Along with the inevitable nostalgia, rewatching a favorite childhood anime as an adult brings a very different perception and experience for most viewers. Pokémon is no different. Regardless of which season(s) one grew up watching as a kid, all are filled with fun, laughs, dramatic battles and wacky adventures for Ash and his friends.
But there are also episodes with plots that, when viewed with the logic and analysis of adulthood, range from blatantly life-threatening to outright disturbing. Here are five episodes from the Indigo League arc that placed Ash in situations so crazy, it’s a wonder his mom ever allowed him to leave the house.
Whenever a ghost Pokemon is involved, it’s all but guaranteed something creepy is going down. What is meant to be a relaxing break at the Maiden’s Peak Summer Festival turns into a nightmare as Brock and James fall obsessively in love with the ghost of a woman who lived over 2,000 years ago. As both turn into mindless zombies, Ash and Jessie are forced to pay for useless “anti-ghost stickers” that blow away with a single gust of wind.
The whole thing erupts into an impossible battle with a Gastly that can speak the native tongue (Meowth was never alone!) and was posing as both the ghost of the maiden and a mysterious old woman in addition to its normal appearance. Lesson learned: when advertising a famous legend for a festival, hypnotize and abduct the paying tourists.
No list of disturbing Pokémon episodes is complete without “The Kangaskhan Kid”, a 22-minute lesson in criminally bad parenting, dereliction of duty and child abuse. A father holding his three-year-old son Tommy out of a helicopter and then dropping him? Check. Officer Jenny knowing Tommy was still alive for the next five years and never reporting it? Check. Ash and friends being forced to carry the boy’s parents through the Safari Zone to look for their son? Check. Misty punching the kid in the head? Check!
And that’s all in the first half of the episode. Tommy later gets whacked in the head again by the father who dropped him out of the helicopter. The only characters who come out of this episode with a good reputation are the Kangaskhan, who raised Tommy as one of their own and kept him safe until his parents could find and abuse him some more.
What starts as a normal day of training for the Pokémon League results in the accidental discovery of ancient ruins of the legendary city of Pokémopolis. A group of uncovered magical artifacts then gives birth to oversized destructive versions of Gengar and Alakazam. For reasons unclear, the two titans start fighting each other while simultaneously attacking Ash and co. until a giant Jigglypuff emerges and sings them to sleep. When everyone wakes up, the three giants have all disappeared.
It’s a fascinating plot with the entire world suddenly at significant risk, but only raises more questions than answers. If Jigglypuff was able to save the world rather easily in this episode, why couldn’t it save Pokémopolis? How did the ancient Pokémon travel to and from a separate realm in the first place? And most importantly, did Ash and Brock — and Vulpix and Pikachu — get the credit they deserved for discovering Pokémopolis?
Looking back, it’s astonishing that Blaine was ever approved to be a licensed gym leader by the Pokémon League. It’s possibly more astonishing, though, that Ash unquestioningly walks inside an active volcano to a battleground suspended by chains above the boiling lava, then leaves a weakened Pikachu one fire blast away from death by incineration.
But of course, no lessons were heeded from this experience, nor from Team Rocket’s insane attempt to kidnap Blaine’s Magmar which nearly set off a volcanic eruption that would have killed everyone on the island. Ash battles Blaine again, this time on top of the volcano on a set of thin circular platforms. Anything to get the badge, eh?
The entire trio of episodes where Ash battles psychic Pokémon expert Sabrina to win a Marsh Badge is a bit mind-blowing. A repressed, teenage girl uses her out-of-control psychic powers to destroy entire buildings and turn her own mother into a doll, later does the same thing to Misty and Brock, and apparently there’s nothing anyone without psychic abilities can do to stop these criminal acts. With his only hope for victory resting on finding a ghost Pokémon, Ash travels to Pokémon Tower to find one — and effectively dies before coming back to life.
It all works itself out in the end as Ash gets the badge but one question will forever remain: if Sabrina’s father could use his special powers to rescue Ash, Misty and Brock from the dollhouse, why was he never able to rescue Sabrina’s mother?
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From child abuse to battling inside an active volcano, Pokémon has had some pretty screwed up episodes over the years. Here are five of the wildest.