Friday, 24 December 2010

In which Mint Returns to Reasonable Posting Standards

Well, Christmas is on Saturday, and given that I'm suddenly realising that I will be very busy over the next week, I decided that I would end the year (probably; there may be another post given sufficient time and inspiration) on a nice substantial post, with lots of pictures and lots of impassioned ranting. And no, it's not going to be about how much I hate Christmas or anything to do with it.

It's going to be about Pokemon.

Well, it's actually going to be about why Ash Ketchum should not be allowed to train pokemon, but why quibble?

Okay, so as you know, this is our protagonist. After deciding that he was going to be the world's greatest Pokemon Master, he was all set to go off on his great Pokemon journey at the age of 10 years old. Interestingly enough, he is still 10 years old, even after over 650 episodes spanning 13 years. In any case, after sleeping in and turning up too late to get one of the traditional starter pokemon, he gets that pikachu we all know and love, and thus begins Pokemon; the story of one little boy and his outstanding idiocy.

Before I get into the main body of the post however, honourable mentions go to Professor Oak, Delia Ketchum and the general society of the Pokemon world as a whole. Who lets 10 year olds go out basically alone into a world filled with things that can injure, eat and otherwise horribly maim and/or kill them with basically no effort, and worse still, let them carry them around in their pockets? This gets even worse in later installments where we come into contact with pokemon that control time and space.

Also, this is the Pokemon God. Yes, you can catch him.
Despite the fact that Ash becoming a Pokemon Trainer is a fantastically bad idea anyway because of all these reasons, he manages to be so hideously inept at training his pokemon that it's a wonder someone hasn't frogmarched him home and banned him from keeping the things.

The Beginnings
Ash started off his quest in probably the worst fashion possible. Unable to pick the pokemon he actually wanted, he ends up with a stubborn (and to begin with, borderline homicidal) pikachu that is not going in that pokeball thank you and is just as likely to shock him at any given point as it is to look at him (or possibly more likely to shock him actually). Add to that the fact that Ash, for all the tv he's watched (we first see him watching a League fight between two trainers), actually knows nothing about pokemon and we have a recipe for disaster. I mean, are you seriously telling me that he didn't at least go along to Professor Oak a few times to even learn some basics?

Anyway, since he has no clue what he's doing, Professor Oak gives him his handy-dandy Pokedex, which he obeys to the letter. Except when it tells him that pokemon must be carried in pokeballs; Pikachu saw to that pretty fast. Oh, and he also developed a bad habit of frying the bike of any possible-sidekick-material females. Basically, Ash starts off really badly. And doesn't get any better.

Gotta Catch 'em All!
Part of the whole appeal of Pokemon was the challenge of getting every single one of them, and of course, the anime kept this. Hell, the English dub even gave him the surname 'Ketchum' as a pun on the (dub introduced) motto. So of course, Ash claimed that he was going to catch all the pokemon there are. After over 650 episodes, he must have caught quite a lot huh? Let's see, there are currently 649 pokemon with the introduction of generation V. Ash has been through four regions already, so he's had loads of time to catch pokemon.

Oh wait, he's only caught 35.

Okay, there's more than that. Techinally, he's had 37, plus one egg (not counting Togepi's), but he never actually caught those other two, he just sort of let them tag along. Oh, and then there's his Gliscor, except that no one knows what happened to that. It's just... not around anymore. Anyway, to put this is in perspective, by the time Ash finally managed to catch his seventh pokemon, his rival, Gary Oak, had managed to catch forty-five, and train a damn good team too.

Now, we can quibble over numbers here, because Ash actually owns a herd of 30 Taurus that he somehow managed to catch by accident, and no, he didn't technically catch that Charmander or the Chimchar, but the point is that Ash basically goes to a new region, dumps all of his old pokemon bar Pikachu onto Professor Oak (except when he lets them go, or foists them off on other people so they can train them instead of him, but we'll get to that later) and proceeds to catch that region's version of the exact same pokemon. In every region, he catches the traditional starter pokemon, along with the primary flying type (pidgeotto in Kanto, noctowl in Johto, etc.).

Yeah, yeah, like we haven't seen this set-up four times before.
 Ash has at least managed to get the method right by now. In the first episode, he decided that chucking a rock at a pidgey is the best way to catch it. When that didn't work, he proceeded to try it again with a spearow, which was an even worse idea. Gradually, and with a lot of help from Misty and Brock, he did actually figure out what he was doing. However, that didn't stop him from failing to actually catch that Haunter in Lavender Town, and then acting surprised when it vanished for while.

I Wanna be the Very Best
Okay, so maybe Ash isn't great at catching pokemon, so how about battling? He wants to be the greatest Pokemon Master in the world, so he's got to travel around all the gyms, collecting badges and then challenging the Pokemon League in any given region.

To date, Ash actually does have all of the gym badges from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh, plus the ones from the anime-only region The Orange Islands, and one from the new region, Unova. This would be more impressive if it hadn't taken him until his third gym battle to actually win a badge by himself, and even then, it was a rematch. Before this, and again afterwards he was usually just handed a badge after seeing off the hilariously inept (even moreso than Ash himself) Team Rocket trio.

Also, there's this.
And then we have the Leagues. To date, Ash has only managed to win in The Orange Islands League, which only consisted of five battles with gym leaders and doesn't consist of the tournaments seen in the major Leagues. Also, despite the fact that he's so serious about being a Master, he gets berated by Brock for lazing around doing nothing before his first League tournament when he should have been training his pokemon and making them able to withstand an actual challenge from talented trainers. That said, he did finally manage to beat Gary during that tournament, so I guess that's something.

Teach Pokemon to Understand the Power that's Inside
Hoo boy, this is where it gets good. Or really, really terrible.

Ash is a pokemon trainer. This means, as suggested by the name, that he trains his pokemon, learning how to use them to their greatest potential in battle. Or in Ash's case, ignores all concepts of tactics and just goes with whatever pops into his head at the time.

One thing that people learn very quickly when they start playing the games is the concept of type advantages between pokemon. Things like grass being weak to fire, fire weak to water and water to grass, and the many other type set-ups. Ash... not so much.

Okay, here's the deal, flying type pokemon are weak to electrical attacks. In a double battle against the Hoenn gym leaders Tate and Liza, Ash's Pikachu and Swellow (a flying type) are losing horribly against their Lunatone and Solrock (both rock/psychic types, and therefore resistant to both flying and electrical attacks). So what does Ash do?

He electrocutes the shit out of his swellow.

Given that Pikachu uses Thunder, the strongest electrical attack, and is already stupidly overpowered, this should have outright killed the poor bird. However, Ash's stupidity is apparently on a par with that of Fighter from 8 Bit Theater, and as such, his plan works because no one tells him it won't. And so, we get this:

Thunder Armour. I am not shitting you.
This is not the first incidence of Ash refusing to change his strategy when faced with a losing battle. In his very first gym battle, he gets his ass handed to him because no matter what he does, electricity is not going to do a damn thing to Brock's rock type pokemon, and instead of asking Misty, who clearly has more idea of how to battle than he does at that point (and she probably still does, given that she's a gym leader), for help, he simply decides to charge up his pikachu and try the same strategy again, only with a bit more power.

You'd think he would learn over the course of his travels that this stategy is terrible, but he does it again in the Sinnoh arc in his gym battle against steel-type trainer Byron. Fire is strong against steel, so Ash starts off with a halfway smart choice and sends out a fire type. On using flamethrower and discovering that Byron's Bronzor has an attack that negates a huge chunk of his Chimchar's attack, does he switch to his water type? No, he uses flamethrower again.

The stupid thing is, Ash always has other pokemon on his team that have the upper hand, and in the last case, if he's bothered training Chimchar at all, it should have some fighting-type moves in its arsenal, and those are strong against steel types.

Pokemon, you're my Best Friend
Okay, so we've identified that Ash is pretty rubbish at catching pokemon, winning things with pokemon and battling with pokemon. But Ash is always portrayed as being a good and kind trainer, always making tight bonds with them.

Until something new comes along.

Ash may be shown having some great times with his pokemon, and there's no denying that him and pikachu are solid. But what about his other pokemon? What about his squirtle? What about the bayleef that was arguably just as fiercely loyal to Ash as Pikachu?

Squirtle was shooed off back to his old gang because Ash believed they needed him more than he did. Nevermind the fact that the Squirtle Squad had been doing fine without him while Squirtle was off with Ash, or that he won a match for Ash in his first Pokemon League attempt.

Bayleef was shunted off to Professor Oak after a long hard struggle to become one of Ash's strongest pokemon, evolving from a chikorita in order to save him from Team Rocket. Later, she would help save Ash again from a team of Rocket mechas, only to be left behind with Professor Oak again. This being after it's shown that she gets very distressed when she's away from Ash.

Ash is very prone to building up these friendships and then leaving his pokemon in the dust. I mean, sure, there's that problem with Pokemon where this sort of thing happens:

But surely it would make sense to take more than just one strong pokemon into a new region with you, at least to begin with. Plus, he promised that Pidgeot that he was coming back for it after he finished in the Orange Islands. That was 593 episodes ago and he still hasn't kept that promise.

So Yeah...
I think it's safe to say that Ash is a pretty terrible Pokemon Trainer. I'm pretty sure the only reason he makes any progress is because Pikachu spends all of its spare time training the rest of his pokemon offscreen.

The Poster Boy for 'How NOT to train your Pokemon'

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