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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Orange Islands
"The Miserable Dirigible!?"
Satoshi and his friends are trying to figure out a way to get to Dr. Uchikido's laboratory on Daidai Island when they come across a lottery contest outside a convenience store. Satoshi unexpectedly ends up winning, earning him and his friends a free airship ride to Daidai Island! The zeppelin they get on ends up being an old derelict by the Rocket trio, whose lack of flying knowledge combined with the run-down status of the airship make for a bumpy ride. Kasumi's Togepy gets separated from the group during a bout of turbulence and so our heroes leave the passenger area to look for the baby Pokémon. Shenanigans ensue when Purin, who had snuck onboard earlier, is mistaken for a ghost by both Satoshi's group and the Rocket trio. Eventually our heroes cross path with the Rocket trio and launch into a Pokémon battle during which a hole is ripped into the side of the balloon. As air leaks out of the dirigible Kasumi finally spots her Pokémon and brings it back to safety. Now that Togepy is safe and sound Satoshi and his friends turn their attention on bringing the airship down safely. The children and their Pokémon all work together to bring the dirigible down for a safe, if not somewhat bumpy, crash landing. As luck would have it the airport they land on just happens to be on Daidai Island! Now that they've made it to their destination our heroes set their sights on Dr. Uchikido's laboratory.
And then! The
decides to have our heroes go to the Orange Islands not by ferry, which
is how you'd get from the real world Kanto Region to the archipelago
the Orange Islands are probably based
on; not by airplane, which would
make sense as a modern-day form of travel; but by...airship? As in
giant gas balloons that we here in the real world haven't used for
commercial flight since the 1930s? Sure, why not! Screenwriter
Junki Takegami recalls the amount of homework he did to write this
airship episode in the
Memorial Book of Orange Islands:
"The Miserable Dirigible!?" also stands out to me because it's an episode that is 100% about the human characters. There aren't really any Pokémon-of-the-day here, and the creatures who are here - Togepy, Purin - take a backseat to the overall drama of the human characters flying from one island to another. It's a great chance to take a break from the constant barrage of Pokémon! Pokémon! Pokémon! this show tends to be all about and instead allows us to spend some time with the human characters without whom this show would be nothing.
Purin, the Balloon Pokémon is going to become something
of a crutch for the writers in the Orange Islands, showing up to help
them wrap up stories they just can't be bothered to write endings for
otherwise. Its inclusion in this episode is...fine, I guess...? But
let's be honest, it's really only in this one so it can have a reason
to keep popping up in the next few months' worth of episodes. I do wish
hadn't used its song to send the Rocket trio plummeting to their death
over the Pacific Ocean, though.
As you can see, Satoshi doesn't assume they'll be able to walk to an island the way Ash does.
The sign outside the convenience store that says FUKUBIKI (Japanese for "lottery") in English letters gets painted out of existence. Three shots are edited altogether.
This edit is actually quite significant because it marks the last time 4Kids will use digital paint to erase Japanese text (well, a Japanese word) for the entire rest of the season. Their next digital paint edit won't be until a flashback scene to an older Kanto episode in "The Pokémon Water War" some 24 episodes from now! I wish I could say this large gap we're about to enjoy is because 4Kids lightened up on their "all Japanese writing must go" policy but that's unfortunately not the case; the truth is that Japanese writing just stopped showing up, even in the original version.
We don't really know for sure how this change came to be. Did the Japanese production staff come up with this idea on its own in an effort to appeal to Western fans? I mean, Kenji replacing Takeshi was a Japan change (more on that in the next comparison) so it's entirely possible. Or did the change get made at the request (demand?) of 4Kids, the company who spent God knows how much time and money to erase Japanese text from the show over the last season and a half? We know 4Kids had a tight relationship with the Japanese production staff - the extra scenes in the movie Pokémon 4Ever and the new animation for their Johto League Champions openings are clear signs of this - so it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility for them to be like "hey, could you guys do us a favor...?"
Whatever the catalyst was, from this moment onward, with very few exceptions, Japanese writing is no longer allowed in the Pocket Monsters animated series.
Let's think about that a moment. The animators of this show are more or less banned from including their native language on signs or books or any other place an animated show would normally think to put text. Towns can still have signs as long as they're all in English, a language that, by the way, the show's animators do not know. Buildings in the background will now say "HOTEL" or "SHOP" or whatever other simple words the animators can find in their Japanese-to-English dictionaries because Japanese writing is forbidden. Cameras are strategically placed behind signposts instead of over the characters' shoulders because Japanese writing is forbidden. Sound effects or other subtitles are no longer a part of the show because Japanese writing is forbidden.
Roman letters are still OK. Pictographs are OK. Made-up cypher languages are OK. Squiggles are OK (well, most of the time; sometimes the dub's art team mistakes those for Japanese writing and erase those too). But an actual language that can be read by the around 130 million Japanese speaking humans all over the world? Nope, get that shit out of here.
It'd be one thing if the show had been avoiding using Japanese writing from the get-go. If, from Season 01 Episode 01, the show was using "Tajirian" or whatever to show us that our heroes are on Not Earth™. But it didn't. For a full 80+ episodes - the most watched portion of the franchise, I should add - the show told us that this is Japan and that these characters can read and write Japanese. Going back on that now is just really fucking gross.
Gross as it is, the English dub simply won't have as many paint edits from here on out. So...and I mean this in the most sarcastic way possible...yay...? Oh, but don't worry; 4Kids will still find plenty of things for their digital artists to work on during the rest of their time with the show.
Our heroes find out about the above lottery:
The prize in the original version was an Awakening (ねむけざまし), as in the item from the games you can use to awaken a Pokémon that has fallen asleep.
A quick little side note about the term used for the giant gas balloon our heroes ride to the Orange Islands. In English we have a lot of different words for "airship" that us laymen tend to use interchangeably - blimp, airship, zeppelin, dirigible - but the truth is that each term is actually quite different from one another. Zeppelins are airships that have rigid steel frames to hold their shape even when deflated, blimps do not and instead rely on the pressurized gases they house to keep their shape, dirigibles are kind of in between the two, etc.
In Japanese, just like in English, these all tend to get lumped into a single term, hikousen (飛行船). Different terms for different types of airships do exist - "semi-rigid airship" (半硬式飛行船), "thermal airship" (熱飛行船), "zeppelin" (ツェッペリン), etc - but most laymen just lump everything under hikousen and call it a day. This episode of Pocket Monsters, likewise, consistently uses the term hikousen throughout.
The 4Kids dub mostly uses the word "blimp," which from a translation point of view is perfectly fine (most dictionaries list "blimp" as a possible translation for hikousen) but the airship we see has a steel frame in it so it would probably have been more correct to call it a zeppelin instead. Oh well!
Meowth returns a phone call to the Boss:
So what's happening in the Japanese version? Well, Nyarth is reciting the Boss' phone number out loud while using a bit of goroawase to obscure the second half. Japan doesn't have a special prefix reserved specifically for their TV / movies like we do in the U.S. and so whenever they do want to use a phone number in TV shows / movies they tend to only say a part of it to avoid accidentally giving out a real phone number.
So what's happening in the English version? Your guess is as good as mine. My guess is that 4Kids had no idea what the hell Nyarth was doing in the Japanese version so they just said "fuck it, let's just have him sing "On Top of Old Smokey" while his teammates look at him with serious expressions on their faces." *shrugs*
The Boss gives his orders:
A few things worth pointing out here; one, Sakaki makes it clear that the trio's transfer to the airship division is only temporary (一時転属) while the English dub doesn't give us this same information.
Two, we hear Sakaki refer to the organization not as the Rocket-Dan but as the Rocket Konzern (ロケットコンツェルン). We're not given a lot to go off of from his dialogue here but the general consensus among Japanese fans is that the Rocket Konzern, whose name comes from a German loan-word that translates to "conglomerate," is the name Sakaki uses for his organization's legitimate business dealings. So as far as the general public knows, the "Rocket Conglomerate" is the name of the company that runs Pocke Mon Land, the Tokiwa City Pokémon Gym (maybe?), and, well, this line of airships. The "Rocket-Dan", meanwhile, is the similarly named mafia group that goes around stealing Pokémon, cutting off Yadon tails, etc. Numerous fan sites also cite Sakaki as being the CEO of the Rocket Conglomerate, though I have no idea where that bit of information comes from.
This Rocket Conglomerate / Rocket-Dan split seems to be a bit of lore that only exists in this one episode of this one animated series but fans in Japan really seem to have latched onto this extra bit of world building. And, well, it is kind of neat! It's just too bad the show never actually does anything with it moving forward.
Giovanni talks to his cat about the blimp brigade:
The only thing that's even remotely similar about the two is the through line of the Boss insulting his employees. Everything else is completely different!
I also wonder if the "string of accidents" line there is the TV show making a subtle nod to a similar string of airship accidents that more or less brought an end to the commercial airship flight industry in the real world. Do you think the crash of the British R38 in 1921, the US airship Roma in 1922, the French Dixmude in 1923, the British R101 in 1930, the USS Akron in 1933, and the LZ 129 Hindenburg in 1937 occurred in the Pocket Monsters world? Or am I reading too much into that line?
The airport staff try to stop our heroes:
The big takeaway from this exchange is that 4Kids has Ash say that they won round-trip tickets when no such thing is even implied in the original.
The staff continues their warnings:
Lots of little changes here and there but the one I want to highlight here is the part where the airport staff refers the title of this episode "The Miserable Dirigible!?" The nickname they give the airship in the original is fukousen (フコウ船), which is just the word for airship, hikousen, with the hi swapped out with a fu. This changes the word to fukou-sen (不幸船), a made-up word that you could translate as "disaster ship" or something like that.
Given how much 4Kids loves hokey little puns like this I'm actually kind of surprised they didn't jump at the chance to call it a "badyear blimp" or something like that.
As our heroes board the blimp:
As you can see Meowth apparently thinks the Boss gives two shits about this trio of children in the English version. Not so in the Japanese version!
Our heroes sit down for their in-flight meal:
In Japanese if you say that someone has a cat's tongue (猫舌) then that means they're someone who doesn't like to eat hot foods. Maybe they let their ramen sit there and cool off a bit before taking their first bite, or they only ever order ice coffee...things like that. The joke here is that since Nyarth is the chef then he literally does have a cat's tongue.
We don't have that same saying in English so 4Kids added a real-world reference to an outdated term for Native Alaskans instead.
The Rocket trio realize the ship's gonna crash:
There are tons of little differences here, but the one that's the most baffling to me is how the dub has Jessie sing "Camptown Races" for absolutely no reason at all.
God bless the Japanese version and its eyecatches, amirite?
The eyecatch this time around is a daruma doll, the little red doll Kasumi momentarily mistakes for her Togepy. You can read more about the doll on the page I just linked to but, long story short, it's a trinket people have in their houses to motivate them to accomplish a task. The Pokémon Darumakka, which came out years and years after this episode first aired, is based on this same type of doll.
The English version just uses Vulpix for its eyecatch Pokémon, which is completely random and has nothing to do with anything. It's not nearly as fun, is it?
Team Rocket looks for our heroes:
To be honest neither one of these make any sense to me. Musashi's upset because Nyarth suggested something implausible while Jessie's upset because Meowth's apparently making fun of them for believing in ghosts? Both seem like an overreaction to me *shrugs*
Ash and his friends see a ghost:
Aside from the dub making Ash a bit more dickish than his Japanese counterpart the big thing about this dialogue is how Kasumi sets up the Rocket-Dan to say their motto by (inadvertently) saying Musashi's first line (the "this or that" part). The English dub could have easily adapted this decided not to for whatever reason.
Speaking of things 4Kids did for whatever reason, they replaced the Team Rocket motto music! They keep the little bit that plays during the above exchange but then replace it when it starts up again after they fall off the ladder.
The Team Rocket motto theme has been one of those pieces of music that 4Kids had always left alone so to see it get replaced here is very surprising. Just...why?
After our heroes stop the battle to rescue Togepi:
Does the Rocket duo's Japanese dialogue look familiar? "The "ro" in "Roketto-Dan" stands for "romanticism"" (ロケッ ト団のロの字はロマンのロ), a line that would become popular among Japanese fans of the trio for years to come as it gets repeated in a few more episodes before finally making its way into a Rocket-Dan Danka a full sixteen years later. In the context of this episode it seems to be a little chant they're making up to cheer themselves up after being ignored by Satoshi and the others.
Megumi Hayashibara, the voice actress who plays Musashi, indicates that this little song was actually something they just kind of did as an inside joke on a blog entry she posted around the time Rocket-Dan Danka came out:
I guess 4Kids didn't know what to do with this so they had them do a play on their blasting off motto instead.
Finally, our heroes crash land on Valencia Island:
The final change in the episode occurs with the airport announcer, who's changed from a woman in the Japanese version into a man in the English dub. This isn't the first time the dub's done this and it won't be the last, for some reason!
This page was last updated on September 5th, 2020
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