The Pokémon anime has been on the air since 1998 right alongside the games. That means it’s twenty years old and still going with over a thousand episodes now! Can you believe it? I remember getting home from school one day, turning on UPN, and catching the last two minutes of the second episode and being amazed. What kind of animation was this? It looked so, pardon the obviousness, foreign. Yes dear readers, this was my very first anime. I somehow missed others at this point like Dragon Ball Z, but, suddenly, I became obsessed with anime, manga, and so on. As you can imagine I loved the show not just because it was my first anime and thus a new type of experience for me, but I was also head over heels with the game too. And let’s not forget about the cards either.
This was Nintendo’s conquering moment and they’ve kept their grasp on children's hearts ever since. That said I haven’t kept up with the anime. I pretty much stopped somewhere in High School right around the Ruby and Sapphire arcs and just before they changed voice actors with everyone. It wasn’t my show anymore. So making a list of the best and most boring episodes, out of a thousand, would be a daunting task for someone that has only seen like two hundred. So I worked out a solution and only pulled from the first few seasons. Some still hold up and others not so much.
30 Best: Bulbasaur And The Hidden Village
What would the Pokémon anime be without Ash catching all of the starters? It’d be completely different that’s what. Anyway, this is the first episode we see in this mini-arc where Ash and pals stumble upon a steadfast Bulbasaur guarding a sanctuary of injured Pokémon. Eventually, they help nurse the Pokémon back to health and Bulbasaur is so impressed he challenges Ash to a match and that’s basically it. It’s simple, to the point, and creates a stubborn charm for Bulbasaur.
29 Boring: Clefairy And The Moon Stone
If there’s one thing I can’t stand in this show it’s Ash and friends meeting a kooky scientist, or professor type. You’re not Oak — so don’t even bother! Ahem, so on Mt. Moon they meet Seymour who is trying to figure out where Clefairy are from. Are they aliens? It’s a limp hypothesis that goes nowhere and ends on a flat note. Plus Clefairy is just a boring Pokémon. If there’s one good scene, I suppose it’s the begging where a hoard of Zubat is attacking Seymour.
28 Best: Charmander The Stray Pokémon
If you thought the Bulbasaur episode had a lot of heart then check this out. A terrible trainer abandoned his Charmander in the rain and now the flame on its tail is about to go out meaning it’ll perish. This is one of a few instances where the show deals with destruction in a very deep way.
Well, don’t worry because at the end of the day Nurse Joy is able to heal it. And this Charmander would grow into our beloved Charizard.
27 Boring: The School of Hard Knocks
So at age of ten, kids are able to journey off into the world to fight and capture monsters on their own. Seems legit. So what do they do before that? Well, there are schools as we see in this episode, which is basically just an excuse to explain the rules of the video game in the anime universe. Pokémon have levels in the anime too? That doesn’t make sense. Besides muddling the two universes, it’s just a slow episode.
26 Best: Here Comes the Squirtle Squad
This is my absolutely my favorite episode! That group of trouble making Squirtles is just hilarious to me. It’s even better when you realize it’s the same style of glasses Kamina wears in Gurren Lagann. You know, except his are red. It brings me to tears of laughter and nostalgia when the one Squirtle eventually has a change of heart and saves Ash’s life. It’s funny, touching, and has plenty of action. If you check out any one of these, make it this.
25 Boring: Mystery At The Lighthouse
Here's another troubled scientist trying to figure out the world. Now granted this is a major character in the game, Bill, and his findings are interesting. Well, sort of.
There’s a giant, Godzilla sized Dragonite visiting his lighthouse. I didn’t know Pokémon could get that big. Sadly there’s no real plot development here. It's just a lot of hypotheses and unanswered questions. On the plus side, Ash caught a Krabby. That’s kind of exciting, right?
24 Best: Electric Shock Showdown
Okay maybe “Here Comes The Squirtle Squad” has a tie for first place with this one. In it Ash fights Lt. Surge and his Raichu who completely annihilates Pikachu in the first bout. Ash thinks the only way to beat it is by evolving Pikachu too, but it refuses, giving a rousing speech, which Meowth translates. In the end, Pikachu wins, of course, by not being stronger, but faster. It gives the lesson that brawn isn’t always better. It has a great message and a good fight too.
23 Boring: The Ghost Of Maiden's Peak
Oh boy, an episode about James and Brock falling in love with a girl that turns out to be a ghost. How fun... To be fair James doesn’t often go crazy for women like Brock does, but that aside, so many of the Brock featured episodes, or subplots are all the same. Did living with his like dozen siblings skew his whole mind? Does he need kids right now? Geez, it’s funny at times, but it can be a little much.
22 Best: Island Of The Giant Pokémon
Prior to this episode Ash’s gang and Team Rocket sink to the bottom of the ocean aboard the S.S. Anne. Eventually, they get out and wake up on an island, separated by their Pokémon.
No polar bears on this island.
So we get three separate stories of Team Rocket, Ash and pals, and the Pokémon all trying to survive as giant Pokémon try to destroy them. Does this explain that Dragonite? Nope, turns out the Pokémon are machines in a theme park. It’s a fun little Lost type aside.
21 Boring: Bye Bye Butterfree
Ash, you have some explaining to do. This is the first episode where Ash just lets his Pokémon go to be free. To be Butterfree that is. Ba dum tss! Dumb jokes aside he cried about almost losing Butterfree in a trade a few episodes prior to this. Now he lets it go for real? It’s so stupid and this is the first of many wherein he just decides to let his Pokémon go.
20 Best: Primeape Goes Bananas
I laughed at this when I was younger and I’m happy to report it’s just as funny today. The gang finds a Mankey in the wild who steals Ash’s hat. While trying to get it back he ticks it off a little too much and forces it to evolve into a Primeape. The rest of the episode is this unstoppable monkey pig Terminator trying to destroy everything in its path. The slapstick antics in this episode are simply the best.
19 Boring: Hypno's Naptime
If there is one thing I despise more than dorky scientists it is episodes about small children. When the group gets into HooHopHop Town, yes that’s the real name, a crazy lady tries to smother Ash because he looks like her son. Turns out children have gone missing all over town.
Eventually, they discover a Hypo is leading the children to this secret garden on “accident” while its masters are only trying to cure their insomnia. Oh, okay?
18 Best: Dig Those Diglett
“Diglet dig, Diglet dig, trio trio trio!” If you recognize that chant then I’m sure you’ve seen this episode. In it, a group of Diglet and Dugtrio are preventing workers from completing a dam. They hire trainers to fight them off, but to no avail. Why are they being so mean? They were only trying to protect their territory. It may be a secret message about saving the environment, but that’s okay. It’s a good episode regardless and I’ll always remember that chant. Too catchy!
17 Boring: Pokémon Fashion Flash
Here's yet another episode about Brock trying to show off to a girl. This time at least he knows what he’s doing. See Team Rocket is putting Pokémon groomer Suzie out of business with flashier fashion. Brock volunteers to help her out because, well, you know. It’s quality over quantity, which is a great message to put out, but it’s oh so dull. At least we get to see the ever-adorable Vulpix on display aka Naruto’s favorite Pokémon? Believe it!
16 Best: The Ninja Poké-Showdown
Speaking of Naruto, the idea of ninjas working alongside Pokémon on covert missions has always interested me thanks to this episode bringing it up. In it, Ash must face Gym Leader Koga and his daughter, Aya, in order to win a Soul Badge.
Psyduck is the MVP of this episode.
The gym battles in between this and the Lt. Surge episode were pretty tame. It was great to get another exhilarating battle plus a lot of fun ninja action and tricks.
15 Boring: The Kangaskhan Kid
So this is basically just Tarzan. Replace Tarzan with a boy named Tommy and the apes with Kangaskhan and it’s basically the same story. Ash is asked to help Tommy’s parents find him. It’s way too on the nose and super mushy. It’s not interesting at all and boy does it drag. I mean we get it. You want to be lazy this week so you parody Tarzan. Writing cartoons is probably a hard job so again I get the laziness to a point. Let’s just move on.
14 Best: Showdown At Dark City
I almost skipped this one because the title didn’t exactly jump out at me. Then I remembered this is the episode where two families are fighting over who gets to be the next gym leader in a Wild West-style brawl. It’s also responsible for creating the Pikachu loves ketchup meme. It has stuck ever since. You can even buy merchandise with Pikachu lovingly caressing ketchup bottles. Totes adorbs as the kids say. At least, I think they still say that.
13 Boring: The Bridge Bike Gang
Remember that giant bridge you have to cross in the original games? Well, this one in the anime isn’t that exactly, but it’s definitely influenced by it as bike gangs roam around like Ronin.
All Ash and his friends want to do is cross to get medicine to the other side so that they can save sick Pokémon, but oh no there always has to be trouble. Plus there’s a weird side plot about Jesse and James being in the gang as kids. How many gangs have they been in?
12 Best: The Problem With Paras
I’m always a big fan of wimpy Pokémon fighting back to eventually save the day. In this episode, a young medicine peddler is trying to evolve her Paras into a Parasect so she can use its spores for potions. Good idea, but Paras needs experience and it’s terrible at fighting. Even a simple nudge knocks it out. It’s a touching underdog story, but the main reason I like it is because it’s fun to imitate how Paras and Parasect say their names. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.
11 Boring: Ditto's Mysterious Mansion
Part of me actually likes this episode, but only slightly. See this is the one responsible for all the bad Ditto memes. See the Ditto in this episode can’t create perfect copies. Everything changes except the face. It makes for some good laughs, but it’s too drawn out to be touching. Not a lot really happens and the way this problem is solved makes no sense. This is a kid’s show I guess so they’re not really trying to test young minds with detailed plots.
10 Best: The Song of Jigglypuff
Jigglypuff dreams of an audience to perform in front of, but because its Sing ability is so strong, no one, not even a human, can withstand its power. This diva Pokémon has a trusty marker in which to exact revenge upon everyone who dares miss its concert.
Beware Jigglypuff’s marker!
It’s a gag that continues on from here for quite a long time and is just as hilarious as Team Rocket blasting off at the end of nearly every episode.
9 Boring: Pikachu's Goodbye
Another “great” episode wherein Ash is an idiot. Basically, they find a sanctuary of Pikachu and Ash wants to let his go to be with its family. They do the same teary-eyed goodbye with flashbacks to all of their good times just like in the Butterfree episode. Here’s the thing though. The writers don’t have the Pokéballs to stick to their guns because Pikachu runs after Ash, in the end, making everything that came before it a false flag. Way to jerk your audience around.
8 Best: Holy Matrimony!
I’ve been a little hard on Team Rocket and specifically James for a few of these so time to highlight a good episode. In this one we see James reunite with his family who wants to marry him off to a girl that looks identical to Jesse the same way every Joy and Jenny look alike. That’s why he ran away as a child and joined a gang in the first place. It’s good to get some actually decent backstory to his character for once.
7 Boring: Lights, Camera, Quack-tion
The gang runs into a “famous” director trying to make his next masterpiece using only Pokémon. Misty’s Psyduck is recruited to replace the lead male and they try their darnedest to get Wigglytuff to fall in love.
This is the very definition of a “filler” episode.
It tries to be clever with some inside baseball Hollywood jokes, but it fails miserably. It’s boring and goes absolutely nowhere. If the comedy was good I’d be all for this quirky idea, but the laughs just don’t come.
6 Best: The Center Secret
For those unaware, the localized names for Team Rocket, Jesse and James, are actually a reference to the famous Wild West outlaw, Jesse James. In this episode, we meet two new members of their organization, Butch and Cassidy, which is another famous Western nod. Fun facts aside, in this episode the two new devils are stealing Pokémon via a fake Pokémon breeding center. It’s another great episode showing how competent Jesse and James can be if they work hard enough against company rivals.
5 Boring: Go West, Young Meowth
On one hand, I admire the anime for explaining how Meowth can talk. He merely wanted to impress a female so he learned to talk and act like a human. Uh, I guess that makes sense. Anyway, the reason and the way in which he figures it out are convoluted. If it were that easy why can’t any other Pokémon talk? I realize there are others, but still. There should be more! Plot holes aside it’s just a dull burn.
4 Best: The Misty Mermaid
After Ash gets all eight badges he makes a return round trip to Pallet Town. Along the way, they stop in Cerulean City wherein Misty’s three sisters beg her to be apart of their underwater play.
Time to go under the Pokésea.
Yes, it has all the trappings of a filler episode, but the jokes are clever and seeing James dress up like a woman is always entertaining. Also, I think this is a secret nod to The Little Mermaid. I mean, Misty looks pretty good as another redheaded mermaid.
3 Boring: The Ancient Puzzle of Pokémopolis
It is on this return trip home where we find the most filler episodes. They are uniquely awful. One of the dumbest is this one wherein the trio stumble upon an excavation site where diggers think they found a lost city named Pokémopolis. Really? Pokémopolis? That’s a little too on the nose don’t you think? Anyway, they awaken giant versions of Gengar and Alakazam, which should be more serious than it is, but since this is a filler type episode, it’s quickly forgotten. This should have more ramifications in the show.
2 Best: The Battle Of The Badge
Ash’s final battle before his journey to the big leagues puts him back in Viridian City. Before the gym was closed, which is just like the game. Similarly, it too is run by the Team Rocket boss, Giovanni. Earlier we see Gary get what’s coming to his smug face when he loses to Giovanni’s new Pokémon aka Mewtwo. This was essentially a preview to the first movie. Well it escapes so Giovanni has to pursue leaving; you guessed it, Jesse and James in charge. Hijinks ensue.
1 Boring: Bad To The Bone
On the road to the Pokémon League Ash and his friends are ambushed by a trainer and his Marowak who are desperate to win eight badges to get into the tournament. Otoshi lost his recently to Team Rocket so of course Ash and the others offer to get them back.
George Thorogood should sue.
There’s really no good character development and Otoshi is kind of a, well, a less than stellar portrayal of an Asian let’s say. It certainly is bad to the bone.