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Japanese Episode 096: "Lord Nyarth's Island!?"
American Episode 242: "Meowth Rules!"
Pokémon Dare Da? Nyarth (Japan), Magnemite (English)
Dr. Ookido's Pokémon Course: Pippi
Japanese Air Date: May 13th, 1999
American Air Date: March 25th, 2000
Important Characters: Mikeosu ("acolyte"), Shimajio ("druid")
Important Places: Ougonkan Island (Golden Island)
challenge Satoshi and his friends to a battle! The trio loses, of
course, but this time Nyarth ends up blasting off separately from his
human teammates. He lands on Ougonkan Island, a place where its
inhabitants worship something called the Great Nyarth of Happiness in
the belief that it'll bring them fortune and happiness. The
islanders quickly mistake the Rocket-Dan's Nyarth for the deity of
begin showering him with attention in an attempt gain his favor before
Ceremony of Happiness. During this ceremony, they reveal, they will ask
Nyarth to use its "Neko ni Koban" attack to shower the island with
coins. But there's just one little problem; the Rocket-Dan's Nyarth
actually used up all its
energy learning how to speak human and is unable to learn the
technique! The islanders choose not to believe Nyarth's protests and
decide they'll simply draw the power out of him by forcing him to gain
experience in a
series of Pokémon battles. Nyarth is unceremoniously thrown into
a stadium where he soon comes face to face with massive Pokémon
like Nidoking and Iwark. Musashi
and Kojirou, seeing their friend in trouble, step in and start throwing
their own money into the crowd to make everyone think their Great
Nyarth of Happiness has learned how to use Neko ni Koban. When Nyarth
discovers what his
teammates had done he decides to leave the island and his worshippers
behind to continue his own search for happiness, together with his
It's something I'm kind
of surprised took us nearly 100 episodes to find out. The Rocket
trio is a group of Pokémon thieves, and Nyarth is part of the
only species who can naturally learn a technique that produces coins
out of nowhere. So the idea of "hey, why don't we just have him
magic us some more money" was something that was bound to come up
sooner or later, right? And so we get this episode. The explanation as
to why he hasn't bothered to learn it yet is a very
simple one-liner that may seem like a cheap little handwave at first
actually works out pretty well. If nothing else it's memorable; "Meowth
can't learn Pay Day because it used up all its energy learning to speak
English" is something fans just know,
even if they don't realize exactly when or where they heard it from.
But the bigger theme of
this episode is "happiness" and, more specifically, the friendship
between Nyarth and his
teammates. If you could live on an island
where your every wish and command was catered to, but had to do so
without your best friends, would you? I think the way we go through the
roller coaster of
Nyarth feeling like he's the one getting one over on the islanders, to
him initially rejecting his teammates, to him realizing they actually do care about
him after an act of selflessness, to him wanting the islanders to find
happiness for themselves...it's a great ride. It's also the
kind of story you could only really do with the Rocket trio, you know
what I mean? If they were to try to do, say, a "Lord
Pikachu's Island!?" it just wouldn't work nearly as well.
The depiction of the
islanders is also something that really stands out to me about this
episode. They're a bunch of weirdos in cat cosplay who are
superstitious enough to believe some old legend about a Great Nyarth of
Happiness who will literally make money rain down on them from the
heavens. And then once they get all this money they plan to...I dunno,
construct more giant Nyarth robots? Build more Pokémon stadiums?
Trade with local governments? Nyarth's message to the islanders (in the
Japanese version, at least) is also really great; don't just sit around
waiting for happiness to fall into your lap, go out and grab it for
yourself. I feel like the TV show doesn't really do characters who are
just straight up misguided
like this anymore and so I'm really enjoying it now
while we have it.
And hey, Satoshi and his
friends are barely in this episode! They make a few obligatory cameos
there but at the end of the day this is the most Rocket trio centered /
twerp centered episode to date. More of this, please!
I'm honestly a
bit surprised 4Kids was allowed to dub this episode in the first place
since it's basically all about a cult dedicating itself to worshipping
a false god.
At the very least I would expect the network to force them to cut out
all those scenes of the islanders bowing down to Meowth but nope, all
gets left in! Then again, if you look at what else Kids' WB! was airing
back in the day I suppose it is
kind of tame in comparison; the
episode of Batman Beyond that
as "Meowth Rules!," for example, ended with the villain realizing he's
going to die and launching into a laughing fit as he literally falls
his way toward Hell. Kids' WB! was
definitely in its most "not giving a shit" phase of its life.
The first rewrite comes
at the beginning of the episode, when Meowth is enjoying eating some
"Small abalones" are a type of clams, and kelp isn't something you find a lot of in Western cuisine and so the English dub simplified the whole thing to just "clams."
Now's as good a time as any to talk about Nyarth and his signature move, Neko ni Koban ("Pay Day").
Neko ni Koban (猫に小判) is a Japanese idiom that roughly translates to "that's about as useless as giving gold to a cat" and you use it whenever you want to talk about someone not understanding the value of whatever it is they have. In English we have the phrase "cast pearls before swine" which more or less serves the same purpose.
Nyarth (and its evolved form Persian) are the only Pokémon capable to learning this technique naturally. This is probably because the Pokémon species is modeled after a maneki neko, a figurine you see in storefronts in Asia meant to act as a good luck charm to attract customers. In English maneki neko is often translated as a "beckoning cat" since it's always beckoning you to come into the store to spend money. You can spot one of these beckoning cat statues by its raised paw and its koban coin, an oval shaped gold coin used in the Edo period of feudal Japan.
Most of this is completely lost in translation. Western audiences in the early 2000s wouldn't have necessarily known what a "beckoning cat" is (I imagine most fans just saw Meowth as a cat with some random coin on his head) and so the connection between "Meowth" and "Pay Day" wouldn't have been as obvious as it is to a Japanese audience and/or modern-day Western audience. Still, I think most people managed to get the gist of it either way even if it's maybe not as explicit in the international dubs.
Sound Effects Edit
While Kojirou is shaking down Nyarth, telling him to hurry up and learn Neko ni Koban, we can hear the sound of Kojirou's bottlecaps jingling around a bit. This is what prompts Musashi and Nyarth to accuse him of holding out on them a few moments later.
In the equivalent scene in the dub ("Now why don't you learn Pay Day and make us happy with some money?"), the sound of coins jingling is still there but it's baaaaaaaaaaaarely audible. Like, you have to just know to listen for it to even have a chance of hearing it. Part of it has to do with the way the dub tends to turn down the volume on the show's sound effects and part of it has to do with 4Kids' filler music drowning out the jingling, but either way the end result is that Jessie's "Didn't I just hear the sound of a coin?" line a few moments later ends up making very little sense if you weren't paying super, super close attention.
The dub's "I couldn't live without..." is kinda-similar to the Japanese version's "the only thing more precious to me than my own life..." but it's also different enough for me to bother bringing up here.
Our heroes look for a place to stop:
The "just a bunch of rocks" part is added by 4Kids.
The Rocket trio recite their motto (which is just the regular version in the Japanese original, not the "after dark" variant we get in the dub) and then get blasted off to a nearby island. And on that island...
Does 4Kids have some weird aversion to just translating prophecies as-is, without adding anything new or taking away information from the original? Because I feel like this is the third or fourth time this has happened so far.
The English dub leaves out a lot of information, such as the name of the island and the fact that the "Great Meowth of Bounty" is just a regular Nyarth who will then become the Great Nyarth of Happiness later on down the road. This latter point will be what drives the worshippers to suck up to Nyarth so much in the first half of the episode and so it's not really the sort of thing 4Kids should be cutting out of its script.
Meowth is picked up by the villagers:
"Waitaminute, did this Meowth just speak? Yes? Well, let's all agree to just act surprised when he starts talking in front of everybody later on, OK?"
Originally Nyarth only
makes cat noises when he's being picked up here.
Meowth starts speaking
human language, officially:
Meowth is quoting Wimpy, a character from the Popeye the Sailor franchise whose catchphrase was "I'll have a hamburger, for which I will gladly pay you Tuesday."
The reason I'm spelling this all out for you is because I'm not sure anyone born from, say, the mid 1990s onward would have any reason to know what this is a reference to. I mean, this was a super dated reference, even for the time! The most recent Popeye the Sailor related show to come out before the release of this episode of Pokémon was Popeye and Son, a show that came out more than a decade before and was canceled after only 13 episodes. A random Wimpy reference here, in an animated cartoon released in the year 2000, seems a little late to the party to me.
The islanders have their doubts:
Shimajio believes the fact that Nyarth can talk is just proof enough that he is who he says he is while his equivalent in the English dub will seemingly take any superpower he witnesses as proof of the same.
Nyarth starts to cook up a plan:
The Japanese phrase used by Nyarth here is neko o kaburu (猫をかぶる), which literally translates to "put on a cat" and is used to indicate when someone is putting on an act. The idea plays with cats and their two-faced nature, where they can be cute and cuddly furballs one minute and then ferocious jungle beasts the next. An equivalent would be something like "hide one's true colors."
The 4Kids dub replaces this with "don't let the cat out of the bag" which is actually very, very close to the original intention! It's a pretty nice change of pace after all the rewrites we've gotten so far (and will get later in the episode) and so I wanted to be sure to give credit where credit's due.
Meowth starts to stuff his face:
"Ganmo" (がんも), which is the shortened form of ganmodoki (雁擬き), is a deep-fried tofu mixed with thinly sliced vegetables. You hear that kids? Meowth isn't really eating the "meat" balls made out of your favorite Pokémon pal!
The "cat's tongue" line is a Japanese idiom that means "someone who doesn't like to eat hot foods." If you feel like you've seen this phrase before that may be because it was also used in the second Orange Islands episode "The Miserable Dirigible!?" 4Kids decides to change this to Meowth requiring his subjects to kill multiple animals to satisfy his voracious appetite.
Nyarth is just kind of talking to himself while he strums the strings on his guitar while Meowth is just full on singing, making up new words (I feel bad for the localizers who had to deal with "happiness-ing") while also being horribly, horribly off-key.
Meowth thinks about his teammates:
The difference here is subtle; in the Japanese version Nyarth seems to almost feel guilty about being so happy and carefree while in the English version Meowth seems to be feeling more lonely than anything else. The quote they gave Meowth in the English dub does flow a little bit better into the next shot of Jessie and James blasting off and so I'm guessing that's why 4Kids used the line they did.
The twerps are about to land on the island:
4Kids never bothers to give Mikeosu (the younger islander) or Shimajio (the older islander) new names for the English version; they just have this one islander here refer to Mikeosu as "brother" instead. Did they just not care enough to even bother?
The closed captions on the Amazon Prime release of the episode apparently refers to Mikeosu as "acolyte" and Shimajio as "druid" and so that's what I'll be using throughout this comparison.
What is this outfit that Meowth appears in out of nowhere?
Nyarth is dressed up like a Shinto priest, wearing the traditional white robe tucked into scarlet hakama pants. The belt you can see over the hakama pants (see the screenshot on the right) is usually supposed to be white so I'm guessing the red used in this shot is just a simple coloring mistake.
The stick he's waving around is a gohei (御幣), a bamboo wand decorated with two zigzagging paper streamers known as shide (紙垂). It's used primarily in Shinto purification rituals to bless people, items, or newly bought property. It's kind of similar to how Westerners will sometimes have a priest come by to sprinkle holy water on a newly bought house.
The overall image being conveyed in this little five second scene here is that Nyarth is trying to show the villagers that Satoshi and his friends are evil spirits who need to be exorcised from the island right away. It's not something your average Westerner would pick up on, especially at the time this episode aired, but at the same time it's such an insignificant throwaway scene that 4Kids probably thought they didn't even have to bother coming up with any alternate explanations for this.
Our heroes see the golden Meowth headed their way:
These changes from the metric system to the imperial system are never all that huge (6.5 meters = around 21 feet) but I still like documenting them anyway.
The eyecatch Pokémon this time around is Nyarth eating ganmo:
The eyecatch Pokémon being completely randomized for the English dub may be done to make this little "game" a bit more challenging but I would also argue the unique silhouettes made by the original artwork used in the Japanese version manages to keep it fresh in its own way.
The islanders find out Meowth can't use Pay Day:
We get another instance of the islanders' names being used in the Japanese dialogue but omitted from the English dub for some reason.
It's also interesting to note that both the lookout from the first half of the episode and Shimajio here in the second half both use the suffix -sama to refer to Mikeosu. This indicates that he ranks above them in whatever hierarchy this weird cult has set up for itself despite the fact that he's still fairly young.
A plan is hatched:
The word the dub's decided to render as "battling experience" is keikenchi (経験 値), the actual video game term for experience points. The Japanese version will use this term keikenchi consistently throughout the rest of the episode but the English dub simplifies it to "experience."
The very next exchange:
That little sideways glance Shimajio's shooting toward Nyarth tells us he's purposefully misconstruing Nyarth's ”OK" in order to get to the result he's looking for. The way his voice actor delivers the line also makes it clear that Shimajio wants Nyarth to overhear him in this moment.
None of this is really present in the dub, which makes the decision to instead have the druid here headcanon some kind of "plan to test our trust" thing.
Meowth is thrown into the ring:
The English dub line would go on to become a meme years and years later but the Japanese original is just a rather ordinary line about Nyarth wondering what the islanders are going to make him do in this big stadium.
Sound Effects Edit
During the little flashback montage that takes place during Nyarth's battles a bunch of scenes from older episodes are played without any sound effects. The English dub decides to "fix" this by adding them back in for these two shots (and these two shots only):
Adding these sound effects back in probably would've been a significant amount of work (4Kids would've had to track down the original episodes these clips were taken from and pulled the sound effects track from them) for...absolutely no benefit whatsoever...? Wouldn't that time and effort have been better spent doing literally anything else?
Jessie and James help out a friend:
They don't use nickels south of Japan!
Also, I have to point out how freaking fantastic Megumi Hayashibara and Shin-ichiro Miki are throughout this second half of the episode. We know they're veteran voice actors, sure, but the work they do in this episode in particular is just so, so great. Every single line they deliver is done with dignity and quiet respect as they realize their friend is maybe better off without them, and it's great to see Musashi and Kojirou being fleshed out as actual people with real, human emotions like this every now and then.
Meowth runs away, causing the rest of the islanders to follow:
So this whole final speech here gets completely rewritten. For starters, Nyarth very plainly says that he's not the Great Nyarth of Happiness that they all believe him to be, something he never quite gets around to saying in the English dub.
But that's not all:
Nyarth is trying to release his subjects here by telling them they have the power to find happiness on their own, without waiting for an outsider like him to just deliver it to them. Meowth, meanwhile, makes the whole thing about himself.
The Team Rocket motto:
If you look at them line by line the two mottos share very little in common but the overall theme is the same in both of them so I guess that's what counts.
Unfortunately I'm not able to say the same about what comes next:
Is it me or does Musashi seem a lot more gentle here than Jessie does? Jessie is giving her friend some really tough love while Musashi's decidedly more friendly here.
Meowth says goodbye:
So I guess in the English dub canon, Meowth finds happiness with his two friends and figures that his followers, who are watching all this unfold, are meant to just sort of follow his example...? Even though "I'm lonely and don't have any friends" doesn't seem to be a problem with anyone on the island?
In the original Nyarth's message here is consistent with what he told his followers earlier; to find happiness on their own instead of waiting around for someone to come along and drop it in their laps.
Oh yeah, Ash and his friends are in this episode:
I didn't really get a vibe that Mikeosu and Shimajio and all the others are part of some "ancient civilization" or anything like that. I mean, they're all wearing Halloween store cat ears and clown noses and have a giant golden Nyarth robot and a stadium with automatic doors and access to items like "tofu" so I don't really feel like "ancient" is the right word for them.
This page was last updated on August 6th, 2022
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