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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Kanto Region
071: "Enter Shiba of the Four
Let's perform a little thought experiment. The year is 1998. Somehow, you're able to keep up with the Pocket Monsters TV series as it's airing in Japan, week after week. You're also familiar with the video games and know that the final bosses in the Red & Green games are this group of Trainers referred to as the Shitennou (四天王), or "Four Heavenly Kings." One day, a TV schedule in CoroCoro Comics or something reveals that a member of the Four Heavenly Kings is going to show up in an episode airing November 19th.
Can you imagine what the speculation online would have looked like back then? "Finally, Satoshi's going to battle a member of the Four Heavenly Kings!" "This is going to be so great!!" "But wait, where are the other three?" "Oh, don't worry, I'm sure they'll show up soon enough." "They're clearly setting up some kind of Four Heavenly Kings arc here, I mean what else could this be?" Remember, at this point in time we wouldn't have known that the TV series' version of the Pokemon League was going to end up just being a standard shonen anime tournament with zero final boss battles and no real "Champion" to speak of. Can you imagine the optimism fans must have had back then and how disappointed they would have been when none of the things that one would logically expect to happen took place?
What we ended up with instead is a stand-alone episode with mediocre animation that mostly feels like filler if it weren't for the presence of a character from the video games. Nothing really comes out of Shiba's appearance here and you could argue that the lesson Satoshi learns at the end about there not being any shortcut to becoming a Pokemon Master doesn't really amount to much of anything in the grand scheme of things. You could honestly skip this episode and not feel like you're missing anything, you know?
As for Shiba himself, he's alright, I guess...? The "respected and stoic martial arts master is surprise! really just a dense airhead" trope is one that's used fairly often in Japanese media but it's handled well enough here, I guess. Likewise, the show's take on Androcles and the Lion is equally derivative but, again, there are no real problems with the way it's presented here. This episode had a really tough act to follow and while it's pretty decent it doesn't come even close to being as great as the previous week's episode.
Unfortunately, "pretty decent" isn't really good enough. "Enter Shiba of the Four Heavenly Kings!" needed to be an exceptional episode to justify it replacing what should have been the start of a franchise-changing Four Heavenly Kings arc and yet it's not.
The English dub is also "pretty decent," which is better than the disaster it's been the last few weeks so I guess that's worth mentioning. It's interesting to hear music from Mewtwo Strikes Back continue to be kept in the English dub of the TV series when the English dub of the actual movie itself removed every last bit of Mr. Miyazaki's score. Isn't it weird that 4Kids apparently thought that this music wasn't good enough for the very movie it was composed for in the first place but is fine in literally everything else? Another thing I've always felt was interesting was how Iwark gets to keep its Japanese voice in the English dub even though you can clearly hear it saying "Iwaaaaark." How did Onix avoid getting its voice dubbed? What went into that decision, exactly? I'm not complaining about either this or about the music not being replaced, of course. I just think it's all very curious given how the English version tends to handle everything else about this show.
I think this is a great time to talk about the term Shitennou (四天王) and how it's used in Pocket Monsters.
Shitennou, a term that the English versions of the games translated as "Elite Four," is a title that appears fairly often in Japanese media (TV Tropes has a great list of examples) to denote a group of four high-ranking retainers who serve a larger boss. It originates from the Buddhist idea of there being four gods looking over each of the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) with each god having a specific area in which they specialize. The most commonly used translation of Shitennou is "Four Heavenly Kings" so that's what I've decided to use on this site.
(It should also be noted that the word ou ("king") in Japanese is a little different from the English word "king" in that the former is a lot more gender fluid than the latter. A woman being an ou doesn't sound nearly as strange to a Japanese speaker as a woman being a "king" does in English)
The English version of the video games went with "Elite Four," probably to a) remove the religious connections, b) remove the gender identifier "king," and c) allow the title to fit within the Game Boy's character limits.
In the Japanese version of the episode our heroes want to meet Shiba to figure out his ougi (奥義), a word that I'm going to translate as "esoteric technique." As in, a technique so specialized that only a select few even know it exists. It's not a word that comes up in everyday conversation and isn't the kind of thing you'd expect a bunch of ten-year olds to know and so the following exchange takes place:
The dub decides to go with "secret," which isn't a bad translation per se, but the fact that it's a common everyday word while ougi isn't means they had to end up re-writing a large chunk of the above exchange in order for any of it to make sense.
Right before the title screen:
Ash: "Mom, don't make dinner 'cause we're going to Mt. Hideaway!"
Originally Satoshi doesn't address his mom at all; he instead states that he's going to Mt. Miyazaki to become Shiba's disciple and learn his esoteric techniques (ようしシバに弟子入れして奥義をつまうぞ).
And then, right after the title screen:
In the Japanese version Satoshi and his friends are already on Mt. Miyazaki while in the English dub they're on some different mountain, apparently, that's "only seven or eight miles from here."
The episode's two paint edits occur at the tea shop up on the mountain.
The word dango (だんご), or "dumpling," gets painted away from the banner on the left.
Here the various menu items the shop sells get erased. The menu items are, from right to left, dango; manjuu (まんじゅう); and onigiri (おにぎり), or "rice balls."
Click on each image to view a larger version.
Let's talk about this old woman for a minute.
According to Japanese fansite Pokeani this woman, who isn't given a name either in the show's dialogue or the end credits, is based on an old woman in a story about how Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, stopped by a tea shop after his defeat by Takeda Shingen during the Battle of Sanpougatake. As he was enjoying a snack of azuki mochi at the tea shop, the Takeda clan caught up with him and so Ieyasu hopped onto his horse and fled without paying for his food. The elderly woman who ran the shop, angry at Ieyasu's dine and dash, reportedly chased after him until he was forced to pay it back.
(both Ieyasu and Shingen would later go on to become playable characters in the Nintendo DS game Pokémon Conquest, by the way).
The English dub decides to give her what I'm assuming is meant to be a "mountain hick" accent but it sounds more to me like what a New Yorker's impersonation of a Southerner. I dunno, do people who live in the mountains say things like "poachin' polecats" in this day and age?
As for the Rocket trio...
The three of them are identified in the show's dialogue as being dressed up as nora sennin (野良仙人), or "rural hermits," with the idea that they've secluded themselves up in the mountains to undertake some kind of special training. The scene of them on a cloud pictured above makes me think the show's producers are going for some kind of Journey to the West homage but I'm not sure how Nyarth's fast forward remote would play into any of that. Whatever's supposed to be going on here, 4Kids got lucky in that an in-depth understanding of what the trio's doing isn't needed in order for the audience to understand that all they want to do is just steal some food.
Speaking of food...
The English dub refers to the dango that our heroes eat (and the Rocket trio steals) as "muskrat meatballs," I guess because haha those mountain folk sure do eat weird things don't they? Meowth also refers to them as "meat kebabs" at one point as well.
On the way to meet Bruno:
Brock: "We've walked for hours and we haven't seen one sign of Bruno or one giant Onix."
Originally Takeshi doesn't mention how long they've been walking; instead, he questions whether or not Shiba is really training all the way out there (本当にシバ先生はこんな所で修行しているんだろうか).
Our heroes find the Onix:
Brock: "I'd love to study what makes the Onix grow so big up here."
Misty: "Maybe you can...if we survive!"
Originally Takeshi says "I wouldn't expect anything less from the giant Iwark of Mt. Miyazaki!" (さすがミヤザキ山の大イワーク。よーく育ってる). Kasumi then tells Takeshi that this isn't the time to be so impressed (そんなこと言ってる場合？).
Once our heroes meet Shiba both Satoshi and Takeshi begin referring to him as Shiba-sensei pretty consistently throughout the rest of the episode. The English version translates this as "Master Bruno" but they're not nearly as consistent; there are times when both young Trainers drop the "Master" part but then start using it again a few minutes later.
Training with Bruno starts:
The kung-fu movie reference gets removed and Satoshi's line gets completely rewritten but the rest is pretty close.
Next up, wood splitting:
Misty: "Well, this oughta be useful. Ash needs to learn how to get a grip."
Kasumi, after being doused with water in the previous scene, has moved further away to avoid getting hit again. Her comment in the Japanese version reflects this (もうとばっちりはゴメンよ。ここまで離れていれば…).
There's also this gag throughout the training montage that connects all three skits together that gets changed for the dub. Originally, Satoshi tells Kasumi that he "didn't do that on purpose" after both dousing her with water and launching a piece of firewood at her head. Then, when he picks up a heavy rock and starts falling toward her, she turns what he's been saying back at him by exclaiming "You're doing this on purpose after all!" (こらあ絶対わざとでしょ！).
The dub changes all three lines to three completely unrelated things, discarding the running joke the Japanese version had in the process.
Next up is the big reveal that Bruno's a phony:
Ash: "It's as clean as a whistle, Master Bruno. What lesson does it teach us?"
Bruno: "It teaches an important lesson you must always remember...if you're ever going to go camping, BRING A FORK!"
*Ash, Misty, and Brock groan*
Bruno: "Thanks a lot, kid, Bruno stew tastes better with chopsticks."
So you know how our heroes are trying to find out Shiba's ougi (奥義), or esoteric technique, right? Well in the original version of the above exchange, Satoshi says that he's finished his task which means it should be about time for him to learn Shiba's ougi. Shiba responds by saying "When you're starting a fire it's best to fan it after all. The fan (esoteric technique) I'm using on my rice porridge is a folding fan (talent)...get it?" (やっぱり火をおこす時は扇であおぐこと。おじやのおうぎ は扇子 かな、なんちゃって). It's not clear from my translation but the word ougi (奥義), as in "esoteric secret," is a homophone with the word ougi (扇), or "fan." Satoshi's looking for Shiba's 奥義 but is told about his 扇 instead. In the second sentence, sensu can be written either as センス, meaning "taste" or "talent," or as 扇子, meaning "folding fan."
I've wracked my brain trying to figure out a way to translate that into English in a way that keeps the intent of the pun intact but couldn't come up with anything. I'm sure 4Kids had the same problem. So, rather than try to force an unnatural pun the writers decided to go with a kooky observation instead.
Also, please nobody tell me what the hell goes into "Bruno stew." *shudders*
We're at the halfway point!
Click on each image to view a larger version.
After the commercial break:
Jessie: "Don't you worry. We've got something Onix-pected! *laughs*"
Meowth: "That joke is Onix-cceptable."
Originally Musashi tells Nyarth that they have a secret weapon, to which Nyarth responds "that's just a bazooka like the ones we always use!"
I think a lot of people assume that the reason the Rocket trio is so punny in the English dub is because they're being equally as punny in the Japanese version and that one English Team Rocket joke = one Japanese Rocket-Dan joke. But the ratio isn't really 1:1 at all. The Japanese Rocket trio love to have fun with words, yes, but I'd say that for the most part the 4Kids dialogue (and especially the TPCI dub) has way, way more localization-unfriendly jokes in it than the Japanese version.
The Rocket trio prepares to attack:
Jessie: "And now all we've got to do is wait for that rocky reptile to show its petrified puss!"
Hey kids, remember that time 4Kids invited us to think about Onix and its crusty old vagina? No? Well, today's your lucky day because here is a transcription of an actual line that was used in the English dub of the Kids' WB! show Pokémon!
Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to spend the rest of the day huddled in a ball.
(Originally Musashi simply says "Alright, the big Iwark among big Iwark, come on out please~!" (さあ出てきてちょうだい、大きなイワークの中の大きなイワークちゃん))
Ash and his friends leave Bruno:
Ash: "Oh well. I guess Bruno didn't really have any big secret of Pokémon after all."
Brock: "Maybe that's just what he tells all the Trainers who want to find out what the secret is."
Misty: "Don't bet on it."
Satoshi's upset for the same reason that Ash is but Takeshi comes to a different conclusion. Originally Takeshi figures that the only way for someone to figure out any esoteric secrets is to put in the hard work themselves (やはり奥義をつかむためには自分で苦労するしかないのか). Kasumi agrees with him (そういうこと).
Team Rocket attacks:
Jessie: "We hit it!"
James: "I've been shooting skeets since I was a tot."
Meowth: "Good aims James!"
Maybe James has been shooting skeets since he was a small child but Kojirou doesn't even imply as much; instead he states that he tried put his heart and soul into that shot (強ーい魂込めてみました). Nyarth then exclaims that they're definitely going to get that Iwark.
After Bruno promises to battle Ash someday (ha!):
Misty: "He was the real deal after all."
Brock: "And he knew the secret all along."
Originally Kasumi repeats the "technique" that Shiba just told them about (the connection between humans and pokemon) while Takeshi says he wouldn't expect anything less from Shiba-sensei.
In the Japanese version the Rocket trio begin this bit where they act like they're narrating a nature show while in the English version they spew off a bunch of rock-related puns instead.
This page was last updated on October 23rd, 2017
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