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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. Later, 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 Lapras 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 Lapras, with the help of all of Santa's Rougela, defeat the Rocket-Dan and recover all the presents. Now that Christmas is saved, Lapras returns Satoshi and his friends back to where they came from.
So, let's talk about "Darky McBlackface Rougela's Christmas" today!
Before I get into all the behind the scenes stuff dealing with this episode - and there's a ton - let's talk about it based on its own merits. "Rougela's Christmas" is an episode about the Rocket-Dan trying to kidnap Santa Claus - who they think is a Rougela - because Musashi saw one steal her Bruce Lee doll when she was a kid. It also features Satoshi and his friends encountering a Rougela and then following both it and a randomly psychic Lapras to Santa's Island. It's an insane episode that we can only get from the Kanto era of this show, and I love it for that.
This episode is also kind of cute because it shows just how limited the pool of pokemon was back then. Santa has a Gallop, for example, because reindeer pokemon like Odoshishi didn't exist back then. I can't help but smile at that.
For all the crazy stuff this episode throws at us (what's up with that Lapras?), the only part of this episode that actually confuses me is when Musashi commands Kojirou's Matadogas in battle. What's up with that?
This episode is also famous for introducing Rougela to the TV series and, thus, to parents all over the world. The character would have probably gone by unnoticed for years if it had remained a static video game sprite, but once it made its silver screen debut there was no turning back. The general public was now aware of Rouglea's existence, and some of them did not like what they saw.
Thanks to the events that were set in motion by the airing of this episode in the US, Rougela got her skin changed from black to purple in every form of media in which the character appeared. So, there's that.
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 the 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!
Note 1 - Postponement and its status as a regular episode
No efforts were made to retcon this episode into the later part of Kanto (Satoshi still has his Hitokage and Kasumi still has her Starmie), so a number of continuity issues are present 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 this episode as a regular episode, instead treating it as a special. It should be noted that it doesn't recognize "Electric Soldier Porygon," "Iwaku as a Bivouac," "Fierce Fighting! Pokemon Girl's Day," or "It's Children's Day, Everyone Gather," either, so...eh. Some fansites don't count this particular episode as a regular series episode because of this, but I'm not going to do that because a) it was created to be a regular series episode, and b) because it actually aired.
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." The Pokémon Company International also counts this as a regular episode (Season 2, Episode 10) and not as a "special episode" the way Japan does.
So why air this in October, anyway? It seems like TV-Tokyo didn't want to air this episode in April because airing a Christmas episode in April is weird, but isn't airing a Christmas episode in October just as strange? I'm thinking they didn't wait until December because TV-Tokyo was going to be in the middle of airing the Pokemon League at the time (the episode that aired on December 24th, 1998 was "Ice Field! The Blazing Battle!") and didn't want to interrupt it for a filler episode about Christmas. It's also possible that October 5th, which was a Monday, was the only time TV-Tokyo had available to air two episodes together as an hour-long special. The people behind the TV series may have had no other choice.
Side Note 2 - The 2012 Re-edit
On December 23rd, 2012 - which, if the episode had aired on December 23rd, 1997 as originally intended, would have been the episode's fifteenth birthday - TV-Tokyo aired an edited version of the episode during the variety show Pokemon Smash!. In this newly edited 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:
Oddly enough, the
same episode aired on cable network Kids
Station the Wednesday before (December 19th, 2012), completely
unedited. The "before" shots in the above links were taken from
this Kids Station airing, for those of you wondering.
The forearm thing
is baffling to me. In the Sugimori artwork from the
original Red and Green games, Rougela is drawn with
white forearms, just like we see in the edited version of this
episode. But in the original version of "Rougela's Christmas,"
those same forearms were changed to red for some reason.
anyone have any idea why? While it's true the TV series made some
changes from the video games to the small screen, design-wise, most of
those were for the human characters. It makes sense to change
Takeshi's and Kasumi's designs because it would have been awkward to
have them walking around half naked in every episode, for
example. But what reason could they have had to change Rougela's design?
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). Nyasu 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. But sure, "be careful," whatever.
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. The dub, on the other hand, doesn't really acknowledge how rare it is to find a Jynx somewhere like on a beach.
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. In the English version, he'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.
Brock puts two and two together:
Brock: "Maybe this Jynx got separated from its Trainer and that Trainer is Santa Claus!"
I'm kind of weirded out by Brock referring to Santa Claus as a Pokémon Trainer here. I get that Takeshi states that Rougela is Santa's pokemon, and that 99% of the time it would be acceptable to adapt that as "__ is a Pokémon Trainer," but it still feels weird. I mean, it's Santa Claus, man. It just ain't right.
Next 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 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 some weird Japanese take on the story of Santa Claus, but from what I can tell this "Santa's Island" is actually a made-up place created just for this episode of Pocket Monsters to avoid using the real world location. They did this with Aopulco, which was a stand-in for Acapulco de Juárez, and they'll do this later with "Holywood" in the upcoming Nyasu episode.
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 the way Misty does.
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 exists, prompting Lapras to pop up and say that it does.
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. 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, Nyasu 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 every Japanese person watching this would get. Since we wouldn't get this (and since most Americans don't know 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. Nyasu 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 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 pokemon? Riiiiight...
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.
I'll post a video later to illustrate the difference between the two performances.
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.
Some airings of the Japanese version of this episode didn't feature the TO BE CONTINUED text in the final shot of the episode, most likely because of the episode's "extra episode" status.
The English version is based on a copy of the episode that does have this text intact, so this little oddity isn't present in any of the non-Japanese versions of the show.
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