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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Orange Islands
Japanese Episode 089: "The Secret of Kabuto's Fossil"
American Episode 235: "Shell Shock!"
Pokémon Dare Da? Kabuto (Japanese), Ponyta (English)
Dr. Ookido's Pokémon Course: Paras
Japanese Air Date: March 25th, 1999
American Air Date: March 4th, 2000
Important People: Tadokoro (Umberto)
Important Places: Fukuhara Island No. 4 (N/A)
motorboat zipping past Satoshi and his friends draws their attention to
a nearby deserted island. They follow it and find that a TV crew is
there to document an expedition to find fossils of the prehistoric
Pokémon Kabuto! Our heroes convince the Joy who runs the
expedition to let them tag along. On their way to the site, the team
find themselves constantly having to stop to take care of an avalanche
of boulders that keep falling on their path. Pikachu spots a suspicious
old man hanging around after one such incident and so Satoshi follows
his Pokémon on its chase. Once they catch up to the old man,
Tadokoro, he confesses that he’s the one who caused the landslides!
Tadokoro wants to put a stop to their expedition because he’s afraid
that the digging the team will be doing will trigger a great disaster
spoken of in an old prophecy. The expedition continues anyway and
before long the team finds a cave whose walls are completely covered by
dozens of Kabuto fossils! The Rocket-Dan appears to steal the
Pokémon and, in doing so, causes a cave-in that causes the whole
island to shake violently. Everyone else runs to the forest, builds
themselves a raft, and evacuates the island just in time to watch it
sink into the ocean! As they marvel at the incredible event they just
witnessed they wish the Kabuto good luck as they begin their journey to
find a new island to call home.
Something I've always found interesting about kids' cartoons like Pocket Monsters is how they'll sometimes be rooted in some truly ghoulish concepts, some real nightmare scenario type shit that the show just never bothers to acknowledge in any way whatsoever. When you get down to it, Pokémon is a show about elementary school aged children roaming around the countryside, ripping wild animals away from their natural habitats and then forcing them to battle each in other in glorified cock fights. That is a lot for a kids' show and so the TV series, wisely, just sort of glosses over that part of the show's DNA. Shh, it's OK, don't think about it too much, just keep your mouth shut and watch the cute little yellow mouse thing do cute little mouse things.
Going one step further, single episodes of the series are also sometimes based on some truly ghastly premises that are then, likewise, glossed right on over. The topic of this comparison, "The Secret of Kabuto's Fossil," definitely falls under this category.
The first half of the episode features a middle aged man pushing boulders onto a group of explorers and the elementary school aged children walking around with them. He explains that he's doing all this to keep the team from carrying out their expedition, and pretty much everyone in the show seems to accept this as a perfectly reasonable justification for his actions. Despite the fact that said actions basically boil down to attempted murder. Sneaking around and stealing tools or breaking equipment would have also kept the expedition team from carrying out their research but nope, this old man decides that the best thing for him to do to save this random island is to cause an avalanche of boulders to rain down upon a group of unsuspecting scientists.
The second half of the
episode, meanwhile, features the Rocket trio wiping an entire island
off the map. Something that also, somehow, doesn't seem to bother
anyone in this episode even the tiniest bit.
Isn't that super weird? Oh and also, the Kabuto
are all homeless now because of the chain of events triggered by the
trio's bomb, but whatevs, I'm sure they can take care of themselves
Good luck out there, little
I really feel like if
was any other show
then someone would have been
like "What the hell's wrong with you!? You could've gotten somebody
killed!" and then
everyone would have stood around berating this old man / villainous
for going about their business in the most dickishly irresponsible way
nope, nobody seems to be all that upset by any of this! The way everyone just kind of rolls with
the punches as much as they do is something I just couldn't get out of
my head the entire time
was watching this episode, y'know?
As distracting as that
all was "The Secret of
Kabuto's Fossil" did
manage to at least have some
memorable characters-of-the-day. I loved
the TV reporter character and
I'm kind of bummed she's never been brought back because her presence
in this episode really helped liven things up. She (and her crew) were
useless in the grand scheme of things but her constant running
offered some great comic relief in what was otherwise a fairly serious
episode. Tadokoro is also fine, I guess, even though -- and I cannot
stress this enough -- he did try to murder
a group of children.
It was also interesting
to see what the show does with Kabuto,
who -- and no offense to any of you Kabuto stans out there -- is kind
of a nothing Pokémon. I mean, imagine
being a screenwriter for this show and being assigned to write the
Kabuto episode. The Pokémon hadn't had a starring role in
any other episode to date (it just kind of stood there in its debut
episode) and so all you have to go off of is the character design
its Pokémon Bestiary entry from the Pocket
Monsters Red & Green video games:
What do you even do with something like that? The
solution the show came up with is kind of hilarious,
actually. They have the Kabuto wake up after sleeping for more than
half the episode, eat (?) a TV camera, tickle
Kojirou, one of
them boops the Rocket
trio's hot air balloon to make it blast off, and then they all just
kind of swim
around for a bit before setting off for their new home. And I think
that's pretty much it...? We're now more
than 20 years removed from "The Secret of
Kabuto's Fossil" and this episode is still
biggest showcase yet because...well...what else are you going to do
Some characters do not
get renamed from the Japanese version to the English version, which is
generally very, very good. But then sometimes, the dub gets to an
episode that features the debut of said character and they come up with
some unique pronunciation that varies so
much from the Japanese original that it's almost as if
the character in question got a brand new name anyway.
English dub mispronouncing Kabuto as
Ka-BOO-toh, with the stress in the middle there, is not the
most extreme example of this phenomenon (I'd say that award goes to
Rayquaza and/or Arceus) but it's still something that absolutely stands
out to me.
Rhydon and Kabuto keep
their Japanese voices.
I imagine that, when you're in charge of putting out 52 episodes a year, every year, that there are a lot of late nights where you've just straight up had enough. You're sleep deprived, you've been writing scripts for hours and hours, and you've been dealing with one mini disaster after the other. And so yeah, why not take the rather pedestrian opening narration from the Japanese version and jazz it up a bit?
I can't say I necessarily like the change, but I can at least understand the sentiment behind it.
What is the name of the island in this episode?
The island is only ever referred to in-episode as mujin-tou (無人島), or simply "uninhabited island." This is a kid's show after all, and so it's very important that we all know that no one dies when the island sinks into the ocean at the end. The official guide book The Memorial Book of Orange Islands, likewise, only ever refers to it as an "uninhabited island" (無人島). The book also give us a neat little bit of trivia: the episode's screenwriter, Mr. Shinzo Fujita, reveals that his original plan for the episode was to give the island an actual name:
He eventually abandoned the idea and switched over to referring to the island in this episode as "uninhabited island"." The name "Yuzu Island," meanwhile, would end up getting dusted off and used for the island where Satoshi gets his third Orange League Gym Badge.
So that's the end of the story, right? Not quite; the Pocket Monsters Film Comic version of the episode -- that's where screenshots from the episode are arranged into comic book panels and then have word balloons and sound effects drawn over them to make the whole thing read like a comic book -- has a section in the back of the third Orange Islands volume that identifies this episode's mujin-tou by a brand new name, "Fukuhara Island No. 4" (フクハラ4号島).
The "Fukuhara" part probably comes from the Fukuhara Orange, a type of rare citrus fruit discovered in Japan in the early 1900s (thanks for the heads up, Abcboy!). The "Number 4" part of the island's name, however, is a mystery. It implies that there's at least a Fukuhara Island Number 1-3 out there somewhere but I don't know what else there is to say beyond that.
As far as I know the idea that this island is called "Fukuhara Island No. 4" is only ever presented in this one page from this one book from 1999. I haven't been able to find a single other source that repeats this same information
For the English version of the episode, meanwhile, 4Kids follows the lead of the Japanese version of the actual episode itself and also only ever bothers to refer to this island as an "uninhabited island."
The reporter, well, reports:
The "world television exclusive" part isn't in the Japanese version.
The reporter continues:
What's your favorite difference here? Is it the random sentence about Kabuto being extinct at the beginning of the dub version? The Japanese version's "a few days" vs. the English dub's "a week ago"? The English dub not mentioning anything about experts validating the fossil's authenticity? 4Kids continuing to insist that this incident is in the "international spotlight" despite there not being anything else in the episode to support that? 4Kids gives us so many to choose from it's hard to pick just one!
The Pokédex speaks:
No real world animal references for you, dub fans!
The Rocket trio spot the twerps:
As you can see, the Rocket trio in the original aren't really thinking about being on TV as a reason to go on the island. For them the chance to get Pikachu is all the motivation they need.
The expedition team sets off:
The Japanese version makes it clear that the expedition team is going into this job with a clear idea of where to go first while the English version is a bit more vague.
Our heroes start their trek:
These two lines of dialogue are completely different for seemingly no reason whatsoever!
The Rocket trio follow behind in a little throwaway scene:
This would be mostly OK in a "well 4Kids played things loose with the translation but the overall spirit is sorta-kinda the same" -type of way if it wasn't for that last line, where James just straight up insults his teammate out of nowhere.
Our heroes arrive at the bay:
The "northern shore" part is dub-only; the original doesn't make any mention of what side of the island this bay's located.
(Also, I'm no cartographer or anything but doesn't that look more like the south-eastern end to you?)
Joy commands her Pokémon to save their lives:
Something tells me about 90% of the reporter's dialogue in this episode is going to be a complete rewrite, huh?
Anyway, the dub gives the job of identifying the Horn Drill attack to Nurse Joy when it was actually the reporter who gives us this information in the original.
We won't see another
Ponyta show up in the TV series again until a Pokémon Master Quest episode
that debuts a little under three years from when "Shell Shock!" first
aired. I guess the dub really
wants to make this segment as challenging as they can make it, huh?
There sure is a lot to unpack here! The old man actually tells us his name in the Japanese version while English dub viewers never get actually get this information, either here or anywhere else in the actual episode itself. The only reason I can even say that his name is "Umberto" is because that's what he's called on this random Topps Trading Card from the year 2000.
Umberto (Italian) isn't
any less foreign a name than Tadokoro (Japanese) is but I've already
given my thoughts on
changes like this in the past so I won't bother to repeat them here.
The dub also omits the
part where Tadokoro reveals that he lives on the next island over, for
Also! Did you know that
in November 2020, the Associated Press updated
their style guide by advising not to use "derogatory terms,
such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of
a quotation that is essential to the story"? In other words, this
young reporter here would definitely have been reprimanded for her use
of the word
"deranged" if she had made this report 20 years later!
Umberto tells us about
I guess this is a case of 4Kids just warming up for the big prophecy rewrite they'll be doing for the second movie, huh?
The big change here is that 4Kids made sure to explicitly mention a watery disaster in their version while the prophecy in the Japanese version is much more ambiguous. Make a mental note of this because it'll come up again later in the episode.
The Kabuto fossils are found:
The Japanese language can be tricky because nouns don't have singular or plural forms by default and so a word like kaseki can mean either (one) fossil or (many) fossils depending on the context. I personally think it makes more sense for everyone to use the plural form fossils here since the archaeologist then proceeds to lead everyone to a cave where there are clearly dozens of the little guys hanging around but I suppose I could also see an argument for keeping the word singular.
Something a bit more clear cut, however, is that the dub's use of the word "another" ("We've just found another Kabuto fossil") is a clear rewrite. If you want to use "another" in Japanese the way the dub does here then you'd probably would have had a phrase like mata (また) or mou hitotsu no (もうひとつの) or hoka no (他の) or any number of other phrases not present in the Japanese original. "We've just found another fossil" implies that this team has found Kabuto fossils before but nothing else in the episode really supports that claim.
After another Kenji catchphrase cover-up (this time kansatsu sasete moraimasu becomes "Hmm...could this be a...") we get an appearance by the Rocket trio:
For those of you who maybe haven't had the Rocket trio's Japanese motto etched into your hearts since the late 1990s (*cough*), the first line of the Japanese version of the Rocket trio's motto is Nanda kanda to kikaretara, a phrase you'll usually see translated as "If you ask us about this or that." Well, you know how the trio sometimes makes their grand entrance after a big explosion, which in turn prompts some character of the day to exclaim something like "What's going on here!?" A lot of the time Musashi will respond by just saying the regular version of her part of the motto -- "If you ask us about this or that" -- but other times she'll decide to have a little bit of fun with it and actually mock the person (or Pokémon) who just screamed out.
In the case of this episode, for example, Musashi takes the reporter's "What in the world is going on heeeere?" and alters the first line of her motto to make it "If you ask us about this and that 'what in the world is going on heeeere?" Megumi Hayashibara even goes as far as mimic the delivery of the previous actor, as a treat.
I'm not 100% sure but I'm preeeeeetty sure this is the first time ever that Musashi ever does this. She'll go on to do this a countless number of times in the decades that follow, with a lot of Western fans really picking up on this habit at the end of Sun & Moon when Musashi mocks the Ultra Beast who comes to attack the Alola League competition.
The English dub does its own thing where they'll rewrite the first two lines of the motto but I'm not aware of them having Jessie mock the person who just shouted out the way Musashi does.
Team Rocket appears in the cave:
And people criticize the Rocket trio's dialogue in the TPCi dub for having too much rhymey alliteration!
Team Rocket makes their escape:
Let's be honest; you didn't need me to tell you that "our behavior is simply a-bomb-inable" was a 4Kids rewrite, did you?
The Rocket trio admire the view:
The moon is the trio's friend in the Japanese version but their sworn enemy in the English one, I guess...?
The great disaster starts:
Earlier I mentioned how 4Kids changed the prophecy and that in the original version, the "great disaster" that was foretold was shrouded in mystery. Maybe a fire? An earthquake? A plague, perhaps? Nobody knew what was going to happen, and so when the island starts to sink our heroes, understandably, start to freak out.
In the dubbed version, however, everyone already knows that the island was going to sink because its version of the prophecy was way more specific. They're all still surprised because let's face it, an island sinking into the sea is a shocking event regardless of whether or not you know about it in advance. But the Japanese version has all of that in addition to the surprise of everyone finding out just what the "great disaster" was in the first place, making this big reveal even more impactful.
So how do we get off the island?
Umberto's "The prophecy says..." part is a dub invention. But also, if this was a part of the prophecy all along then why wouldn't he have said so back when he was dramatically reciting it? Seems like the kind of thing you'd probably want to leave in, right?
Our heroes make a run for it:
Haha, it's funny because sexism!
As everyone else works their asses off to make a raft:
Part One: "Hey Kadabra, let me have your spoon."
Part Two: "OK we got its spoon, all we really had to do was just grab it from out of its hand."
For some reason the noises the Kabuto make as they swim off into the distance at the end of the episode are all muted from the dub.
The Pokémon's cries are left in pretty much every other scene in the episode so having them removed from this one scene, and this one scene only, is certainly odd.
The episode's ending narration:
If 4Kids is so tired of having to come up with lines for the narrator, as evident by the opening and ending narration of this episode here, then may I suggest something daring? How about -- and hear me out, now -- the original dialogue just gets translated, as-is, instead of rewritten from the ground up? Because that seems like it'd be a lot less work to me.
This page was last updated on June 6th, 2021
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