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Web Animation / Starter Squad

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Come on kid, pick me, I breathe fire.
Charmander, "Choose a Starter!"

Starter Squad is an affectionate animated parody of the original Pokémon game series (Red and Blue). Created by the Youtuber Shippidge, the series follows the adventures of the first three starter Pokemon: Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur as they explore the Pokemon world.

Starter Squad provides example of:

  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Caterpie is known in both the games and the anime pretty much only for being a weak Bug-type that mostly exists to be an easy first catch. Here, on the other hand, it's a threatening antagonist who wants to kill the main characters.
    • Geodude is usually considered one of the weaker Rock-types, only considered worthwhile due to the fact it can evolve into Golem. The one in this series is much more of a force to be reckoned with, and comes closer than any of Butterfree's other Pokémon to actually killing Charmander.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Red is regarded as a well-thoughtout battle strategist in the games. Here he seems to be unable to find the Pokemon Center Door.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In canon, Mewtwo is at best an Anti-Villain; here, he appears to be the Big Good of the series, as he is trying to protect reality from MissingNo., and rescues the protagonists from getting assimilated by it.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Due to being killed by Charmander, Red never became Kanto Champion to begin with.
  • Admiring the Abomination: In Episode 8, when he first sees MissingNo., Haunter calls it "beautiful."
  • Ambiguous Gender: Caterpie, as Squirtle points out by asking if they are a boy or a girl.
  • Anti-Climax: In Episode 8, Haunter is building tension in order to scare Charmander by casting an illusion of a room with no way out and a silhouette of Red behind him, then Gastly ruins the moment.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Oh, that poor Hitmonchan.
    • In Episode 8, Haunter suffers the same fate as Hitmonchan.
    • This is also the fate that the Caterpie intend to bestow upon Bulbasaur when taking revenge on Charmander—they want to kill Charmander, but keep Bulbasaur alive so that they can use the plant on his back as a food source. In Episode 9 it happens. Though Bulbasaur is actually fine with it.
  • Anyone Can Die: Red, Charmander, Whiskers, Chimchar, nobody is safe.
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • The Caterpie is the closest thing the series has to a major antagonist, and his/her squad... and he/she royally sucks at it.
    • Haunter boasts to be the embodiment of fear itself, only to meet something far more frightening and dangerous than he is.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mewtwo teleports in to fight MissingNo., which had assimilated Haunter moments before, and would have taken Charmander too if not for his intervention.
  • Big Good: Mewtwo, apparently! They have driven themselves to sleeplessness trying to stop MissingNo. from destroying reality. However, as of Episode 10, it is unclear if their paths will cross with the protagonists' again.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Downplayed, since there isn't actually any blood or gore. However, this series does take the staple of Pokemon battles, which typically revolve around light friendly sparring that end in a Non-Lethal K.O., and ramps it up to the point where Pokemon (specifically, Charmander) can kill other Pokemon and humans through impalement, dismemberment, beheading, and other methods that would be extremely graphic in real life.
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: At the end of Episode 9, the Caterpie leader stabs Charmander when he's at his last bit of health. The episode cuts to black before it is revealed whether Charmander actually died. Episode 10, however, reveals that Charmander really did die.
  • Brains and Brawn: Squirtle and Charmander respectively. The latter is inclined to use force to solve all the issues at hand while the former prefers non-violent, strategic methods.
  • Buddy Snaps First: When Charmander and Squirtle go to meet a Weepinbell to get a poison curing berry for Bulbasaur, Charmander is ready right away to force the berry out of him only for Squirtle to remind him to be empathetic, resulting in the two of them having to do multiple meaningless challenges that Weepinbell fails them at. When it looks like Charmander manages to complete a challenge only for Weepinbell to fail him, it appears that Charmander has had enough. Lucky for him, so has Squirtle, who snaps and attacks Weepinbell first.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Bulbasaur and Squirtle both treat the idea of eating other talking Pokémon as equivalent to cannibalism, and are horrified when Charmander does it. But when a Pidgeotto eats a Caterpie, it isn't even commented on.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While starting out as a fairly ordinary Pokémon parody, the series gets progressively darker and more serious as it goes on. Episode 10 has very little comedy, and reveals that Charmander was Killed Off for Real.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Charmander. It's one of the key components of his character.
  • Confusion Fu: Bulbasaur's "attack", which consists of him dancing while waving his vines, only succeeds in confusing Hitmonchan... who, following the game mechanics, proceeds to hurt himself in his confusion.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Charmander suffers one in Episode 9 at the fists of a Geodude, which thrashes him in metal song mode. Subverted when Geodude falls for the water trap that was shown earlier.
  • Crying Wolf: Episode 8 contains two instances of this trope.
    • Pidgeotto builds up a reputation for being a jerkass who pulls mean pranks for his own amusement. When he agrees to help Charmander find Squirtle and points in the right direction to Viridian Forest, Charmander naturally assumes that Pidgeotto is lying again and therefore chooses to go in the opposite direction. Charmander and Bulbasaur get lost in Lavender Town as a result.
      Pidgeotto: Wait! No! I was being serious this time!
      Charmander: Don't care, you suck!
    • After enduring numerous illusions created by Haunter in an attempt to scare him, Charmander is convinced that MissingNo. is just another illusion, even after it assimilates Haunter. This nearly costs Charmander his life.
  • Death by Adaptation: Charmander kills Red by the end of Episode 3.
  • Deconstruction Fic: The series deconstructs elements of the Pokemon game and anime universe, such as:
    • The game mechanics. Charmander ignores turn based attacking, stating that there are no rules in a fight. He becomes annoyed when Squirtle keeps wanting to fight by the rules the humans use to control them.
    • Charmander also serves to satirize the "To Be a Master" theme of the franchise. His only concern is becoming stronger at any cost, and he doesn't care if his friends get hurt in the process.
    • Wild Pokemon being harmonious creatures. The series portrays Pokemon as an actual species in an ecosystem resulting in them needing to eat...each other. Wild Pokemon also don't take lightly to battling trainers as Charmander kills the trainer who didn't choose him after defeating the latter in battle. This is akin to wild animals killing humans.
    • The efficiency of certain attacks. Squirtle uses bubble against Geodude and Charmander; the former is unfazed by it and the latter simply moves out of the attack's way.
    • A human's ability to communicate with Pokemon. Pokemon only hear humans saying "Human!" over and over again.
    • In the Gen 1 games (and their Gen 3 remakes), players must navigate a maze of tombstones in Lavender Town's Pokemon Tower. In Episode 8, when Bulbasaur points out that the tombstones are arranged in a maze-like pattern, Charmander decides to simply walk between the tombstones.
  • Determinator: Charmander. One way or another, he'll find a way to win.
  • Eldritch Abomination: MissingNo., which Hitmonchan encounters after Charmander breaks his Pokeball. It reduces Hitmonchan to a horrifying distorted glitchy mess that blinks in and out of existence.
  • Every One Is Jesus In Purgatory: In-Universe. Haunter marvels at the terrifying appearance of MissingNo. and the assimilated Hitmonchan, claiming that it's a statement on the inherent meaninglessness of a Pokémon's life.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Charmander vs. the Caterpie Leader.
  • Failed Attempt at Scaring: While trying to find where Caterpie took Squirtle, Charmander and Bulbasaur are convinced by a Haunter to go to the top of Poke Tower to get a better view. There Haunter makes attempts to scare Charmander, who remains unfazed due to none of it being real. The one time Haunt comes close to scaring Charmander is ruined by a Gastly jumpscaring the lizard, much to Haunter's frustration.
  • Fake Aristocrat: The Weepinbell claiming to be "The Forest King" doesn't actually rule anything.
  • Feathered Fiend: Pidgeotto knew where some berries that could cure poison were and instead sent Charmander and Squirtle on a hunt that drove both of them mad. He also attempts to trick Bulbasaur into putting a boot in his mouth.
    Sandshrew: I wouldn't listen to him. He's um... He has... Nobody likes him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Episode 9 when the main characters discover the room with cave drawings of how the Caterpies want to kill Charmander, one of the drawings depicts Charmander being punched by a Geodude. Guess what happens later in the episode? Another drawing depicted them crushing him with a bolder. Which they try and fail to do later in the episode.
    • Squirtle being Secretly Selfish and wanting someone else to be in-charge to make decisions for him is hinted at a few times before he realizes this himself in Episode 10. One of the biggest hints to this is how he tries to tell Charmander in Episode 7 that maybe they should get caught by a competent trainer, one that knows what they're doing so the three of them don't need to trouble themselves figuring it out.
  • For Want of a Nail: Practically everything that happens in the series started because Red picked Squirtle over Charmander.
  • Fun with Subtitles:
    • In Episode 8, when MissingNo., appears the subtitles read out in Binary "so much pain"; after absorbing Haunter they say "Acquired" "We are" "I am" "Missing".
    • In Episode 10, the subtitles always capitalize "Snow" when the Snover refer to Snow Way, but not when Squirtle refers to it. This is a hint that "Snow" is a name, not just literal snow.
  • G-Rated Drug: Being poisoned doesn't harm Bulbasaur, due to his Grass/Poison typing, but it somehow makes him act like he's stoned out of his mind.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Charmander repeatedly gets pissed off at Squirtle enough to injure him for even the most trivial reasons.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Hitmonchan gets turned into one by MissingNo.
  • Ironic Echo: "Challenge failed!" Spoken by the Forest King and Charmander after killing him.
  • The Insomniac: Mewtwo, apparently.
    Mewtwo: Do you enjoy sleeping? I know I used to!
  • Jerkass:
    • Charmander. Much of the show's charm is seeing what horrors Charmander will get away with.
    • In Episode 8, it's revealed that Pidgeotto sent Charmander and Squirtle on a wild goose chase for poison-hunting berries instead of telling them the actual location, all for his amusement. Sandshrew implies this isn't the first time he played tricks on others.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Charmander may be a violent jerk, but much of his complaints with the Pokemon universe are justified. Many trainers are either incompetent or abusive to their Pokemon, and the turn-based convention of battles is also unrealistic.
  • Jump Scare: The MO of the Gastly in Pokémon Tower. It's the only scare tactic they know, much to Haunter's exasperation.
    Haunter: [indicates Gastly] By the way, this is what you turn into after you die. That thought alone should existentially cripple you.
  • Mook Commander: A variant. Some Pokémon are shown using other Pokémon in the same way a trainer would (i.e. Charmander, Butterfree and the Caterpie Leader).
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Squirtle, when questioning Caterpie's gender, directly quotes Professor Oak's famous "Are you a boy or a girl?"
    • He also quotes "There's a time and place for everything, but not now!" when he loses his patience with Weepinbell.
    • In the same episode, he declares that Bulbasaur should not move after being poisoned by Weedle, referencing a mechanic from older Pokémon games where a Pokémon in the party that is poisoned will lose a bit of health for every four steps their Trainer takes in the overworld.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: While most Pokémon use in-game models, Snow's model has much more detail than a typical Abomasnow, which, combined with his black sclerae and glowing red pupils, gives him a much more monstrous design.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Haunter of Pokémon Tower is a big fan of this tactic, and to his credit, he does a reasonably good job of pulling it off. Even Charmander gets legitimately scared by him when Haunter exploits Charmander's fear of being captured by a human, but unfortunately, a lot of his attempts come across either as not-so-scary or are interrupted by a Jump Scare by one of the Tower's Gastly, much to his intense frustration.
    Charmander: Well, congratulations, you scared me, or whatever!
    Haunter: [indignant] First of all, that wasn't me. I was setting up tension before SOMEONE [shoots a Death Glare at Gastly] decided to be RUDE.
    Gastly: Bleh!
  • Not So Above It All: In Episode 8, Pidgeotto correctly guesses that a Caterpie swore vengeance against Charmander and trained a Nidoran to poison him, he claims he figured it out because he's smart and actually pays attention to what happens around him. Sandshrew then reveals that he only knows because it happens to him on a regular basis, which is why he keeps coming to the berry field. Pidgeotto quickly tells Sandshrew to shut up.
  • Not Worth Killing: In episode 7, after his trainer abandons him, Flareon begs Charmander not to kill him when he's at his mercy. Charmander, disgusted by Flareon's grovelling, sets him free and orders him not to fight with him again unless he learns to battle without a human partner.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Episodes 1-9 followed the adventures of Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur, and the cast consisted of only Gen 1 Pokémon. Then Episode 10 starts out with a Chimchar fighting a group of Bidoof and Squirtle suddenly appearing, inexplicably being aquainted with said Chimchar as well as a Turtwig. Squirtle's expositions and flashbacks explain that everyone else from the original cast has either died in the Caterpie-waged war or left somewhere with their fates left unknown.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: Geodude throws Charmander into one in episode 9. Fittingly marked "LIZARD", the name the Caterpie call him.
  • Pokémon Speak: While Pokémon speak normally, humans only say "Human!" over and over again.
  • Power Trio: Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur:
    • The Leader: Charmander. It's a point of contention with Squirtle who doesn't feel he's qualified to lead the trio and that they should have a real trainer instead. The other two don't have much choice as Charmander is technically their trainer.
    • The Heart: Bulbasaur. While he's not an adorable monster like Charmander or outspoken like Squirtle, he is a nice counterpoint to the shenanigans of the other two as well as an eternal optimist, who's always trying to make the most out of whatever circumstance he, or the team, is in. He's so far been the only person on the team disinclined towards doing anything horrible.
    • The Smart Guy: Squirtle. He's aware of the type advantages and disadvantages between the various Pokemon and the one coming up with strategies to deal with the circumstances the group gets in. He also helps come up with a plan to free Bulbasaur after Bulbasaur is caught by a trainer and Charmander (the strongest team member) is clearly no match for the trainer's Hitmonchan.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Bulbasaur almost always acts kind, cheerful, and innocent, but he isn't above wearing Caterpie heads or Butterfree wings as accessories.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In Episode 10, Squirtle is transparently using Chimchar and Turtwig to replace Charmander and Bulbasaur, even revealing he doesn't know Turtwig's real name. Turtwig catches onto this and abandons him. Lampshaded in the same episode by the Snover, who say "Truly, our friends are the most replaceable people we know!" To further emphasize the point, multiple Snover leave and are replaced by others who seamlessly continue the conversation, which Squirtle does not notice.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Caterpie towards Charmander for the latter killing the former's brother, Pablo. This is despite the very obvious power and type advantage of the latter over the former.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Charmander receives one from Squirtle after the team loses Bulbasaur to a trainer.
    Squirtle: What makes you think you're qualified to train us? Huh?! You have no idea what you're doing!
    Charmander: Excuse me?! I am the-
    Squirtle: The WHAT?! Strongest? Most "experienced"?! It takes more than that to lead, Fire Face! All you do is use force to get your way! And you don't know ANYTHING ELSE! Bulbasaur's with a REAL trainer now! And I'm happy for him because he's on a TEAM! Not a dictatorship!
    *Beat. Charmander breathes fire in Squirtle's face, which does nothing.*
    Squirtle: (unimpressed) Yeah, that's not very effective. Jeez, at least learn the basics! (walks away)
  • Room Full of Crazy: The room of cave drawings depicting ways of killing Charmander in Episode 9.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • In Episode 9, just as Sandshrew evolves and it looks like they're going to serve as The Cavalry, they realize they don't actually have any stake in the conflict and leave.
    • In Episode 10, after Turtwig realizes that Squirtle is just using them as a Replacement Goldfish, they bounce.
  • Shout-Out: Hitmonchan's trainer is seen consulting the Helix Fossil.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Charmander is always the main focus of each episode. Squirtle comes in second, but his role typically consists of trying to reel Charmander in and he doesn't do much on his own. Bulbasaur, meanwhile, has little involvement in the plot since the first couple episodes, besides sometimes being the catalyst for something Charmander and Squirtle have to deal with. Funny enough, in real life, the Charmander line is considered the most popular of the Kanto starters (mostly thanks to Charizard) while the Bulbasaur line is neglected due to the objective weakness of Grass-types back then, putting the Squirtle line in the middle.
  • Surreal Horror: Haunter attempts this trope in some of his illusions. One room is occupied by three tombstones crying over a fourth tombstone labeled "ALIVE," two eyeless Charmanders walking circles around a big rock, and a burning tree saying, "Eert a ton ma I." Then, Haunter makes a big deal out of a laughing stool, only to concede that he is overthinking it when Bulbasaur thinks that the stool is funny.
    Charmander: That stool over there is laughing at me. Why would that scare me?
    Haunter: But why is the stool laughing at you? You're not very funny. Why would it be laughing at you? [Evil Laughter]
  • Teleportation: Mewtwo is capable of this. Unlike in the games, teleportation is not limited to fleeing random encounters or teleporting to Pokemon Centers.
  • To Be a Master: Deconstructed. This is Charmander's motivation, and he won't let anyone get in the way of his quest to become the strongest— which inevitably leads to misfortune being brought upon his friends and allies.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: In Episode 5, Charmander learns Empathy. It's treated as though he learned a new move. He's still pretty abrasive and bossy, however. In Episode 6, he shows some patience with the Forest King (until Squirtle loses it too) and in Episode 7 he actually spares and releases a Flareon from a neglectful trainer.
  • The Unfettered: Charmander is willing to become stronger at any cost.
  • Villain Protagonist: Charmander is one of these at his worst.
  • Villain Song: While he's more like a minion than a real villain, Geodude gets to sing one while beating the snot out of Charmander.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: The Aesop of "The Forest King".
  • Vocal Dissonance: Several Pokémon have rather unfitting voices, such as the Pidgeotto from "The Forest King" and the Flareon from "Fight Fire With Fire". The main trio, plus any Caterpie, are exceptions.
  • War Is Hell: By the time of Episode 10's flashback, Squirtle had grown apathetic to the violence and bloodshed after Charmander's death, becoming numb and blindly obedient to the Caterpie Leader to cope with the loss of his two companions (Bulbasaur content with being the Caterpies' prisoner didn't help), and committed to the brutal war for Viridian Forest. The war resulted in the complete destruction of the Viridian Forest, and the Caterpie side reduced to just Squirtle and the Caterpie Leader, who realized too late that their atrocities were ultimately pointless and turned Squirtle into a Sociopathic Soldier, and released Squirtle to attempt to atone for their sins. Not to mention that due to the dissolution of the Starter Squad, this left Mewtwo alone to deal with MissingNo, who was ravaging Kanto. The fact that Episode 10 picks up ten years later in Sinnoh and Squirtle doesn't talk about what happened next doesn't help.
  • We Really Do Care: Despite clashing frequently after the team formed, Charmander and Squirtle have never left an endangered team member behind, often going against strong odds to help the individual(s) in danger. The team looks out for each other and, though they don't say it, hate to be separated. note 
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 7: Squirtle gets kidnapped by the Caterpie army, while Charmander is poisoned and unable to do anything about it.
    • Chapter 9: Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Sandshrew storm the caves to save Squirtle from the Caterpies. However, Bulbasaur gets kidnapped and used as food, Sandshrew evolves into Sandslash only to leave, and upon being found, Squirtle starts attacking Charmander for killing so many innocent Caterpies. With Charmander down to his last bit of health, the episode ends with the Caterpie leader stabbing him in the chest.
    • Chapter 10: The chapter opens with a Time Skip as Squirtle has a new team to hang out with as flashbacks reveal that Charmander was Killed Off for Real and that he's using Turtwig and Chimchar as surrogates for Bulbasaur and Charmander... Though it quickly falls apart as Turtwig realizes this and Chimchar is killed by an Abomasnow that's protecting a mountain containing Arceus. It ends with Squirtle evolving into Wartortle and going on a trek to face the Pokemon Gods themselves.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In a flashback from Chapter 10, Squirtle talks with the Caterpie training him who teaches him to give into the rage. However, as it talks about what happens to those who oppose it, it cuts to the back of their hat and reveals it's actually Charmander's decapitated head, confirming that he was Killed Off for Real.
    • In the same chapter, Abomasnow reveals that he had killed Chimchar and presents their frozen corpse to Squirtle
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: Well, Pokémon life, but Leonard makes this point to the Caterpie Leader when they proclaim that they won a battle as they're surrounded by countless Caterpie and Spearow corpses.
    Leonard: This?! This is WINNING?! All I see is DEATH!


Video Example(s):


Screw Empathy

After putting up with Weepinbell's challenges, Charmander is about to snap. Before he does though, Squirtle jumps Weepinbell and gives him permission to attack.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / BuddySnapsFirst

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