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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Orange Islands
Japanese Episode 090: "Dance! Pokémon Showboat!"
American Episode 236: "Stage Fight!"
Pokemon Dare Da? Raichu (Japanese), Golduck (English)
Dr. Ookido's Pokémon Course: Butterfree
Japanese Air Date: April 1st, 1999
American Air Date: February 12th, 2000
Important People: John / Jean (Roger), Kei (Kay), Kouji (Len), Anne (Anne)
Come one, come
all to the Pokémon Showboat, a traveling theater troupe that has
a group of Pokémon act out stage plays while a group of human
actors provide their voices from backstage! Satoshi and his friends
decide to hitch a ride on one of these boats to their next destination.
They’re hanging around the deck when they learn of Kei, a young actress
in the troupe whose Raichu appears to be too jittery to do what its
Trainer wants. The troupe leader sees how close Satoshi is to his
Pikachu and asks him if he can help give her some pointers. Eventually,
our heroes learn that Kei’s Raichu isn’t scared of its Trainer; it’s
the Trainer who’s afraid of the Pokémon! But how can Kei get
over her fears? Suddenly, the Rocket trio attack the boat and threaten
to blow it up if all the Pokémon onboard aren’t handed over
immediately. The theater troupe quickly gives in. The Rocket trio is
admiring their new Pokémon when Kei and the others appear from
backstage and convince their Pokémon to fight back. A battle
breaks out during which both Kei and Raichu are able to get over their
nerves and work together to defeat the trio of intruders. Later, Kei
and Raichu’s relationship has gotten so good that the two of them are
able to perform in the troupe’s very next performance! The
Pokémon Showboat continues its tour as our heroes look forward
to their next adventure in the Orange Islands.
Every now and then we'll get an episode of Pocket Monsters in which the characters-of-the day move the story along, all by themselves, while Satoshi and his friends just sort of stand in the background and watch. The Orange Islands episode "Dance! Pokémon Showboat!" is a fantastic example of this. It's a story about a group of actors working on a showboat who are in a bit of a pickle because one of its star Pokémon, a Raichu, has a terrible case of stage fright. Before they can help it get over these issues, however, the boat is attacked by the Rocket-Dan! The actors fight back using the wide variety of fighting fit Pokémon they happen to have on hand, all while the Raichu with stage fright has a heart-to-heart with its Trainer. The would-be thieves are sent packing and everyone, more or less, lives happily ever after.
Oh, and Satoshi and his friends are there, too!
If you think about it, what would have changed if Satoshi, Kasumi, and Kenji weren't onboard that particular day? The Rocket trio would still have attacked the showboat (their goal was to steal the theater troupe's Pokémon, not Satoshi's Pikachu), the actors would have still stood up for themselves and fought off the bad guys, the conflict introduced by the thieves would have still forced Kei to get over her fear of her Raichu, and the Rocket trio would have still been sent blasting off. Satoshi and Kenji join the fight a little bit, sure, but their role is pretty negligible when all is said and done.
And that's fine, I guess. It's nice to get an episode every now and then that shows us that the entire Pokémon World does not revolve around what some ten-year-old boy and his Pikachu are doing, that there are some people out there who can actually stand up for themselves when push comes to shove. It doesn't make for the most exciting episode ever (I found this one to be kind of boring if I'm being completely honest) but you can't argue that it isn't at least trying to shake things up a bit.
Something else this episode does that I find pretty neat is show us a Pokémon having issues because its Trainer is afraid of it instead of the other way around. That's new, right? I mean, look, if Pokémon were real then I feel like we'd all spend a large portion of our days being scared senseless of these little monsters who could literally kill us with a mere thought. If I was Kei then I'd probably be afraid too! The episode never goes too deep into the issue -- as mentioned in my previous comparison issues like humans having a healthy fear of Pokémon and their ability to effortlessly kill them is one of those topics this show is just not interested in delving into -- but it at least does enough to let us know that yes, this is a thing that happens sometimes.
Speaking of electrical attacks, something that strikes me about Kei's Raichu's in particular is how the animation goes all dim and jerky whenever it lets sparks fly, as if this was an early Kanto episode or something. Which, at this point in the series, is really, really odd. "Dance! Pokémon Showboat!" would have gone into production well after the Pokémon Shock incident and the new guidelines introduced as a result and so why are we still having to put up with the two-frames-a-second edits like the ones we see in this episode? Did someone just not get the memo or what?
The English version of this episode was de-existed in 2016 but I'll get more into that in a minute. Adaptation-wise, this episode's scripts is one of the better ones of the season as it has fewer rewrites than most. Unfortunately, the dub kind of undoes this very good thing by forcing its voice actors to give the Pokémon these dumb little cartoon voices whenever they're performing on-stage. In the Japanese version Ken'ichi Ogata more or less uses his normal speaking voice for both John (the leader of the theater troupe) and Ebiwalar (the Pokémon voice that John dubs over). But for the English dub, Maddie Blaustein puts on a goofy cartoon voice for Roger (most likely to distinguish this guy from the 100s of other characters she'll play throughout her tenure on the show) and then an even goofier cartoon voice for Hitmonchan, because apparently giving Pokémon normal voices is forbidden over at 4Kids Entertainment. The English dub of this show has always had an issue with using what I call "dumb cartoon voices" but this episode kind of takes it up another level.
Raichu keeps its Japanese
Note -- This episode's "banning" in the West
For example, here's a
in March 2014 of the Season
2 page (with the HTML edited to turn off the site's lazy loader) of
the Series Episode Encyclopedia section on Pokémon.com.
you click on the image below you'll see that the episode "Stage
Fight!" is listed as the 37th episode of Season 2.
And here is that same
"Holiday Hi-Jynx!," "Stage Fight!," and "The Mandarin Island
Miss Match" have all been removed, and the numbering of the other
episodes in the season have all been shifted over to cover up the gaps
created by said removals. "Bye
Bye Psyduck," for example, went from being listed as Episode 38 (2014)
being listed as Episode 36 (today).
The same thing happened
with Viz's DVD releases for the series. On the left is the Episode
Selection menu from the 2002 single release, Pokémon Adventures On The Orange
Islands I. On the right is the 2015 re-release, Pokémon Adventures in the Orange
Islands: The Complete Collection. If you enlarge the images
you can see the listing for "Stage Fight!" on the eastern most island
there has been removed from the 2015 version. Special thanks to mbc
over on Twitter for the screenshot of the newer DVD release.
No official reason was
ever given for the episode's removal but most people assume it's
because if features the blackface Pokémon Jynx.
So here's the thing.
Jynx is a problem, no doubt about it. And an episode set on a showboat
-- which helped popularize minstrel shows back in the day -- that just
happens to have the
blackface Pokémon onboard is just a whole other layer of
problematic. They couldn't possibly leave the episode in rotation as-is.
there was ever an episode featuring
Jynx that could have been salvaged then this was it. I did the math and
screentime in "Stage Fight!" comes to a grand total of 38 seconds (and
that's with me being very generous with the definition of
"screentime"). It's a background character in pretty much every
sense of the word and could have therefore been excised with very
little effort. All TPCi would have had to do is remove all its
scenes and then make a few music edits to cover up the skips in the
soundtrack and BOOM - you've got an episode of Pokémon that
still makes perfect sense without
any unfortunate racist stereotypes from the original. That requires a
little more effort
than the 0% TPCi is willing to expend to salvage older episodes,
however, so they
just removed it entirely and called it a day.
Oddly enough, this is one
of the very few pieces of Pocket
Monsters animation featuring the black faced Rougela where OLM
hasn't gone back
the Human Shape Pokémon. It's a very odd, but conspicuous,
This episode existed for
a good decade and a half before TPCi decided to finally give it the
if you want to watch it there are quite a few home video releases
available on the second hand market if you're so inclined.
As I alluded to earlier, the script in this episode is actually pretty decent, all things considered! A lot of the "Dialogue Edits" are going to be fairly nitpicky because otherwise I'd have nothing to talk about.
Our heroes decide to take in a show:
Tracey has apparently heard of these "Pokémon Showboats" before while Kenji has not.
The show gets started:
Yeah, I have no idea why 4Kids decided to do a random rewrite here. Is fighting for the love of a mutant fairy thing not "cool" enough for American kids or something?
This boxing scene that starts off this episode is an homage to one of the most famous scenes in all of Japanese animation, the Ashita no Joe cross punch.
Ashita no Joe (あしたのジョー), commonly released in the U.S. as Tomorrow's Joe, is a manga-turned-anime from the 1970s that follows a young delinquent named Joe Yabuki as he gets thrown in juvie, gets into boxing, becomes rivals with fellow inmate Toru Rikiishi, eventually gets released, and then goes on to become a professional boxer.
Ashita no Joe is considered to be one of the most influential animated series in Japanese history. A lot of the visual language used by Japanese animation -- showing the same action three times in a row for emphasis, having the animation freeze for a moment and then turn into a stylized sketch, glitter vomit -- all got its start with this series. Mike Toole wrote this great article on Anime News Network explaining just how big a deal this show is to Japanese audience; do yourself a favor and read through it when you get a chance.
The "cross counter" scene in question is from the end of Tomorrow's Joe Episode 14, "Is it Time for the KO Gong Yet!?" Joe isn't doing so great in his match against his rival Toru and so he decides to use the risky "cross counter" technique to bring the fight to an end. In the Pocket Monsters version of the scene, Ebiwalar and Goriky perform the "Cross Counter" in what is basically a shot-by-shot remake (albeit slightly out of order) of the famous scene from the 1970 anime. Ebiwalar yelling out "Cross Counter" (クロスカウンター！) right before the attack removes absolutely any doubt of what it is they're parodying here.
If you're thinking "waitaminute...I feel like I've seen this exact scene in a ton of other anime before" then that's because you probably have. Homages to this one scene in particular have appeared in literally dozens and dozens of anime over the last 50 years and parodies of this particular scene are about as ubiquitous as, say, the countless number of "bullet time" homages that've come out in the years since The Matrix. In fact, this isn't even the last time we'll see Pokémon pay tribute to this scene; a very similar homage can be seen in Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation Episode 082, "The Forest's Fighting King!? Wakashamo vs. Kinogassa!!"
Anyway, it's kind of neat seeing 4Kids leave this scene uncut since showing two characters punching each other in the face is something they'll definitely be more skiddish about in future seasons.
The characters in the Japanese version only ever refer to the leader of the theater troupe as zachou (座長), a handy little term that means "leader of the theater troupe." We don't really have an equivalent to that term in English; "Mr. Director" could work, maybe, but it doesn't quite convey the same meaning.
This zachou guy does actually have a name, but it's different depending on where you look. The end credits of the episode list him as "Jon / John" (ジョン) so that seems like that should be the end of it, but then the text that accompanies the character design sheets printed in the back of The Memorial Book of Orange Islands curiously list his name as "Jean" (ジャ ン) instead. So which one is it? I guess it's up to you to decide!
The English dub decides to not bother with any of this and just renames the guy "Roger" instead *shrugs*
Team Rocket hatches a plot:
In the Japanese version Kojirou mentions a dream of being on "Veludway" (ビロードウェイ), a made up place whose name comes from taking the first syllable of the Japanese word for Broadway (ブロードウェイ), "bu," and replacing it with a "bi" (ビ) instead. This turns buroodo into biroodo, which we can then transliterate back as "veludo," or "velvet."
The English dub goes with a generic term "dinner theater" instead.
Meowth, after he's been savagely beaten by Jessie:
Nyarth pointing out that it's actually Kojirou who made the suggestion that got him beaten up is the kind of dark humor this show likes to do from time to time. But I guess 4Kids didn't like it?
Kay recites a poem:
Kay is reciting (a truncated version of) The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the English dub. Which is kind of cool, I guess; having characters in a Kids' WB! show recite real world poetry is something you just don't see everyday!
As for the Japanese version, I searched and searched and searched online but couldn't come up with the source. The poem she recites in the original is not the Japanese translation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and it doesn't seem to be a poem written by anyone else either. I had no idea what this was.
But we live in a magical age of social media, where you can just go up to the screenwriter of a nearly 25-year old episode of a kids' cartoon and be like "hey, what was this?" And so that's exactly what I did! I messaged Mr. Sonoda about Kei's poem a few weeks before posting this comparison and he actually responded (!!!), telling me that he couldn't really remember where it came from since it was so long ago but that he doesn't believe that this is a piece of literature that had ever existed before. So maybe he's the one who wrote it...?
Again, we're talking about memories of a single episode of a TV show from a quarter of a century ago. But, assuming Mr. Sonoda's memory here is accurate, we can sum this all up by saying that a (probably) original poem by Mr. Hideki Sonoda in the Japanese version got changed to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for the English dub.
Speaking of Kay's poem, the English dub also does something really curious here in regards to the music. The scene inside the theater -- the one right after the Rocket trio scene -- starts off by using the song 1997~1998 M10 "Pikachu Appears" as its background music. This music is used in both the Japanese version and the English version, so there's no problem there.
Well, in the original version the music plays until all the way after Kei finishes reciting her poem but the English dub, for some reason, decides to cut the music short. As soon as Kay starts speaking the music stops, and she recites her entire poem in complete silence.
It's a really puzzling change that is very much out-of-character for a company that usually strives to have wall-to-wall music in all its shows, wouldn't you say?
Outside, Kay tells Ash what's going on between her and Raichu:
A small difference, but one I felt was worth bringing up; Satoshi's question to Kei is different depending on what version of the show you're watching.
Misty, Tracey, and Roger
all respond to the above:
This whole heart of the
cards type speech is, you guessed it, a 4Kids rewrite.
Also why is the adult
leader of this acting troupe sneaking around a boat with a bunch of
pre-teens? Should we be worried for them or...?
Team Rocket attacks:
The Koiking torpedo
doesn't get a name in the English dub.
But, y'know, stock artwork of a Golduck's just as awesome *rolls eyes*
Kay comforts Raichu:
So, not to get all nakama on you or anything, but daijoubu (大丈夫) is one of those words
that can mean a ton of different things depending on the context. It
can mean "it's OK" (present tense), "everything's going to be fine"
(future tense), "no thank you" (when refusing something), "that works
for me," and literally dozens and dozens of other phrases. The English
phrase "OK" is similarly very versatile but daijoubu kind of kicks it up a
In the Japanese version
of this exchange, Kei uses the word daijoubu
three times. The first time, 4Kids goes with "It's OK, Raichu." The
second time, they have Kay say "I'm not afraid anymore" because, well,
an argument can be made that that's what she's really trying to tell her
Pokémon in the original. The Japanese language can be vague like
that sometimes! The third one's "Raichu, are you
The same thing happens
later in the episode when Kay and Raichu do more or less the same thing
during the Team Rocket battle.
I'm not bringing this up
because I think it's a rewrite or anything; I'm just bringing it up
because I think it's an interesting case study at how you can sometimes
translate the same word a bunch of different ways depending on the
Team Rocket makes their threats:
In one of the few
outright rewrites of the episode, the Rocket trio say they have bombs
planted all over the ship only to have Satoshi call their bluff. Meowth
sorta-kinda implies this (plus, he's standing in front of a dynamite
plunger and all, so...) but the trio doesn't mention anything in the
English dub about having
hidden the explosives all over the ship.
The leader of the theater
troupe isn't taking any chances, though:
The English dub has Roger
indicate that this group of traveling performers actually live on this boat when no such
thing is even implied in the original.
No idea why something like this happened
but if it exposes more fans to Inuko Inuyama then I'm all for it!
The characters-of-the-day stand up for themselves:
The Japanese version has all the Pokémon giving a stereotypical hero's speech while the English dub has everyone call out for the Rocket trio's murder instead!
The song that plays during the stage show at the very end of the Japanese version of this episode is Mezase Pokémon Master but the English dub replaces it with Pokémon World.
I'm guessing 4Kids didn't have a full version of their song ready at this point in the season (their dub of the second movie wouldn't be out for another half a year or so) because when you listen to it you'll notice large chunks of the song where nobody's singing. Were the lyrics to the full version just not written yet...?
A character in a 4Kids
production is trying his hand at voice acting so of course the writer's going to
dubbing reference in there.
Originally Satoshi just
comments on how fun acting is.
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