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Japanese Pikachu Short #1: "Pikachu's Summer Vacation"
American Pikachu Short #1: "Pikachu's Vacation"
Japanese Release Date: July 18th, 1998
American Release Date: November 10th, 1999
Important Places: Pokemon Square ("Pokémon")
Satoshi, Kasumi, and Takeshi leave all their pokemon behind at a place called Pokemon Square for the day. Once they leave, the pokemon have all kinds of adventures! Togepi begins to cry but is eventually lulled to sleep by Fushigidane's singing. Later, a group of four pokemon - a Bull, a Karakara, a Raichu, and a Marril - arrive on the scene. Their mere presence scares Togepi into crying again so Zenigame and Fushigidane start to pick a fight with them while Pikachu frantically tries to keep the peace. Zenigame and Marril eventually decide to have a swimming race at a nearby pool to settle things once and for all. Marril ends up winning the race causing the two groups of pokemon to start fighting all over again! During the ensuing argument sparks fly from Raichu's body and hit Pikachu, causing it to lose its temper and join in on the fighting. Pikachu and Raichu run through the square, cheek to cheek, knocking over everything in their path. Their rampage eventually causes Lizardon to join in and get its head stuck in a nearby pipe! The pokemon decide to stop all this foolishness and pull together - literally! - to get Lizardon free. Once the pokemon is safe everyone realizes that their fighting was ridiculous and decide to spend the rest of their time playing together. Satoshi and the others come back for their pokemon later that night and so Pikachu and the others bid farewell to the Raichu group.
There was a time, probably around the time your parents were kids, when movie theaters would do what is called a double feature. You'd go to a theater and buy a ticket that would gain you admittance to two feature films: one lower budget "B movie" and a second, more lavish "A movie." It was a way to get people out of the house and into movie theater seats following the Great Depression but was a practice that was all but extinct by the time the 1960s rolled around. Movie theaters learned they could make more money if they showed each movie separately and so the double feature more or less died.
In Japan, however, the double feature never really went away. It's not something you see all that often because a significant percentage of the movies released in Japan are Hollywood films (roughly 34% in 2012) but you do still see it a lot with kids' movies. The Dragon Ball Z movies from the 90s, for example, would often be paired with a Dr. Slump movie. One Piece movies are often paired with Digimon films. In the live action world, Kamen Rider films are released together with Super Sentai movies. And with Pocket Monsters, the main features are accompanied by Pikachu shorts.
It seems weird to me that we fans tend to call them "shorts" when they're exactly as long as a regular episode of the TV series. But I guess they are short, compared to the feature films they're attached to, and so that's where we get that nomenclature from? In any case I imagine part of why they decided to pair the main feature with a Pikachu "short" is because that was the norm for Japanese animated films in the 1990s but also because it helps make the comparatively darker Mewtwo Strikes Back easier to swallow? If Mewtwo Strikes Back is too scary for the little ones well at least they had fun during Pikachu's Summer Vacation, right?
As an episode goes, Pikachu's Summer Vacation is kind of...OK? This franchise will go on to produce better, more entertaining Pikachu shorts but I guess this one's fine for what it is, and that's honestly about all the enthusiasm I can work up for this thing. A lot of the professional film critics in the U.S. who wrote about this short talked about how it had a paper thin plot and while I'd argue with them when it comes to Mewtwo Strikes Back I find it really hard to disagree with them about Pikachu's Summer Vacation. Still, it's cute enough, I guess, and like I said earlier it's something to contrast the darker film that would follow.
4Kids' title for this short drops the word "summer" from its title, presumably because the English version didn't premiere in the U.S. until November. As far as the dubbing goes, you'd think that a slapsticky episode where there's almost no dialogue would be safe but this is 4Kids we're talking about so of course not. The dub of this special will always stick out to me as "that time 4Kids replaced Satou Aikou with a kids' computer toy" and while it's not as bad as their dub of Mewtwo Strikes Back it's still pretty hard to watch.
None of the new pokemon keep their Japanese voices but we do get a Snubbull doing a shitty Edward G. Robinson impersonation for no reason whatsoever so yay...?
With Pikachu's Vacation, it seems that
4Kids' goal was to make it seem as much like a Looney Tunes short as they
could. The wall-to-wall music that Mickey Mouses
happening on-screen makes that extremely obvious. One of the
problems with that approach is that while it works fine for this one
particular short it makes it that much harder for 4Kids to recycle
any of it in later on. Out of all the
music 4Kids composed for this thing I think there's only like two or
three pieces that we ever hear again? That fanfare that
plays before the water race begins and maybe one or two others?
also a few times when the animation is timed to the music used in the
Japanese version. The dub replaces 100% of the music, however,
and as a result its new stuff doesn't match up with the animation the
way the Tanaka Hirokazu's score does. I'm thinking mainly of the
shots of the pokemon in the
opening theme, the last part of the Coil transition scene, and the
the soundtrack to Mewtwo Strikes Back
was released in Japan on this nice two-disc CD set, exactly zero
percent of the music from Pikachu's
Summer Vacation ever got a release. It's a shame because
the music would go on to become just as important a part of the TV
series' overall soundtrack as the stuff composed for the animated
series would. Fingers crossed that we
get a CD
release in the future that fixes this horrible oversight.
each image to see a larger version.
There's also a part of the opening where
these images of the pokemon in the square pop up to the beat of the
song Natsuyasumi Fan Club.
Vacation doesn't have the same melody so the animation no longer goes with the song. So what does 4Kids do? They add camera shutter effects to the shots to make their sudden appearance make a little more sense. It does the job, I guess, but you know what else does the job? Dubbing the Japanese opening song.
Opening Credits Shenanigans
So the opening credits are something that I think most people don't pay any attention to but I think they should because they contain some interesting mistakes:
"Koichi Miyamoto" should be "Koichi Miyakawa."
"Motofumi Kanemura" should be "Fujiwara Tomofumi."
The art director is "Kudou Tadashi," not "Katsuyoshi Kanemura."
But this one's my favorite:
No, Takeshi Shudo did not write Pikachu's Summer Vacation. That honor goes to Sonoda Hideki.
(the reason the screenshots above are so different is because the writing credit was shown during the end credits of the Japanese version, not the opening)
I mean, I get it. Japanese names are hard. Figuring out how to write a Japanese person's name in English letters, especially during a time when Google was barely a thing, was next to impossible. At the same time, though? It's kind of hard to mess up some of these names as badly as 4Kids did.
A full-screen shot of the Pokemon Square sign gets painted over.
one (this one's at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen).
each image to see a larger version.
Japanese version this short was narrated by Satou Aiko. She's an
actress known primarily for appearing in TV dramas as well as showing
up as a commentator on Japanese variety shows. She also plays
Sweet in Mewtwo Strikes Back.
I guess they decided to have a celebrity come in and record the
narration instead of having ol' Ishizuka Unshou do it because a)
celebrity name recognition and b) she helps give the short a soothing
vibe that it would otherwise lack. Ms. Satou's narration is like
a kindly older sister
type commenting on the action on-screen and is something the regular
of the TV series can't pull off.
does the dub do? Replace the narrator with the Pokédex and
rewrite all the dialogue so it sounds like it's being spoken by an
unfeeling robot! I
wish I was making this up.
Did 4Kids think the computer would help make their Looney Tunes short seem
"cooler?" Did they not have any female voice actors willing to do
it? Did they think framing this short as an observation being
conducted by a machine most parents in the audience would have no
reason to know even existed in the first place would somehow make it
more accessible? Did they think little eight year old boys would
be turned away if they heard a girl
narrating a Pikachu short? That's it, isn't it? The sexist
reason is why.
don't ever appear in the movies which makes me think there's some kind
internal rule about not featuring the machines over at OLM. And
yet if I point that out then I also
have to add a little asterix to that saying that no, the English dub of
Pikachu's Summer Vacation
doesn't count, that was all nonsense made up by 4Kids, and ugh that's
as annoying for me to have to say as it is for you to read it.
But anyway, here
few examples of the way the two narrations are completely different:
See how completely different those two are? This is pretty much how the rest of the short goes.
Pretty interesting how the Japanese narrator is more consistent with her descriptions than the robotic Pokémon encyclopedia that's presumably following a pre-written program.
Well, except for the dozens of examples to the contrary, sure.
No, the Pokédex cannot translate pokemon language. That's just the dub making shit up again.
Gotta get at least one shocking pun in there, right?
"Friendly creatures and prefer cooperation to confrontation. Coming up next, Mewtwo Strikes Back, a movie where Pokémon savagely beat each other because another, smarter Pokémon tells them to do so!"
"Despite earlier uncertainties?" When? When did this happen? And based on what?
There are also a few points in the second half of the episode where there's narration in the Japanese version but nothing in the English version. I guess 4Kids' writers couldn't figure out a more Dexter-y way to say things like "Even though Lizardon's a bit of a loose cannon it's too sad to just leave it like this" or "Do your best everyone!" so they just didn't bother.
During the water race between Squirtle and Marril 4Kids adds an insert song called Catch Me If You Can by Angela Via. Like Vacation, it's a catchy enough tune that clashes quite horribly with the animation it's attached to. It also makes no sense in the context of a race if you think about it.
Originally an instrumental version of Natsuyasumi Fan Club is used as the background music.
When Nyasu's bomb goes off after Lizardon sits on the cat pokemon we hear Nyasu's muffled scream. Maddie Blaustein doesn't make a noise at the same part in the English version.
One more shot of the Pokemon Square sign.
Click on each image to see a larger version.
Cut - 2 minutes, 30 seconds
The ending theme to Pikachu's Summer Vacation, Pika Pika-massai-chu, is completely removed from the dub. The first part of the ending shows the results of a drawing contest held in celebration of the movie's release before then going into a bunch of still illustrations of various pokemon having fun.
4Kids cut all that out, though to be fair I can kind of see why. American audiences haven't had double features like this in a good 40 years or so and there was a very real chance that people would just straight up and leave the theater if ending credits started playing. Could you imagine the reaction? "I paid $7 for a 22 minute movie that didn't have Mewtwo or any of the other Pokémon in the trailers! What a rip-off!"
Actually, that sounds pretty hilarious.
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