Any time a brand new Pokemon season is about to come up, I always feel like I’m missing out on the rich Pokemon anime history. As a kid, I watched the show religiously, sometimes waking up way too early on a Saturday morning to watch it.
But Pokemon XYZ currently puts the total number of Pokemon episodes at 932. 932!! At 30 minutes per episode, that’s over 450 hours of Pokemon. There’s no way to watch all of that especially since Pokemon is very fond of filler episodes: episodes that do not advance the overall plot of the season.
That’s why a reddit user blessed us with a hand-crafted Fast Track Viewing List that continuously updates and includes only episodes where something important happens: a new member joins, Ash catches a Pokemon, a gym battle, Pokemon evolution, and so on. Pokemon Catch-Up is set to follow and review these episodes one by one.
Today’s episode: Season 1 (Indigo League) Episode 1: “Pokemon! I choose you!”
With the first episode of the first season of Pokemon, we’re not only dipping our toes into the beginning of the Fast Track Viewing List of Pokemon but we’re also getting our first true introduction to the world of Pokemon.
Debuting back in September of 1998, this first episode actually aired a couple of weeks before any of the Pokemon games were available, at least in the US.
We’re greeted by the iconic intro that triggers nostalgia in any 90’s kid, and anyone who loves Pokemon. After the introduction sequence, it’s time to get serious.
The episode opens up with a battle between Gengar and Nidorino, a scene ripped straight from the Pokemon Red and Blue games including the original battle music. It quickly transforms into a serious anime battle between the two Pokemon at an enormous Pokemon stadium.
The scene zooms out to show it’s on TV and we get our first introduction to the main protagonist of the entire series, a ten year old boy named Ash Ketchum.
It’s the night before Ash gets to begin his Pokemon journey. Only one more day, and he’ll get to choose a starter. A poster on his wall begs the question: Will it be Squirtle? Will it be Bulbasaur? Or will it be Charmander?
Ash excitedly puts on his iconic gloves and declares to the world that he will become the Pokemon Master! Only to be interrupted by his mother who tells him to go to bed. I mean, Ash wouldn’t want to..oversleep, right?
But his mother relents and lets Ash watch an informative channel where Professor Oak gives us a real introduction to the Kanto starter Pokemon.
Excited about picking his starter, Ash spends the entire night dreaming about each of the trio. He tosses and turns, imagining himself calling each one of them out and mistakenly throwing his Pokeball-shaped alarm clock against a wall, breaking it.
Ash wakes up very late and without changing from his pajamas, he runs off to Oak’s lab.
This is when we get our first introduction to Buttf–, I mean Blue, I mean Gary. Gary turns out to be Oak’s grandson and another 10 year old beginning his journey. The town is pretty excited about him and he’s got a full cheerleading squad cheering him on. He does not reveal what Pokemon he picked for his starter and instead rides off in a car with a professional chauffeur. Wait, he’s 10 years old and he’s got a car? And his own driver? Something doesn’t add up here.
Anyways, Ash arrives at the laboratory fully dressed in pajamas and finds out that none of the starter Pokemon that were supposed to be available are there.
Fun fact: in season 7 of Pokemon, there’s a trivia question asking about what Ash’s starter would have been had he woken up on time. And the answer is Squirtle.
Professor Oak gives Ash his final Pokeball, one that has a lightning bolt on it (the “Harry Potter-ball”) and Ash lets out a Pikachu. If you’re watching the series today, you might notice just how fat that old Pikachu was. Also note that this is probably the last time Pikachu has been in its ball. How Oak ever got it in there, no one knows.
Ash gets shocked for the first time but definitely not the last one.
After Oak gives Ash his Pokedex and Ash’s mom gives him a fully-packed backpack, our hero is on his way out of Pallete Town.
Unfortunately, Pikachu is stubborn and so Ash ties a rope around it and hauls it along the first route he sets on. He tries to reason with his Pokemon but even his Pokedex tells him that some Pokemon just hate being in their Pokeballs. He tries to command Pikachu to attack a nearby Pidgey but Pikachu climbs a tree instead.
Ash tries his luck alone. He throws a pokeball at a Pidgey and the Pidgey gets out of it and runs off. He tries his luck with a Rattata but Pikachu only laughs at the boy’s feeble attempts.
Finally, Ash picks up a rock and hits a Spearow with a rock…wait..what? He throws a rock at a Pokemon and that’s okay? Well, not really. The Spearow flies up and attacks Pikachu instead!
Ash owns up to his responsibility for angering the Spearow, starting his age-old trope of earning a Pokemon’s trust by saving them from danger (which he possibly caused himself).
Pikachu shocks the Spearow but this just angers an entire flock of Spearow which attack them.
Ash carries Pikachu in his hands until he gets to a waterfall where he jumps into the water. Of note, the show flashes back and forth between various wild Pokemon. There are a few Mankey, Magikarp, and even a Gyarados when Ash swims underwater.
This is when we’re first introduced to Misty.
Misty is minding her own business, fishing for Pokemon when Ash takes the bait. She pulls him out and shows concern for Pikachu but not Ash. She tells him about a nearby Pokemon center.
Ash sees the flock of Spearow in the distance and steals Misty’s bike. His famous words “I’ll give it back someday!” probably pain Misty to this day.
A storm gathers as Ash rides the bike at full speed. By the way, the nature around Palette Town is really beautiful. There is a waterfall, a wide field, mountains in the distance. It’s just gorgeous. But back to the story.
Ash falls off his bike with Pikachu and out of concern, asks it to get into the Pokeball. You can see the sudden shift in Pikachu’s view of Ash. Ash is protecting it and he vows to protect it as its trainer.
When Pikachu refuses to get into the ball even if it meant guaranteed safety, Ash stands up to the flock of Spearow that finally caught up with them.
“I’m going to capture and defeat you all!” he yells out. I’m pretty sure he never captured a Spearow but that’s besides the point. He stands up to them even though he knows it’s a losing battle. The storm is raging hard at this point.
When Pikachu sees Ash doing this, it stands up, runs to Ash, jumps on the boy and finally jumps into the air blasting all of the Spearow with a lightning attack, presumably Thundershock or quite possibly Thunder Wave.
The lightning bolt renders the Spearow unable to battle any further, chars Misty’s bike, and also stops the storm. I’m not sure how that last part happened but it did and we’re returned to the beautiful day that was. In fact, Ash looks up and see a golden bird flying toward a colorful rainbow.
What Pokemon could this be? The Pokedex doesn’t know.
The shows leaves us with Ash making it into the next town, carrying a tired Pikachu in his arms.
This episode gives us a comprehensive and packed introduction to the world of Pokemon. From Pokemon running wild in nature, to the mystery of unknown Pokemon. It also shows us just how much trouble a 10 year old boy can get himself into in a single day. And let’s just say that Ash will outdo himself over and over again during his journey to being a Pokemon Master.
You know what makes this episode even better? There is no Team Rocket. Also, Pokemon rap!