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Dogasu's Backpack | Episode Comparisons | Kanto Region
Japanese Episode 067: "The Legend of the Surfing Pikachu"
American Episode 213: "The Pi-Kahuna"
Pokemon Dare Da? Pikachu (Michael) (Japanese), Gloom (English)
Dr. Orchid's Pokemon Lecture: Onidrill
Japanese Air Date: October 22nd, 1998
American Air Date: October 12th, 1999
Important Characters: Jan (Jan), Michael (Puka), Vincent (Victor)
Our heroes are out jogging in Binnes one day when they notice that a large number of people have started to gather around the beach. They soon find out that they've all come to witness a surfer named Vincent take on Big Tuesday, a massive wave that only comes once every 20 years. Vincent, like so many other surfers before him, dreams of conquering the wave by riding it high enough to be able to plant a flag on top of a tall rocky pillar out in the middle of the sea just like his idol Jan did 40 years ago. Vincent had already made an attempt 20 years earlier but wiped out and so now he's more determined than ever to succeed. This time, Vincent will have the help of a Pikachu he named Michael who has the unique ability to sense large waves right before they arrive. Before long, Big Tuesday makes its long awaited appearance. A Junsar makes everyone evacuate the beach while Vincent and Michael hop onto their surfboard and ride toward the massive wave. With the help of his surfing Pikachu, Vincent is able to successfully plant his flag onto the rock alongside Jan's and finally fulfill his lifelong dream. When the two of them return to shore, Vincent passes down his surfboard to a new generation of children, hoping they'll follow in his footsteps. With their surfing adventure now out of the way, Satoshi and his friends go back to training for the Pokemon League.
Pocket Monsters Pikachu came out on the original Game Boy on September 12th, 1998. The game, the fourth released as part of Generation I, incorporates a bunch of elements from the animated series and places them into the video game. Pikachu now walks alongside the player character and speaks using Ikue Otani's voice. You can capture all three starter pokemon through regular gameplay. Musashi, Kojirou, and Nyarth of the Rocket-Dan appear. Certain Gym Leaders have their teams changed to match what they used in the TV series. Joy and Lucky appear at Pokemon Centers instead of the generic nurse characters used in previous games. Etc.
This week's TV episode, "The Legend of the Surfing Pikachu," seems to have been made with the idea of promoting this new game in mind. Unfortunately, everything mentioned above is stuff that's already been here since day one. Just about the only truly new thing in Pocket Monsters Pikachu is a mini game called Pikachu's Summer Beach (ピカチュウのサマービーチ) in which you control a surfing Pikachu as it tries to score points jumping along the waves. It's basically Excitebike with a Pokemon skin slapped on top of it. There's no real plot material that can be taken from the mini-game and so the general concept of Pikachu's Summer Beach is used as a jumping off point for the new TV episode.
The story they ended up with is decent enough, I guess. It's a simple tale about a man going after his lifetime goal of riding a giant wave by using a magical Pikachu who has the ability to sense waves, for some reason, to put a flag on top of a giant rock. I do wish there had been at least some attempt at explaining Michael's mysterious wave sensing powers but I guess we're not meant to think too much about it...? I guess we're also not meant to think much about Michael is at least 20 years old and also looks like it's in the twilight of its life. Is Michael going to die of old age soon? What is the average lifespan of a Pikachu, anyway? On the human side of things, it's hard to believe that both Jan and Dr. Orchid are around the same age (they were both elementary school aged children "40 years ago") since they look so very different but I mostly chalk this up to the production team of the fourth movie not remembering about Jan back when they made Celebi, A Timeless Encounter back in the year 2001.
This is also another episode in which our heroes do absolutely nothing but sit on the sidelines and watch the characters-of-the-day do all the work. This isn't the first episode where this happened but it does stand out as special to me because of just how cold Satoshi and the others are toward Jan and Michael in the second half. The Rocket-Dan's sub blows up and both Pikachu and Michael are falling toward the water, so what does our hero Satoshi do? He orders his Fushigidane to save Pikachu, and only Pikachu, while letting Michael fall into the water below. Vincent jumps in after his partner (as you would expect) and so, instead of sticking around to see if they need any help, Satoshi and his friends actually turn the boat around and go back to shore, leaving Vincent and Michael to die out in the storm. I laughed at Satoshi, Kasumi, and Takeshi leaving Tohru behind at the end of "The Pokemon Certification Exam!?" because it was such a dick move but I really feel like the way they treat Vincent and Michael in this episode is ten times worse. These are the heroes of our story, ladies and gentlemen!
The script for the English version of this episode is surprisingly good. The credits for the dub don't change from episode to episode so we don't actually know who writes which episode which is a shame because that means I don't know who to congratulate for this particular one. 4Kids at least has one decent writer on their staff and I want to give him his due! The music is a bit better too, with no filler music added during the car crash scene at the beginning of the episode and the presence of a few tracks from the Japanese version of Mewtwo Strikes Back showing up toward the end. While the script does have some really dumb name changes (more on that later) and there's still too much filler music present, the episode turned out a lot better than most despite all that.
Michael keeps its Japanese voice.
The Japanese version of this episode has a large number of references to the 1978 American movie Big Wednesday.
The film is about three friends - played by Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, and Gary Busey - who, over the span of about twelve years or so, go from being immature, unlikeable assholes to slightly more mature but still unlikeable assholes. There's a little bit of surfing in the beginning of the movie and a little more at the very end but it's not really a surfing movie, per se. It's more of a coming-of-age film about friendships and love and loss and the Vietnam War that just also happens to use surfing as an overwrought metaphor for the highs and lows of life. Or something like that.
So what does the Pocket Monsters episode "The Legend of the Surfing Pikachu" have to do with Big Wednesday? Mostly surface-level name stuff. The three new characters in this episode - Jan, Michael, and Vincent - are named after the lead actor of Big Wednesday, Jan-Michael Vincent. And then, of course, there's the giant wave itself, which in Pocket Monsters is called "Big Tuesday." This is of course them just swapping out one day of the week for the other but it's also worth noting that Pocket Monsters used to air on Tuesday nights back in the day.
As far as mimicking the movie goes, there's one scene at the very end of Big Wednesday that sorta-kinda resembles the scene at the end of this episode of Pocket Monsters of an older surfing legend passing down his legacy to the younger generation. But that's really about it. Nothing even close to all the stuff about a huge wave coming once every two decades and there being this huge rock everyone tries to plant their flags in this episode of Pocket Monsters is found anywhere in the movie Big Wednesday.
So even if the English dub didn't get the reference (the movie was huge flop upon its release and therefore isn't all that well-known) it's still odd that 4Kids would bother "Westernizing" most of the names in the episode when they were making the English version. Jan gets to keep his name but for some reason Michael's name is changed to "Puka" and Vincent is changed to "Victor." Changing a Japanese name to a more Western name is one thing, but changing one Western name to another, different Western name? What's the logic here?
As for the big wave, I'm guessing 4Kids probably thought "Big Tuesday" was just another one of those weird Engrish-y faux pas that the Japanese version sometimes has and so they changed it to "Humungadunga," a name that doesn't sound any less ridiculous and frankly sounds like something a five year old would come up with.
This is going to be a short comparison. Here's the opening scene:
Narrator: "Even though he's at the beach on Seafoam Island, Ash isn't relaxing. He's training hard so he'll be in top shape for the Pokémon League."
I already covered this last week but no, this episode doesn't take place on "Seafoam Island"; it takes place in a TV-exclusive town called Binnes (ビンヌ).
Officer Jenny tells our heroes about Jan:
Officer Jenny: "Forty years ago, he rode Humungadunga all the way to the top of the rock. Since then, surfers from all over the world have come here to try and match what Jan did."
The "from all over the world" part is a 4Kids original. In the Japanese version Junsar merely states that a lot of people have tried to follow in Jan's footsteps (それ以来大勢のサーファーたちがジャンに追いつこうとしたけど).
Ash decides to goof off:
Misty: "Ash! What about your training?"
Ash: "I am training, Misty. I'm training to be the best, just like Jan!"
Misty: "Yeah, right. He should be training for the Pokémon League!"
Brock: "Lighten up! Ash's been training pretty hard...and we could all use a little fun!"
Originally, Takeshi doesn't mention anything about how hard Satoshi's been training (probably because he hasn't!) and instead reasons that since they're already at the beach they might as well enjoy it (まあまあせっかく海に来たんじゃないか。少しは遊んでいこうよ).
Misty decides to join:
Misty: "You'd better watch out, waves...'cause here I come!"
Kasumi's line in the Japanese version is "Here comes the tomboyish mermaid Kasumi!" (おてんば人魚のカスミさん行きま～す！), which, as you can see, uses her nickname from the video games. The English version doesn't carry that over.
Victor explains how he met Puka:
Victor: "It's kind of unusual because I didn't capture Puka like you would a regular Pokémon. Puka...came to me from the sea."
The Japanese dialogue has Vincent explain that "I neither got Michael nor did I receive it (as a present) from somebody else" (マイケルはゲットしたのでも誰かからゆずってもらったのでもない). I'm assuming the "nor did I receive it (as a present) from somebody else" part is left out of the dub because of mouthflap issues.
We get a nice piece of original artwork in the Japanese eyecatch this week!
It's too bad dub viewers got stuck with a lame stock art of Raichu last time, huh?
Jan gets ready to challenge Humungadunga:
Victor: "I think Jan could sense the waves too. He always seemed like he was waiting for something he could tell was coming."
Jan doesn't have the same weird magical wave sensing powers that Puka has in the Japanese version; originally he "just waited and waited" (ジャンはそいつを待っていた。ずっとずっと待っていた。).
Jan passes the torch:
Victor (narrating): ""Hey, you can do it, too." That's what Jan said when he handed me his surfboard."
There's no dialogue during this scene in the Japanese version of this scene.
4Kids is usually pretty good about not adding dialogue where there wasn't any in the original (unlike what they do with, say, pretty much every other dub they work on) so I wonder what made them decide to do that here?
Jan leaves the episode:
Victor (narrating): "Then he went off to surf the world."
Originally, Jan sets off on a journey to a faraway ocean in the original (そして遠い梅へと旅立っていったのだ) without any mention of "surfing the world."
...and that's it! 4Kids turns in an episode with a decent script and so the number of differences I have to report on is next to nothing! Why can't every week be this easy?
This page was last updated on September 24th, 2017
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