Welcome to Pokemon Catch-Up! Today, we’re yet again visiting the Fast Track Viewing List, a short list of only the most important Pokemon episodes.

This week, we will be visiting yet another episode that cannot be found on Netflix. The episode was banned outside of Japan altogether. The main reason was because of the use of firearms in the episode where they were intended for comic effect but apparently were too far off the mark. Without further ado, let’s watch today’s episode!

Note that due to the presence of a completely different video source, the screenshots might not be up to their usual quality. A little into the article, I found a slightly better source for the episode that had a better quality video but since this is a hard-to-find episode, it features English subtitles.

Today’s episode: Season 1 (Indigo League), Episode 35: “The Legend of Dratini”

Synopsis

The episode opens with a Rhyhorn and a group of Tauros making their way across the safari zone. We pan over to Ash and his friends who are excited to be on their way there.

The group arrives at the entrance to the Safari Zone where a man screams at them for singing off-key (I think? the translation is horrible). When they ask him who he is to demand this of them, he draws a gun and points it at them. Anddd now we know why this episode was banned.

The man forgives them because Misty is a girl and announces that he’s the warden of the Safari Zone. They all go inside and the warden sets them up with a fishing rod and a basket of Safari Balls. When Ash tries to grab them, the warden points his gun at him and starts to explain what the items are for. It turns out his gun’s name is Thunderbolt.

Meanwhile, Misty notices a sepia-colored picture of the warden with a Dratini. Brock chimes in that he’s heard rumors that Dratini are in the Safari Zone. The warden runs over, takes the picture from them and yells at the kids that there are no Dratini. When Ash tries to say something, the warden pulls the hammer back on his gun. And Ash starts to back track immediately.

The warden leaves and takes the picture. He promises the Dratini in his picture that it will never be disturbed again.

Meanwhile, Ash and his friends call Professor Oak to ask him about the hot-tempered warden.

It turns out, the man’s name is Kaiser (though the subtitles sometimes refer to him as “Kaiza”). Apparently, Kaiser found the legendary Dratini but that lead to a hunt for Dratini. Safari Zone was left in tramples and caught many of the Pokemon residing there. Since then, the Safari Balls were the only Pokeballs allowed in the Safari Zone.

In the end, no one found Dratini and the only proof of its existence was Kaiser’s photo. Oak ends his story by yelling at Ash for not catching more Pokemon. Ash promises to get lots and then hopes to Dratini.

Meanwhile, Team Rocket spies on them from atop of the house. They plan to catch Dratini and Jessie vows to catch all of the Pokemon in the Safari Zone!

James and Meowth cheer her on.

And it’s time for Ash, Misty, and Brock to enter the Safari Zone. Kaiser tells them to come back as soon as they run out of Safari Balls but before they can even step past the gate, Team Rocket calls for their attention from atop of the tall wooden fence that surrounds Safari Zone. Kaiser yells at them angrily.

They sing their spiel but Kaiser cuts them off by shooting at them with both of his revolvers.

Team Rocket does their best to dodge all of the bullets until James jumps with the Team and deploys a parachute as they fall down. Unfortunately, he’s a little too late with that and they fall face down onto the ground. James challenges the group to catch as many Pokemon as possible and Meowth promises to never bother Ash and his friends again if they win. They swear it.

Ash accepts the challenge. But then James mentions that Team Rocket will get to keep all of Ash’s Pokemon if he loses.

Ash and Brock wait for a group of Tauros to charge at them and throw their Safari Balls.

The Tauros are caught! Ash tries his hand at a Rhydon as they sneak up to it through some bushes. Ash throws his ball but the group of Tauros run between Ash and the Pokemon and one of the Tauros enters the Pokeball and gets caught.

Jessie watches Ash’s progress but isn’t concerned at all. You see, Team Rocket never wanted to actually uphold their side of the challenge. Instead, they got ahold of a gun and took Kaiser as a hostage. Jessie points a gun at his face and asks him to reveal Dratini’s location.

Kaiser asks them about the challenge but Jessie tells him that they always planned to cross Ash. He fights them and Jessie summons her Arbok who wraps itself around the man. Jessie then tries her charms on the man and promises him a date if he tells her.

He’s smitten with her and asks if she’ll marry him. Jessie promises to think about it as she turns into a young school girl and her voice gets very high pitched and excited. But Kaiser refuses.

James becomes a detective and points a shining light at Kaiser’s face while demanding answers while Meowth fashions a…errr…a Charlie Chaplin mustache and asks Kaiser about his mother and how she’s doing back in the country.

He offers Kaiser some food and Kaiser starts to break down but still holds out. He refuses to tell them. Frustrated, Meowth summons their ultimate weapon, a robot that tickles Kaiser until he finally promises to tell them where Dratini is.

Back in the Safari Zone, Misty introduces fishing to Brock and Ash.

She puts on a bait (that looks like a miniature of herself) and casts the line. She gets a bite and a strong pull. In fact, Brock and Ash have to grab the rod with her and try to pull it back. Then a Gyarados surfaces, snaps the line, and swims back into the water.

The trio is interrupted by Kaiser who made his way all the way to the group while being tickled. He then tells the group that Team Rocket is looking for Dratini and that Dratini can be found in the Dragon Valley.

Meanwhile, James and Meowth are searching for Dratini in a lake underwater. Jessie notices a Dratini in the water and tries to lure it toward herself, all the while stepping on an air pipe that supplied oxygen to the divers. James and Meowth jump up into the air, struggling to breathe and they scare the Pokemon off. Jessie proceeds to yell at the duo but then Meowth suggests throwing a bomb, that looks a lot like dynamite, into the water and knock all the Pokemon out.

Ash and Co. interupt Team Rocket and Ash boasts that he used up all of his Safari Balls and that he won the round. Jessie throws the bomb in the water and Kaiser jumps into the water after it. Ash jumps in the water and Misty calls for her Staryu to help him. The Staryu takes Kaiser back above water and Ash swims further down to find the bomb. He swims up but runs out of air before he breaks the surface.

He falls down to the lake floor, seemingly dead.

Above surface, rain and wind pick up. The lake swirls in a rapid vortex and a light shines from within.

The column of light expands and a Dragonair flies up into the air with Ash on its back, alive and well.

The storm disappears and Dexter explains who Dragonair is. Ash throws the bomb back to Team Rocket and it blows up, blasting Team Rocket off beyond a rainbow.

Dragonair swims up to Kaiser who thinks back to the memory of first meeting Dratini. They hug and cry together. A new Dratini joins them and it turns out it’s Dragonair’s kid.

Some time later, Ash and his friends are back at the Safari Zone’s entrance. They call Professor Oak and tell him the whole story. Ash then informs the Professor that he sent him quite a few Pokemon.

A large herd of Tauros stampede across the lab and trample him.

The group then departs and Dragonair with its Dratini look on from the sky.

I find it really fascinating that this episode stayed only in Japan. It was definitely much more violent than any others. Ash was constantly threatened to be shot by Kaiser. Kaiser emptied two revolvers shooting at Team Rocket. Team Rocket proceeded to throw a bundle of dynamite into the lake in order to knock out Pokemon. And then Ash seemingly dies and floats down onto the floor of the lake.

I wish that the company which brought Pokemon to the US could have somehow censored the episode or at least had come up with some canon way to explain what happened that episode because jump straight into Ash having been in the Safari Zone without ever actually seeing him there. I remember how jarring the following episode was when the Tauros are mentioned again. I kept trying to figure out if I had skipped watching one week, and I didn’t!

In the meantime, make sure to watch the next episode: episode 43 – “The March of the Exeggutor Squad”.

Trivia

  • unlike some of the other banned episodes, Legend of Dratini has no English dub.
  • you can catch Dratini in the Safari Zone using a Super Rod in all of the Gen I games; however, it is the sole location of Dratini for Pokemon Yellow. Pokemon Red and Blue allow you to win a Dratini in the Game Corner (no affiliation to the PUCL podcast show)
  • the episode has the only canon explanation for the restriction on type of Pokeballs allowed in Safari Zone (Safari Balls)
  • the Pokerap uses footage from this episode