Hello and welcome to the one and only Pokemon Catch-up! Today, we’re diving into the Pokemon Fast Track Viewing List, as always. We are slowly nearing the end of the season and the end of Ash’s journey across Kanto. In the last episode that we covered, Ash obtained his 7th badge from Blaine and headed straight toward Viridian City where there was a gym that Ash, mysteriously, skipped.

Let’s join Ash, Misty, and Brock for more of their shenanigans!

Today’s Episode: Season 1 (Indigo League), Episode 63: “The Battle of the Badge”

Synopsis

The group finally arrives at Viridian City and Ash is hoping to battle for his 8th and final badge. He remarks that it’s been a whole year since they were there last! They arrive at the Pokemon Center that Team Rocket blew up the last time they were there and it’s been rebuilt. Brock points to the Viridian City gym and tells Ash that’s where he has to go to get his Earth badge.

Ash gets fired up but in fact, it was just Pikachu and Togepi made an actual fire and burned Ash’s foot. The scene turns into an emotional moment where Ash declares his utmost confidence in Pikachu’s abilities.

A fancy car pulls up to break up the moment and Gary steps out, already laughing at Ash. His cheerleaders cheer him on as the boy mocks Ash. He pulls out his case with ten different badges and laughs at the fact that Ash doesn’t even have the minimum to enter the league! But wait, how does Gary have 10 badges when there are only 8 official gyms? We (might) find out in the trivia section!

Gary jumps out of the car and requests a battle with the gym leader. Him and the cheerleaders run into the gym and the guards in front stop Ash from trying to get in as well. “Only one trainer in the gym at a time,” they say and the door closes. Ash feels pretty down so Togepi walks up his back and tries to comfort him. The boy mistakes the Pokemon for Pikachu and thanks it for always standing by him. When he realizes his mistake, he throws Togepi in the air out of surprise and straight into a Fearow’s mouth!

The Pokemon flies off with Togepi and the group run after the bird. Meanwhile, Jessie, James, and Meowth are looking out for Pikachu from atop one of the Viridian tall buildings when the Fearow drops Togepi on top of James’s butt.

Jessie goes off on a fantasy about how their boss would be so happy to get a Togepi but Togepi walks off to a wooden ledge that connects the building Team Rocket is on to the building one over, high above a road. Jessie tries to follow Togepi and in typical Team Rocket fashion, Jessie falls straight down, into the concrete, creating a Jessie-shaped hole in the ground. And Togepi falls on top of her.

Note: The “silly” scenes of the episode seem rather out of character for the show. Up until this episode, the puns have been rather limited, and the on-the-nose comedy was practically non-existent. This episode marks a sudden shift in the tone of the show in our catch-up to become more of a slapstick comedy. In my personal watch-through of the series, this doesn’t persist for long but it does make me wonder.

At the same time, Gary Oak challenges Giovanni who sits in a balcony at his Gym. A Persian sits by his side. It’s a three-on-three battle. Gary calls out his Nidoking while Giovanni releases Golem. Golem uses Tackle and Nidoking returns with the same attack.

Golem rolls off and loses the round. Giovanni calls out his Kingler. Gary uses his Pokedex to find out about Kingler and calls back his Nidoking. The boy summons his Arcanine which uses Take Down. Then uses Firespin and in typical anime fashion, the fire attack works surprisingly well against the water Pokemon.

Finally, Arcanine’s Fire Blast pushes Kingler over and Arcanine wins. Seems like a pretty easy Gym battle but Giovanni only smirks. He stands up from his chair and he promises to calls out his most powerful Pokemon.

Who could it be? The Pokemon’s eyes glow immediately and it knocks back Arcanine. Giovanni tells Gary to use as many Pokemon as he wants. And Gary calls out his Nidoking and it with Arcanine attack at the same time. But the mysterious Pokemon lifts both into the air. Who could this be?

Note: This is a cross-over hint for the first Pokemon movie. In fact, this exact battle plays out in a little more detail in the movie.

We cut to Team Rocket approaching their boss, Giovanni, the gym leader. They are excited to present a Pokemon even rarer than Pikachu. They present him with Togepi. But the boss is not impressed. He questions them on Togepi’s abilities but Jessie, James, and Meowth struggle to come up with an answer.

He berates them heavily for being absent for months and presenting him with such a sub par prize. Giovanni gets a call and he leaves immediately because of an “accident”. He bestows the Team with three powerful Pokemon to help them protect the gym. They’re gym leaders!

Giovanni goes into the basement and releases an imprisoned MewTwo to attend to an assignment.

Meanwhile, Ash, Misty, and Brock are running around looking for Togepi. They get to the gym and come across Gary who is vastly out of it. He tells Ash about the mysterious Pokemon and how it is an evil Pokemon. Gary insists that no one will ever beat the mysterious Pokemon.

And Team Rocket makes its debut! They sing their song and tell the “twerps” that they are the new Gym leaders. Ash wonders out loud why Team Rocket is involved with the Gym but we don’t find out much of anything.

Platforms on opposite side of the gym rise from the ground and Ash climbs up, reluctantly. Team Rocket calls out Machamp, Rhydon, and a Kingler while Ash calls out his Squirtle. It’s a three-on-one battle. Squirtle gets a beating from Machamp and Ash gets shocked — the platforms are rigged to make the trainer feel the pain of their Pokemon. Ash calls out his Bulbasaur and Jessie counters it with her Kingler.

Bulbasaur uses Vine Whip and Kingle protects itself using a Harden. It then counters with Bubble that hits Bulbasaur straight on the face. Ash gets shocked again. Gary warns Ash that they’re too powerful but Ash vows to persevere, an action that shocks Gary.

The boy calls out his Pidgeotto and it hits Rhydon with a Quick Attack, and then with a Double Edge attack. The attacks hit their mark and Jessie gets electrocuted!

James apparently wired both sides of the stadium with the electricity. Meowth comes to the rescue with yet another invention meant for Team Rocket to win. As he attempts to press the button to launch it, Gary tackles him to the ground.

Jessie calls out Arbok and Weezing in desperation and despite it being against the rules so Ash calls forth his Pikachu. Pikachu immediately jumps on Arbok and fires off an electric attack that has Giovanni’s Pokemon on the run and Team Rocket’s Arbok and Weezing KOs along with Jessie.

Ash wins the match! Gary’s cheerleaders give him a cheer. Gary remarks that while Ash is a pretty good trainer after all, he would be no match for the mysterious Pokemon.

The boy demands his badge but Team Rocket refuses to give it. The stray Togepi makes its way to the remote control that Meowth held earlier and sets off a bomb. Team Rocket blasts off but leave behind the Earth badge which Ash picks up and claims as his

The entire building collapses and is left in ruins. The group was leaving and Ash is excited to get to the Pokemon league, despite having no idea where it was. They decided to go back to Pallete Town to see Professor Oak and ask him.

Okay, so this was an interesting episode in many aspects. One of them is that we finally get to find out who the leader of Team Rocket is. We also get an intro to the movie. Gary looks up to Ash and his strength for the first time ever and I feel like it fundamentally changes their relationship. Ash slowly inches toward becoming Gary’s equal.

We’re not going to review an episode next time, but the first movie! Because of MewTwo’s appearance in several Pokemon episodes, the movie is technically canon and while Ash doesn’t catch a new Pokemon, doesn’t get a badge, and obviously, doesn’t compete in a league, I still think it’s worthy of review.

Trivia

  • this is only one of three Indigo League episodes featuring MewTwo. Note that the battle involving MewTwo was adapted to the anime style of the show here, but looks slightly different in the movie
  • Pikachu defeats Rhydon despite Rhydon’s Ground type having immunity to Electric moves.
  • This is the first time we see Giovanni’s entire face and hear him talk without a voice filter
  • Despite being on episode 68, this is the quickest Ash earns all of the league badges in any season
  • Gary’s 10 badges include only 4 real badges. They exclude Koga’s gym, Lt. Surge, Sabrina, and Blaine
  • The Japanese dub hints at Pikachu being a male