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Recap / Pokémon S1E4 "Challenge of the Samurai"

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Harden! Now Harden some more! Maximum hardness, Metapod!
"No, it wasn't Samurai's fault. It was my fault. If I was a better Pokémon trainer I'd stop making all these excuses. From now on I swear I'll never run away and leave my friends behind again. No more excuses."
Ash

Japanese Title: Challenge of the Samurai Boy!

Original Airdate: April 22, 1997

US Airdate: September 11, 1998

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Ash begins this episode by trying to capture a Weedle, only to be interrupted by a boy in samurai armor challenging him to a Pokémon battle. Ash sends his Pidgeotto out against the boy's Pinsir, but despite having the type advantage Pidgeotto loses. Ash then claims victory over Pinsir by sending out his newly evolved Metapod, who's hardened carapace breaks Pinsir's pincers. After that the boy sends out his own Metapod and they both continue to battle fruitlessly, ordering their Pokémon to use the Harden move over and over again.

The battle is eventually interrupted by a swarm of Beedril, one of which takes Ash's Metapod away. The next day Ash attempts to retrieve Metapod, only to run into trouble when he discovers Metapod no longer trusts him. Ash apologizes for his mistake, and promises to take better care of Metapod in the future, and Metapod then evolves to protect him from an incoming swarm of Beedrill. The newly evolved Butterfree puts all the attacking Pokémon to sleep with his Sleep Powder attack, and Ash and Misty make it through Viridian and on towards Pewter City.

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Tropes

  • Broken Aesop: Never My Fault meets It's All My Fault meets Hypocrite, as Samurai continuously berates Ash for allowing Weedle to escape and summon a swarm of Beedrill who then steal Ash's Metapod. Ash then decides that it really is all his fault while rescuing Metapod. Never mind the fact that Weedle escaped because Samurai interrupted Ash's capture attempt by swinging a sword in his face.
  • Continuity Nod: Ash nearly made the same mistake he did with Pidgey and Pidgeotto by attempting to catch Weedle without weakening it, but then he remembers and recounts his lesson to the camera before sending out Pidgeotto to deal with the Hairy Bug Pokémon.
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  • Early-Bird Cameo: Samurai's flashbacks briefly depict a Squirtle, which was later revealed to be that of Gary Oak.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Samurai is ostensibly a Bug Catcher, but has an outlandish design that looks nothing like the trainer class in game. In future episodes, the Character of the Week will either look more like their game counterparts, or just have a relatively generic costume. This is when the series was still planned to, at most, just be Ash going through the Kanto League, before it became an endless longrunner that uses Only Six Faces more and more often. Interestingly, the novelization by Takeshi Shudō has the Samurai's role played by a generic bug catcher from the games.
    • Butterfree evolves by emerging from Metapod's shell, very much like a real-life butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. Future Pokémon of this kind (like Beautifly and Dustox) will metamorphose from its pupal stage to its final stage, with Metapod eventually following suit.
  • Eleventh Hour Super Power: Metapod evolves just in time and learns Sleep Powder to calm the Beedrill.
  • End-of-Episode Silliness: The episode ends with Team Rocket wrapped up like Kakuna in the Beedrill nest. They begin bickering about their situation, which ends up awakening and alerting the Beedrill swarm of their location.
  • Eye Catch: The featured Who's That Pokémon? is Metapod.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Often overlooked in this episode is the depiction of violence displayed by the Pokémon's attacks.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The Samurai threatens to do this to Metapod with Pinsir, and we get a Imagine Spot of that scenario.
  • Hypocrite: The samurai, who forces Ash to take responsibility for what was his fault in the first place.
  • Imagine Spot: Ash imagines what would happen if Metapod gets caught in Pinsir's pincers. The imagery is not pretty.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: When Misty spots another Bug Pokémon, Ash jokes that "Maybe it's a..." and comes out with a cow costume and says, Cow-Terpie. This joke is so lame, it causes the tree branch Misty was hanging onto to break and Pikachu to face-vault.
  • Kid Samurai: The Samurai Boy has the appearance of the classic kid samurai character, although he is not being contrasted against an older and more mature warrior and instead lectures Ash on matter of Pokémon training. Despite his belief in his own superiority, his own mistakes belie his immaturity, even if he is a bit more mature than Ash.
  • Lost in Translation: There is a gag based on Japanese word play where Misty yells "Bug" (Mushi) over and over and Ash is shown in a cow costume asking "Cow?" (Ushi). The English dub had to change this to the even weirder gag of Ash putting on a cow costume and making a crack about calling Caterpie "Cow-terpie".
  • Mirror Match: "Metapod, use Harden!"
  • Never My Fault: The samurai, again, for not accepting responsibility for his part in instigating the Beedrill swarm, and forcing Ash to accept the blame.
  • Rebuilt Pedestal: Metapod to Ash, seeming to side with the samurai over who caused his capture, and left unwilling to be rescued by Ash. After Ash emotionally admits responsibility for him however, Metapod is touched and takes the bullet for him.
  • Standard Status Effects: Butterfree demonstrates the sleep status effect from the game by pouring sleeping powder over attacking Beedrill.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The samurai who interrupts Ash's Weedle capture, allowing it to retreat and call in reinforcements.
  • Verbal Tic: In the original, the Samurai ends each sentence with "de gozaru," a suffix characteristic of their speech style.
  • Villain Decay: Team Rocket's drop from actual threats to jokes hits like a ton of bricks here. Among other things they brought a paper "tank" to protect them from Beedrill, which is then eaten by Weedle becoming completely useless. The reason why it was made of paper is either because they wanted to save money (Original), or it was to reduce weight (Dub).
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