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The 7 Best And 7 Worst Episodes Of Pokémon Indigo League

"Pokémon" may have started as a video game series, but the franchise has since grown far beyond any one medium. Gamers and non-gamers alike have come to love the diverse group of characters (both human and creature alike), and the "Pokémon" brand has expanded to include a popular trading card game. Of course, arguably the jewel in the crown of the "Pokémon" empire is the anime series, which is what put the likes of Ash and his little yellow sidekick Pikachu on the map.

The anime series debuted in 1997 and is still going strong. It's currently in its 25th season, and we've had numerous films and TV specials that expand on its story and universe. The show follows the journey of perpetual 10-year-old Ash Ketchum, who is on a quest to become the world's greatest Pokémon master. He's been all over the world trying to catch 'em all, and each new land has brought with it a new batch of Pokémon, but many still see the original Pokémon — and the original series — as the best.

Comprising the first saga of the "Pokémon" anime, the retroactively titled "Pokémon: Indigo League" remains a fan-favorite and contains many of the show's best episodes. This list looks at the best and worst episodes of the English dub of "Pokémon: Indigo League."

Best: Abra and the Psychic Showdown

"Abra and the Psychic Showdown" features no shortage of memorable scenes, including one of the most shocking "Pokémon" moments. In the episode, Ash and his friends make their way to Saffron City, with Ash planning to challenge the Saffron City Gym Leader and earn himself a Marsh Badge. The Gym Leader turns out to be Sabrina, a powerful psychic who talks through a younger version of herself and utilizes Psychic Pokémon in battle.

The episode plays out like a light horror and presents some genuinely unnerving moments. From the group briefly seeing the young Sabrina laughing in the forest before their arrival to the mysterious warning from a stranger not to challenge her, the story has all the makings of a scary movie. When Ash loses his battle, he and his friends are shrunk down to the size of dolls and forced to play with Sabrina in her dollhouse. Their narrow escape is a nail-biting moment that gives viewers chills in all the best ways.

Worst: Hypno's Naptime

"Pokémon: Indigo League" doesn't have a lot of truly terrible episodes, but there are some that just don't stand out and end up being wholly forgettable. "Hypno's Naptime" is a typical filler episode. While there's nothing glaringly wrong with it, it doesn't do much to hook viewers, either. The story revolves around a group of children that go missing in a small town. Around the same time that the kids go missing, all the Pokémon in the area begin acting lethargic.

This mystery seems like an intriguing way to start an episode, but the story quickly rushes the solution by revealing early on that a secret society called the Pokémon Lovers Club is responsible for the disappearances by altering their Hypno (a psychic-type Pokémon) so that its brain waves affect humans instead of Pokémon. While the Pokémon Lovers Club tries to fix their mistake, an inevitable appearance from Team Rocket turns the rest of the episode into a classic Ash versus Team Rocket Pokémon battle. Perhaps if the episode had focused more on slowly building the mystery rather than trying to introduce a half-baked Team Rocket plot midway through it might have been more effective.

Best: Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon

"Pokémon: Indigo League" is often at its best when it delves into the unique mysteries of the "Pokémon" world. "Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon" is one of those episodes, and its story involving extinct prehistoric Pokémon being secretly alive is perfect for sparking the imaginations of young viewers with a love of dinosaurs. The story involves Team Rocket — who, despite being villains, are widely seen as some of the best "Pokémon" characters — blasting a Pokémon dig site to obtain valuable fossils.

Of course, like all Team Rocket plans, things quickly go awry when Ash intervenes. He attempts to stop the blast, and he and Team Rocket get dropped into a long undisturbed cave. Inside, the group finds that several species of Pokémon that were believed to be extinct are actually alive and well, and they aren't happy about being disturbed. The episode is packed with action, as well as an emotional payoff when Ash's Charmeleon evolves into Charizard in order to save Ash from the flying Pokémon Aerodactyl.

Worst: Pokémon Paparazzi

"Pokémon Paparazzi" introduces the group to Todd, one of the most famous Pokémon photographers in the world. He's the only person to have managed to get a photo of a living Aerodactyl (the same one from "Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon"). Todd takes a special interest in Ash's Pikachu and decides to follow the group around to try to get the perfect shot of him. Unsurprisingly, Team Rocket turns out to be behind everything, having hired Todd to try to "capture" Ash's Pikachu — which Todd believed meant to photograph it.

The misunderstanding with Team Rocket provides a thin motivation for Todd's obsession with getting a picture of Ash's Pikachu, and while their budding friendship is meant to be the primary theme of the episode, their relationship never builds in a natural way. While Todd being willing to sacrifice his beloved camera and all of his photographs to save Ash's life is a nice moment, the build up to it feels rushed and stale, making the payoff less satisfying.

Best: The Tower of Terror

Like in "Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon," the "Pokémon" universe's mysteries are on full display in "The Tower of Terror," which introduces the series' ghost-type Pokémon. Still reeling from Ash's defeat in Saffron City at the hands of Sabrina and her psychic-type Pokémon, the group heads to the nearby Lavender Town to try to catch some ghost Pokémon, the only true counter to psychic Pokémon. Ghost Pokémon are said to hang out in the city's Pokémon Tower, so Ash tries to put on a brave face and explore the spooky old tower.

While the early "Scooby-Doo" vibe is a lot of fun, the episode gets far more interesting after Ash and Pikachu are seemingly killed after being crushed by a falling chandelier. The ghost Pokémon Haunter, Gastly, and Gengar pull the duo's spirits from their bodies and take them around the Pokémon Tower to play with their toys and scare Ash's friends, Brock and Misty. While Ash ends up being okay, his time as a ghost helps him learn that the ghost Pokémon just want friends. Haunter joins Ash's team to fight Sabrina's psychic Pokémon, making the mission a success. "The Tower of Terror" perfectly balances humor and scares, and it ends up being one of the show's stand-out episodes as a result.

Worst: Showdown at Dark City

"Showdown at Dark City" takes an interesting concept and unfortunately fails in its execution, making it a sad example of how "Pokémon: Indigo League" sometimes ruined episodes with poor pacing. "Showdown at Dark City" tells the story of two gangs, the Yas and Kaz, who both want to open an official Pokémon gym in Dark City. As there can only be one gym per city, the Yas and Kaz gangs battle it out in the city streets to see which side is worthy of having their own gym. The fighting has caused considerable destruction to the city, leaving the regular citizens to live in fear of having their property destroyed by Pokémon street fights.

Ash decides to battle against both gangs, trying to show both sides that the fighting only hurts the city that they are trying to legitimize by building a Pokémon gym. He discovers that both of the team leaders' Pokémon, Scyther and Electabuzz, are enraged by the color red. He pours red paint on both teams, causing their Pokémon to turn against them, eventually uniting the two groups. Sadly, neither group is given much character development, so their uniting moment rings hollow.

Best: Electric Shock Showdown

"Electric Shock Showdown" follows Ash as he tries to obtain the Thunder Badge from the Vermilion City Gym. While this is Ash's first gym battle or gym badge, it does end up being a surprisingly personal one for his Pikachu, as the fight comes down to a battle between it and an evolved version of Pikachu, Raichu. When Ash first battles against Vermilion City Gym leader Lt. Surge and his Raichu, his Pikachu is hurt badly. After being given a Thunder Stone, Ash has to decide whether to evolve his Pikachu into a Raichu or let him try to win as a Pikachu.

The episode provides a lot of emotional scenes between Ash and his Pikachu, and the decision really tests the bonds of their friendship. It challenges Ash by putting him in a position where he has to choose whether to prioritize doing what's best for his Pikachu or what's best for his career as a Pokémon trainer. Luckily, Ash chooses his love for Pikachu, which turns out to be the right move for both of them — he wins his Thunder Badge by having Pikachu outmaneuver Raichu with his superior speed. It's a perfect underdog story, and it helps to build Ash and Pikachu's growing bond.

Worst: The Case of the K-9 Caper

As fun as Team Rocket can be in "Pokémon: Indigo League," some episodes are better off not having them, especially when their presence takes away from a potentially interesting story for Ash. "The Case of the K-9 Caper" is one such episode. After meeting a squad of police-trained Growlithes, Ash joins up with Officer Jenny's K-9 training unit to teach his Pikachu how to battle humans if need be. Pikachu protests, but Ash decides it would be best anyway, forcing the two into training together.

The struggle between Ash and Pikachu could have led to an interesting episode, forcing Ash to understand that Pikachu's wish to only fight Pokémon was important and that he couldn't necessarily push him to do things he wasn't comfortable with. Instead, the training is quickly cut off by a Team Rocket kidnapping plot, where they change their voices to sound like Officer Jenny and fool the Growlithes. This battle takes up half of the episode and delves into absurd schemes that make little sense, ruining what could have been a good character building moment for the show's two leads.

Best: Bye Bye Butterfree

Fans of the "Pokémon" anime may be used to Ash having to say goodbye to his Pokémon by now, but when Ash has to let Butterfree (the first Pokémon he ever caught) leave to migrate with the other Butterfree, it was a shocking moment that was both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. "Bye Bye Butterfree" starts with Ash attending a gathering where Butterfree trainers release their Butterfree in order to find a mate. Ash's Butterfree is quickly smitten with a rare pink Butterfree, though it doesn't return the affection.

A Team Rocket plan quickly interrupts the gathering. They use a giant net to capture as many Butterfree as possible, including the pink one. Ash's Butterfree battles against Team Rocket in order to free them, showing its impressive strength by breaking the net and saving the rest of the Butterfree. The pink one finally realizes how great Ash's Butterfree is and chooses him to be her mate, but that puts Ash in the tough position of having to say goodbye. The show then plays an emotional montage that follows Ash's journey with Butterfree, with the show's theme song playing in the background. It's an incredible tribute to Ash's first captured Pokémon, and one that's bound to leave many Pokémon fans in tears, even after watching it again and again.

Worst: A Chansey Operation

From the beginning, "A Chansey Operation" just feels like a bit of a mess. The episode rushes into Pikachu getting hurt while in a tree without really setting the stage, beginning a mile-a-minute plot that tries to do too much with too little runtime. After the incident, Ash is forced to bring Pikachu to a human hospital, as there aren't any Pokémon centers around. The only person there is a doctor who has little interest in helping Pokémon. He tries to turn them away but changes his tune when he's asked by Misty (he says he has a hard time refusing "pretty girls" and makes some other remarks that haven't aged well).

After saving Pikachu, a car crash (unsurprisingly caused by Team Rocket) forces the doctor to help the many Pokémon that were injured on the scene. He accidentally knocks himself out with a tranquilizer meant for a Pokémon, which forces Ash, Misty, and Brock to step up and do their best to help the Pokémon, all while battling Team Rocket. The episode tries to juggle way too many plotlines, and Dr. Proctor is an unsympathetic character who is difficult to like, making the episode a slog to get through.

Best: Pokémon - I Choose You!

"Pokémon – I Choose You" is the anime's first ever episode, and it really makes a great first impression. From the opening shot (which simulates a battle from the Game Boy games transforming into a colorful, detailed fight scene), to the enthusiastic narration (which sets up Ash's journey and the world he lives in), the episode sucks viewers in from the get-go. In addition, Ash is made instantly relatable thanks to his naïve but passionate claim that he will become the world's greatest Pokémon master.

He doesn't get off to the best of starts, however. After oversleeping the morning that he was supposed to embark on his great Pokémon journey, Ash ends up missing all the starter Pokémon. Professor Oak gives him a temperamental Pikachu instead, and they instantly butt heads, with Pikachu refusing to follow Ash's commands. Their tumultuous relationship makes the ending all the more satisfying when Pikachu jumps in to save Ash from a raging Spearow, and this brief glimpse of a then-unidentified Pokémon helps to make the Pokémon universe all the more intriguing.

Worst: March of the Exeggutor Squad

"March of the Exeggutor Squad" is a frustrating episode, primarily because of the arc it gives to the newly introduced Melvin. As Ash and his group are traveling, they come across a carnival in a small town. While Ash and Brock enjoy themselves at the carnival, Misty helps a struggling magician named Melvin by acting as his assistant. However, Melvin continues to fail in his acts, and no one wants to see his show.

His luck changes when he discovers that his one Pokémon, Exeggcute, can hypnotize people. He hypnotizes Ash and makes him capture some wild Exeggutors so that he can mesmerize the whole town into enjoying his show. After Team Rocket steps in to take the Exeggutors, they march on the town and destroy it, along with the carnival. After some convincing, Melvin joins Ash, Misty, and Brock in helping save the town, making him a hero. This ending feels unearned, with Melvin facing no consequences for the many problems he caused.

Best: Charmander - The Stray Pokémon

"Charmander – The Stray Pokémon" is a great episode, but it's a hard one to watch. It revolves around a Charmander who gets abandoned by an arrogant trainer who doesn't care about him. For viewers who have adopted rescue animals that have been abandoned in the past, this story may ring all too true. But, while the episode starts off sad, it ends on an uplifting note, as Ash offers to take the Charmander in. He finally realizes that his previous owner didn't love him and winds up rejecting him, throwing the trainer's Pokéball back in his face.

The episode is filled with emotional scenes, but none more iconic than Charmander taking refuge under a leaf. Charmanders have a flame on their tail, and if it goes out, they could die. While sitting out on the rock it was abandoned on, the Charmander has to hide its tail flame under a leaf to avoid letting it touch the rain and go out, barely clinging to life. "Charmander – The Stray Pokémon" shows a realistic depiction of animal cruelty in a world that is defined by its animals, and the triumphant rescue of Charmander is one of the show's best moments.

Worst: The Kangaskhan Kid

"The Kangaskhan Kid" is a strange episode of "Pokémon: Indigo League" that barely feels like it fits in tone and style with the rest of the show. The episode follows a kid named Tommy who was lost at a young age in the Pokémon Safari Zone. Tommy ended up being raised by a group of wild Kangaskhan and became their protector. When his parents enlist Ash and his group to bring Tommy back, he has to choose between his human parents and his Pokémon ones.

The humor throughout the episode feels odd. A lot of jokes are made at the expense of Tommy's safety, such as his father dropping him out of a helicopter. In addition, Tommy and his parents never feel like real characters, regularly existing just for jokes, so when the show tries to hit emotional notes towards the end, it's hard to sympathize with any of them. These issues make "The Kangaskhan Kid" one of the worst "Pokémon" episodes of any season, not just "Indigo League."