Japanese Title: Pokémon! I Choose You!
Original Airdate: April 1st, 1997
US Airdate: September 8th, 1998
We all know the episode. It is young Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town's tenth birthday, and for this momentous occasion he is allowed to pick a starter Pokémon and start his journey to become a Pokémon master. However, on the day that he is due to pick his Pokémon he wakes up late and ends up getting to Professor Oak's laboratory after all the other Pokémon have already been picked. However Professor Oak sympathises with the young boy and lets him pick the dangerous fourth starter Pokémon - the electric type Pikachu with a shocking personality.
After getting his Pokédex Ash slowly begins his journey, but unable to control his Pikachu in any way who seems to find humour in his ineptitude. He attempts to catch a Pidgey but fails - after all has no co-operative Pokémon to weaken it with. As he attempts to capture another Pidgey, he accidentally angers a Spearow which calls for the rest of its flock and chases Ash and Pikachu en masse. They get dragged into a river by accident along the way and are pulled out of the water by a girl fishing for Pokémon. She advises Ash to take his Pikachu to the nearby Pokémon Center in Viridian City but steals her bike to get there quicker.
While racing towards the Pokémon Center in Viridian City they are caught up by the Spearow flock again and a storm begins - eventually Pikachu leaps into the air and roasts all of them with its Thunder Shock, saving it and its trainer's life, but only after Ash had proven himself worthy to his disobedient Pokémon. After the storm has cleared and the flock has dispersed, a shimmering golden mysterious Pokémon flies through the sky, bringing a rainbow with it. Although the Pokédex is unable to identify the Pokémon, Ash decides to struggle on to Viridian City and save his Pikachu.
And the journey continues.
- An Aesop: The world is a lot bigger and dangerous than you could ever imagine, and going in like an entitled hero will only result in pain. The world is largely indifferent towards your existence but, if you actually let your true self shine and let bonds form with others, you'll find your way in life.
- Ascended Fridge Horror: What are the dangers or hardships that a ten-year old would actually face when they go a Pokémon journey alone? See Deconstruction below.
- Berserk Button: Pikachu gets very annoyed when Ash's mother calls him weird, a thought bubble of a skull and crossbone above his head before he zaps her and everyone else.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The episode was mainly about Ash trying to be a trainer and having the worst luck of his life. All the injuries and misfortune he went through were Played for Laughs. Then he hits a Spearow with a rock and within a few minutes, Ash is trying to get Pikachu to safety from the flock of Spearow pursing them.
- Characterization Marches On: Professor Oak is much more aloof and sarcastic in this episode, especially towards Ash, compared to his later Nice Guy persona.
- The Cheerleader: Gary Oak is followed by a group of cheerleaders as he leaves Pallet Town.
- Color-Coded Elements: Pikachu is yellow, and so is the electricity he shoots. The three Pokémon given out as starters are Bulbasaur, a green Grass-type; Charmander, a red Fire-type; and Squirtle, a blue Water-type.
- Crucified Hero Shot: When Ash decides to put himself in front of the Spearow flock to protect Pikachu at the episode's climax, his pose is in a crucified stance.
- Decon-Recon Switch: The episode starts off as a deconstruction of the whole Pokémon experience, with Ash having to deal with an uncooperative Pikachu and nearly getting killed by wild Pokémon on his first day. Though it seems that his dream To Be a Master is merely a childish fantasy doomed to fail, the episode changes tone when Ash and Pikachu are finally cornered by the Spearow flock. From that point on, the Pokémon journey is reconstructed when Ash decides to selflessly protect Pikachu at the risk of his own life and Pikachu finally returns the favor. It ends on an optimistic and hopeful note for these newly forged friends.
- Deconstruction: Of being a Pokémon trainer. The episode explores what hardships a ten-year old trainer would face on their first day. Unlike the starter Pokémon in the games, Pikachu is hostile and disobedient to his new trainer, even showing a dislike of being in a Poké Ball. Ash, unable to get Pikachu's aid to catch Pokémon, had to resort using his clothes and rocks as a substitute, which fails miserably. His supplies, such as food, are also vulnerable to wild Pokémon such as Rattata. Then the episode demonstrates the true dangers of wild Pokémon in the form of an angry Spearow flock, which nearly killed both Ash and Pikachu. It borders on Unbuilt Trope since this was the first episode.
- Dub Personality Change:
- Gary Oak's rivalry with Ash is much more subtle in the original as he doesn't really antagonize Ash beyond the typical "you're falling behind," and comes off as simply being arrogant. The dub amplifies Gary's Jerkass nature and made him into an outright bully, putting down Ash and directly calling him a loser.
- Delia Ketchum is a lot more strict with Ash in the original version. When she gives him his backpack and belongings, she weeps in tears because of how much trouble Ash put her through. The dub changed it to her just simply weeping over the fact that her son is leaving the nest to become a Pokémon trainer.
- Early-Bird Cameo:
- At the end of the episode after the storm and Spearow flock has cleared, Ash gets a glimpse of a large gold bird Pokémon flying through a rainbow in the sky. Said Pokémon is Ho-Oh, the legendary mascot of future Generation II game Pokémon Gold, which wouldn't be released for over two years after the episode had aired. And yes, the early bird pun is acknowledged.
- Possibly also Bruno of the Elite Four, as the trainer shown in shadow in the opening fight seems to have his model, especially in higher fidelity versions of the episode.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The Poké Balls for the three starter Pokémon have their names written on them and Pikachu has a lightning bolt shape on its Poké Ball. Neither of these things are ever seen again in future episodes. Also, during the match shown on television, the silhouetted trainer uses a green Poké Ball to summon Onix.
- When Ash encounters Gary at Oak's Lab, Gary in the English dub acts as if this was his first time meeting Ash. Later episodes would reveal that Ash and Gary pretty much grew up together. In the Japanese version and the Japanese novelization by Takeshi Shudo, Gary and Ash imply that they already know each other.
- The Pokédex gives more personal advice to Ash and has a Deadpan Snarker tone compare to its future appearances.
- This is the only episode, until "Rematch at the Nacrene Gym" (#673, in the Best Wishes arc), in which Team Rocket does not appear.
- Ash also has a much deeper voice.
- Overall, the tone of the episode is a lot more realistic when approaching the world of Pokémon, showing exactly how a ten-year-old would likely approach the Pokémon universe and the inherent dangers it would have. While Kanto as a whole tends to be a lot more grounded than later seasons, even the episodes coming right after this one would end up softening this angle substantially and by Johto, a lot of the dangers the Pokémon world would present that weren't the evil Teams or 'misunderstood' wild Pokémon would be near non-existant.
- Empathic Environment: When Ash is taking the injured Pikachu to the Viridian Pokémon Center away from the Spearow, the weather turned dark and stormy. When they are cornered by the Spearow and Ash puts himself in front of Pikachu, the weather is simply raining with thunder in the background. After Pikachu defeats the Spearow, the storm departs and the sun shines upon our two heroes. And to top it all off, a rainbow appears in the sky as Ash gets a glimpse of the then-unknown legendary Pokémon, Ho-Oh.
- Establishing Character Moment:
- Ash Ketchum is introduced as a young kid watching a Pokémon battle on TV, surrounded by Pokémon merchandise, and is very eager to become finally a Pokémon Trainer and pursue his dream of becoming a Pokémon Master...before his mother interrupts him and tells him to go back to bed. But his true character isn't summed up until his Go Through Me moment at the climax. He may not be the strongest, or smartest, or even the luckiest trainer, but his heart is in the right place and his courage is unwavering against the overwhelming odds. He puts his Pokémon's safety before himself, even when that same Pokémon never once show any respect or obedience to him, and it is that moment when Pikachu finally aids him and defeats the Spearow flock.
- The introduction of Gary Oak. When Ash arrives at Professor Oak's Laboratory, a large crowd complete with a squad of cheerleaders surrounds the entrance gate cheering for Gary's arrival. Ash bumps into Gary by accident, who immediately recognizes Ash and starts to be a Jerkass to him. He brags about getting the best Pokémon from Professor Oak due to him being his grandson right in Ash's face and instead of traveling on foot, he leaves off in a Cool Car with his cheerleaders, declaring to the world of his promising career as a Pokémon Trainer. Compare to Ash's own celebrating crowd, which is notably cheaper and has less fanfare than Gary's.
- Pikachu is first introduced as a cute yellow mouse Pokémon that cheerful says its name. Drawn by its cuteness, Ash naturally hugs his new Pokémon, but Pikachu takes a disliking to his new trainer and shocks Ash. Not even Professor Oak is safe from Pikachu's electrifying nature.
- Though not named in this episode, Misty's first scene quickly establishes her character. She is introduced fishing by the river, giving the first indication that she is a Water-type Pokémon Trainer. When she fishes Ash and Pikachu out of the water, she exhibits her Tsundere personality by being utterly harsh at Ash (even slapping him in the face, a moment that was cut from the dub) while also showing deep concern for his injured Pikachu. And of course, she loses her bike to Ash, which became the catalyst for Misty to travel with him.
- Establishing Series Moment: As the first animated adaptation of Pokémon, the episode immediately demonstrates what lively Pokémon battles are like.
- The opening scene starts off with the Gameboy intro of Red and Blue, featuring Gengar fighting Nidorino in a black and white turn-based battle with the 8-bit music rendition of the Pokémon Theme. But as Nidorino leaps upon Gengar, the scene suddenly shifts in a fully colored 360 degree perspective of the battle with an orchestra rendition of the aforementioned theme. Then the scene pans out to reveal that they have been fighting in a huge Pokémon Stadium, complete with a fully-packed crowd cheering and an announcer narrating the battle.
- Important aspects of Pokémon are revealed as the battle continues. Gengar proceeds to use its hypnotic powers on Nidorino, putting it to sleep and revealing that Pokémon are no ordinary creatures. With Nidorino incapacitated, concept of switching Pokémon is immediately shown as the trainer calls Nidorino back into its Poké Ball and immediately throws another Poké Ball on to the battlefield. The Poké Ball, which was small enough to fit in a person's hand, unleashes Onix note , a Rock Snake Pokémon that towers over Gengar like a Kaiju, a small taste of just how big and diverse Pokémon can be.
- Eye Catch: The featured Who's That Pokémon? in this episode is Pikachu.
- Feathered Fiend: Spearow, bird-like flying Pokémon who are also the primary threat of the episode.Pokédex: Unlike Pidgey, Spearow has a terrible attitude. It is very wild and will sometimes attack other Pokémon and humans.
- Fire-Forged Friends: The basic plot of the episode. Pikachu dislikes Ash at first, but after Ash risks his life to save Pikachu's from the Spearow they basically become best friends forever.
- Fishing for Sole: When Misty's fishing by the riverside she gets a big snag on her fishing rod, only to hook Ash and Pikachu instead.
- From Bad to Worse: Just when Ash and Pikachu finally defeat the vicious Spearow, the Spearow decides to call its huge flock from the trees to attack.
- Go Through Me: Ash does this for Pikachu when they are cornered by the Spearow flock. This ultimately earns him Pikachu's respect, and Pikachu jumps into the air and launches a massive Thunder Attack that knocks out the entire flock in one shot.
- Green-Eyed Monster: According to Ash's Pokédex, wild Pokémon tend to be jealous of human-trained Pokémon and often attack them as a result, as seen when the Spearow flock attacks Pikachu.
- Harmless Electrocution: This episode features the first of many, many times Pikachu electrocutes Ash with only minor negative effects.
- Hero Stole My Bike: Possibly one of the most iconic examples. Ash, realizing that the Spearow flock has found him and Pikachu, immediately steals Misty's bike to get to Viridian City as fast as possible. Misty protests but Ash promises that he'll give it back when he's done. It gets totaled by Pikachu at the end of the episode, which became the catalyst for Misty to follow Ash.
- Hostile Weather: After Ash takes Misty's bike in order to outrun the Spearow, the weather suddenly turns into a thunderstorm and the rain causes the bike to slip on the newly formed mud, leaving Ash and Pikachu vulnerable to the Spearow flock. The storm also happens to be a perfect amplifying source for Pikachu's electric attack.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Professor Oak churns out a couple of these during the episode: "[Pikachu is] usually shy, but can sometimes have an electrifying personality" and "Shocking, isn't it?".
- Late for School: Ash manages to wake up late on his first day as Pokémon trainer forcing him to end up with Pikachu.
- Licked by the Dog: After the Spearow have been defeated, Ash picks up the weak Pikachu who then gently licks his cheek, signifying that it finally likes and trusts him.
- Lost in Translation: A joke in the Japanese version of this episode is completely lost in the English version due to it involving Japanese wordplay. In the original, Ash asks Pikachu if he could hear its story, hanashi, of why it doesn't like him but Pikachu takes it to mean ha nashi, meaning no teeth, and opens its mouth to show it has teeth. Naturally 4Kids try to work round this instead by changing it into the following passage:Ash: Well I like you a lot. And since you're the Pokémon I'm training, don't you think you could be a little nicer and just open your mouth and tell me what's wrong?Pikachu: Cha~!Ash: Well, that's not exactly... what I meant. Is your name all you can say?
- Now You Tell Me:
- A very crude version. Rather than flat out tell Ash that Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle had already been taken, Professor Oak lets him open the Poké Balls one by one to see that they're empty.
- Oak does it again when he explains that Pikachu is known as the electric mouse, while Ash is in the process of being shocked due to being overtaken by Cuteness Proximity.
- Pajama-Clad Hero: Ash spends the first half of the episode dressed in his pajamas.
- Reconstruction: Despite the Deconstruction present in the episode, the importance of the trainer's bond with Pokémon is shown, with Ash risking his life to save Pikachu and Pikachu aiding Ash to defeat the Spearow. And the Ho-Oh cameo represents the wonders of finding new Pokémon yet to be discovered.
- Snarky Inanimate Object: Ash's Pokédex doesn't hold back any punches when a Rattata rummages through his backpack.Pokédex: It also comes out into open fields to steal food from stupid travelers.
- Starter Villain: The Spearow and its flock.
- Stock Animal Diet: The Pokédex states that Rattata, being a rodent Pokémon, eats cheese.
- Super-Persistent Predator: The Spearow flock is a terrifying one. Instead of simply driving off Ash and Pikachu away from their territory, the Spearow relentlessly pursue them through the fields, rivers, forests and even a thunderstorm to no ends. Not even Misty's bike can outrun them for long, and the only thing that stops them is Pikachu unleashing a massive electric attack that fries the entire flock to a crisp.
- The Unreveal: Gary's starter Pokémon, which set off fan theories for years until Johto confirmed it to be Squirtle.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The Spearow, and later its flock. It's the first Pokémon that is treated as a serious threat and it's clearly implied that the flock wouldn't hesitate to kill a young trainer and his Pokémon.
- With Cat Like Tread: Ash sneaks up on a Pidgey in an attempt to capture it, only to yell "SORRY, BUDDY!" as he pounces.