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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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  • Broken Aesop:
    • The episode wants to be about taking responsibility for your actions. Unfortunately, it mistakenly convinces itself that Ash is the one who needs to take responsibility, when the true Unwitting Instigator of Doom is the Samurai—the Beedrill swarm was summoned by the escaped Weedle, so the Samurai who distracted Ash and let the Weedle escape is at fault. The episode proceeds to take the Samurai's side when he blames Ash not only for letting the Weedle escape but for the Beedrill kidnapping Ash's Metapod—in effect it creates an unintentional Hypocrite by having the guilty party insist that it's Never My Fault while convincing an unlucky schlub that It's All My Fault.
    • Avoided in the novel version of the episode by Takeshi Shudō, as Weedle is caught by the Bug Catcher (Samurai's replacement) at the beginning of the chapter and the Beedrill are out hunting as opposed to being out for revenge. Ash forgets to recall Metapod and makes up excuses for it, and then Bug Catcher calls him out for it, even tearing up at the thought of someone else's bug Pokémon becoming the Beedrill's snack. Ash then acknowledges his immaturity. This really gives more meaning to Ash's character development in this story.
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  • Continuity Nod: Ash nearly makes 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.
  • 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. 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) metamorphose from their pupal stage to their final stage, with Metapod eventually following suit.
      • This animation was however reused for Sun & Moon when Sophocles' Charjabug evolves into Vikavolt, showing it breaking out of its shell before it starts glowing.
    • One gag involves Ash in a cow costume, which was before it was established that normal animals apparently don't exist in the Pokémon world, and before the introduction of the cow Pokémon, Miltank, in Gen II.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: 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:
  • 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.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Ash and Samurai are so caught up in their Metapod vs Metapod battle that they pay no attention whatsoever to Misty deciding to slip on a bikini and get some sun
  • 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 is hanging onto to break and Pikachu to face-vault.
  • Insult to Rocks: Samurai calls Ash a novice, then takes it back... because even a novice wouldn't abandon his Pokémon.
  • 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.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Both Misty and Pikachu have one of their own to Ash's attempt to calm the former with a cow pun.
  • 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 changes this to Ash putting on a cow costume and making a crack about calling Caterpie "Cow-terpie".
    • The Samurai's entire character design is based off of a Japanese pun; the Japanese word for the samurai helmet is kabuto, which is not merely the name of an ancient rock-pokemon, but also the first part of kabutomushi, the Japanese word for the rhinoceros beetle—this is why there's a samurai who specializes in Bug-type pokémon.
  • Mirror Match: "Metapod, use Harden!"
  • Ms. Fanservice: During the infamous Metapod duel, Misty kills time by lounging around in a bikini while sunbathing.
  • Never My Fault: The samurai refuses to accept responsibility for his part in instigating the Beedrill swarm, and forces Ash to accept the blame. Oddly enough, the episode acts as if it's Ash who's fallen victim to this mentality instead.
  • No-Sell: Pinsir is somehow completely unaffected when Pigeotto uses Sand Attack, ignoring the sand in its eyes.
  • Overly Long Gag: Metapod vs Metapod.
  • Precision F-Strike: Even today, there are still fans who will swear up and down that Ash demands the Samurai "take back that novice crap" about him. (The Closed Captions say "crack")
  • 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.
  • 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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