An earthquake changed one of Pokémon’s most promising seasons

THE Pokémon Black And White the games are praised for their thoughtful story, ingenious team of antagonists, and well-oiled gameplay. As such, their inevitable animated adaptation would have a lot to live up to. In another reality, he could have taken on this challenge as well. At first, the plot that the evergreen Ash Ketchum and his friends seemed to face in the world of Pokémon the Series: Black White was a breath of fresh air. And it was heading into an explosive two-parter, one that promised an upheaval in a series resistant to change. The kind of event fans would spend years talking about.

Until two episodes of the Pokémon anime suddenly rhyme with real tragedy.

Ash Ketchum’s journey is one of endless rebooting without reinvention. With each new region, he keeps Pikachu as his best buddy/franchise mascot, and he gets a new team, new friends to travel with, and a new league tournament to set his sights on. However, Black And White had brought something different to the long-running game series, and if adapted properly for the anime, they could have provided a similar jolt.

For more than a decade, parents and PETA were baffled by what they saw as “virtual cockfighting” in games, with fantastical laser animals lunging at each other. And Black And WhiteThe enemy team, a cult operation by the name of Team Plasma, has stated that they seek to free Pokémon from humanity’s control. Now a game was finally tackling the refrigerator logic of Pokémon… as much as possible. It turns out that Team Plasma was wrong. Battles are kind of a common thing between Pokémon and their trainer, and for the most part, Pokémon love it! Still, when it came time to filter the game’s world and story through Ash Ketchum, expectations were high. And at first it seemed like they might be met.

Even if the anime would never manage to fully address the game’s Team Plasma adventure (which wouldn’t have been surprising, since the series has always played at least a little loosely with the plots of its video game source material), It was clear that big things seemed to be in motion. According to the scripts of two lost episodes, the war would take place between the evil pillars of Team Rocket and the new Team Plasma, as they fought for the energy-conducting meteorite.

Note: Visually, Meteonite is… very reminiscent of a radioactive substance.
Image: OLM/The Pokémon Company

Before the end of the episodes, an entire city would have been threatened by the explosions and the destructive power of the Meteonite. This would surely have kicked off Team Plasma’s run with a bang – plus, two antagonistic teams fighting for supremacy is the kind of story that seems like it came out of a wish-fulfillment fanfiction rather than the series itself. “The Plasma team In fact beating Team Rocket” is the kind of thing chatroom dreams are made of.

The first of these two episodes aired on March 17, 2011. On March 11, one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history occurred in the ocean just east of the region of Tohoku in Japan. This caused a tsunami that residents had only minutes to prepare for and which would trigger the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The damage and loss of life was catastrophic. Recovery (of what could be adequately recovered) took years.

Both episodes were immediately postponed by TV Tokyo, the television channel that airs the Pokémon anime in Japan, and Pokémon simply moved to the episode before these two for its scheduled time slot on March 17 (airing the much more harmless “Battle for the Love of Bug”. -The guys!”). It’s not the only one whose schedule has been changed: among other series, the critically acclaimed series Puella Magi Madoka Magica would see its final two episodes pushed back until April.

This wasn’t the first time something similar had happened with Pokémon. In December 1997, alternating flashing lights in the episode “Computer Warrior Porygon” created a simultaneous health crisis and panic, with hundreds of children being rushed to hospital with symptoms of seizures and nausea . The episode led to a four-month hiatus for the anime, and it would never air in the United States, creating a famous buzz around the Pokémon anime even before its official debut in America.

But “Computer Warrior Porygon” was a pure “monster of the week” with little impact on the larger story. Parts 1 and 2 of “Team Rocket vs. Team Plasma”, on the other hand, would have completely changed Team Plasma’s arc in the anime. And unlike the ill-fated Porygon episode, the showdown between Team Rocket and Team Plasma will never air anywhere, despite being two mostly completed episodes. Their postponement continued until they were fully recovered.

Team Plasma would not become known in the anime for almost two years, making its official debut in “Team Plasma’s Pokémon Power Plot” in February 2013. Although N, the group’s prodigal son, was introduced somewhat earlier, the total Team Plasma storyline was crammed into about 10 episodes, a significantly abbreviated plot to control Pokémon devolved into a footnote. By appearing only in the backend of the Black White series and being defeated in such a short time, they never gained the reputation they received in the games.

Colress and members of Team Plasma in Pokémon the Series.

Image: OLM/The Pokémon Company

All of this leaves Ash with little more to do in the anime. Black White seasons than providing a redux of its standard story arc with its companions. His journey through the Unova region feels lifeless, hitting the essential points of the anime before ending perfunctoryly. With no overall threat (and certainly not one that inspires the same kind of praise as Team Plasma’s in-game machinations) and nothing to break the norm of “make a new Pokémon/human friend and learn a lesson” and “beat a leader of the gymnasium.” and earn a friendly achievement”, this is definitely dragging. Ash’s journey is pure Pokémon paint by numbers.

But the biggest losers – as always – were Team Rocket. It’s been years since Ash’s eternal antagonists went from villains to affable buffoons. But in the first episodes of Black White, freshly clad in black and armed with the determination and intelligence that had been denied them since the late 90s, they were ready to be a competent thorn in Ash’s side once again. The anime was determined to make Team Rocket a real threat.

Jesse and James even stopped saying their motto (“To protect the world from devastation…”) for a moment, the clearest sign of their deepening shift. But there isn’t enough room in Unova for two teams of serious villains, and conflict was inevitable. Team Rocket had caused little trouble for past villains (in the previous adventure, set in the Sinnoh region, they paled in comparison to Team Galactic’s reality-warping treatment), but they were now prepared for war.

Perhaps the most surprising feature of the plot for both lost sides is how well it presents Team Rocket as a capable terrorist group with both a militaristic and social presence. As such, having Team Plasma undermine Team Rocket’s plans and usurp them as Unova’s number one villains boosts the new team’s credibility. This would have provided an effective twist on the typical introductory plot, which usually sees nefarious new teams emerge, only to have their plans foiled by Ash and Pikachu. They escape to lick their wounds and work on something even more ridiculously grandiose, and inevitably, they are cut down before the adventure is over.

Team Rocket, in their white uniforms, posing in front of a giant red flag with a fuchsia R on it in Pokémon the Series.

Image: OLM/The Pokémon Company

Black White is often considered one of the weakest elements of the Pokémon anime due to how little seems to happen. Team Rocket, although they ditched their new costumes and donned their classic white suits after only two dozen episodes. Black White, would manage to deliver his enhanced villainy for much of the series. Only after the introduction of Team Plasma did they revert to their old ways, clowning around and only mildly annoying Ash and the gang. Their whole rebirth had been for nothing.

Hope that the Black White The animated series would live up to its lauded video game counterpart is probably a futile idea. These games’ esteem has only grown since their release, and their confident approach to world-building and gameplay mechanics is often cited when a modern Pokémon title fails to live up to its hype media. And the Black White the anime would be immediately eclipsed by the series that followed it, XYwhich presented Ash as a skilled trainer with a seemingly aged character design that reflected to fans how much time he had put into this whole Pokémon training business.

However, with a change in direction for Team Rocket, a new antagonistic team that tackled a Pokémon question that had confused many people who were unfamiliar with it, and a new chance to start again, the two episodes and their place In Black White signify a huge “what could have been” for the franchise. And from the looks of it, we probably won’t get answers anytime soon.