Japanese Opening Theme
"Mezase Pokemon Master"






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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Openings Themes

Mezase Pokemon Master
Opening Stats:

Japanese Opening Theme 01:  "Mezase Pokemon Master
"
American Equivalent(s):  "Pokémon Theme"
Used in Japanese Episodes:  001-080
Used in American Episodes: 
101-227
Japanese Theme Running Time:  One minute and twenty-nine seconds
American Theme Running Time:  One minute

After the opening line of the song ("Pokemon, getto da ze!"), the show's logo appears.  Next, we Pikachu running toward the screen, ducking under the legs of the evolved forms of the three Kanto starters before going under Satoshi's legs and the legs of a Lass.  The next few shots show various pokemon against a black background as their Japanese names are displayed in English letters.  Next, Satoshi turns his hat around and throws a Monster Ball toward the camera.  After that, we see Satoshi and Pikachu riding on a Lapras in what appears to be the ocean while a Gyarados and a Hakuryuu leap out of the water.  For the next part of the song, we see Satoshi and Pikachu standing outside in what we assume is Masara Town.  The following shot shows Satoshi throwing a Monster Ball and releasing a Pigeot who quickly engages in a battle against Onidrill.  We then cut to a shot of Satoshi, Takeshi, and Kasumi that quickly segues into a shot of Musashi, Kojirou, Nyasu, Dogasu, and Arbo.  After a shot of Shigeru, we see our heroes running through the rain as members of the Nyoromo family sit in the foreground.  During Orchid-Hakase's "sore wa sou ja," we see a shot of the supporting characters - Orchid-Hakase, Hanako, Joi, and Junsa - nodding their head in agreement.  Next, we see a shot of Satoshi and Pikachu running in a field alongside a Gallop and a Windie.  As the camera pans up, we also see Kanto's three legendary birds before breaking out into outer space and seeing Myuutwo and a barely visible Myuu.  The final shots of the opening show Satoshi standing alone in an empty stadium, triumphantly holding up his Monster Ball as if he's ready to battle.


Thoughts
The first opening theme to any long-running series is bound to be the one that fans remember the most.  For a lot of people, that song is their first impression of the series and sticks with them throughout the rest of their fandom.  Later theme songs will come and go, but the iconic status of being the "first" in the series is one that can never be taken away.

In Japan, the first opening theme to Pocket Monsters is one that has definitely stood the test of time.  Even today, more than a decade later, people can listen to the song and instantly be brought back to the moment when they first laid eyes on the Japanese version, with its different music and voice acting and whatnot.  While the song may seem a little dated by today's standards - the synthesizers used have that distinct "low budget 1990's anime" sound to them - the melody and the lyrics still manage to come together to produce an energetic opening that also manages to be catchy as hell.  It's one of those songs that gets remixed every so often and will creep into otherwise unrelated songs, but nobody really seems to get annoyed by that because the song is so damn good.

The English version has a lot of the same things going for it even though the approach on the Western side of things is a lot different than it was in Japan.  It's a bit slower, is sung by a male instead of a female, and features a bit more "modern" (for lack of a better word) instrumentalization.  The lyrics, which I'll get into below, also have their own thing going for them.  While I personally don't care for the song (Mezase Pokemon Master will always be the series' theme song to me), I can't deny that Pokémon Theme has a special place in the hearts of a LOT of the show's fans.

Side Note

The big question, of course, is "Why would the dub change the theme song in the first place?  Why not just record an English version of the Japanese theme - like every other anime dub - and be done with it?"  Unfortunately, that's not always the way things work.  While there's the time issue  - the Japanese opening is about thirty seconds too long - that could have been easily taken care of by either dubbing a shortened version of the song or cutting out the "Pokémon Rap" segment at the end. 

No, I think the real reason is that the executives at 4Kids just thought that Pokémon Theme was a better song.  End of story.  Yes, that seems like a bullshit answer and the fans who love 4Kids' work will try to deny that any executive could let personal biases make their decisions for them.  But at the end of the day, I think it just all boils down to someone at 4Kids thinking that Mezase Pokemon Master is not good enough to be the show's theme song for whatever reason.  Maybe it didn't do well with test audiences or something.  Who knows?

It's a practice that will, unfortunately, continue throughout the franchise's life.

Lyrics
The American theme song is, in no way, attempting to be a translation of the Japanese theme song.  It's just its own song doing its own thing.  So instead of doing a line-by-line comparison between it and a song it's not even trying to emulate, I think it'll be more useful to look at each song individually and go from there.

The lyrics on the left are my translation of Mezase Pokemon Master.  The original Japanese lyrics can be found here.  The lyrics to the English theme song are on the right.

"Mezase Pokemon Master"
"Pokémon Theme"
Gotta Catch a Pokemon!

Whether they're in a fire or in the water or in the grass or in a forest
Or in earth or in the clouds or in that girl's skirt ("Eek!")
Even though it's going to be really really really really difficult,
I will definitely catch 'em.
Gotta Catch a Pokemon!

To Masara Town I say "sayonara, bye-bye."
As I leave on a journey with that one over there ("Pikachu~!").
Whether I win or lose with the techniques I've worked on,
I'll go on to the next town adding friends along the way ("I'm looking forward to it!")

At all times and at any time, we'll always get along just fine
Even though there's no guarantee of that sort of thing ("Y'know that's right!")
At any time and at all times the pokemon are the ones
Who are living life to its fullest.

Ah, I wish I could be a Pokemon Master
I want to be one, no, I have to be one
I'll definitely be one someday~!
I wanna be the very best
Like no one ever was
To catch them is my real test
To train them is my cause

I will travel across the land

Searching far and wide
Each pok
émon to understand
The power that's inside

Pokémon! (Gotta Catch 'Em All)
It's you and me
I know it's my destiny!
Ooh, you're my best friend
In a world we must defend

Pokémon!  (Gotta Catch 'Em All!)
A heart so true
Our courage will pull us through!
You teach me and I'll teach you
Pok
émon~
Gotta Catch 'Em All!
Gotta Catch 'Em All - Pok
émon!


To me, the biggest difference here is that the Japanese song is obviously being sung by Satoshi and, as such, is more about him.  We hear about what he wants to do, his vaguely established goals, and how he will definitely succeed.  We hear some sound clips of the characters he interacts with (Pikachu, Orchid-Hakase) and hear some very character-specific vocabulary ("Masara Town") sprinkled throughout.  The show is about his adventures, so it makes sense to have the show's first song be all about him.

The English version, on the other hand, isn't sung by any particular character and instead allows the listener to place him or herself as the subject of the song.  It also spends most of its time trumpeting the show's titular creatures, something the Japanese song doesn't really bother to do at all.  Like I said earlier, it's a completely different approach..

Also, notice that at no point does the Japanese version say the name of the show (Pocket Monsters).  The English version, on the other hand, pretty much chants the title non-stop toward the end there. 

Cut Scenes
The opening theme to the American version clocks in at about sixty seconds, a good half a minute shorter than Mezase Pokemon Master.  So, some things had to be removed to make everything fit.

Below are screenshots of the images that were not shown, in any way, shape, or form, in the English dub. 



The seven elemental types of the TCG at the time. The show's Japanese logo.


Shots of various pokemon with their Japanese names written out beside them. More pokemon.


A shot of Satoshi standing over what is assumed to be Masara Town. A close-up of Satoshi.


The "that one" referred to by the lyrics. Walking through the fields.


A shot of Satoshi throwing a Monster Ball.  This shot from the opening would later be recycled for the TV series. A shot of Onidrill vs. Pigeot.  This mirrors the battle between the two pokemon that would happen after the Pokemon League.


The gang running through the rain. A serene campfire scene.


All three birds make it to the opening theme in Japan, but only two of them are in the dubbed opening. Satoshi holding up a Monster Ball.


And now, from another angle.
Big group shot.

There are a few interesting things going on here. 

For one thing, the opening and closing shots feature the symbols for the (then) seven TCG types, creating the first (and one of the only) link to the card game in the TV series.

The shots of the pokemon with their names beside them that I have up here are actually from the second version of the opening theme.  In the first version, each card took up the entire screen and flashed onto the screen in rapid succession.  After the incident with the "Electric Soldier Porigon," however, the cards were shrunken down to about a fourth of their size so that the transition from card to card wouldn't cause the entire screen to flash the way it had before.

The shots of the gang running through the rain and the shot of them outside with a campfire are the type of nature-y, "boring" shots that always gets removed from the English openings. 

In the Japanese version of the opening, everything from the part with Satoshi running with Windie to the three legendary birds to the shot of Myuutwo and Myuu in space is all part of one continuous shot.  The dub, however, splices this in two, moving the second part (with Myuutwo and Myuu) to the very beginning of their opening and then placing about thirteen seconds of episode clips between it and the first part.  As a result, the shot of Fire, which originally served as a transition from the first part to the second, was cut.

In all, roughly 56 seconds worth of Mezase Pokemon Master footage was left unused.

Added Scenes
There is a lot of footage from Mezase Pokemon Master that doesn't get used in Pokémon Theme.  Yet instead of simply removing the thirty seconds or so required to make the American theme fit within the sixty-second limit that seems to have been placed on 4Kids, the dubbers decided to remove almost twice that and then go back and fill in the remaining half a minute with clips from various episodes.

This is a practice that, unfortunately, becomes the norm.  I don't know why 4Kids thought it was a good idea to mix the higher quality, brand new opening animation with the noticeably lower quality episode stuff, but it's something that both they and their successors will do for every single opening.
The opening also includes some sound effects (Onix's roar, the sound of Tentacruel hitting the building, etc.) that were never a part of the Japanese opening.

Final Thoughts
Anyone who's seen the TV series can probably sing at least one of these songs from memory, so I don't really think I have to say too much more about this opening.  Everyone has a preference, and no amount of me gushing about the Japanese opening or hating on the English opening will change anyone's opinion.  So I'll just end this by hoping that anyone who hasn't seen either one of these gives them a chance.



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