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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Kanto Region
Japanese Extra Episode 01: "Rougela's Christmas"
When Musashi was a little girl, a Rougela dressed up like Santa Claus and took one of her dolls! Ten years later, Musashi plots her revenge against the Ice-Type pokemon. Meanwhile, Satoshi and his friends spot a Rougela on a beach with a boot. They discover that the boot belongs to Santa Claus and decide to help the Rougela return it to Santa's Island. Our heroes hop onto a raft and start swimming, but before long everyone becomes too exhausted to continue. Luckily, a Laplace appears to escort Satoshi and his friends the rest of the way to the island. After they arrive, the Rocket-Dan appears and kidnaps the Rougela! The trio then goes to Santa's workshop where Musashi realizes that the Rougela who came into her house wasn't the real Santa Claus after all! Nevertheless, the Rocket trio commands the Rougela to start loading the presents into their submarine. Santa discovers why Musashi's been holding a grudge and has his Rougela retrieve the doll from his shop. The Rougela reveals that it didn't really steal the doll, but had instead taken it back to the island to repair it after Musashi accidentally broke it. Musashi is happy to find out the truth but is still determined to take all the presents, so Laplace, with the help of all of Santa's Rougela, defeat the Rocket-Dan and recover all the presents. Now that Christmas is saved, Laplace returns Satoshi and his friends back to where they came from.
So before I get into all the crazy behind the scenes stuff going on with this episode (and there's a ton!) I want to first talk about it based on its own merits. "Rougela's Christmas" is an episode about how a Rougela who works for Santa Claus gets separated from its friends and then drifts onto on a beach where Satoshi and his friends just happen to be passing by. They drop everything they're doing to help and, with the help of a random talking Laplace, manage to nearly make it to Santa's Island until the Rocket-Dan show up and basically...finish Satoshi's and his friends' jobs for them?
That's the thing about "Rougela's Christmas"; you could essentially remove Satoshi and his friends from the episode and not really change much of anything. I mean what did Satoshi and his friends do, really? If they hadn't been around then the Rocket trio still would have found Rougela, they still would have taken it to Santa's Island, and still would have been defeated by Santa's army of Ice-Type pokemon. Literally nothing would have turned out any differently. But I guess you can't not have Satoshi Pikachu star in an episode of this series and so our heroes got shoehorned into a story they really had no business being in.
I wish screenplay writer Hideki Sonada had found a better use for Satoshi and his friends than "people who sit around and watch everyone else do cool shit" but, at the same time, it's a Kanto-era Rocket trio episode so whatever. I think it's pretty well established these days that Musashi is an unreliable narrator when it comes to her talking about her past but it actually does seem like the story she tells about a racist black stereotype breaking into her home and stealing her toy (!) actually did happen! It's a super dumb premise for a flashback episode but this is the Rocket trio we're talking about so it's actually kind of perfect.
The English dub decided to add this extra layer of cheese to the script to make everything feel that much more like your standard American Christmas special. Singing "Santa Claus is coming with us?" to the tune of Santa Claus is coming to Town? Ash telling Santa that Team Rocket's on his "naughty list?" Having Meowth talk about "sugar plums dancin' in your head?" OK, 4Kids, we get it. The company also replaced the overwhelming majority of the score with some music that sounds like it was composed just for this episode because apparently presenting this as just another episode of the TV series just wasn't going to cut it. I'll admit that Ted Lewis plays a pretty good Santa Claus, but other than that this dub is a pretty good example of the shit dubbing we had to endure in the late 1990s. Merry Christmas everyone!
Side Note 1 - Let's talk about the racist elephant in the room
This episode is famous for introducing the wider viewing public to Rougela, a character who will go on to cause quite a number of headaches for the show's creators on both side of the ocean over the next few decades.
Let's be real here; Rougela is super problematic. And I absolutely 100% get why people found the old design offensive. I don't think there's intentional racism at work or anything like that (I think Rougela is just the result of a series of unfortunate design choices coupled with a general ignorance on how Westerners would react) but I absolutely do see why someone would feel uncomfortable letting their kids watch Pokémon if it contains imagery like this.
Now fans, being the diverse group that they are, have mixed opinions about her to this day. And whenever the topic comes up, you see the same old talking points show up again and again. "Jynx is based on (some fan theory that nobody can prove) so therefore it's not racist!" "But black people aren't really black!" "Well if Jynx is racist against black people then Mr. Mime is racist against white people." Etc. etc. There are a lot of fans who refuse to even entertain the idea that Jynx could be considered offensive to anyone and will do everything in their power to de-legitimize those who have real grievances with her original design. The general idea seems to be that if *I'm* not offended then nobody else should be, right?
Luckily, Nintendo and OLM listen to fans' complains and so they've been slowly, over the last decade or so, been retconning Rougela from black to purple. One part of this is editing the original version of this episode. On December 23rd, 2012, TV-Tokyo aired an edited version of the episode during the variety show Pokemon Smash!. In this new version, Rougela's face and hands were recolored purple while her forearms were recolored white, all to match her more recent design.
I've taken before and after screenshots of all the scenes that were edited in this episode...all 90 of them. The screenshots can be seen by following these links:
In Japan, the
streaming services Netflix and Amazon Video feature this purple version
of the episode. Hulu, on the other hand, still airs the original black
version whenever the episode enters rotation.
Oddly enough, it
doesn't seem like this new, almost certainly edited-for-foreigners
version of the episode has ever made it outside Japan. Bringing it over
would be simple - just take the old dub soundtrack and slap it over the
new footage - but maybe TPCI never got it? Or maybe they received the
episode, decided it wasn't worth the extra work, and moved on? It's
hard to tell.
Note 2 - Postponement and its status as a special episode
No efforts were made to retcon this episode into the later part of Kanto (Satoshi still has his Hitokage, Kasumi still has her Starmie and Tattu but also doesn't have her Togepi yet), so a number of continuity issues pop up as a result.
Additionally, the episode was labeled as bangaihen (番 外編), or "extra episode," on its title screen, indicating that the people behind the show no longer consider this as a regular episode of the TV series. The official Japanese Pokemon website doesn't recognize "Rougela's Christmas" as a regular episode, instead treating it as a special. It should be noted that it doesn't recognize "Cyber Soldier Porygon," "Iwark the Bivouac," "Fierce Fighting! Pokemon Girl's Day," or "It's Children's Day! Everyone Gather Around!," either, so...eh.
As far as the English dub is concerned, 4Kids emulated what was done in Japan and placed it right after "It's Mr. Mimie Time" and, at the time, counted it as a regular episode of the TV series instead of as a special the way Japan did. However, thanks to the aforementioned controversy caused by Jynx, the episode was essentially de-existed by The Pokémon Company International sometime around 2014. Every mention of this episode, as well as the other two episodes featuring Jynx from the season ("Stage Fight!" and "The Mandarin Island Miss Match"), were scrubbed from all official sites and re-releases of the Kanto and Orange Islands episodes skip them altogether. Officially, "Holiday Hi-Jynx" does not exist.
And now, on to the actual episode comparison!
Satoshi reads the
episode's title like he does in every other episode, but the dub has
Jessie read it instead.
James: "I feel
just like a guinea pig in a gunny sack."
"So, what could
we have James say to indicate that he hates being used as a guinea
pig? Hey, I know! Kids still play with gunny
sacks, don't they? Let's work
that in there somehow!"
Kojirou questions the need to go this far for a simple trial run.
After the flashback:
James: "That's funny. Santa never stole any of my toys."
Meowth: "Sounds screwy to me. Maybe it was a sugar plum dancin' in your head."
Originally, Kojirou responds to Musashi's story by saying that that's why she has a grudge against Santa Claus (それでサンタを恨んでるわけかー). Nyarth then adds that this is the first time he's ever heard of Santa being a Rougela (でも、サンタがルージュラだったなんて初めて聞いたニャ). As you can see, the dub rewrote both of those lines.
After Pikachu Thundershocks Jynx:
Brock: "Be careful!"
Takeshi says that the attack's not working in the Japanese version, probably referencing the fact that Rougela is the only Ice-Type pokemon (at the time) to not be weak against Electric-Type attacks. Of course that's way too much to fit into the mouth flaps they were given so 4Kids changed it to a simple "be careful!" instead.
After noticing Jynx's boot:
Misty: "Look at that boot it's holding. Maybe it belongs to its Trainer."
Ash: "Maybe...but then what's it doing here all alone?"
Misty: "It is kind of weird for a Trainer to leave a Pokémon all by itself like that."
In the Japanese version, Kasumi states that it's rare for a Rougela to be found in the area since, y'know, they're on a beach and all. The dub decides to make Misty assume it's not a wild Pokémon instead and that its Trainer is simply somewhere else.
The way Kasumi and the others find out that the boot Rougela has in its hands is different depending on which version you watch.
In the Japanese version, Santa wrote Santa Kuroosu (サンタクロース), or "Santa Claus," on the inside of his boot the way a kindergartner's parent would. In the English version, Santa's attached a photo of himself instead.
Accordingly, the dialogue is altered; Kasumi states that Santa's name is written inside the boot while Misty says that he's stuck his picture in it.
Next up is one of the bigger dialogue edits of the episode:
Misty: "You drifted away from the North Pole while you were shining Santa's boot."
Brock: "How's Santa going to deliver presents without this Jynx at his right hand and this boot on his left foot."
Ash: "Don't worry Jynx, we're gonna take you and the boot back to Santa Claus at the North Pole."
So one of the lies 4Kids tells us in this episode is that the second half of it takes place at the North Pole (or "Santa's Workshop"). It makes sense - that's where Santa lives, right? - but it also means that Ash and his friends went from the Kanto region of Japan to the northernmost point on the planet and back again, all in the space of a single episode. This is not what actually happens.
In the Japanese version, Santa lives on Santa no Shima (サンタの島) or "Santa's Island." I had assumed this was just some weird Japanese take on the story of Santa Claus, but from what I can tell this "Santa's Island" is actually just a made-up place created just for this episode of Pocket Monsters. They did this with Aopulco, which was a stand-in for Acapulco de Juárez, and they'll do this later with "Binnes" and "Holywood."
Kasumi's line there is also a rewrite. Originally, she guesses that Rougela wants to return the boot back to Santa instead of summarizing what Jynx just showed them.
Brock's line is pretty clever, though.
Team Rocket spies on the twerps from the top of a cliff:
Jessie: "It's the twerps again. And it looks like Santa Claus is conning them too."
James: "It's so close to Christmas they must be on their way to Santa's Workshop."
Kojirou doesn't say anything about it being "close to Christmas" in the Japanese version. I also don't get the cause-and-effect relationship he draws here; what does it being close to Christmas have to do with them going to Santa's workshop? Would he assume that they wouldn't be going there if it was, say, the middle of July?
On the way to Santa's Island the North Pole:
Lapras: "You're heading in the right direction."
Originally, Satoshi begins to doubt if Santa's Island even exists in the first place, prompting Laplace to pop up and say that it does.
This week's "Who's That Pokémon?" is...
...something totally different depending on which version of the episode you're watching!
As Lapras ferries everyone to "Santa's Workshop":
Lapras: "It will start getting colder soon."
Ash: "I'm pretty tough, Lapras. A little cold's not gonna bother me!"
The Japanese version pretty much says the same thing, but it does so using a Japanese idiom that would have sounded ridiculous if 4Kids had translated it directly. Satoshi's line in the original is kodomo ha kaze no ko (子供は風の子), or "kids are children of the wind." It's an expression that means that kids are used to the cold because they spend so much time playing outside, but it's something that only Japanese people would get so 4Kids understandably decided not to translate this as-is.
Speaking of Japan-only things:
This happens during the Team Rocket motto:
Meowth: "Ha. Now's a good time to go undercover. Ha."
So in the Japanese version, Nyarth says Ne~ko wa kotatsu de maruku naru~ Nya! (ネーコはコタツで丸くなる～ニャ！), or "A cat curls up under a kotatsu." It's from an old nursery rhyme called Yuki (雪), or "Snow," and it's one of those things that a Japanese audience would get. Since we wouldn't get this (and since most Westerners have no idea what the hell a kotatsu is), 4Kids changed it to what I think is a pretty clever pun.
When the Rocket-Dan grab Rougela, they say itadakima~su (いただきま～す), which in this context would mean "we'll be taking this now." The duo doesn't say anything in the English dub.
Jessie: "We've got a little surprise for you Santa."
James: "You're going to be tied up this Christmas."
Meowth: "That's knot too bad."
Here, Kojirou announces that the Santa Guru-Guru Maki is now ready. Guru-Guru Maki is a type of sushi that's made by rolling the rice and seaweed around until you get a spiral pattern, with the joke here being that they're wrapping Santa up just like a sushi roll. Nyarth follows along with Kojirou by saying "One serving, coming up!"
Jessie begins to explain why she hates Christmas:
Santa: "Jessie, what do you mean 'the presents that you never got'?"
Santa never addresses Musashi by name in the Japanese version. The same is true for Satoshi; the dub has Santa call Ash by his name later in the episode but the Japanese version just has him refer to everyone as "children" instead.
Jynx retrieves Jessie's doll:
Jessie: "I can't believe it. That's...my dolly."
The name of the doll is the Japanese version is Acha Ningyou (アチャ人形), or "A-cha Doll." It seems to be a parody of Bruce Lee, both based on the way it looks and the fact that "Acha~!" is the Japanese way of saying Bruce Lee's famous battle cry. 4Kids, of course, doesn't pick up on this.
Next up is some of that cheese I talked about the dub adding in the Thoughts section of this page:
Santa: "My Jynx was bringing you your presents that Christmas, saw your favorite doll was broken, and brought it back to me so I could fix it. I repaired it in my sleigh and we tried to go back, but you didn't believe in me anymore, and I'm powerless to go where hearts are closed."
So Santa didn't return Jessie's dolly to her because she didn't believe in him anymore, even though the entire premise of this episode is that Jessie not only believes in Santa Claus, but is also under the impression that he's actually a Pokémon.
Originally, Santa Claus says that when they returned to bring back the doll they found out that Musashi had already moved away. He also doesn't say anything about fixing the doll in his sleigh - the dialogue in the Japanese version leads us to believe that he waited until he got back to his island to fix it up.
There are many theories about what exactly Rougela is based on. The way the pokemon's depicted as Santa's helper in this episode leads some to believe that it's based on Zwarte Piet (who itself has come under fire for being a racist stereotype), but others point to its clothing and its resemblance to a fat lady, as well as the way it's shown singing / dancing in video games like Pokemon Snap and the third generation games, as proof that she's based on an opera singer. This opera singer theory is helped out by the Psywave scene in the Japanese version of this episode.
When Santa's Rougela gather together and use Psywave to send the Rocket trio blasting off, the song they sing sounds very much like what you'd expect a group of opera singers to sound like. The voices are so strong, in fact, that the Japanese music editors decided not to play any music and just let their voices carry the moment.
You don't really get that same feel from the dub performance.
As Santa's taking off:
Santa: "No reindeer" (pulls on Rapidash's reins)
Santa Claus tells Satoshi and his friends to "be careful" on their way home. He doesn't make a reference to real world animals the way he does in the dub.
Ash: "Ah! I forgot!"
Misty: "Forgot what?"
Ash: "I forgot to tell Santa Claus what I want for Christmas!"
Lapras: "Oh, Santa knows."
Here, Satoshi says that he forgot to get his presents from Santa, presumably because he already knows that Santa knows what he wants. The dub, on the other hand, makes it seem like Ash hadn't gotten around to writing out his Christmas list yet.
As I mentioned earlier, this episode ended up airing about nine months later than originally planned. One of the side effects of waiting so long to air this one is that the post-credits segment that the show had adopted the previous month - Dr. Orchid's Pokemon Course (オーキド博士のポケモン講座) - didn't exist when this particular episode was made. And so a new one had to be thrown together at the last minute.
Making up a brand new segment would have required an enormous amount of time and effort and so a music video for a shortened version of the ending theme to Mewtwo Strikes Back, Kaze to Issho ni, was shown in its place. The movie had already come and gone by that point but I guess they figured that airing this was better than nothing. The video consists of clips from the movie itself and includes a non-Kanzenban shot of a windmill, for what that's worth.
Unfortunately, this music video has never been released on any of the Mewtwo Strikes Back DVDs and Blu-rays and will likely never see the light of day apart from this episode.
This page was last updated on September 16th, 2017
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