To celebrate the Pokemon anime's 20th anniversary, we're recapping an episode of the series every Saturday!
Episode Title: Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village
Original Air Date: June 3, 1997 (Japan); September 21, 1998 (US)
Episode Synopsis: Ash, Brock, and Misty get lost on their way to Vermillion City, leading to yet another argument between Ash and Misty. When they stop for a break, Misty finds an Oddish and tries to capture it. A Bulbasaur comes to Misty's aid and defeats both her Starmie and Ash's Butterfree before fleeing with Oddish into the woods.
As Ash and his friends continue their trek, they encounter a series of traps. Brock falls into a river when a rope bridge gives way from underneath him, while Ash and Misty wind up caught in a net trap. They discover that the traps were all set by Melanie, the caretaker of a Hidden Village that rehabilitates Pokemon injured by trainers. Ash also re-encounters Bulbasaur, who's the village protector. Bulbasaur makes it clear that Misty isn't welcome in the Hidden Village, as she tried to capture Oddish and is a potential threat to the other Pokemon.
Team Rocket inevitably arrives with a massive vacuum and tries to suck the Village's inhabitants away. Oddish is nearly captured by the vacuum, but Bulbasaur saves it and then Ash helps Bulbasaur get to shelter. When all the Pokemon are safe, Ash uses his Pidgeotto to blow Team Rocket away.
With Team Rocket out of the way, Melanie asks Ash to take Bulbasaur on his journey, as he's inadvertently encouraging the other Pokemon not to want to leave the village. Melanie feels that Ash can help Bulbasaur grow and Bulbasaur agrees to go with him...if he can defeat the Pokemon in battle. Ash's Pikachu manages to stun Bulbasaur with a Thunderbolt and Ash tosses a PokeBall, which leads to Ash officially catching his fourth Pokemon.
Ash's Episodic Moment of Idiocy: Ash speculates that Brock was washed away to sea and captured by pirates. He continues to press his pirate theory even after he and Misty find Brock and reunite and the Hidden Village.
Characters Introduced: Ash's Bulbasaur, Melanie
Locations: The Hidden Village.
This episode introduces my personal favorite Pokemon, Bulbasaur. Ash's Bulbasaur is both stubborn and loyal and a bit more cantankerous than Ash's other Pokemon...at least until Charizard eventually arrives. Since Ash releases both Butterfree and Pidgeot later in the series, Bulbasaur is technically Ash's oldest "caught" Pokemon. It also remains on Ash's team a lot longer than any other Pokemon, remaining on Ash's permanent collection until around halfway through the Johto region.
This episode also begins the trend of giving Ash's Pokemon permanent personalities. Outside of Pikachu and Meowth, the series hadn't really given any other Pokemon real characterization. Moving forward, most of Ash's Pokemon (and Pokemon caught by Ash's companion) had at least one consistent personality quirk separating them from other Pokemon in their species.
The other weird thing I noticed about this episode was how insistent Brock was about staying behind with Melanie, with whom he's obviously infatuated. At this point, Brock's obsession with pretty girls is a new "thing," but Brock seems pretty deadset about leaving Ash and Misty behind to stay in the Hidden Village. Guess he's just sick of the bickering, too. Unlike other girls in the anime, Melanie doesn't outright reject Brock....although we never see her again either.
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