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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Kanto Region
074: "Fire! The Pokemon League
There's only one day to go until the opening ceremony for the Pokemon League! Satoshi and his friends are on the way to the Sekiei Stadium they come across a torch relay accompanied by Tamaranze, the chairman of the Pokemon League. Our heroes soon learn that the flame of the torch being transported is said to come from none other than the legendary pokemon Fire! Our heroes decide to help accompany the torch the rest of the way to the stadium and, after a brief interruption caused by the Rocket trio, safely deliver it to the cauldron inside the Sekiei Stadium. Later that evening, Satoshi has a brief run-in with his rival Shigeru before heading in for the night. Kasumi and Takeshi sleep through the night while Satoshi, riled up by his meeting with Shigeru and anxious about the upcoming competition, calms his nerves by visiting the stadium before the events begin. The following day all the competitors and spectators gather in the stadium for the Pokemon League's opening ceremonies. During the final leg of the torch relay the Rocket trio appear and make a second attempt to steal the sacred flame but are defeated when none other than the legendary pokemon Fire appears to eject them from the arena! After witnessing Fire's awesome display of power the competitors of the Pokemon League look ahead to the battles coming up. Does Satoshi have what it takes to make it past the first round of the Pokemon League? To be continued!
After months and months of teasing, we've finally arrived at the Sekiei Pokemon League. We've gotten glimpses here and there that the TV show's Pokemon League (a shonen anime style tournament) is going to bear very little resemblance to the video games' Pokemon League (going from room to room to battle members of the Four Heavenly Kings) and this episode confirms that yes, we're getting the former rather than the latter. And I can sort of understand why. I'm sure that the writers could make a video game accurate portrayal of the Four Heavenly Kings trial something worth tuning in every week these days but I'm not so sure that same team had it in them pull it off back in 1998. I mean just look at how the rest of this tournament plays out: of the six episodes that make up the Sekiei Pokemon League only one of them is dedicated entirely to pokemon battles, with every other episode is the same type of action-adventure story we've been getting since day one. Battle-centric episodes just weren't something anyone was used to doing back then, y'know? Add in the fact that Japan actually hosted the Olympics the year this episode came out and the decision to make the Pokemon League Olympics-like tournament suddenly makes a whole lot of sense.
So what about the episode itself? It's a pretty decent, if not a bit unfocused, introductory episode to the Sekiei Pokemon League. "Fire! The Pokemon League Opening Ceremonies!" is mostly a series of small skits - the Rocket trio stealing the sacred flame, Satoshi and his friends carrying the torch, the run-in with Shigeru, Satoshi's restless night, the opening ceremony, the Rocket-Dan vs. Fire battle - that are all entertaining on their own but never really quite come together to create a single, coherent story. If that first Rocket attempt to steal the torch had been removed then I feel like we'd have had more time for things like watching Satoshi explore the Representative Village, seeing him meet some of the people he'll face off against in later rounds, foreshadowing Hiroshi and Léon, etc. In other words, things that future start-of-the-league episodes can now do in their sleep. It's not a terrible start, especially since this is the show's very first Pokemon League ever, but I do wish more of an effort had been made to create a more cohesive episode.
This is also the first time we see a proper legendary pokemon in the TV series. The Houou from the first episode hadn't been properly identified at this point, the movie used up Mewtwo and Mew, and the show never got around to visiting the locations where Freezer and Thunder are located, for some reason. But since this episode takes place in a sort of proxy for the games' Champion Road then I suppose now's as good a time as any to finally feature a Kanto legendary. Satoshi won't get to meet the other two birds until Pocket Monsters the Movie "Revelation Lugia" and then not again until mid to late Jouto and so Fire appearing in this episode is actually something really special. It's also nice to see Satoshi actually express a desire to get the legendary fire chicken, even if it's just in a throwaway line, because he doesn't really ever show this same desire toward a legendary again in the future.
Oh, and I guess Kojirou took the Utsubot he had left behind at Yamato and Kosaburou's daycare with him at some point without bothering to tell anybody? Utsubot suddenly popping up after its one and only first appearance 15 episodes ago is a bit jarring but I am glad that Kojirou now has as many pokemon as his teammate. Utsubot also represents the first of that weird "Grass-Type pokemon really love Kojirou, for some reason" gag that this show loves to reuse over and over again, for some reason, and though it's not my favorite recurring part of this series it's at least something to make Kojirou stand out from everyone else.
The English dub plays down the similarities between the Pokemon League and the Olympics, for obvious legal reasons, but other than that this is your fairly standard 4Kids Pokémon dub episode. Unfortunately, "standard 4Kids Pokémon dub episode" still means about a dozen rewrites, cute little character beats getting removed (Tamaranze, Kojirou), and more replacement music than most of us would like.
Utsubot and Fire keep their Japanese voices. The former had its voice dubbed over in its previous appearance but happily 4Kids came to their senses and decided to keep its voice for all its future appearances.
Ash is really excited about the Pokémon League:
I feel like the English version of this exchange is a little more mean-spirited than what was there in the original. Satoshi's friends see right through his brave front and are genuinely worried about him because of how nervous he is. Ash's friends, on the other hand? Brock and Misty seem to be pretty dismissive of the very idea of Ash doing well in the league, and while I do appreciate the idea of keeping your expectations in check I feel like Ash's friends are just being mean here for really no reason.
Ash mistakes the reason why all the people have gathered around:
Ash: "Hi, everybody, thanks a lot for coming out to see me. If you want autographs I'll be glad to..."
Satoshi doesn't offer to give autographs in the Japanese version; he instead tells the people gathered that he'll do his best to win the Pokemon League (ポケモンリーグ優勝目指してがんばりま～す).
Let's take a look at the various references made throughout this episode.
The torch relay and the use of a flame to signal the start of a tournament in Pocket Monsters is pulled directly from the same ceremony performed for the real-life Olympic games. The torch with Fire's flame seen in this episode is referred to as the seika (聖火), which is the exact same word used to refer to the Olympic flame in Japanese. The English version decides to just refer to it as "the torch."
The first torch runner we see in this episode looks a bit like the "Glico runner," a character used in a famous advertisement in the Dotonbori district of Osaka for Ezaki Glico. Glico is the company that produces Pocky, among other confectioneries.
The chairman of the Pokemon League, Tamaranze (タマランゼ), basically got his name by taking the surname of the head of the Olympics committee at the time, Juan Antonio Samaranch (フ アン・アントニオ・サマランチ), and changing a few sounds here and there. Take Saramanchi, his name in Japanese, swap out the first sa with a ta (Tamaranchi) and the final chi with a ze (Tamaranze) and you get the name of the chairman of the Pokemon League. Tamaranze's name has a second meaning but I'll go into that later in this comparison.
Another term pulled from the real world Olympic games is senshuu mura (選手村) which, in the real world, is used to refer to the Olympic Village. A few episodes from now there's a sign in the Japanese version that translates senshuu mura as "Representative Village" and so that's what I'm going to go with for this site as well. The English dub goes with "Pokémon League Village."
...and I think that's about it! These references aren't as obvious in English for a variety of reasons (people in the West don't know who the Glico runner is, "Charles Goodshow" sounds even less like Samaranch than Tamaranze does, 4Kids isn't sprinkling terms like "Olympic torch" or "Olympic village" into their script because they're not trying to get sued into oblivion) but I think it's still easy enough to see what the show's going for even without it being spelled out so clearly.
Misty and Brock explain what the flame's all about:
Brock: "The flame's supposed to inspire all the Trainers and Pokémon who compete in the Pokémon League. Being one of the torch bearers is a huge honor."
The original explanation is that the flame is a way to ask God to look over the Pokemon Trainers competing in the league matches (リーグ戦に参加する選手とポケモンたちの健闘を神様にお願いするための聖なる炎さ). The presence of the G-word there is what most likely caused this rewrite.
Ash looks up a legendary Pokémon:
Pokédex: "Moltres: A legendary Pokémon. Its virtues symbolize the Pokémon League competitions."
The Pokemon Bestiary doesn't mention the Pokemon League originally and instead states that nothing else is known about this pokemon (ファイヤー：伝説のポケモンでありすべては不明).
The children talk about Moltres:
I don't really understand what Misty is going for with that dub-only Charizard reference there. Is she trying to say that Moltres won't respect is Trainer enough to obey him, just like Charizard is doing now? And is that why Ash falls over the way he does? But that also, Moltres would win 100% of the gym matches it participated in up to that point? Is there something else going on here that I'm just not getting?
Officer Jenny stops the kid who just ran up to a torch bearer:
Officer Jenny: "Only approved competitors are allowed to carry that flame."
And then, a few lines later:
Officer Jenny: "Only competitors can carry the torch."
Ash: "But I am a competitor and I wasn't tryin' to cause any trouble. Please, all I wanna do is carry that torch."
Officer Jenny: "The rule is you have to be approved."
There's no such "rule" in the Japanese version; in both instances Junsa simply scolds Satoshi for getting in the torch bearer's way.
Ash meets Charles Goodshow:
Ash: "Is that Santa Claus?"
Goodshow: "Woah~ Ho ho, Santa Claus!"
You've met Santa Claus.
You've been to his house.
You almost died trying to return his boot to him.
He gave you presents and everything.
This wasn't even that long ago.
Originally Satoshi asks who this old geezer is (誰このじいさん？).
I mentioned earlier how Tamaranze's name is similar to that of Juan Antonio Samaranch (フ アン・アントニオ・サマランチ) but did you know there's another little bit of word play at work here?
Tamaranze's name also sounds very much like tamaranai (堪らない), or "this is unbearable," though there's also a more conversational version of the phrase that drops the final -ai to make tamaran. In the Japanese version of this episode, Mr. Tamaranze says the latter constantly which I'm pretty sure makes him one of the first characters in this franchise to have a set catchphrase.
This catchphrase isn't carried over in the dub (at one point he says "jolly good show" and I thought "Ah! This must be what they came up with!" but then he never says it ever again) and 4Kids instead comes up with new things for him to say every time his catchphrase appears in the episode.
Also, I wanted to point out that Tamaranze has a big red "T" on the front of his baseball cap which the English dub doesn't bother to paint over, funnily enough.
When the Rocket trio is running on fire (a sequence that I'm pleasantly surprised to see not get cut to ribbons in the dub) we hear Utsubot screaming over and over before Satoshi calls on his Zenigame to put the fire out. These high-pitched screams are removed from this scene in the dub.
Team Rocket tries to steal the fire away from Ash:
Meowth: "You're takin' this torch stuff way too serious, kid. Come on, lighten up."
In the Japanese version Nyarth says he's grateful for him helping put them out earlier but that a job's a job (さっきは助けてくれて感謝してるニャでも仕事は仕事ニャ).
During the running montage the second verse of the show's opening theme, Mezase Pokemon Master, plays in the background. The dub replaces this with Pokémon Theme.
The English text "Sekiei Pokemon League" gets removed from the bottom right of the banner:
Seems to me like it'd be a lot less work to just erase the word SEKIEI and leave everything else as-is but I've learned a long time ago that you can't apply logic to the decisions 4Kids makes.
Click on each image for a larger version.
Next up is a conversation between Ash and Gary. Most of it is completely rewritten:
I think the changes are easy enough to see when put side by side like this. The "Number Four Satoshi" line, many of you may remember, is the nickname Shigeru gave to Satoshi in the Japanese version since Satoshi was the fourth Trainer to leave Masara Town.
The above changes also make Ash's flashback a few minutes later kind of not make any sense. In the Japanese version he thinks about what Takeshi ("Maybe he's starting to feel the pressure") and Shigeru ("But actually it doesn't matter how much information you gather on your opponents because you don't have any chance of winning either way") said earlier that day. He then says, to himself, "I have to get some sleep...tomorrow's when the first matches start..." He's stressed out and worrying about the upcoming competition and he can't sleep because of it.
In the dub, however, he thinks about what Brock ("The excitement's really gettin' to him") and Gary ("If I stay here much longer, I might catch loser-itis and miss the competition. See ya. Ha ha ha") said earlier that day. And then he goes "No. They're both wrong. I'm gonna win that competition."
Which doesn't make any sense. Brock's neither wrong (the excitement is getting to you, kiddo) nor is he even implying that you're not going to win. And Gary? I mean, yeah, I guess it's wrong to say that he'll catch "loser-itis" from him because loser-itis isn't a real thing but also Gary's wrong about him missing the competition? ...What?
The English version is this weird jumble of random phrases that don't make any sense whatsoever. Even moreso than usual.
Satoshi steps outside:
Ash: "What if I'm not ready? What if I'm no good?"
Goodshow: "He's got spirit."
Ash: "I'll win...as long as I do the very best I can."
Here's Satoshi's monologue: "This is...this is where we're all going to battle. All I can do is fight the only way I know how" (ここが…ここがオレたちの戦いの場所なんだ。オレはオレの戦い方でやるっきゃないぜ).
The opening ceremonies begin:
Misty: "The central torch? Where is that?"
Goodshow: "At the top of those steps."
In the Japanese version Kasumi asks the old man who's creepily sitting in the stadium with two children where the pilot light is he was carrying around earlier (タマランゼさん種火は？). He responds by saying it's in the cauldron (聖火台じゃ).
I wonder if 4Kids changed the line because it directly contradicts this shot from a few seconds earlier which clearly shows Tamaranze nursing the light?
Team Rocket attacks:
The dub usually loves giving Team Rocket these fourth wall breaking lines so it's pretty shocking to see them do the exact opposite of that here.
Also, the "Moerunda" (モエルンダ―) in Kojirou's first line there is him telling us that the name of their grasshopper looking mecha. Throughout the rest of the episode Kojirou will constantly call out the name of the mecha ("Moerunda! Ready, go!" "I am Moerunda!!") or some ridiculous special attack ("Super jump!" "Super landing!") and Shinichirou Miki makes it very clear that Kojirou is having an absolute blast hopping around in this giant robot. It's such a fun little part of the episode.
The English dub, unfortunately, doesn't bother to carry any of this over.
Mr. Goodshow reacts to the flame being stolen:
Goodshow: "Uh! Without the flame of Moltres we can't start the competition. This is awful!"
Originally he's upset at the flame being stolen (ああわしが守ってきた聖火が…聖火が…) but doesn't mention anything about having it being absolutely necessary to start the Pokemon League competition.
Let's close out this comparison with the final narration:
Narrator: "Yes, but will Ash discover he's out of his league? Who knows? But he's gotta be in it...to win it."
Japanese narration: "The Pokemon League has finally started. What kind of battles are waiting for Satoshi?" (いよいよポケモンリーグが始まった。果たしてどんなバトルがサトシを待っているのか)
This page was last updated on December 4th, 2017
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