Follow TV Tropes


Early Installment Weirdness / Pokémon Anime

Go To

The early episodes of the Pokémon anime feature a lot of Early Installment Weirdness due to Earth Drift and varying directorial opinions on what the anime should be like.

  • The anime was quite bizarre in the beginning, containing such things as guns (used rather sparingly and completely excised in the dub by the censors, but still), New Rules as the Plot Demands that reached memetic levels, a few mentions of the concept of a Pokémon dying, which is almost never brought up anymore except in a few of the movies, and one mon-of-the-week being a talking Gastly (a rarity in itself) that also had abilities that were patently absurd... Not to mention Sabrina's Living Toys. Emphasis on Rule of Funny also led to some bizarre situations; visual puns were emphasized and lampshaded a lot more often in the first half of Kanto than anytime since.
  • Advertisement:
  • The second episode has a throw-away line which has fueled more than a few conspiracy theories - Delia (Ash's mom) mentions his father. Delia mentions that Ash's father is on a journey. Since then, Ash's father hasn't been mentioned again. Flashbacks and photos of Ash as a small child always depict Delia as Ash's sole parent. According to Pocket Monsters: The Animation, Ash's father was likely meant to be a deadbeat trainer who ran off, but that was never included in the anime and has long since been dubbed non-canon.
  • There was also the Pokédex, who is usually just a computer spouting off information about Pokémon. In the first episode, it seemed to have a personality as a Deadpan Snarker, acting like a dick toward Ash when he found a Rattata going through his bag. The idea of the Pokédex as a character in its own right would not be revisited until the Sun and Moon season, when Ash received a Rotom Dex.
  • Advertisement:
  • A similar example is Pikachu, who was a bit of a Jerkass in the first episode but mellows down considerably when Ash earns its respect. It's seldom mentioned again. Pikachu was still feisty and occasionally a jerk throughout Kanto (constantly shocking Ash, trying to kill Meowth at least once, etc), however future flashbacks and I Choose You pretend that he became a complete Nice Guy after the first episode. Also, in the first few seasons, he was a lot more chubby, but slimmed down Garfield-style.
  • In fact, many of the early episodes had characters who were completely and utterly arrogant and a Jerkass towards Ash with probably the worst being Gym Leader Erika, who bans Ash from her gym because he didn't like her perfume.
  • The 9th episode, "The School of Hard Knocks" has two ideas that were dropped right afterwards:
    • It was one of the few episodes to reference numbered Character Levels (as in the RPG game mechanics). As an example, one of the characters mentioned that Pidgeotto should learn Whirlwind at level 21. Later episodes don't talk about levels at all except as vague terms and moves can be learned either spontaneously or when given explicit instruction from others.
    • Advertisement:
    • It also showed Ash having a crush, making this episode the only one where Ash showed any capacity for romantic attraction. Some fans still assume that these elements are still true - despite the episode being made over 15 years ago and counting and not being mentioned since. This is also one of the rare moments where Brock has shown attraction to a girl around Ash's age. Typically he shows attraction to women or girls in their later teens, and he's officially 15. The other was the girl Ash had a crush on, of all characters, who in the Japanese version said she'd be fun in eight years. Both were in original series episodes.
  • Snarky comments in general (both deserved and undeserved) were a staple of the anime's comedy back in its early days, but slowly faded out until the Diamond and Pearl arc, where they were almost completely gone with a few notable exceptions. This can be observed the closest with Ash, who was a petulant and sometimes-arrogant kid when he first started out in Kanto, but eventually grew out of it from Hoenn onwards.
  • The anime was originally supposed to take place on a futuristic Earth. According to two supplementary books made by Takeshi Shudō, Pokémon popped up on Earth one day. They eventually began replacing animals however some animals still survived. This explains early episodes where real-world countries exist and animals are shown. The original plot for the third film was even going to be about what happened to real-world animals, according to Word of God. "The School of Hard Knocks" mentions Misty always wanting to visit France. Other real places mentioned in the anime include England, Guyana, and Hollywood (though apparently not America's Hollywood since it's in Kanto). Jessie's Missing Mom Miyamoto was last seen looking for Mew in the Andes mountains according to The Birth of Mewtwo radio drama. But France and Hollywood at least have since been replaced by brand new places that are based on them, such as Kalos and Pokestar Studios. Holiday episodes are also rarer now, and when they do appear they use counterpart holidays instead of the actual holidays (compare the infamous Kanto Christmas Episode to the Kalos onenote ).
  • Compare the Kanto League saga, which only took around 80 episodes to complete,note  to later game-based League sagas. The entry on the Arc Fatigue page has the numbers.
  • The Kanto and Johto episodes of the anime were a lot more Japanese than you see in Hoenn or Sinnoh. This was a specific change on request from Nintendo and the sponsors, who noting that Pokémon now had worldwide fame, wanted it more "culturally neutral" to appeal to children all over the world, so most of the specific Japanese cultural themes stopped being used. This attitude extended to Best Wishes and XY which were set in regions based heavily on America and France respectively.
  • In the earlier seasons, characters, especially Gym Leaders, barely resembled their game counterparts in terms of personality. Kanto even changed their designsnote  while other seasons kept them a lot truer. At least one of the personality changes - Misty being tsundere - was added to the games (albeit downplayed). When Jasmine reappeared in Sinnoh she still kept her more aggressive anime personality and, to make it weirder, in her first episode she was closer to her Shrinking Violet game portrayal.
  • And speaking of Gyms and battles:
    • Four out of Ash's first five Gym Leaders gave Ash their badges for helping them out in different ways, even though he didn't officially defeat themnote : the Cerulean and Celadon Gym Battles were interrupted by Team Rocket and a fire respectively, the Pewter Gym battle had sprinklers that gave Ash's Pikachu an advantage over Brock's Onix, and the Haunter that Ash led back to the Saffron Gym snapped Sabrina out of her Emotionless Girl/Creepy Child persona. Starting with Koga, no other leaders have made exceptions like these, except for possibly Maylene in Sinnoh, but that match ended in a draw. This was lampshaded at the Cinnabar Gym, when Ash expects to receive his badge, but Blaine only intended to let him re-challenge him for it. Ash was thrilled for a proper rematch anyway.
    • Also, during the Kanto saga, Gym Leaders were shown on a few occasions (such as Erika and Blaine) to be allowed to substitute their Pokémon. The concept of a Gym Leader or Champion not being allowed to substitute Pokémon was first introduced during Ash's Orange League Championship match and has been the standard rule for Gyms in mainstream leagues ever since Johto (the Nacrene Gym in Unova being an exception).
    • A more minor example is that in the earlier days of the show, several gym leaders were one-shot characters. Ash would simply show up at the gym and meet the gym leader, get his badge, and then leave, all in the same episode. The last gym leader where this happened was Wattson at the Mauville Gym, the third gym in the Hoenn League, though this was ultimately subverted in the episode where Ash and co. returned to Mauville City and met up with him again. Aside from that, the last gym leader to get this treatment was Chuck, the Cianwood Gym Leader, the fifth one in Johto. Nowadays, Ash never gets a gym badge in the same episode where the gym leader debuts. He will either spend their debut episode with them on a non-gym-related plot and have his gym battle in the next episode, or he will have a gym battle with them but lose and re-challenge the gym. Another possibility is that he will challenge them to a gym battle in their debut episode, and the same battle will continue into the next episode where he will win itnote .
    • Early episodes of the English dub refer to gym leaders as "gym trainers".
  • The Kanto Gym Leaders tend to have different designs (mostly in clothing choice)note  compared to their game counterparts, while game characters from the second generation forward retain their game designs. Applies to the anime characters based on player/rival characters as well: Ash and Gary themselves had slightly different clothing from their game counterparts Red and Blue. From then on, characters based on playable characters only have very minor differences, with the largest difference being Serena, before and after her outfit swap. Although Ash continues to have large design differences from his counterpart Red due to being a continuing main character with frequent outfit swaps.
  • Team Rocket:
    • Their first appearance made them seem genuinely threatening and powerful. While they quickly became a comic nuisance to Ash and friends, they retained their villainous demeanor for some time - the episode "Holy Matrimony", which reveals James' back story, was probably the point where their motives started to slide. The trio suddenly became much more villainous and competent for most of Best Wishes, but reverted to the bumbling idiots from earlier seasons during the subsequent filler arc. In the following X&Y and Sun & Moon shows, they seem to have gotten back to mid-Kanto levels of threat and comedy.
    • Early episodes make Meowth the trio's leader (though this was actually due to a translation error); later on, they became theoretically equal, though Jessie easily bullied the other two and occasionally treats herself as leader.
    • Jessie and James were Disguised in Drag frequently in Original Series episodes but completely stopped afterwards, aside from one or two times with James (one of which he only dressed as Jessie to fill in for her at a contest because she was sick).
    • In Japan, Meowth sounds like a cat and has a "nya" Verbal Tic. They tried to emulate the verbal tic in early English dub episodes by having him say "meow" and "Meowth" sometimes, but quickly dropped it.
    • James and Meowth's voices were done by Ted Lewis and Matthew Sussman (aka Nathan Price) for the first 9 and 29 episodes instead of Eric Stuart and Maddie Blaustein, respectively, and it shows. It was done both in tandem with Ted Lewis taking a break to do theater and Matthew Sussman semi-retiring, but they decided not to bring the old VAs back after it became evident that they were going to be more comical from then on and that they fit the comical roles better. Even Eric Stuart's James sounds a bit different than it did early Season 1: it sounded more like an imitation of Ted Lewis's "serious" performance at first but gradually (d)evolved into what we hear by Season 8.
    • In early episodes Meowth's eyes looked more cat-like, he had a more feline stance, and he seemed fine with moving on all fours.
    • The very first episode is the only episode, until the 16th of the Best Wishes series, in which Team Rocket does not appear.
    • The episode "Bad To The Bone" has Jessie try to catch Otoshi's Doduo with a Poke Ball despite the fact he already owns it. In later episodes, when a character tries to catch a Pokémon under the ownership of someone else already, the Ball refuses to work, so Jessie should've known she's wasting her time. But the ball was knocked away by Marowak's bone club, so we don't know what would've happened. Interestingly, this is averted in the Japanese The Birth of Mewtwo CD drama, in which Sakaki/Giovanni steals a defeated Trainer's Magmar.
    • It was originally shown that Jessie and James were Japanese Delinquents who met in a biker gang as teens. Though they still have a Multiple-Choice Past, it's pretty concrete in all flashbacks that they didn't meet until adulthood.
    • In the Kanto season, Team Rocket would show up to interrupt Ash's Gym Matches, but later on, they rarely do that again.
    • Similarly, Team Rocket's appearance in the Indigo League, specifically the one where Ash had his match with Ritchie, was very crucial and caused Ash to lose his match. In every subsequent league, that would never happen again and Team Rocket are usually selling food/merchandise (Orange League to Sinnoh) or filming the matches (Kalos) in the background or do not even show up (Unova) instead.
    • Jessie's Missing Mom Miyamoto is a character in the radio drama Pokémon: The Birth of Mewtwo. It's shown that she got lost in the Andes mountains and has not been seen in 20 years. Aside from the drama itself, Miyamoto has never been referenced again. Considering the Earth Drift, it's unlikely she will be without some changes.
    • Team Rocket acts unusually violent in episode 12. They commit armed robbery and throw bombs at children. Later episodes downplay their hands-on violence.
  • Ash's name even counts. It's glaringly obvious he's one of the few characters who uses his last name. In Japan his name is just "Satoshi", with no given surname. However, "Ash" was too short to match the lips. It's likely that if the series was dubbed a few years later, they would have been able to work around it.
  • While the games make it clear Pokémon hunt each other, the anime usually avoids implications of Pokémon eating other Pokémon. It's thus very noticeable when Ash's Pidgeotto tried to eat his Caterpie when they met and Meowth implied he wanted to eat Pikachu early on.
  • The Buizel from Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea acts differently from other Buizel. It acts like a dog and generally seems less anthropomorphic than usual.
  • In the Japanese version of "The Battle of the St. Anne" Ash refers to the man he traded with as a "Gentleman". Aside from that Trainer Classes are ignored in the anime. Characters modeled after Trainer Class designs do appear at times, with onenote  becoming a companion.note 
  • In Kanto and Johto, Ash's personality was noticeably different from his personality in future seasons. He was much more hot-headed and stubborn. He has since calmed down into a sweeter Stock Shōnen Hero. While originally presented as Character Development, his brattier original behavior rarely ever gets referenced and flashbacks to him prior to the series use the newer Friend to All Living Things characterization.
  • One early episode had Pikachu unable to speak to a Wartortle and needing Squirtle to translate. Future episodes make it clear that all Pokémon understand each other.
  • Pokémon that speak human languages is something of an unclear subject. Early ideas for the anime involved more Pokémon with the ability to talk like people, but this idea was axed early on by Satoshi Tajiri himself. Nowadays there are very few relics of this idea, the most prominent being Team Rocket's Meowth. Pokémon that are the stars of movies often get a pass on this, mostly to increase their mystical nature, and most of these examples use Telepathy (even when they aren't Psychic-types).
  • Early seasons featured Japanese and some English text. 4kids would remove the text and either replace it with English text, leave it blank, or use a random gibberish language. Eventually, even in Japan they began using the made up language in order to make the series more "international friendly" and fit the Earth Drift. The games also featured Japanese text until the fifth generation, where they embraced the anime's Wing Dinglish. English and Japanese still appear sometimes, but most text consists of made-up text.
  • In the Japanese version of a Sinnoh episode, Musashi (Jessie) mentions that she should study English. This shows that the anime's universe has multiple languages, which was later confirmed again when Rotomdex mentioned having various language settings. The line was written when all the regions were based on Japan. When Pokémon Black and White introduced non-Japanese regions, the anime avoided the topic of language barriers all together. Ash can communicate with Unova (American), Kalos (French), and Alola (American/Hawaiian) characters without any problem. In the games it's been shown that the regions speak different languages instead of one universal tongue. In Gens V & VI, this isn't a problem because the protags of Unova are from the region and the protag of X & Y was from a nearby region, making it a similar scenario to Gen IIInote . The protag of Gen VII, however, moved to Alola from Kantonote  so they don't have that out.
  • According to Pocket Monsters: The Animation, ten year olds are considered legal adults. The anime doesn't go with this interpretation of the universe, however elements of this still snuck into Kanto episodes and made their mark.note 
  • In the episode "Island of the Giant Pokémon", Jessie's Ekans claims that all Pokémon are Always Lawful Good; that is, they are never bad or evil of their own accord, but only when their trainer is. While this held true for a good long while (and to some degree still does — independent Pokémon villains are rare next to human ones, and they're never as irredeemable as some of them), the appearance of a group of Malamar out to Take Over the World and Jessie's Mimikyu (who joined Team Rocket purely out of hatred for Pikachu) disproves Ekans' point.
  • The early episodes frequently used still frames during battles. In later episodes, "attack lines" (a blank background with gradient color with flowing, moving lines) are often used as background whenever a Pokémon is about to attack. As animation abilities evolved, these traits were dropped.
  • Before Berries were given different varieties in the third generation games, real-life fruits such as apples were commonly seen in the anime. They're still used but less commonly (and the English dub usually refers to them as berries). Unlike the real-life animals, real fruit does occasionally show up, even when they have a Pokémon berry equivalent.note  This can lead to situations where real fruits get called Pokémon berry names, or Pokémon Berries are referred to as real fruits. It also doesn't help that the anime also has fruit that don't appear in the games at all.
  • The English version of the series, especially the soundtracks, seem to hint that Misty secretly had feelings for Ash and hid it behind her Tsundere persona and her excuse of getting payment for her bike. The original Japanese version itself had a few moments of this (in particular note, Misty's arc in the second movie). It was highly likely that the entire angle was dropped once the series proved to be highly popular and Ash was given rotating companions, seeing as it wouldn't be until X & Y until an actual plot involving female protagonists having an obvious crush on Ash was used.
  • A OS episode, "Pikachu Re-Volts", implied that Pokémon don't really like battling. Expanding on that, Takeshi Shudo even had an idea to end the anime with Pokémon revolting against their Trainers, with Ash's Pikachu as the leader. Future seasons show that Pokémon enjoy battling and aren't forced into it.
  • Ash used to hide his tears in Kanto and Johto. He's since stopped doing that.
  • The switch away from 4kids caused this in the long-run. For the first few seasons everyone had different English voices and the anime was less true to the Japanese version. 4kids produced a lot of original music, including several soundtracks (such as Pokémon Christmas Bash) and the famous Pokeraps, which have mostly stopped since the dubbers changed. By contrast, the first couple of seasons used far more of the original Japanese music (which consists of arrangements of the games music), compared to most later episodes of the dub which usually have a completely new soundtrack outside a handful of the original edit's most signature tunes.
  • Meowth's very backstory has been hit with this. The anime makes such a big deal about him being the only Meowth who can walk on their hindlegs. Early episodes portray all Meowth as quadrupedal, however the games always showed them bipedally and eventually the anime followed afterwards. Tyson's Meowth is bipedal but it's never commented upon. Meowth has an entire episode with a bipedal Alolan Meowth with no special attention given to it.
  • While the anime has never been remarkably violent, over the years it's been toned down. The way battling is portrayed is overall less graphic than in early episodes. Humans also don't get injured nearly as much by Pokémon as they did in the Original Series (though slapstick Amusing Injuries vary depending on the tone, especially in the Sun and Moon series).
  • Kanto and Johto stand out as they had their own original plots compared to the games. Future arcs at least try to adapt the villainous team to some degree, but the Original Series preferred to focus on the main Team Rocket trio of Jessie, James and Meowth instead of the team at large. Even in later episodes that do utilize more of the Team Rocket organization, they tend to consist of original characters such as Butch and Cassidy and Matori instead of adapt any of noteworthy members from the games (with all of the Executives from the Johto games being Adapted Out). The anime missed most of the major plot points of the first two generations and the Johto rival isn't even in the anime (aside from a cameo in the Japanese intro for The Legend of Thunder). This eventually led to trouble adapting elements of future games, which reference Team Rocket being split up during Red and Blue/FireRed and LeafGreen.
  • One Kanto episode clearly shows Slowpoke being bitten by an unknown Pokémon that looks like whatever is on Slowbro's tail. Future episodes insist this was a Shellder, despite it looking nothing like one. Gold and Silver originally planned to introduce the shell Pokémon as a new Pokémon.
  • In Kanto there was a Running Gag of women mistaking Ash for their son. This gag only lasted a few episodes before being dropped.
  • Ash's Chaste Hero status didn't show up much in the Indigo League saga — for example he himself gets a crush in the episode "School of Hard Knocks" and is convinced to take the role of a Mr. Mime at a circus because the pretty girls that worked there begged him to, and he understands Butterfree's mating season in "Bye Bye Butterfree".
  • When it came time to prepare for the Indigo Plateau, Ash looked for every excuse under the sun to avoid training. He'd even use Pokémon that he'd never used in a battle before like Krabby and Muk. This is a far cry from the more recent seasons, where both he and his Pokémon have a passion for training and coming up with new strategies. Then again, this could be a case of Ash actually retaining An Aesop.
  • Ash doesn't change his clothes during his journeys in the Orange Islands and Johto. The first time he did this is in Hoenn, and his costume bears no resemblance at all to the game protagonist that he is supposed to be replacing (Brendan in this case). Later seasons would start basing off his outfits from the game protagonists, which also has an effect of giving them similar color schemes.
  • At least two commercials produced before the anime aired have Pikachu voiced by Rachael Lillis, who was originally supposed to be the voice of the character in the English dub before they chose to keep Ikue Otani's voice. This also happens at one point in the first episode as well.
  • There are a few references to Christianity: Brock mentions Noah's arc, the fake coffins of James' parents have crosses on them, and Misty tries to ward away a talking Gastly with a cross. Keep in mind, this was before Arceus existed (and even then, few know of Arceus). Since then, the anime has avoided religion outside of mythology involving Pokémon.
  • There are lots of variants seen before Shiny Pokémon became a canon mechanic in Johto. Even then, the term "Shiny" itself isn't canon until Unova.
  • The first three episodes of the Orange Islands arc used the original theme for the English dub. Starting with "The Lost Lapras", each episode opened with "Pokémon World" until the arc's conclusion.
  • There were many instances of non-Pokémon animals, one of the most infamous examples being the mongoose Gastly turns into in "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak" and fish in an aquarium in another episode. While small animals (such as butterflies and starfish) still occasionally appear in the anime, they're much, much rarer and have largely been replaced by Pokémon.
  • Early episodes make it clear that humans eat Pokémon. "So Near, Yet So Farfetch'd" outright features a Pokédex entry that states Farfetch'd are near extinction because they're tasty when eaten with leek. Since Johto, the anime has been more ambiguous on where the meat comes from.
  • Mewtwo was hyped up in the anime in a way other legendaries haven't. It prominently appears in several Kanto episodes. This was because the first movie was intended to be the only movie. It was originally a series finale, but the series ended up continuing past Kanto.
  • In the Kanto arc, characters make repeated reference to there only being 151 known Pokémon. This was dropped after Johto revealed over 100 new Pokémon that have existed in another region for centuries. Very few Pokémon are "newly discovered" anymore.
  • Throughout the sixth episode, Clefairy holds a Moon Stone yet doesn't evolve. Later episodes have it so that simple touching an evolutionary stone induces evolution.
  • Charmander's debut revolves around Charmander dying if their fire dies. This was later retconned away as Charmander's aren't harmed when their tails get wet.
  • Very early on, characters could keep as many Pokémon as they could carry. Charmander's owner Damien even had 30. It was revealed later in the Kanto arc that trainers can only carry six at a time.
  • A few early episodes like "Beauty and the Beach", "Electric Shock Showdown", and "Hypno's Naptime" make reference to ten-year old characters being found cute by teens and adults. This is a remnant from Pocket Monsters: The Animation having ten year olds as adults. Later episodes remove these jokes.
  • In the first episode, Professor Oak mentions that Pikachu sometimes have electric personalities, which explains Pikachu's attitude. This was quickly done away as no other Pikachu displays these traits. Spiky personalities are associated with Raichu in the anime.

Example of: