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Recap / The School of Hard Knocks

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Well, that's one way to win a Pokemon battle.
Pikachu can shock you, but otherwise it's pretty cute, don't you think? So if you don't let them evolve, they make great pets, especially for little girls.

Japanese Title: Pokémon Victory Manual

Original Airdate: May 27, 1997

US Airdate: September 18, 1998

The one where... Ash shows interest in a girl.

Ash, Misty, and Brock encounter a thick fog while traveling. They come upon a group of boys in school uniforms drilling a smaller student on Pidgey while forcing him to run a treadmill. Ash interferes with their bullying, only to be told all about Pokémon Tech, the première Pokémon school that lets you enter the Pokémon league without badges. The fog clears up, apparently an artificial effect caused by the school. The boy introduces himself as Joe. Joe inadvertently insults Misty's gym, and she challenges him to a fight. Even though Joe uses a grass type Pokémon, Misty beats him with her greater experience. An attractive girl named Giselle shows up to berate Joe and make fun of Ash. She beats Misty using a rock type, despite the type disadvantage and then faces Ash with Cubone that uses "cheap" bone related moves. Ash pulls her own trick on her by beating her with Pikachu, by ordering him to do cheap moves.

Team Rocket makes a brief appearance and is revealed to have tried to enter Pokémon Tech but having failed the entrance exams. The students repel them by pelting them with Pokéballs. Ash and company leave on good terms.


  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Giselle, although she is shown to be a Lovable Alpha Bitch by the end.
  • Bag of Holding: Brock's backpack is somehow able to carry an entire dining table set, complete with fine china, silverware, and candles.
  • Berserk Button: Joe accidentally presses Misty's by offhandedly insulting water Pokémon and the Cerulean Gym. She teaches him a lesson in underestimating water Pokémon and judging Pokémon solely by type.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • The dub initially slipped in a naughty joke when Brock says, upon seeing a picture of Giselle, "She can violate my rights anytime." This line was cut from later airings.
    • Misty hits Brock with a log in the beginning of the episode. This was cut from the English dub because it was deemed too violent.
  • Break the Haughty: Downplayed. Giselle is dumbfounded when Pikachu defeats her Cubone, and acts slightly more modest from that point on, though still fairly smug given her demeanor when kicking out Team Rocket.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Pokémon games the anime is based on. This episode explains why it does not follow the gameplay rules as faithfully as some fans demand.
    • Joe claims that while he's the weakest of his class, he is still better than someone with two badges based on his academic level, showing off a Gameboy simulator depicting his Weepinbell defeating Starmie. Misty, who's the second Gym Leader in the games, becomes enraged by this and then soundly defeats Joe in an actual battle.
    • The Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors advantage is deconstructed when Misty's Starmie (Water-type) defeats Joe's Weepinbell (Grass-type), and later Giselle's Graveler (Rock-type) defeating Misty's Starmie. At first it seems to be based on the level experience of the Pokémon and trainer but...
    • That aspect (along with standard Pokémon battles) gets deconstructed with Ash's Pikachu vs Giselle's Cubone. Ash is relatively a new rookie while Giselle is relatively an advanced student. Ash ends up winning by having Pikachu do improvised moves and tactics as opposed to the standard by-the-book method employed by Giselle, which ends up causing Cubone to be knocked out by its own Bonemerang.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: In the beginning of the episode Misty nails Brock with a log. The American dub actually edited that out for being too violent.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • One of the very few early episodes that reference Pokémon learning certain moves at certain levels.
    • With the exception of some Ship Tease moments between him and a leading lady such as Misty or Serenanote , Ash is normally a Chaste Hero—in this episode, however, he's openly attracted to Giselle.
    • This was the first episode that Brock showed any serious attraction to a girl, well before that trait evolved into his Overused Running Gag of throwing himself at the Girl of the Week. On top of that, Giselle is the youngest of the girls Brock has gone for, since the Girl of the Week is usually his age or older.
    • When asked how long he has been traveling, Ash replies "two months". Most answers to that question provided in later episodes are much vaguer. Also perhaps an instance of Truth in Television, since the TV anime was always a weekly series in Japan (as opposed to the U.S., where the earliest episodes premiered in weekday syndication) and thus had been on the air a little over two months when the episode originally aired.
    • Paris is mentioned in this episode. References to real-world places would be mostly absent from later installments of the anime.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: The Pokémon typing system is explicitly mentioned many times, although the winners of all the matches go against type advantage.
  • Expy: Giselle's design appears to be based on the Lass trainer type from Pokémon Red and Blue.
  • Eye Catch: The featured Who's That Pokémon? this episode is Cubone, Giselle's Pokémon of choice.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Brock says, upon seeing a picture of Giselle, "She can violate my rights anytime." This line was cut from later airings.
  • Hard Work Fallacy: Every fight is explicitly won against typing advantages, with the overall message being that type advantages are only part of the puzzle, and Pokémon with lots of actual battle experience often have the advantage. This is kinda-sorta true to the games, as a Pokémon with a significant level advantage over the opposition can shrug off super-effective moves. This is also one of the only episodes to reference leveling.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Giselle is gorgeous, causing boys like Ash and Brock to grow goofy crushes the instant they lay eyes on her—and she knows it, too.
  • Hidden Depths: Giselle consoles her Cubone after it loses a match, implying that despite how she treats other students, she is very kind to her Pokemon. Her kindness to Joe at the end and how readily the other students follow her lead when Team Rocket intrudes also suggests that despite her blunt and often harsh way of doing it, her stated desire to help her fellow students improve is completely sincere.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Pikachu wins the match against Cubone by distracting it after it throws its Bonemerang, causing it to hit Cubone when it comes back.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When all the students gang up on Team Rocket, James nervously protests the rules say only one on one, something Team Rocket breaks all the time. Considering they're outnumbered, this might be understandable.
  • Large Ham: Giselle is prone to this, in both her introductory speech and later her mocking rant toward Ash. Even Jessie of Team Rocket thinks she goes a tad overboard.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Ash is asked how long he's been traveling, he answers by saying two months. In Japan, the anime was a weekly series, so it was on the air a little over two months by the time this episode came out.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Giselle gets her moments of this, especially when lecturing Ash, stating that Pikachu makes good pets especially for little girls, and sarcastically asking "You really didn't know that? And you have two badges?"
  • Meaningful Name: In Japanese, Giselle's name is Yuto Seiyo, which when pronounced in proper Asian order with the surname coming first becomes a reference to "honor student." Fitting, given that she is the top student at Pokémon Tech.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After Pikachu takes a beating against Cubone, a pep talk from Ash causes him to get his Heroic Second Wind and he beats Cubone with his bare hands.
  • Ocular Gushers: How Giselle's Cubone reacts to losing to Ash's Pikachu.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Ash's Pikachu proved to be this for Giselle. Her strategy is just based on what she studied in classes, which didn't prepare her for any outside-the-box tactics.
  • Percussive Therapy: After Pikachu falls off Joe's treadmill, a Funny Background Event sees him angrily kicking it. He ends up hurting his foot.
  • Pet the Dog: Giselle comforts her Cubone after it is defeated by Pikachu, saying it did a good job.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Giselle specifically mentions that Pikachu are a particularly cute Pokémon, and therefore popular as pets.
  • Scissors Cuts Rock:
    • Giselle intentionally establishes herself as a highly skilled trainer by beating Misty's water Pokémon with a Rock-type.
    • Misty less intentionally demonstrates her talents as a Gym Leader when she easily beats a Grass-type with her Water-type Pokémon.
    • Ash's Pikachu defeats Giselle's Cubone. Unlike the other two cases, the type advantage does come into play. Pikachu instead beats Cubone by resorting to physical attacks.
  • Shout-Out: Giselle is attended by animation effects lifted right from Sailor Moon. The Italian dub plays furthermore into the reference by giving Giselle Usagi's Italian voice actress.
  • Spin to Deflect Stuff: Giselle's Cubone does this with its bone to block Pikachu's Thunder Shock.
  • Treadmill Trauma: Pikachu accidentally starts up Joe's treadmill, but manages to keep pace. Unfortunately, Brock leans against it and messes with the speed settings by accident, causing Pikachu to eventually stumble.
  • Villain Decay: Team Rocket manages to enter Pokémon Tech... only to get booted out by Giselle and her classmates.
  • With Friends Like These...: Quoted almost verbatim by Brock when Joe explains that the other students are his friends and are trying to help him learn (via intense bullying).