call useful.

 

90 HP and a Grass-type weakness don’t exactly scream usability, but its attacks are worth a look.  Water Gun deals 30 for two Water and one Colorless, and increases in damage for every extra Water, up to a cap of 50.  Whirlpool, however, is slightly more devastating, especially for Fire-types.  Two water and Two colorless deal a flat 40 damage, and you get a free Energy Removal.  Now, Energy Removal is a very, very powerful card effect.  The trainer card that used to allow it has not been reprinted since the Base Set 2, and this card lets you attach damage to it.

 

So, a glass cannon.  Can it dish out pain?  Yeah.  Is it worth its pre-evolutions?  No.

 

029: Base Set Seel

 

And here we have it- the most boring card in the set.

 

Seel has 60 HP, which is really good for a Basic.  It has one attack- for one Water, 10 damage.  No effect.  Nothing else.  Weakness to Electric, but that was obvious.

 

Yawn.

 

030: Base Set Dewgong

 

Now, you’re talking.

 

So, Seel has one huge advantage- its chunky HP means that you probably got more than one Energy attached to it.  If so, Dewgong rewards you with Aurora Beam, a two-Water-one-Colorless 50-damage NUKE TO THE FACE.  Or, if that’s overkill, it also has Ice Beam, which for two Water and two Colorless deals 30, and has a chance of paralyzing your foe.

 

Incredible, even with 80 HP and an Electric weakness. A prime candidate for Rain Dance.

 

031: Base Set Staryu

 

You remember how I said that Poliwrath was a glass cannon?  Well, Staryu’s even more so.  40 HP and an Electric-type weakness don’t scream “Use me!”  However, one Water for 20 damage does, and this card can take down a good number of Electric Basics in two hits.  In other words, if it goes first, it can turn the tables on its weakness.  Can you do that, Poliwrath?

 

032: Base Set Starmie

 

So, Staryu was a dream come true for a first-turn card.  Its evo?  Not so much.

 

Starmie continues the awful trend of the useless first attack with Recover, a move that might have utility if it didn’t eat your Energies.  Oh, and if the card didn’t have 60 HP and an Electric weakness.

 

Its other attack, Star Freeze, is basically its pre-evolution’s 20-damage attack, except with two Colorless and the potential for Paralysis tacked on.  Not stellar, but not enough to kill the card.

 

033: Base Set Magikarp

 

I think we all know what to expect here.

 

30 HP, and two attacks.  A Colorless deals 10, and a Water deals 10x the number of damage counters on Magikarp (so, up to 20 damage.)

 

It’s Magikarp.  Do I really need to say anything else?

 

034: Base Set Gyarados

 

Okay, so let’s talk a minute, here.  We have Magikarp, which the game makers obviously didn’t expect to last more than a turn or two.  Next, we have Gyarados, which has lastability in mind, but at a price.

 

Gyarados probably depends on Rain Dance more than any card in the set.  It uses all Water Energy cards on its attacks, but deals incredibly heavy damage.  Three buys you 50, and four buys you 40 plus possible paralysis.  This, plus a resistance to the incredibly powerful Fighting type make this a card worth using.

 

100 HP is also nice, and this card pretty much laughs in the face of its sudden Grass-type weakness.  This thing basically embodies Awesome But Impractical for its reliance on Rain Dance, but it is beyond worth it.

A Potter’s Seal of Approval card.

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Base Set: Fire

Fire Types: Damage is the name of the game.  Fire-types are very good at dealing massive amounts of damage to their foes, almost certainly oneshotting type-disadvantaged ‘mons at the same levels, and crippling others.

However, all power comes at a price- in this case, Energy.  Fire-type attacks generally have a high Energy cost, and many discard their own Energy as part of their effect.  This often drains Energy cards when they could be going to a worthier cause.

Fire-types have a weakness to Water, which is not a strong type on its own.  They have an advantage over some Grass-types, making it tougher for an opponent to inflict special conditions.

014: Base Set Charmander

Okay, so here we have the first Fire-type of this set, and it’s not terrible.  One Colorless deals ten damage, and a combination of one Fire and one Colorless deals thirty.  Okay, no issue there, but using the second attack forces you to discard a Fire energy.  This is a recurring feature of Fire-types- attacks that deal a decent amount of damage, but force you to discard Energy.  It actually decreases some of their usability, but can be a real help in a pinch.

Otherwise, it’s got a low retreat cost and 50 HP.  A decent starter overall.

015: Base Set Charmeleon

Yet another example of a not-terrible card.  80 HP is excellent for a Stage 1, and it’s got a three-colorless 30-damage attack.  The jump from one to three energy for the lower-energy attack is a small red flag, but it’s nothing compared to Flamethrower, which is an incredible mixed bag.  Two Fire and one Colorless deal fifty damage, but require a discard.  As before, it’s great in a pinch, but dries up your resources quickly.

016: Base Set Charizard

Well, here it is.  The big one.  I say Base Set, you say Charizard.  This was by far the most desirable card in the entire game for years.  I didn’t realize it when the game was new, but…

Huh.  I guess it’s anecdote time.

Anyway, for years, I was in love with starter decks.  60 cards, useable out of the pack…  They were basically a gold mine.  I only opened one Base Set booster in my entire life, and guess which card happened to be my Rare?

Of course, I didn’t realize the treasure I’d chanced upon, and leant it to a friend next door when he asked to borrow it (Hey, I was six.  Give me a break.)  A month later, I asked for it back, and he claimed that he had in turn leant it to a friend of his.  A week after that, he moved out of state.  I never saw the card again.

Anyway, Charizard.  This card has received a lot of backlash in recent years, mainly because its usefulness is supposed to be far less than its rarity and value would suggest.  It seems that a lot of people think it’s like paying a years’ paycheck for a car that’s missing an engine, but that’s not technically correct.  Charizard’s a Hummer- a massive cost, but perfectly capable of setting your enemies on fire on your whim.

Come to think of it, that analogy broke down a little in the middle there.

Anyway, 120 HP is huge in this game, so it gets a lot of points there.  It’s Pokémon Power, Energy Burn, turns all of your energies into Fire.  All of them.  Your Water, your Grass, your Double Colorless, all of them.  This in turn is useful for the mother of all attacks, Fire Spin.  100 damage is incredible- even if anything resisted Fire in this game, it’d still take 70 damage from this attack.  It’s drawback, however, is the reason it’s so maligned- you have to discard two Fire Energy.  Now, Energy Burn makes all Energy Fire, but this still means that a minimally-kept Charizard can still only attack once every two turns.

This is why Charizard is a Hummer- you get a lot more out of it if you sink your costly resources into it.  Because of Energy Burn and its pre-evolutions’ ability to attack with any Energy, Charizard can essentially work in any deck, but the second it’s on the field, you have to sink every Energy you can onto it.

So, overall, impractical, but awesome enough to earn it the first instance of a Potter’s Seal of Approval.

017: Base Set Vulpix

Now, let’s take a break from GAME WRECKING DRAGONS to discuss alternate options.  Vulpix is less than good as a starter- two Fire for a ten-damage attack.  It has a chance to inflict Confusion, but Confusion is not broken the way Paralysis and Poison are- the first two can be crippling, but Confusion is merely annoying.  The 50 HP is nice, but not enough to save the card.

018: Base Set Ninetales

You know, the funny thing is that I hear that this is supposed to be an acceptable Charizard substitute.  Have these people even looked at the card?  I mean, yes, it’s less of an Energy black hole because its 80-damage attack requires only a single discard, but the cost is identical, and Ninetales lacks Energy Burn.  In its place, we’re given an attack form of Gust of Wind.  While Gust of Wind is a decent effect, without damage, it turns an already tough-to-set-up card into a less versatile, softer-hitting, less dragony waste of space.

019: Base Set Growlithe

Now, here’s an unusual card.  It’s a 60-HP Basic, which is something we haven’t seen before.  It only has a single attack, but for 1 Fire and one Colorless, it deals 20 damage with no special effect.

Right off the bat, two Energies on a Basic should raise red flags, but the 60 HP allows for a bit of a cushion for setup.  The 20 damage one-shots Bulbasaur, and deals surprisingly hefty damage to anything that doesn’t resist fire (read: everything.)

So, here we have a decent Basic Fire-type.  Are there any real drawbacks?

020: Base Set Arcanine

Of course there are, but they’re not as bad as they look at first.

Arcanine has a nice 100 HP, continuing the tankiness of its pre-evolution.  It has two attacks, one of which is Charmeleon’s Flamethrower.  In Charmeleon’s case, it was a risky attack to use, given that it ate Energy up like candy.  Here, not much changes, but it’s easier to set up, given Growlithe’s two-energy attack.

The second attack, Take Down, does 80 damage.  No discard, but it deals 30 damage to itself.  In theory, this could be used to sweep a good number of higher-level Stage 1s and mid-range Stage 2s, but the recoil is a concern- any Pokémon with the ability to deal more than 40 damage is going to lock Arcanine into being an Energy drain.

Arcanine doesn’t have much to offer at first, but has potential as a late-game contender- strange when you consider that his pre-evolution is so very suited to early-game play.

021: Base Set Ponyta

Oh, boy.

So, here’s this 40-HP Basic that requires 2 Energy to attack.  Two Colorless deals 20 with no effect, two Fire deals 30 with no effect.  These are very high numbers for damage, but the HP stands in the way of their being truly useful.  Ponyta may function better as a mid-to-late game ace because of this.

022: Base Set Magmar

And speaking of decent cards with too much setup to be worth it, here we have Magmar.  Charmeleon’s Flamethrower, plus a differently-named Tail Flame.  Magmar differs from Ponyta in that it has 50 HP and a lot more damage output.  In a pinch, this thing can be even more of a monster than its equine cousin, but it suffers the exact same setup problems.

 

Next time, I’ll be looking at Water-types, and how a single ability can break an entire metagame.

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Base Set: Intro and Grass

Alright, so now that EToP’s out of the way, I figured I’d have a look at the TCG for Gen I.  Let me be the first to say- I know very little about the meta of the game.  I know how to play, and own once deck that’s fairly decent, but aside from that, most of my experience comes from alternately getting thrashed in TCGO matches and venting my frustration from those losses on the Game Boy Color game.  So, I’m not the end-all-be-all source for matters pertaining to this game.  You want that, look for TheJWittz on Youtube.

 

However, that is not to say that I’m an utter moron.  Remember, I said that I own a decent deck.  Given a small enough pool of cards to draw from, I can probably determine the worth of a card against its fellows.

 

Today, we’re going to start in on the Base Set- the original set of cards for the game.  We’ll be going in the Japanese order for the set (that way, it’s a lot less random, and allows me to space out Stage 2 cards.)  In addition, I’ll be looking at the rules, and how they function in practice.

 

In fact, the rules are probably the more important thing to look at right now.  I mean, everyone I knew in elementary school owned at least one hundred of these things (until Yu-Gi-Oh came along, anyway,) but I think I knew maybe one other person who actually knew the rules.

 

I personally was taught that you look through the deck, pick a random card, and call attacks based on what was on the card.  If you reduced the foe’s HP to zero, you placed both cards in your discard pile (similar to the card game War,) and repeat this until one or both of the players are bored out of their minds.

 

This, of course was completely wrong, and it would take the Game Boy game to fix my understanding of the rules.

 

Both players actually start out by shuffling their decks (probably after energy weaving them,) and draw seven cards.  Both players place facedown as many Basic (unevolved) Pokémon from that hand of seven as they want (up to six.)  Five of these are inactive on a back row (the Bench,) and one is placed in front of them (the Active space.)  If one or both of the players has no Basic Pokémon, they reveal their hand, and shuffle it back into their deck before drawing again (similar to a Mulligan in Magic: the Gathering.)

 

Once they’ve finished setting down Basic Pokémon, both players place six cards facedown on the side of the field (the Prize cards,) and one player tosses a coin, and the other calls it.  Depending who you’re playing with, the person winning the toss either goes first without any choice, or gets to choose who goes first.  Truthfully though, unless you’ve got a very specific active Pokémon, you’re likely to want to make the first move, as speed is the most important aspect of the game.

 

From there, the players reveal their facedown Active Pokémon and Benched Pokémon, and the game begins.

 

The object of the game is to either draw all of your prize cards (which are won one-at-a-time as you KO your opponent’s Pokémon, unless a card states otherwise,) or to KO all of your opponent’s Pokémon (more difficult, given that they can play more Basics from their hand as long as they have less than five Benched Pokémon already in play.

 

KO’ing an opponent’s Pokémon is simple enough on paper- reduce its HP to zero.  Each Pokémon has an HP score on the top right of the card.  Most Pokémon have at least one damaging attack used to reduce the opponent’s HP.

 

From here, it seems fairly obvious- sling attacks at each other until one faints.  However, each attack has an energy cost.  Until this cost is met, the attack cannot be used.  For example, a Pokémon with an attack of two Water energy cannot use the attack until two Water energy are attached to it.  The only exception to this rule is the Colorless energy.  Any energy can be used in place of a Colorless energy.  Only one energy card can be played each turn, however, meaning that they need to be played wisely.

 

The game goes on for a few more levels of depth after that (I haven’t even scratched the surface of Trainer cards yet, or Pokémon Powers,) but that’s a very rough description of play.  It’s one of those games that’s a lot harder to explain than to actually play, and if played with the right person, the game can be very fun.  I recommend that you find a friend who knows how to play (or better yet, a rulebook and a deck,) and delve deeper into it.

 

Now, on to evaluating the cards.  I’ll start with the Grass section of the Base Set, and cover more as we go on.

 

Overview: The Grass Type

 

The Grass-type has a number of advantages- namely, the prevalence of special conditions.  Posion, Sleep, and Paralysis can be frustrating at best and an absolute nightmare at worst, and a high number of Pokémon have access to at least one.

 

Another concern is regeneration moves such as Absorb or Leech Seed.  After all, it’s kind of hard to kill an enemy that keep growing its limbs back.  These typically have a higher Energyy cost, but are so very worth it.

 

Grass is also tough to predict- it’s one of the types with two weaknesses (Fire and Psychic,) so it can be tough to counter.  In addition, it hits some Fighting-types and a minority of Water-types for super-effective damage, so it’s also very good at exploiting weaknesses.

 

However, it also suffers a number of problems- namely, the Psychic weakness is a crippling one, as three types are weak to Psychic.  This makes it a type that many will use based on its versatility.  On the other end are Fire-types, which some may use just based on Charizard.

 

Grass-types are also harder to set up, given that many of them require two energies minimum to do any damage, and it’s rare that any given attack will use pure Colorless energy.

 

001: Base Set Bulbasaur

 

Alright, so here’s our first card.  Overall, not very impressive.  It boasts 40 HP, on the low end of Basic HP.  Its only attack, Leech Seed, does an impressive 20 damage, and allows you to heal 10 damage after the attack resolves.  However, it has a two-energy requirement, and neither of those is a colorless energy.  It’s a slow starter, and should likely never end up Active from the start.  However, it could potentially work well as a backup in case the actual Active gets taken down.

 

002:  Base Set Ivysaur

 

Only slightly more impressive than its Basic form, Ivysaur has 60 HP, still somewhat low for a Stage 1.  Both of its attacks deal respectable damage (Vine Whip dealing 30, and Poisonpowder dealing 20 plus Poison.)  However, exactly like its Basic form, these attacks have absurd energy requirements.  Each requires three energy to function, Poisonpowder requiring three solid Grass, and Vine Whip requiring one Grass and two Colorless.  This is not as bad as Bulbasaur, assuming you’ve gotten enough energy to use Leech Seed, but it’s still not good.  Posonpowder is the only attack worth using, given that Poison is an incredibly broken status, especially early on, when Pokémon had lower HP overall.  Most cards I know of had you toss for its presence, but Ivysaur’s Poisonpowder comes with it guaranteed.

So overall, awesome but impractical.

 

003: Base Set Venusaur

 

Now you’re talking.  Sort of.

 

So, the first thing to note about this card is its Pokémon Power, Energy Trans.  As often as you like during your turn, you can shuffle around the Grass energies on all of your Pokémon.  This is what the last two forms needed- an easy way to reach their high energy costs.

 

Speaking of high energy costs, it boasts the four-energy Solarbeam, an attack with no additional effects that deals 60 damage.  It’s alright, and unlike later four-energy attacks, it has no real other drawbacks.

 

Venusaur boasts 100 HP, which is average-to-decent for a Stage 2 card.

 

004: Base Set Caterpie

 

Caterpie’s probably a better starting Active than Bulbasaur.  It has the same disappointing HP, but compensates for it with String Shot, its only attack.  For one Grass energy, it deals ten damage with a 50% chance of inflicting Paralysis.  Paralysis basically makes the attack a free hit with no chance of retaliation, so it has a legitimate chance of taking down much more powerful ‘mons.  The longer you go with this effect however, the greater your chance of failure, so it’s probably best to speed out an evolution.  The one area in which Caterpie really falters is HP- 40 is not good.

 

As a side note, you may have noticed that a lot of Pokémon so far have 40 HP, which I keep describing as low.  High-HP Pokémon are much less common, but that does not excuse HP so low that one attack could conceivably destroy it (a 20-damage attack from a Pokémon with a type advantage isn’t uncommon in this game.)

 

005:  Base Set Metapod

 

This card is part of the reason Caterpie’s a better starter than Bulbasaur.  70 HP means that Metapod’s better at taking hits than Ivysaur, and Stun Spore continues Caterpie’s Paralysis trend.  Two Grass Energy for 20 damage and Paralysis cannot be overlooked, especially in the Base Set.

 

Its other attack, Stiffen, is less than impressive.  Two Colorless Energy mean that there’s a 50% chance that Metapod will not take damage next turn.  While it can be used to stall in theory, it’s still a coin flip, and that makes it far less reliable than it seems.  Honestly, if you’re having this much trouble pulling the proper Energy, maybe Metapod should have started on the bench.

 

So, after Caterpie and Metapod turned out so well, how’s Butterfree?

 

006:  Base Set Weedle

 

Oh, right.  We won’t get one of those until Jungle.

 

Weedle’s an unusual card in that it functions very similarly to Caterpie.  Both are Grass-type, 40 HP Pokémon with a single-Energy attack that deals 10 damage plus a special condition.  Unlike Caterpie, however, Weedle favors Poison, which is just as broken as Paralysis, but for different reasons.  Poison is a condition that deals gradual damage over a few turns, and is very tough to get rid of.  However, Paralysis does one thing that Poison cannot, and it’s this ability that makes Caterpie more viable than Weedle.  Poison doesn’t stop an opponent’s movement.

 

Weedle is a decent starting Pokémon, but Caterpie is simply better, just based on lastability.

 

007:  Base Set Kakuna

 

Just as Weedle is Caterpie’s poison counterpart, so is Kakuna to Metapod.  Both share the nigh-useless Stiffen, as well as a 2-Energy, 20 damage attack with a special condition attached.  However, two factors make Kakuna the worthier card- first, Weedle’s 10+Poison is viable, but not impressive.  Kakuna’s 20+poison is a lot more effective, and puts it on Metapod’s level.  The thing that makes it rise above, however, is its extra 10 HP.  80 is actually pretty high for a Stage 1 Pokémon, so you can expect to get a lot of mileage out of it.

 

008:  Base Set Beedrill

 

And just like that, the momentum stops.

 

Beedrill is not nearly as impressive as its evolutionary relatives.  The first problem is the fact that despite evolution, its HP does not change.  This negatively affects its useability, as it will not last longer than Kakuna.

 

The attacks should be something really impressive to mitigate this, but they’re…  not bad.  That’s about all I can say- Poison Sting is 40 for 3 Grass plus chance of Poison, so that’’s okay.  However, Twineedle is three colorless for an attack that does 30 damage.  According to the card, it’s two coin flips, and 30 for each Heads, but in practice, it always seems to end up thirty (or worse, zero, which is a wasted turn.)  No special effects, either, so it’s also pretty unimpressive in that regard.

 

009: Base Set Nidoran♂

 

And speaking of disappointment…

 

Here we have another 40 HP Basic.  It’s attack seems pretty good from a distance- one Grass for 30 damage.  Holy crap, that’s huge!  Why is it such a-

 

Oh.  50% chance of attack failure.  You lose a coin toss, and the move does absolutely nothing except bring your turn to an end before you’ve really finished.  Compounding the issue is a Psychic-type weakness, which is actually very, very crippling.

 

At no point should Nidoran ever end up as your Active Pokémon.  If it’s your only choice, you may as well just offer the GG now.

 

010: Base Set Nidorino

 

And this one isn’t much better.  60 HP, as we discussed, is pretty low.  Its attacks aren’t anything to write home about, either- a 3-energy 30×2 coin flips attack (again, with a chance to do nothing at all,) and a 4-energy 50-damage attack with no extra effect.  The Psychic weakness shows up here again.

 

Do not waste your time.

 

011: Base Set Nidoking

 

Do not waste your time.  Get this monster out onto the field as fast as possible.

 

90 HP is on the average-low end of the Stage 2 pool, but its attacks more than make up for this (although the Psychic-type weakness is still a hurdle in that regard.)

First is Thrash, which is a guaranteed 30 damage.  A coin flip afterward decides if you or your opponent takes 10 damage afterward.  So, it’s either 40 damage to your foe, or 30 damage to them and a scratch to you.  And you want to know the scary thing?  That’s the more merciful attack.

 

Toxic requires three Grass, and deals 20 damage. Then, the attack follows up with a 100% chance of Poison, which has its damage doubled.  That’s right- between now and the next time you attack, your opponent will have taken 40 damage if they heal the 20 from the attack.  In a game where a lot of Basics have 40 HP, that’s almost a guaranteed kill.

 

This is what Beedrill should have been- a Poison-based powerhouse with great usability.

 

012: Base Set Koffing

 

I do not know how to feel about this one.  50 HP on a Basic (FINALLY,) and a 10-damage attack that guarantees a special condition.  However, that attack requires 2 Grass before it can be used, and neither Poison nor Confusion are crippling enough to justify that cost for that damage.  It should not be used to start, but may have some late-game application…

 

013: Base Set Tangela

 

Oh, boy.

 

50 HP on a Basic seems pretty good. I’ve mentioned its strength before.  However, in most cases, Basics will improve.  Tangela will not.  Given that Tangrowth will not debut until Diamond and Pearl, that leaves Tangela in the rough position of being a single-stage Basic, with all the weaknesses of both (low HP, high-energy attacks) and none of the strengths (High HP, low-energy attacks.)

 

Really, you should avoid this one.  There are far better single-stage Basics.

***

 

Next time, I’ll be looking at Fire-types, so I hope you’ll enjoy that!

 

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EToP, Part 7

Chapter 7: Pikachu’s Excellent Adventure

What in the exalted name of Arceus did I just read?

No, seriously.  Was it “The Kangaskhan Kid?”  “Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village?”  “Ditto’s Mysterious Mansion?”  “Island of the Giant Pokémon?”

The answer, bafflingly, is all of the above and more.  This is the first example of the series playing so fast and loose with the source material, it ends up being based on multiple episodes.  It rarely happens after this chapter, but you know what?  No matter how good any other chapter is, no matter how close or far from the source it is, no matter if it’s an original tale, or if it’s a word-for-word parallel to the anime, no other chapter will ever reach the level of quality seen here.

I’m dead serious.  In particular, I believe “The Kangaskhan Kid” to be a sin against humanity, something that I would rather watch Highlander 2 in place of.  And yet, I can read and enjoy this with no problems.

As a side note, this is the last chapter with black-haired Misty.  We’ll miss you, kiddo.

Our chapter kicks off in a Pokémon Center, where a girl named Duplica (Ditto’s Mysterious Mansion) puts on a show with her Ditto.  We’re treated to a Power Rangers joke from Joe to Giselle (The School of Hard Knocks.)  Misty talks with Duplica about how awesome Ditto is, and Duplica offers to take her to the place where she caught hers.  Misty’s ecstatic, and is interested in bringing Ash along, but he’s too busy discussing local rumors with AJ (The Path to the Pokémon League) and Samurai (Challenge of the Samurai) to care.

We are now three pages into the story.

The rumors being discussed are about a Pokémon Paradise, with all kinds of high-level, high-rarity Pokémon just sitting there, waiting to be captured.  Supposedly, they’re protected by a Pokémon goddess.

When Ash decides to insult Ditto, Misty decides that physical harm is the only justifiable punishment. Ash and Brock decide to let Misty go off on her own, and they head off for a bus.  Along the way, Pikachu is distracted by a shell sitting on the ground.  He decides to poke it for a while, until a Squirtle pokes its head out of the shell.  As a side note, there’s a picture of Gary bafflingly placed below it.  Is this supposed to imply that this is Gary’s Squirtle?  It is supposed to be saying that the Squirtle is similar to Gary?  It’s really not.

Confusing stuff.  Anyway, Pikachu and the Squirtle converse for a while, until the comic does us a huge favor, and translates their conversation.  Turns out, while Pikachu was busy talking up a storm with a random stranger, Ash and Brock boarded the bus, and have now departed.  Squirtle assumes that Pikachu’s been abandoned, in spite of his claims to the contrary.  His evidence?  Apparently, this is a really popular place to dump off unwanted Pokémon, as there just happens to be a recently-abandoned Charmander lying by the side of the road.  The Charmander claims that his trainer dropped him off here, and told him to just wait.  Wait a minute, this sounds familiar (Charmander- the Stray Pokémon.)

Pikachu commiserates with the Charmander for a while, before the Squirtle makes an offer- he’ll let them travel with him.  Where’s he going?  Conveniently enough, he happens to be headed for that secret village that was mentioned earlier.  Charmander agrees outright, and Pikachu decides to tag along, if only for the possibility of finding Ash.

Cut back to Ash, who’s so very distraught over losing Pikachu, he appears to have run all the way back to the Pokémon Center, searching for his friend.  He calls up Misty, just to be sure that Pikachu didn’t tag along with her, and Misty decides to head back to help him search.

Meanwhile, Pikachu and company trek through the wilderness for a few panels before stopping to rest (apparently, after only a half-hour.)  They’re surprised to run into a young boy dressed as Tarzan who speaks Pokémon.  They’re even more surprised when a Kangaskhan follows him out of the underbrush, and he refers to it as his mother.  The Kangaskhan explains that she discovered the boy (who introduces himself as Tommy) abandoned as a child.  She then goes on to reveal that she just happens to know where the Pokémon Paradise is, and their party expands to five members.

In the next scene…

…Okay, I will try say this with a straight face.  Are you guys ready?

Back with Ash, we discover that Pikachu’s disappearance seems to have had a profound effect on Ash’s emotional stability, as he has literally cried a lake of tears.  Brock shouts that he and Misty need to keep Ash hydrated, so they have Starmie use Water Gun what the hell am I reading, seriously?

…I’m just going to skip this, alright?

So, Pikachu and company run into a Meowth, who also just happen to be heading for the hidden village.  They offer to bring him along, and he offers them breakfast.  We then cut away to the Meowth’s campfire, where we find…

Team Rocket!

Jessie’s upset because Meowth’s taking so long to bring back food.  She vents her (considerable) fury on the nearby sleeping James, who attempts to placate her with his charm.  No sell, and she’s about to force him to try and conjure up some breakfast, when Meowth shows up again.  Pikachu’s group follows them into the campsite, and Jessie is terrified by the Kangaskhan.  She’s further caught off guard by…  Well, the Viz translation claims that he begs to “ride in her pouch,” but everyone’s reactions seem to imply that he’s sexually assaulting her.

Meowth breaks up this ridiculousness, and tells Jessie and James that this group knows where the paradise is.  Team Rocket is ecstatic over this revelation, as the whole reason that they’re out in the wilderness in the first place is to find it for Giovanni.  They offer their friendship and a sob story about being outcasts, and in spite of Squirtle’s misgivings, Pikachu’s group brings them along on the logic that they can take Team Rocket in a fight if they stir up trouble.

Now, I want to spend some time discussing the next panel.  We’re told that their adventures along the way include the events of The Ninja Poké-Showdown and Dig Those Diglett.  Okay, fair enough, but the text box says, “See the Pokémon TV series for details!”  But here, we run into a problem.  FIrst off, this comic has made an immense effort so far to stand on its own.  Yes, it’s an adaptation, but after “Haunting My Dreams” and “To Evolve or Not To Evolve That is the Question,” it’s pretty clear that it’s not going for a straight adaptation.  So, why rely on the anime to explain the story?  Second- the longest Ash was away from Pikachu in the Kanto series that I remember was “Island of the Giant Pokémon.”  As such, Ash was both present in those episodes, and had Pikachu with him during those events.  It’s tough to imagine the events of those episodes without Ash present, and asking us to imagine a scenario that not only removes Ash, but also restructures the events in the way Mr. Ono would write it just seems lazy.  This is really the most negative point of the chapter, so I figured that I should bring it up.

Eventually, however, they arrive at the paradise, and meet Melanie (Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village.)  The Pokémon settle down and enjoy themselves, as Team Rocket begins window shopping.  They’re about to start chucking Poké Balls when Jessie is hit in the face with a Razor Leaf.  A nearby Bulbasaur has heard their conversation, and is ready to fight them to defend the place.  Jessie and James are undeterred, and they pull out Ekans and Koffing to take out any who oppose them.

Cut to a few minutes later, as Charmander alerts Melanie, Pikachu, and Squirtle to Team Rocket’s actions.  The Pokémon stay and fight, while Melanie runs off to wake up Kangaskhan.  The Pokémon don’t last long, and are about to be captured, when Kangaskhan charges out of nowhere, catching an airborne Pikachu on her head.  Pikachu hits Team Rocket with a Thundershock, and Kangaskhan follows up with a Mega Kick.  What follows is Team Rocket’s first (and goofiest) blast-off in the comic, as Officer Jenny tries to get them to pull over (in midair, from a helicopter.)

Back at the paradise, another human wanders in.  Charmander recognizes him immediately as Damian, his old trainer, complete with the bad Australian accent they gave him in the anime.  Turns out, this Damian, rather than being the abusive jackass seen in the anime, had left his Charmander there- right before ending up comatose in a hospital.  Well done, idiot.  Regardless, he’s here to pick Charmander back up, and travel with him again.  This inspires Pikachu to go back and look for Ash.

Pikachu ends up taking an accidental shortcut down a turbulent river, and finds Ash in a matter of hours.  Ash hugs Pikachu, and Brock and Misty close the comic with some sentimentality.

This chapter is absolutely the best in the series.  We get to see so many small cameos that make it seem less like an adaptation, and more like a homage to the source material.  There are a few slip-ups (like the line about watching the anime to understand their journey,) but the pros far outweight the.  It made The Kangaskhan Kid enjoyable.

I don’t think I’m ever going to enjoy an adaptation as much.

Now, normally, this is where I end the review.  However, I made you guys wait for this one, and that was hardly fair.  So, as a special bonus, here’s…

Chapter 8: You Gotta Have Friends

Okay, how many of you cried when watching “Pikachu’s Goodbye?”

…That many of you, huh?

…Excuse me, I need to remove about 20 jokes here…

…Okay, done.

To be completely honest, I didn’t watch a lot of Pokémon when I was younger (for reasons that are no fault of mine.)  I started watching with the Kanto episodes online when I was 14, but I didn’t have the patience to watch more than 20 episodes at a time until much more recently.  For reference, I’m almost 19 now.  That means that while many of you have sweet memories of the episode that this chapter is based on, I don’t.  I saw the episode, wasn’t particularly wowed by it, and moved on.  As far as episodes go, Kanto had better (like the Porygon Episode,) and later series did the tearjerker thing much better, imo (for instance, A Poached Ego from Advanced Generation.)  That’s just my two cents, and you’re free to disagree with me.

Moving past my author tract up there, this chapter…  eh.  It’s not particularly good, especially considering what we’re coming off of (four incredible chapters in a row is frankly a tough act to follow.)  It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but an okayish chapter feels like a letdown after Pikachu’s Excellent Adventure.

As a side note, this chapter starts the trend of thirty-page chapters, as opposed to forty-page chapters.  Less material tends to mean a more rushed story, so from here on out, good chapters are probably going to stand out more.

We kick off with Pikachu winning a battle and collapsing.  Ash rushes it to a Pokémon Center, and is told to give Pikachu a break, and to take him out into the countryside for a while.  They go, but Pikachu’s too tired to share Ash’s strange amount of enthusiasm about getting rest.

For comparison, that’s the first three pages of this chapter.  You remember that last chapter, the relevant paragraph was about twice as long, and took place over a few minutes rather than a few days.  It feels rushed, is my point.  Thankfully, this won’t last, but I wanted to demonstrate my point from above.

A large group of Pikachu come out of a nearby thicket, and Pikachu tries to say hello to a large one, which appears to be the leader.  After the initial contact, the crowd nonchalantly runs away as fast as they can, and Brock theorizes that they don’t like the smell of human on Pikachu.  Ash attempts to make the situation better by charging at them.  This has something close to the predictable effect (which is a massive group Thundershock,) and the Pikachu herd runs away even faster.  Ash has an incredibly over-the top sad reaction, and Pikachu attempts to comfort him.

As a side note, Ash seems really, really off in this chapter.  Everything he does is punctuated by massive mood swings, even where it’s not warranted.  It doesn’t match up with the first six chapters, nor anything after this one (but fits perfectly with Chapter 7,) so it’s particularly weird.

Ash’s misery is interrupted by a scream from where the Pikachu were headed.  We’re treated to an image of an absolutely psychotic-looking Pinsir attacking the herd.  Ash’s Pikachu charges in and oneshots it.  The herd is shocked by this development, and they all stop to stare, including a young Pikachu with a flower behind her ear.  Unfortunately, she happens to be standing on a slippery log, and falls into a turbulent river.  Okay, that’s two chapters in a row that this has happened.  What’s  with Mr. Ono’s obsession with electric mice in turbulent rivers?

The river ends at a waterfall, so Pikachu dives in to save her.  They’re about to both go over, when the rest of the herd makes a giant chain of bodies to drag both of them out of the water.  Once on the shore, Pikachu is hailed as a hero.

Cut to Team Rocket, who were watching these events transpire.  They decide to capture the herd, based on their teamwork displayed during the rescue.

Cut to Ash later, who’s majorly bummed because Pikachu’s spent the day with his new friends, and hasn’t returned yet.  Brock and Misty give some genuinely good reasons why Pikachu might be out late…  that fall flat as Pikachu doesn’t return during the next night either.  On Day 3, Ash decides to search around for Pikachu, but has no luck.  After hearing some Pikachu in a bush run away, he decides to have fun with his other Pokémon in what I interpret as an attempt to make Pikachu jealous.  However, his Pokémon proceed to attack both him and each other, so he gives up.

Remember how I was saying back in Chapter 2 that EToP has a horrible habit of pushing Ash’s captures offscreen?  During that last scene, we see that Ash now owns the Kanto Starters, an Oddish, and Fearow.  At least Chapter 2 bothered to give vague descriptions of the captures- here, all we’re given is “Ash has been busy since the last comic!”

*eye roll*

Anyway, cut to the next night, where Ash is majorly apathetic when Pikachu shows up, asking for food.  The facade cracks when Pikachu decides to share the food with Flower-Head Pikachu, and he SHOWS PIKACHU HIS RAGE!

Later that night, Pikachu dreams of Ash, and begins to wonder if now that he’s unwittingly devastated the poor boy’s emotions, it’d be a good time to return.  Back with Ash, the sound of a hovercraft wakes him up, and he hears the sound of the Pikachu herd being attacked.  He runs off pantsless to try and protect them.

Team Rocket’s having the time of their lives catching wild Pikachu, until Jessie gets a rock chucked at her.  They turn to see Ash, and…

All rise for the Team Rocket Motto.

Anyway, both groups banter back and forth until Ash releases the recently-captured Flower Head Pikachu.  Meowth doesn’t take this well, and Arbok and Weezing are released (apparently, Ash’s captures/evolutions aren’t the only ones that happen offscreen.)  Pikachu does fairly well at first, until Arbok and Weezing actually start attacking.  Oh, wait, no.  Pikachu gets back in and starts making fools of them right away again.  The herd of now-released Pikachu approach Team Rocket, and gives them the large group Thundershock we’ve been waiting on since the beginning of the chapter.  Team Rocket gets the hell out of Dodge.  Ash starts to celebrate with Pikachu, but Flower Head calls Pikachu over to celebrate with her, and Ash feels crushing despair.

The next day, the group decides to move on, and Ash begins to get some emotional closure over the whole thing.  This is probably the closest the comic ever comes to character development, as it teaches that everybody has to part ways at some point, and it’s something Ash may have to learn the hard way.

I say that he “may have to learn it the hard way,” because he doesn’t.  Because status quo is God, Pikachu decides to spontaneously reunite with Ash.  They leave, the herd of Pikachu waves goodbye, and we move on to the next volume.

Where do I begin with this chapter?

Well, I’ll start with the good.  Team Rocket are really quite amusing in this one.  The art for the wild Pinsir is really good.  Those paying close attention will notice that Ash may have gone through the five stages of grief.  No seriously-

Denial- Ash constantly waits for Pikachu over the first few nights (In denial over whether Pikachu may like it anywhere but by his side.)

Anger- Showing Pikachu his RAGE!!!

Bargaining- Possibly switched up a bit, as one instance (giving Pikachu the food) occurs before anger.  This could be interpreted as a possible bargain for Pikachu to come back.  Another possibility is that Ash hoped that by helping to save the herd, Pikachu might want to come back.  This is honestly the weakest link in support of the argument.

Depression- After bargaining fails the second time.

Acceptance- Leaving Pikachu at the end.

This is probably not what the author intended, but it’s certainly interesting to think about.  However, we do also have to look at the cons here.  The biggest con in my opinion is the ending.  Yes, I know that Pikachu has to go with Ash.  However, even with the new chapter length, Mr. Ono should have built up Pikachu’s decision a bit more (such as putting Pikachu’s dream later in the chapter, perhaps?)  On, alternatively…  What if Mr. Ono had thrown us a curveball, and separated the two for a few chapters?

Another con is how rushed everything feels.  It doesn’t help the story to make the chapters shorter, and it’s unfortunate that it continues for the rest of the series that I own.

Overall, not a bad chapter, but it still feels like a disappointment after so much good had happened in the last four.  Next time, we’ll be looking at thirty straight pages of climbing a tree.

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EToP, Part 6

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.

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EToP, Part 5

Chapter 5: The Human Race and the Pokémon Race

So, the last chapter was an unexpected success.  Riding off of that, we close the first volume, and kick off the next, which contains some of the better stories in the series.

One of the unfortunate things about a large anime with self-contained episodes is that with rare exception, we don’t get a lot of standout episodes.  The Flame Pokémon-athon is, in my opinion, a mediocre episode with an incredible EToP adaptation.  Some of you may be confused by this- didn’t I close the last review by claiming that this was the closest chapter in terms of accuracy to the source material.  How can one be good, while the other is strictly order-of-the-day?

The answer is simpler than you would think: Team Rocket.  They are completely absent in the EToP version of this chapter.  How does their removal help this chapter?  The villain is more menacing as a result.  By the time TFPaT aired, Team Rocket had completely lost any sense of menace that they may have once possessed.  As such, the main villain’s style was severely cramped by their inclusion in the episode.  Don’t get me wrong- I like Team Rocket, probably more than most of the rest of the cast, but the episode would have been considerably better without them.

Which brings me back to this chapter.  How does it fare?  Let’s pop it open, and take a look.

Our story starts on the road, where it turns out that Brock finally decided to follow Ash.  So, two-thirds of the party is assembled.  It took long enough.  Brock explains that every few weeks, he closes the gym and travels.  It seems like it’s an irresponsible move, but it doesn’t seem to bother Ash, considering that he already has his Boulderbadge.  Ash asks to tag along with Brock (what a twist!), and we’re given a brief reminder that Brock is a total horndog before actually starting the chapter.

Some time later, Ash and Brock arrive in Fuschia City in time for a famous Pokémon race.  The race is treated like a festival because it’s in commemoration of a local tribe of nomads’ independence day.  Well hey, that’s cool, a neat little cultural detail that we don’t often see.

They make it about ten feet into the city before Pikachu runs off and runs into the waiting arms of…  Misty!!!  So, now the group of three is finally together.  Misty’s in town with her sisters, who Ash immediately decides to charge at with hearts in his eyes.  Big mistake- not because he’s charging three competent Pokémon trainers who could curb stomp him if he gets too friendly, but because he charges past Misty.

She does not take this well.  She takes it even worse, trying to eat his hat (no, seriously,) when he only just barely remembers her name.  Brock interrupts their touching reunion to double-check the identities of the three women traveling with Misty before moving in for the kill.

Remember when Brock claimed to be embarrassed by his hormones in the last chapter?  Yeah, neither do I.

As a side note, this chapter begins the practice of little notes in between the panels, instructing that you pay attention to certain details, or making jokes.  It’s…  not really that intrusive or distracting, but it doesn’t help in any way, so I’m honestly not sure what to think of them.

We cut away to a Rattata race (my money’s on Joey,) where Ash is trying to butter Misty up.  He tries too hard, and ends up insulting her to the point of rage.  She challenges him to a Pokémon Battle…  and what they end up doing is competing to capture a possibly wild, possible captured Tauros.  Given that they’re targeting probably the most berserker-like Normal-type in the game…  Yeah, you know how this ends.

A passing trainer notices this foolishness, and instructs her Ponyta to stun the Tauros.  She brings Ash and Misty in for lunch, and introduces herself as Laura.  While Laura shows off Ponyta for them, Ash guesses that she’s going to be competing in the race.  Nope, she has a broken arm and head cast.  Not sure how he missed that, unless he’s just being Ash again.  Anyway, Misty expresses hope for Laura’s chances next year, but it turns out that this is the last year that the race is being run, thanks to how dangerous it is.

Later, Ash and Misty watch an interview with the new favorite to win the race, Dario.  Basically, all that it amounts to is passive shots at Laura.  Ash and Misty happen to hear a bunch of people talking about how Dario is responsible for the accident that broke Laura’s arm (and head?)  This is basically the equivalent of those playground rumors that “everyone knows about” but no one can prove.  However, this is a Pokémon story, and as such, it’s 100% correct.

Apparently, it’s not enough for Ash to sit down and grumble with all the normal people, as he proceeds to accost Dario on the way out of his interview, accusing him straight up of injuring Laura.  Dario does everything but confirm it, and walks away into the night, laughing evilly as he goes.

No, seriously.  He actually does it.  If I claimed that he was twirling a handlebar moustache while doing so, would any of you be surprised?

The next day, Laura confirms that Dario left no evidence of his crime.  Not to be dissuaded, Ash volunteers to ride Ponyta.  Something he isn’t trained for, and something that may even have humiliating consequences for Laura should he lose.  Because he’s angry at someone.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Well, for some reason, Laura lets him go through with it.  First, however, she puts him through training.  And by training, I mean “training that even Izumi Curtis would find just a tad extreme.”  In spite of her best efforts, though, Ash survives, and is ready to ride Ponyta on the day of the race.

We’re given some pregame predictions, and then the race kicks off with Dario at the lead.  Ash manages to lag behind, because hey, we can’t have an exciting chapter without evil triumphing in the middle.  Ash monologues to himself about how the race to the mountain matters considerably less than the race up the mountain.  That’s…  surprisingly well-thought-out for him.  Seriously, did he just pass the Ash Ball off to Brock for the day?

As racers become unable to continue for various reasons, we’re given some exposition that explains that the race was thought up as a way to stave of bloodshed from wars between tribes, and as such, it ended up being a massive test of strength and skill.  Next, they talk about the conditions of the race, and how the fog is thick enough that it often comes down to contestants riding Pokémon with sonar.  Again, this is very interesting stuff- you could write a whole comic series about this event, just with the backstory established here.

Back to Ash- he’s heading up a mountain, relying on Ponyta’s sense of direction, when all of a sudden- rocks fall, everybody faints.

Okay, yeah, rocks fall, but only on Ash, and he and Ponyta survive thanks to dumb luck.  Ash happens to overhear Dario discussing the trap with a random henchman, and this motivates him to get back into the race…  somehow.  Um, what?  He was hanging off the edge of a cliff a minute ago, somehow carrying Ponyta on his back.  And two panels later, now he’s not.

Okay, then.

Dario’s henchmen (more than one, now) try to stop Ash, but he takes advantage of Fire Spin’s lack of balance in RBY to take them out.  Dario retalliates by dropping a bunch of Blastoise in Ash’s path.  He deals with most of them by having Pikachu attack thyem with the suddenly-Electric-type Swift.  He misses one, however, and it manages to OHKO Ponyta.  While Pikachu takes care of it, Ash narrates Ponyta’s condition.  Ponyta seems about to give up when a vision of Laura fills its mind, and then-

Cut to the finish line.  Ash and Ponyta are nowhere in sight, and it looks like Dario’s about to take the flag.  Oh, wait, here they come-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm0YmRHdyz4#t=0m44s

Ash comes charging out of the mist riding on Ponyta, newly evolved into a Rapidash.  From here, I don’t think I need to explain the ending of the chapter.  For those who can’t guess, Ash and Dario run neck-and-neck for a few pages, Ash gets the flag first, Dario demands it, Rapidash sends Dario flying into the sunset (really,) and a commemorative photo is taken.

I like this chapter.  It’s probably the closest to its source material, and the omission of Team Rocket from the plot helps it considerably.  Dario’s a bucket of villain cliches, but he stands on his own as a memorable villain.  The race is a lot of fun, and all the cultural details help give the setting its own character.

Next time, Ash is exposed to the Fire/Thunder of Damnation!  And all of you ought to know by now that I don’t joke in these next chapter blurbs.

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EToP, Part 4

Chapter 4: Haunting My Dreams

Do you remember what I was saying earlier about several chapters bearing only superficial resemblance to the episodes that they’re based on?  If there’s one chapter that best demonstrated this fact, this is the one.

Many of you may remember the Sabrina training arc (to be covered once the anime loops back around to the beginning on the official website.)  For those who don’t, the anime changed things up significantly for these three episodes.  In the past, whenever Ash fought a gym leader, it had been a one-episode affair.  He fights Brock, loses, and gets the badge at the end.  He fights Misty, is interrupted, and gets the badge at the end.  He fights Lt. Surge, loses, wins, and gets the badge at the end.  In each of these instances, it only took one episode each time, from start to finish.

Sabrina changed all of that.  Ash loses horribly the first time, his training takes up a full episode, and he comes back to experience some nightmare fuel.  The final battle with Sabrina is a cheap victory, but the arc establishes something that the anime has never left behind: multiple-episode training arcs.

So, it makes sense that when adapting this arc, Toshihiro Ono would have to pull out all the stops.  Our end result?  Something that tells a really, really good story, while injecting some darkness into a story that, while not necessarily needing it, benefitted considerably from it.

So, let me set some appropriate music…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLFW2t3JDzY

And let’s open this sucker up.

Our story kicks off with Ash arriving at the Saffron City Gym, tired and possibly dehydrated.  Sabrina finds him at the entrance and treats him to a meal.  Here, we see one of the approximately eleven thousand personalities available for Sabrina in the franchise- one of a sweet, loving girl.  May I just point out at this time that Erika never appears in EToP.  I thought you might find that interesting.

Sabrina demonstrates her Psychic powers by levitating a vial of soy sauce, and then Brock shows up again.  Yeah, he exists again.  He tries to insinuate that Ash is only here to try and woo Sabrina, but like 50% of all romance, it only serves to embarrass him (incidentally, the other 50% goes straight over his head.)

Ash challenges Sabrina to a battle, and they head to an arena that looks remarkably like the arenas used during the Battle City Semifinals in the Yu-Gi-Oh anime.  The result?  A total curb stomp.  Abra teleports randomly around to avoid physical strikes, and redirects Pikachu’s electricity right back at it.  See, I told you guys that Psychics were OP in 1st Gen.

Post battle, we discover that Ash has a weakness for cute girls.  Apparently.  And that Brock gets embarrassed over his own flirtatiousness.  Apparently.

So, a fairly innocent episode so far, right?  Haha, no.  Sit down.

On the very next page, we see Sabrina in the emergency room.  No, seriously.  We follow up a page showcasing the two main men discussing romance with Sabrina close to death.  Ash and Brock have tagged along, and are told by what seems to be a traveling adventure party that Sabrina ran afoul of a massive Haunter called the Black Fog, a powerful entity that sucks the souls out of its victims using Dream Eater.  Yeah.  Seriously.  In a Pokémon manga.

It turns out that this isn’t a recent phenomenon, either.  This thing has been going around for years, murdering innocent people.  Sabrina was a member of the adventuring party, who are all fighting against it for revenge.  We’re told that a long time ago, it slaughtered all of her Pokémon.

We see Abra write down the words “Lavender Town” on a nearby sheet of paper, and Brock hypothesizes that Sabrina is somehow still able to communicate with them.  We’re told that the souls of those killed by the Black Fog will return to their bodies if the beast is defeated.  Ash starts thinking like Ash for a moment, and decides that he wants to catch it.  As in, let it live.  As in, travel around with this unstable murder machine.  The only thing he offers to back up this desire?

“Hey, it’s a Pokémon, right?”

Apparently, capturing it will revive Sabrina, as everyone just seems to agree with Ash’s idea to just use a gigantic Poké Ball on this massive, soul-eating monstrosity.  Over the next few days, they build the “Enormo Poké Ball- X1.”  In English, it’s a 15-foot Poké Ball.  Supposedly, it’s Catch Rate is lower than that of a normal Poké Ball, due to the fact that it was put together at the last minute.  Nevertheless, the operation to catch the Black Fog begins.

They adventuring party plus Ash and Brock charge into its lair, and start lobbing rocks.  Ash manages to get a hit in, and Brock is stunned that the thing appears to be solid.  We’re treated to a frightening image of the Black Fog charging Ash, and the battle begins.

…And lasts roughly ten seconds.  The Black Fog uses a Psychic attack to pin all the Pokémon fighting it to a wall.  Abra appears, and shuts down the attack.  The Black Fog moves in with a Night Shade, and Ash’s Fearow tries to counter with Mirror Move (translated here as Mirror Wave.)  No good.  It proceeds to L-cancel the Night Shade, and use Dream Eater on the incoming attack, and all of Brock and Ash’s Pokémon except for Pikachu.  It’s about to start on Abra, when Pikachu finally gets its ass in gear, and uses Agility to grab Abra.  They race for the exit with the Black Fog hot in pursuit.  They make it to the exit, and the Black Fog is snared by the X-1.

So, that’s the end, right?  Nope.  Just as most legendaries get yoour hopes up with three wobbles before breaking out, so does the Black Fog.  It’s too weak to keep fighting, so it flees to an alternate lair.  In full view of what appears to be a massive sarcophagus, the final battle for Sabrina’s soul begins.  Pikachu gets a hit in, and Ash lobs an Ultra Ball (translated as Hyper Ball.)  The Black Fog isn’t having any of that, and promptly uses Selfdestruct, killing itself in the process.  No, seriously.  The Black Fog just pulled a “better to die than to be captured.”

Sabrina teleports to the battle, and gets Ash out before the structure damaged by the attack can fall on top of him.  Before a giant stone sculpture of a Haunter, Brock explains that in ancient times, Pokémon used to be worshiped as gods.  This Haunter got used to that, and saw itself as above being captured by a human. Sabrina decides that now that it’s dead, she can be sympathetic, and breaks down crying.  Ash does too, but it’s for a much stupider reason.  Apparently, he didn’t like wasting money on that Ultra Ball that was blown up.

No, seriously.  That’s it.

This chapter is absolutely the best in the volume.  It tells a good story, and has a very dramatic tone.  It feels different from the preceding chapters, and it’s not just the soul-devouring abomination.  It’s the sense that you’re reading an actual story, rather than an adaptation of an anime episode.  It’s this feeling of being different that makes it stand out.  If it wasn’t for Ash being Ash every so often, it would absolutely be perfect.  It really is an incredible chapter, and it marks the start of EToP’s run of quality chapters.

Next time, we’ll open the next volume, and take a look at the chapter that’s the closest to its source material.

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