Japanese Episode
035






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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Kanto Region

Japanese Episode 035
Episode Stats:

Japanese Episode 035:  "The Legend of Miniryuu"
Pokemon Dare Da?  Kentaros

Japanese Air Date:  November 25th, 1997
American Air Date:  Never aired
Important Characters:  Kaiser (
N/A)
Important Places:  Safari Zone (Safari Zone), Dragon Valley (N/A)

The three young trainers continue to make their way through the Safari Zone.  After Satoshi-tachi hear the rules of the preserve, they notice a picture of a Miniryuu on the wall.  The Safari Zone's warden, Kaiser, denies rumors that the pokemon is there.  Satoshi is not satisfied with this answer, so he calls Orchid-Hakase and learns that rumors of the pokemon's presence caused a feverish migration of trainers to the preserve thirty years earlier.  However, no one was ever able to find the pokemon.  Later, the young trainers enter the Safari Zone and begin catching pokemon while, unknown to them, the Rocket-Dan go to the office and interrogate Kaiser.  Kaiser is coerced into telling them that Miniryuu is in the Dragon Valley, so the Rocket trio heads to the lake there to blast fish the pokemon out.  Kaiser is able to escape and enlists Satoshi and his friends to help him thwart the trio's plans.  Satoshi dives into the lake to retrieve the bomb, but he is unable to make it to the surface before he runs out of air.  All seems lost until Satoshi suddenly emerges, riding on the back of a Hakuryuu!  After the young trainer returns the bomb to the Rocket-Dan, Kaiser takes a close look at the Hakuryuu and figures out that it is the same Miniryuu he had befriended thirty years before.  After the reunion concludes, Satoshi sends the pokemon he had caught at the Safari Zone - a huge herd of Kentaros - to Orchid-Hakase and then resumes his journey.


Thoughts

I’m going to ignore the elephant in the room and focus on the actual episode for a moment.

 

Overall, I thought this was a rather average episode.  I think the way the show portrayed the Safari Zone was pretty interesting, and including that whole part about it being overrun with opportunistic trainers was a really nice touch.  Yeah, it kind of forces yet another environmental message down our throats, but for some reason it doesn't seem as in-your-face this time around.  I also think the show found a great balance between keeping the Safari Zone true to its video game routes and making it work for the comparatively more realistic TV series.  Satoshi still has to use Safari Balls and he still gets thirty of them, but there doesn't seem to be any time limit and he doesn't have to go around throwing rocks at pokemon and praying they don't run away.  Also, the TV show doesn't have that effing annoying evolution music playing on an endless loop.

 

Though I have to say, the fact that Satoshi was able to catch 30 Kentaros – which means he had a 100% capture rate – annoys me to no end.  I’m lucky if I can catch half that many in the actual games.

 

There are a number of things that bug me about this one, though.  Why doesn't Kaiser take down the photo of Miniryuu he has hanging in plain sight if Hess so worried about people finding out about its existence?  Why didn't Satoshi and his friends question the fact that the Rocket-Dan didn't follow them into the Safari Zone during their “fair duel?”  How did the Rocket-Dan overpower the well-armed warden?  How come the people who want to go after Miniryuu didn't think to look in the Ryuu no Tani ("Dragon Valley")?  How did Kaiser escape?  Why didn't Kasumi call out her Starmie to help Satoshi out of the lake (or at least send her Hitodeman back into the water once Kaiser was safe) instead of just standing there?  Or, alternatively, why didn't Satoshi use his Zenigame?

 

The rumors that 4Kids actually did dub this episode is almost as old as the episode itself, but there's absolutely no evidence that this is true.  None of the people who claim that the episode was dubbed can provide a source for this claim, and at least one of the voice actors has denied that they ever worked on the episode.  People want the rumor to be true because they enjoy the English version and want to see every single episode in their native language, but I think too many of them are letting their desires prevent them from seeing past the bullshit.

 

The omission of this episode caused confusion for many dub-only fans since, all of a sudden, Satoshi has 30 Kentaros.  I personally don't think it's as bad as, say, Brock's mom becoming a zombie, but it's still an unfortunate loss.

 

Despite the fact that the episode was cut, we know that 4Kids at least got the footage of the episode because they were able to use several of its scenes for the Pokérap:


Rhyhorn
Tauros
Dragonair
Dratini

The scene where Kasumi, Takeshi, and Satoshi scream at the Gyarados Kasumi just caught with her lure is also from this one, though I can't find it in the version of of the
Pokérap present on the DVDs.


Why the episode was banned

While neither 4Kids nor anyone else involved with the franchise has ever come out and stated why this episode was never dubbed, we pretty much know that Kaiser's guns are to blame.

People claim that this episode being banned doesn't make any sense because we have seen guns in this series before.  Ash got threatened by a bunch of guns in
"Here Comes The Squirtle Squad,"  even going so far as to identify them as "guns."  Officer Jenny pointed a gun at our heroes just one episode prior, in "The Kangaskhan Kid."  We'll see a burglar with a gun in "The Case of the K-9 Caper," and Ash will imagine his friends getting shot by an unknown sniper at the beginning of "Pokémon Paparazzi!"

"Here Comes the Squirtle Squad"
"The Kangaskhan Kid"
"The Case of the K-9 Caper"
"Pokémon Paparazzi"

But you have to remember two things.  The first is that the censors absolutely make distinctions between things that you and I wouldn't think twice about. 
There's a difference between actually firing a gun and simply pointing it at someone.  A gun being held up close to someone and a gun being pointed at someone from far away are two different things, in the eyes of the censors.  A gun being on-screen for ten seconds might be OK, but fifteen seconds of screentime is taboo.  It's not uncommon to see rifles and bazookas allowed, but not handguns.

The difference between the guns in this episode and the guns in other episodes is that in this episode, the guns were actually fired.  In this episode, the guns were held right up to people's heads.  In this episode, the guns were onscreen longer than all those other instances combined.  In this episode, there were no other adults around to stop the would-be shooter(s).  In this episode, the guns in question were the same type of handguns a kid can find in his dad's sock drawer.



The second thing to remember is that TV censors are fickle and can change their policies at the drop of a hat.  This show's a perfect example.  Lorelei ("Prima") was allowed to strut around with her cleavage all over the place in Season Two yet Caroline's cleavage got edited out in Season Eight.  James got to have a pipe in Season One, but Wobbuffet's pipe got erased in Season Seven.  Characters got to call themselves "wine connoisseurs" in Season One, then had to drink milky stuff in Season Eight, and are now able to drink wine again.  It's not uncommon for a show to be OK with something in one episode, suddenly have a problem with it in another, and then start allowing it again.  Just because something's allowed in one episode doesn't mean that it will be allowed in every episode that follows.

Another issue the censors may have had with this episode is the fact that there are no other adults around to protect Satoshi and his friends.  In three of the four other episodes to feature guns, a Junsa came and saved the kids in two of those and stopped herself from firing in one of them.  And the fourth one existed only in Satoshi's imagination.  In this episode, however, there's no one around to stop Kaiser.  He could have killed all three of them and no one would have known, and it's possible that the censors viewed that as being unacceptable.

It also doesn't help that Satoshi and his friends are terrible role models throughout the episode.  A man pulls a gun on them, so they follow him into his office.  And then later, when they're talking to Orchid-Hakase, they don't so much as bring up the fact that their lives were being threatened by a gun-toting sociopath.  While those things alone wouldn't have been enough to get the episode banned, they certainly wouldn't have helped.



People who are upset about the omission of this episode should note that this kind of thing is normal for kids' cartoons.  I could sit here and list dozens and dozens of series that had some sort of ridiculous gun censorship going on, and I could sit here and tell you how shows like Trigun and Cowboy Bebop were kept off Toonami (a similar kids' block with much less restrictive censors) because of all the gun use.  

It's not just Pokémon, folks.  We're not the only ones being affected by the censors’ phobia of firearms.


Couldn't it have been censored just like any other episode?

So you may be wondering why 4Kids didn't just censor the guns out.  Problem solved, right?

Easier said than done, unfortunately.



The guns and their bullets are onscreen for about a minute and a half (1:25) in this episode.  That may not seem like a lot to you, but that would bring a twenty-two minute episode down to a little over twenty minutes, which is way shorter than they'd probably be allowed to have.  Networks are very strict about show length, and while an episode with a few seconds cut here and there might be allowed, an episode with that much missing would not.

But let's just say, for the sake of argument, that the show being too short wouldn't have been an issue.  What edits would have had to take place, based on what we know?

The first scene to feature a firearm takes place just outside the warden's office.  4Kids would have had to cut the part where Kaiser takes out his gun and points it at the camera as well as the following shot of the gang reacting.  Because if you don't cut out that reaction shot, the audience is going to wonder why Ash and his friends are reacting so strongly for no reason.

The scenes with the guns inside the warden's office would probably have had to end up on the cutting room floor, too.  They could all be removed without any problem except for the last one, where he walks off camera and leaves the office.  You need the scene because it shows Kaiser exiting the office, but he's clutching his holstered gun the whole time.  4Kids would have to completely redraw his arm, but even then you have the fact that the kids are all reacting in that shot.  What do you do with them?



The scene where the Rocket-Dan's being shot at could have been removed and replaced with a motto from a different episode.  "The Kangaskhan Kid" premiered in the U.S. on October 22nd, 1998 (Thursday), so this episode, had it been dubbed, would have aired the following day.  By that point in time, Japan had just aired "The Legend of the Surfing Pikachu" ("The Pi-Kahuna").  So 4Kids, in theory, could have grabbed the footage of a motto from any episode up until then - presumably one with a generic background - and inserted it into this episode instead.  Then, they would return to this episode with the footage of the trio jumping off the giant sign they were on.  The series recycles motto footage all the time, so it wouldn't have looked out of place here.



The scenes toward the second half of the episode, where Musashi and Kojirou have Kaiser at gunpoint, would have been the most difficult ones to edit.  You could cut them out in a way that would have Jessie subduing the old man with her Arbok right from the get-go, but you'd have to cut out a lot of footage / rearrange things to get to that point.  Another option would be to paint out the guns, but that'd be a very difficult and time consuming thing to do.  We're not talking about erasing text on a static background here; we're talking about props in two of the characters' hands that are constantly moving about.  And since this episode was animated in the traditional way, the edits would look awful because of all the bouncing digital paint.


Like I said before, when all is said and done, there would be approximately a minute and a half (1:25 by my count) of scenes that would have to be cut or altered.

In addition to all of that, the Safari Zone sign at the entrance would get digital paint because it's written in that evil language known as "Japanese."

 

So while it probably is possible for 4Kids to have edited this episode, they obviously felt, for one reason or another, that it wasn't worth the large amounts of time and money that would have been required to make it work.  To be fair, the episode does end with a really convenient "let's not tell anyone about what we saw here today" line that pretty much guarantees that the events of this episode will never be mentioned again, so I guess 4Kids thought it wouldn't hurt to see it go.  Especially since they don't seem to realize how captured pokemon tend to show up in future episodes.

 

Is a home release likely?

The short answer is, of course, no.


I see that a lot of people, online, seem to believe that all Viz or TPCI would have to do is release this episode on a DVD and slap a warning label on it.  Y’know, something that would let parents know that the contents on that particular disc may not be suitable for younger kids or that these are episodes that weren't aired on TV.  The general consensus seems to be that a TV rating (say, TV-PG) on the case, in big letters, would be enough.



 

The problem with that is the fact that the Pokémon brand is a very important one.  Nintendo and the various companies involved with the franchise have worked extremely hard to make sure that people associate the word "Pokémon" with phrases like “family friendly” and “inoffensive.”  When a parent buys a Pokémon DVD, they assume that it's going to be something that doesn't contain any material that's inappropriate for their little ones.  And why shouldn't they?


Releasing even one DVD with material "too hot for TV" would risk compromising that.  Parents aren't any less irrational today than they were when this episode would have first come out, and I don't think it's hard to imagine the news articles that would be posted about how "this new DVD shows off Pok-E-man'z dark side." 


Stuff like the manga is allowed to get away with more because it's less mainstream than the TV series.  When people think of "
Pokémon," they think of the cartoon or the video games, not the graphic novels that many bookstores don't even stock.


There's also the fact that neither Viz nor TPCI really have any incentive to spend the time and money necessary to dub this.  It wouldn't be purchased by Cartoon Network or anyone else as part of any season package, so it would have to be bought as if it was a TV special or something.  And why would anyone do that?  The animation looks outdated, it doesn't advertise any current games, and the average ten year old isn't going to understand what it is or why it's being shown.  Kids want to watch the new stuff; they're not anywhere near as concerned about the past as we older fans.




Dubbing an episode isn't a small matter, either.  Replacing the Japanese track with an English track can cost more than $10,000 per episode, and that's if they decide to go the uncut route.  They'd have to pay for the translation, ADR directors and script writers who would work together to create a script that matches the lip flaps, the use of the recording booth, bringing in the TPCI voice actors (that's who they'd be using, by the way; Veronica Taylor and co wouldn't be brought back for this), sound mixing, digital paint (they're not going the leave the title screen in Japanese), music (do they need to buy the rights to that "
Pokémon Theme" again?  Or will they make a new one?) and legal affairs.  There's also stuff like distribution costs, advertising, and DVD authoring to take into consideration.


I really think fans overestimate how much a "lost episodes" DVD would sell.  Pokémon DVDs, in general, seem to sell enough to keep supporting themselves but don't really break any type of sales record.  If a "lost episodes" DVD was released, it'd have to be advertised quite aggressively (or, advertised period) to keep it from being ignored like all the other DVDs.  There's no way in hell Viz or TPCI or Nintendo or anyone else is going to do that.

 
Final Thoughts

Yes, it sucks when an episode of any TV series gets banned for whatever reason.  And with this series in particular, we have "so close yet so far" thing going, as far as having everything dubbed, that it can be particularly maddening.


If it's any consolation, though, this episode is one of the most easy to find episodes online.  It's been fansubbed by a bunch of different groups over the years, so tracking down a version with a translation in your language is as easy as a simple Google search. 


In any case, Satoshi's journey through Kanto continues!


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