I sure do hope that you guys all remembered Michelle. I admit that it’s a possibility that it’s been too long since she last appeared. Oh well, no big deal. A major purpose in this episode was not only to bring Michelle back, but to give a solid start to her story arc. What that story is, I won’t tell yet. Speaking of coordinators, this episode also introduced a new one in the form of Damien. I pretty much created him purely to be the person that Michelle would least want to be stuck on a team with. She’s a young girl who’s big on gossip and cute boys, while Damien is far from talkative or cute. Even his choice of Pokémon reflected his more creepy personality and looks.
The other major part of this episode was James competing to earn a gym badge for the first time. Now it becomes apparent that his battle with Halley was more than a one-off occurrence. My goal is to use this new aspect of James as way to diversify his appearances, the same way Jessie is used in Pokémon Contests. Now we’ll be able to see James in situations beyond just failing to steal other people’s Pokémon. Unfortunately I was not able to give much focus to James’ battle at all. In fact, much of this episode probably seemed pretty rushed. To be completely honest, my original plan was for this contest to last two episodes, but due to certain reasons that I won’t yet disclose, I needed to shorten it into one episode. And as the next episode will no longer take place in Horizoport City, it was now or never for James to face the Horizoport Gym.
A big reason for the initial battle between May and Ash was two-fold. One was that I found it to be an extreme shame that when Ash participated in Sinnoh’s Wallace Cup that he lost to an entirely random coordinator instead of someone important, which was not the way the main character of the show should be kicked out of a tournament. The other, and more important reason, was it was an excuse to have May beat Ash. Now don’t get me wrong, as far as trainers go, Ash is without a doubt better than May and would defeat her in a standard battle any day. My problem comes from the fact that the last battle they had was a Contest Battle and that it ended in a tie. It may have been a good way to say goodbye to May, but it made no sense. This was Ash’s first time ever entering a contest and he was battling a coordinator who made it high in the rankings of not one, but two Grand Festivals. There’s no way Ash should have been able to tie with May in a contest battle, and doing so only served to make May seem worse than she is. So this battle was her chance to redeem herself. Now I set it up specifically so that Ash lost because it was a contest battle, as he lost due to points, not his Pokémon getting knocked out. Also of note in that battle was the revival of the Counter Shield. I thought it would be a fun little throwback to have, since it borrowed so heavily from contests to begin with so it could easily fit into one. Dawn being back provided the perfect excuse to remind Ash that he used to have this strategy.
The only other thing of serious note in this episode was the completely random Rowlet cameo. As this episode came out on the day news about Rowlet and the other starters first came out, it only seemed right to fit in a cameo appearance. Originally it was another Pokemon, but as soon as I saw this news I went to change it to one of the new Pokémon. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I feel like I have to be one of the first, if not the first story to include an Alola Pokémon. I do admit though, it might be considered a bit of a tease, because I currently do not plan to feature any other Alola Pokémon until the release of Sun and Moon, as we won’t have any serious information on them such as movesets or Pokédex descriptions until then. So sorry about that.
I always have fun writing the performances for the Appeal Stage. It sometimes can be hard to come up with something original, but in the end it’s always an enjoyable experience. Having such a wide cast of characters competing here served to increase the enjoyment I had. Putting Ash in a situation like this was especially fun. Dashilisk was practically made to do that performance. It was also great to work with Dawn and May as well. I did my best to replicate their style as well as possible. Of course, the important part of this episode wasn’t the performances, it was Brenda’s story. I specifically framed it to have Will go immediately before Brenda and put on a show that could only be achieved with the utmost practice. This served to up the stakes for Brenda to show what she’s managed to learn while practicing. Also of note is the flashbacks to Brenda’s first ever training session. I did want to dedicate an entire episode to her training, but this seemed like a much more economic and meaningful way of doing things. I designed Brenda’s performance to be something that would have ended in disaster had she never tried it before in order to further emphasize how important this training was.
So in all honesty I’ve been struggling with Brenda. I have had trouble giving much character beyond her basic personality. My original concept for her was a complete novice who knows almost nothing about Pokémon, and yet is nearly a master at being a Pokémon Coordinator without even trying. But even that hasn’t given her much in the way of character, so ever since her loss at Starside I’ve been trying to give her some personality and a chance to develop further. This episode is the most blatant example of that. She may be a near perfect Pokémon Coordinator, but she’s far from a perfect trainer. She still has a lot to work on, especially her relationship with her Pokémon. And all of this is happening behind the backs of her friends because she is unwilling to go to them for help yet. So suddenly she has transformed from this perfect character with little flaws, to a flawed hero. Only time will tell how she develops from here.
When Brenda finds out that a Pokémon Contest is being held nearby, she decides not to participate, still depressed from her previous loss. This quickly drives a wedge between her and Kappaqua. Could this be it for their partnership?