1-I will not discuss characters with obvious team themes or teams composed of Pokémon that fill the specific needs of the character which are actually explained in the show. As such, certain characters such as Misty, Gary, Tracey and Virgil probably will not appear as a part of this unless I have something to add. For example, I might do Luke and Shamus if I find something interesting(Shamus) or if I find that fandom don't know their team's structure a lot(Luke).
2-Not every character has specific themes within their teams, and are actually nothing but bunch of stuff that desires to suck off the popularity of the characters themselves to turn into instant classics from unpopular creatures. As such Ash, Cilan and Brock teams will not make into this blogs, unless they have some sort of connection to the teams mentioned and mentioned alongside them. Jessie and James's teams are a mixture of number 1 and 2, as such they will most likely not be a part of this either.
3-Main girls' teams have major themes, but they are not very obvious, and I don't want fanboy complaints right off the bat, so they will be at the later parts of this. That and I will need a bit more time to gather information about them to see if there is anything missing.
4-No characters whose teams do not have a high chance of staying stable during the Best Wishes' run will be discussed now. As such Georgia and Burgundy's teams have to wait until the end of the series. However, even if I discuss or have discussed the current situation their teams elsewhere, they will be discussed as a part of this.
5-No characters whose teams' entire showcase I didn't watch yet will be discussed early. As such none of the Unova league rivals or certain Characters of the Day, Characters of the Arc or Characters of the Two Parter will be in the priority. On the other hand, I will watch their episodes to do these.
6-This blog series will not only include characters who have appeared more the one episode(including cameos). If there are Characters of the Day with interesting but not obvious themes they will be discussed here.
7-This is for characters that have actual teams, as such one Pokémon characters will not be discussed as most of them are created with their Pokémon in the mind anyways. I will discuss them if they have a sort of connection with another character if it is interesting and worth mentioning.
8-There is no set length for the parts. Some will be incredibly short and some will most likely take more than one post(mostly because of the amount of pictures).
9-Requests are accepted and requested. Nonetheless, the game and various manga teams will not be discussed for the time being. Even if I do start to do them as well, I will begin with the main series games as there is some overlooked themes and references regarding the NPCs. They won't probably be in the same style as these, minus some exceptions that can be talked in full length.
10-I will be primarily talking about the Japanese dub(at least for episodes I have access to), so if you are wondering about the absence of anything regarding the English dub(any additions or subtractions in the script), that's why. Of course, if I find time or there's a lot of request, I will probably make additions regarding the English dub, and of course, if you have something related to other dubs handling of the script that somehow relates to this context, I will probably post them here as well, if they are important enough. And of course, you are free to point out translation errors, colour coding errors, trope errors etc.
Now that's over with, we can boogie. To start off, we will begin with one of the most obvious, thus least discussed and overlooked team structures of the all rivals, Barry's. I chose Barry's structure because it was the easiest to do, as he has a low amount of Pokémon and he barely used any of them besides his Empoleon. In short, for a slacker like me to toy with, he is perfect.
Barry's theme is a rather obvious one. He doesn't have a theme. Rather, he has his game counterpart's theme, save for two important exceptions. His game counterpart starts off with basic early route Pokémon but they eventually grow into quite competitively viable Pokémon with varied, tournament style move sets and gain two Pokémon only obtainable through side questing, Munchlax and Heracross. With the anime counterpart this is changed up slightly. While the eventual team structure respects the growth of Barry(game)'s team, their roles are very different. Due to his storyline with Paul, Barry(anime)'s team is composed of a similar structure. Barry's team, much like Paul's, contains many Pokémon that have been forced to evolve quickly and were forced to gain high impact moves due to the Barry's poor understanding of Paul's style and his hasty nature. In addition to this, his team and battling method contains many basic yet common not-to-dos found within the journeys of many starting trainers, including ones in the real life(playing the games).
Another recurring theme within the Barry's theme is its association with birds, specifically birds of prey. This seems to actually originate as a part of his game counterpart's team, as his second to first Pokémon is Starly, who evolves into Staraptor which suspiciously shares his hair style, which is intended to look like a bird(or another bird in Staraptor). This might be because the word hayabusa(falcon) shares one of the possible kanji for the name Jun, but obviously the pronunciations are completely different and Jun's name in katakana as such the pun doesn't completely work. Or at all. The intended meaning for his name is probably either “pure”, “obedient”, or most obviously the month of June in Engl(r)ish. In addition, it is a unisex name which would be a further proof for his femininity(though that is not a topic for this blog).
Now the brief introduction is over, let's start off with his most basic Pokémon,
Unlike his game counterpart, since Staraptor was a far too common in many recurring trainers' teams, Barry's Staraptor made only two appearances, but it certainly made an impression.
Staraptor's move set is pathetically basic, further giving credit to the possibility that Barry forced it to evolve prematurely. It contains Tackle, one of the most basic attacking moves ever, Wing Attack, one of the most basic Flying-type move, and Close Combat, a move Staraptor learns upon evolving. Even by looking at the list you can easily see many, many things wrong with this.
Another issue seen with Staraptor is Barry's lack of desire to have actual role in the battle. Instead of giving actual commands for Staraptor, he actually screams to Staraptor to do something against Ash's Chimchar's Flamethrower as he is incredibly clueless about the “silly”(or so he believes) concepts of dodging and countering. To give credit to Staraptor, he seems to know exactly what to do against Chimchar, as he very quickly managed to dodge Chimchar's Flamethrower;
and raise some sand to Chimchar's face before using Close Combat to break his guard, something his trainer didn't even try to think about.
Unfortunately, because of Barry's lack of desire and capability to use actual strategies or have an oversight, Staraptor fell down to Chimchar's Dig+Flamethrower tactic in one shot.
As cool as the concept of a boxing Tuxedo Kamen is, it is also undeniably stupid unless you have used Swords Dance first(even then, no). At the very least Barry gave it some actual commands to use against Chimchar, like moving around it to get some hits.
Of course using Poison Jab being a Physical move is not the main reason Roserade is used to showcase Barry's incompetence. The primary reason it was used to showcase the fault of a relentless assault tactic. Barry openly states that attacking is what battles are all about, which is of course an incorrect statement, and while it is not as costly as the faults he made with Empoleon and Staraptor in his first trainer battle in the series, it is still very bad and misguided. Of course, there is also the fact that Barry constantly used the same move over and over again.
Ultimately the tactic cost both Ash and Barry's Pokémon, but at he managed to force Ash into it as well, and Roserade managed to dodge some of hits on its own and hit some sucker punches...
Perhaps the most perplexing member of Barry's team, Heracross is a member of species that has been heavily showcased during Diamond/Pearl, much like its other team members Roserade and Staraptor. Because of this, it is also one of the least showcased members Barry had. In spite of this fact, Heracross is actually the Pokémon that has the most similar personality to Barry and his appearances have been in episodes where Barry's progression as a trainer was showcased.
We first see Heracross in DP110 using Megahorn against rocks in the Iron Island, training along with Empoleon. After settling his conflict with Ash, Barry has decided to not try for cheap tactics to get stronger, but get stronger by actually training.
Despite the unfortunate events that eventually unfold, Barry and Heracross eventually get attacked by Empoleon and other Steel-types of Iron Island. Despite this shortcoming, Barry finds out the perfect solution against three Magnemite with great timing,
Their timing is so perfect, they even blink in unison twice;
Though in hindsight I might have just found a new source for the caption thread.
Unfortunately he and Heracross end up being hit by a Skarmory and they end up taking the belated revenge for troubles his would-be best friend Kenny from our lovable trio;
The immense synchronization between the two is showcased further with his encounter Team Rocket and their accusations regarding the events occurring in Steel Island, perhaps most notably when Barry reattempts his interception of the motto in his debut and swiftly commands Heracross to use Fury Attack on them:
Heracross' devotion to his trainer is further showcased in their encounter against Galactic, in which he protects Barry from Air Cutter:
After which Barry and Team Rocket send out their Pokémon against Galactic, which fails spectacularly:
The scenes after the defeat of both Heracross and Roserade/Staraptor, both his rage for Heracross' loss and his apologizes for Staraptor/Roserade further showcases his increased respect towards Pokémon after his encounter with Ash:
However, this is not necessarily good for Barry. A commentator that looks through the point of the story structure would immediately respond that Barry's loss was simply to have Riley, Ash and co. to come and save the day against Team Galactic as Barry is a secondary gag rival. This would be correct. However, such blunt response would undermine the eventual result of this confrontation for Barry's character. This encounter showcases that while Ash's respect for his Pokémon and his ability to take the responsibility for the loss(the latter of which is a rare trait even those who deeply care for their Pokémon) are significant qualities that Barry gained, he still uses a baseline for his training and has not gained a personal style that would make him gain strength more easily. Even though Barry clearly understood the style of Ash, unlike his interpretation of Paul's tactics, it doesn't change that this Ash's techniques are still influences Barry must outgrow for the very simple reason that he is not Ash. He must find his own voice. This, is the primary conflict of Barry's character and perhaps THE primary theme of Diamond/Pearl.
The second appearance of Heracross is certainly a bizarre one, but seemingly confirms that he is Barry's closest Pokémon, even if Barry himself has not realized that.
In his second appearance, Barry shows no major animosity towards Ash and instantly challenges him to a battle, believing that he will win the Twinleaf Tournament “And then the path to being the greatest Trainer shall open!” The further influence of Ash and more misunderstanding of his methods is shown fully here, as Barry's competitive spirit is flared up by Ash's tendency to enter any tournaments he can enter.
The battle later starts with Pikachu using Quick Attack;
And Barry continues to be a pseudo-parody of Ash, telling Heracross not to give up even though it is clearly under no immediate danger;
which Heracross obliges by using another basic attack, Horn Attack;
The battle is interrupted after Ash gives compliments to Barry and Barry cockily takes them, as a Xatu surprises Barry. Barry believes “it” has come, and goes deep into the forest to see “it”.
Barry specifically states that he had seen the “it”, a “circus tent” in the previous festival and thought it might have been a dream, but since he was little, “they” didn't let him in.
The clown that appears from the tent, asking the trio of Barry, Dawn and Ash if they are Pokémon trainers and tells them they will enter into a wonderful that connects “past, present and the future”.
The whole thing is an illusory world set up by Natu that forces all three trainers to repeat the challenges that allowed them to gain the trust of their Pokémon, with Pokémon now being the ones that save their trainers, except Barry. And all of their starters are part of the challenge, excluding their other Pokémon, except Heracross. It is interesting that while Barry's connection with his primary Pokémon and starter Empoleon(whose personality actually clashes with Barry's from time to time like the other starters) could be utilized by the Natu, they chose Heracross instead, unless the circus tent trick only works with the Pokémon that is currently out of their ball. It is especially interesting as Heracross and Barry had no true conflict, in fact, Barry just finds a copy of the tree he found Heracross and a jar of Sweet Honey:
After all three meet-up and Piplup and Pikachu's combined attacks don't work on Camerupt, Barry quickly understands what's up;
They need to hit the targets;
Barry shows the first demonstration by commanding Heracross to use a powerful move, Double-Edge;
Barry continues to command others to hit the targets, and eventually the challenge ends with Barry finally succeeding in being the intelligent group leader hero he probably always wanted to be, at least once.
At the end of the episode, Palmer states that:
“The future is shaped by the past. Decisions on how you act in certain moments come together and are linked to the future.”
Palmer also speculates that as Xatu is said to capable of seeing both past and future and “Maybe it let you young people feel an unlimited future while also reminding you of the events of the past.” This further implies that Xatu and Natu tried to test the trainers' growth.
We don't see Barry's original other three Pokémon, but his next two Pokémon are certainly from his past and present relationships.
Of all Pokémon Barry has owned, Skarmory takes the place of being the most unorthodox Pokémon to be utilized by him. It also has the shortest appearance, but it is certainly a memorable one.
As a defensive Pokémon with many support options, Skarmory is a representation of Paul's technique. Not only he manages to utilize a Pokémon that would be used by Paul if he was given chance, he also utilizes a technique that plagued Paul at the very start of the series, and a technique that Paul uses after Barry, much like Barry believed he would.
As Paul uses a lot of substitution and has little care for the well being of his Pokémon, Spikes ends up being a major Achilles' Heel for Paul, rather ironic for a defensive player who had a strong affinity for Ground-types.
Despite this, he still has troubles in internalizing Paul's strategy, and Skarmory ends up fried for being in a unfortunate match-up against a Special oriented Fire-type Pokémon. Not to mention, his Skarmory seems more speed oriented than defence oriented.
Regardless, Barry thanks Skarmory and states he has played his part, showing the signs of Ash's training method, and Paul's tendency to sacrifice his Pokémon for his larger players. His tactic also utilizes Paul's personality traits and Paul's disrespect for himself and his Pokémon. Despite his claims of past being past and his denial of Paul's disregard for him, he has successfully managed to use Paul's past and tactics to his advantage, and has finally managed to merge the two different techniques into a coherent form even if he still clearly lacks experience.
Unfortunately, he still hasn't developed his own tactics, which further leads to our next Pokémon.
Hitmonlee first appears as a counteract to Paul's own switching, but Hitmonlee himself is quite far away from Paul's tactics.
Hitmonlee's first move is knocking Ursaring back with Mega Kick after his Bulk Up;
after which Hitmonlee swiftly dodges Ursaring's very slow Hammer Arm;
Barry mentions how he has raised Hitmonlee to obtain his highest speed. Throughout the fight, Hitmonlee tries to utilize his speed, his powerful attacks such as Close Combat(which he uses after he gains an opening from Ursaring constant attacks);
And Hi Jump Kick(which he first baits in Ursaring by hitting the ground then striking with his knee);
And Blaze Kick(which eventually boosts Ursaring enough to allow it to counterattack and knock out Hitmonlee.
Hitmonlee showcases several of Barry's preferences such as high speed and high power, but his primary tactics involved using the opponent's strength against it, which is something Hitmonlee does admirably but not expertly.
But using opponent's strength against itself is neither a part of Ash's, Barry's or Paul's tactics. It is however, a major part of Kenny's strategy.
The influence for Hitmonlee that came to Barry can be traced back to Sandalstraw Contest in DP123(major credits for Paulisthebest for noticing this). Barry, mesmerized by the strength of Kenny's Machoke, expresses his desire to own a Machoke himself:
It is pretty clear that he traced more than one Pokémon from his best friend. Biggest difference is of course Barry preferred to use speed and the area rather than the bulk of his Pokémon and the control Pokémon has over the moves it faces against as Kenny does. He has managed combine his preferences by another style.
But Barry is still relatively inexperienced with this style, and he ultimately loses when he tries to counter(like Kenny would) while his hit-and-run scheme could have worked better, especially with Paul's low patience when things go in ways he didn't plan, Ursaring's already boosted power and constantly reducing endurance due to Burn.
This is of course not only Pokémon Barry has that crosses his fate with Kenny's, but the next Pokémon is not limited to one or two influence, rather a major representation of the periods Barry has faced through his journey.
Empoleon is one of the most famous and infamous Pokémon of the Barry's team. As the star piece of the party and his starter, much like other main Pokémon, Empoleon has various personality traits that come in conflict with its trainer as well as several common grounds. And like most main or starter Pokémon, it is undeniably the strongest representation of Barry's journey.
The first appearance of Empeleon is during the battle portion of a yet another failed TR plot, in which he saves Pikachu and Piplup from Seviper's Bite;
In which he uses its arguably signature move, Hydro Cannon, for the first time;
Which we learn it used this move to defeat Gardenia;
Barry later follows this move with another “powerful” move, Hyper Beam;
After this, the discussion regarding their methods and the battle occurs, where two of the Barry's original four do the work, leaving Empoleon the last.
Barry carefully predicts the future and states that type matchup is not important for his Empoleon and tells Empoleon to showcase their strength against Ash. Unfortunately, he predicts too far into the future.
In his first battle, Empoleon starts of good, as it quickly stops Pikachu's Thunderbolt from starting with its Hydro Cannon;
And the follows it with Steel Wing;
Which Pikachu counters with Iron Tail;
Barry continues his lack of strategy with Roserade and just orders continuous attacks;
Which (shockingly enough) works.
This allows Barry to blast Pikachu with Hyper Beam:
But with Ash telling him to hang on, Pikachu regains control. Ash, knowing Hyper Beam can't be used consecutively, uses this small window of opportunity to command Thunderbolt:
And finishes the deal with Volt Tackle:
Throughout the first battle, Empoleon faces the same tribulations his comrades faced. He was given somewhat incompatible moves to work with and was forced use constant force like Roserade, was forced improvise(to knock Pikachu out of their close combat with their Iron Tail-Steel Wing moves) like Roserade and Staraptor, and much like Staraptor he was forced to given high impact/high penalty moves, latter of which caused its' fall. This battle also showcased Ash's battling style for Barry, something he gained opportunity to see in Ash's later Gym battle, which inspired him to take his style. We of course know how well that turned out.
Empoleon's next major appearance happens in DP103. As a part of a plot to capture the gang's Pokémon, TR forces the gang for a photo shoot which Barry initially refuses because he claims to be tired. Barry yet again interrupts TR's motto with Empoleon's Hydro Pump:
After an explosion caused by the collided attacks, Empoleon finds itself with Dawn's Piplup, Ash's Grotle and Brock's Happiny. Piplup, right after landing, goes in a direction which he feels is the right one. Once he gets mad at others for not following him, the others reluctantly accept his leadership:
As it is in his early appearances, Barry obviously blames Ash for the event(even though it was Dawn that first suggested him).
Empoleon and others continue to reluctantly follow Piplup to Canalave for a dead end:
Barry continues to take credit for finding one of the disbanded groups, even though it is the Pokémon that found them, if anything.
Meanwhile, Piplup's group faces yet another dead end:
Piplup admits defeat and eventually reluctantly gives the role of leadership to Empoleon, which he takes with great pride:
Meanwhile, the group encounters Pikachu and Meowth's group, which again Barry takes credit for.
Unfortunately, Empoleon is not knowledgeable itself, which Piplup calls it out for:
Later in the episode, Empoleon continues to Hydro Pump TR and gets hit by Meowth's Fury Swipes:
However in the final attack against TR, the group manages to combine Bubblebeam, Water Gun and Hydro Pump into one major attack:
In the end of the episode, Barry stops trying to one-up everyone and goes to his training. We already know how successful that was(it wasn't).
The episode showcases the differences between Barry and Empoleon, as Empoleon is submitting and calm, whereas Barry is defiant and aggressive. Two things that are clearly shred by both are their pride and their desire for leadership, which eventually leads on to Empoleon's most important moment... which we won't talk about yet.
The other two episodes, while important for Barry's personal growth and further inspirations from Kenny are not very relevant for Empoleon's case. DP157 and DP163 are a bit different however.
In DP157, Empoleon has a battle for the capture of Gible, in which it showcases great speed, a new move in form of Drill Peck and considerably more power:
So much power that it blasts off Gible, showcasing his prowess, but still apparent lack of control:
The second battle showcases more promise, as Empoleon showcases immense power:
and Barry orders it to counterattack Gible's Dig+Rock Smash combo:
and his attempts to run away with Dig by firing a Hydro Cannon in the hole after the first one is dodged:
and Barry further informs Empoleon to repel Draco Meteor:
Barry continues to order Empoleon to dodge Dragon Pulse while Gible attempts a shot while its charging:
And ultimately Barry wins by Hyper Beam.
The battle is not only Barry's only on-screen victory, but also showcases a great deal of synchronization with Empoleon:
And Barry further showcases his prowess by reconfirming that he actually got the first place card to battle against Fantina:
Emphasis on the past tense there.
In the battle, Barry also showcases by relying on speed and high attack power, as well as reading the opponent well and thinking further ahead. We also see first glimpses of Kenny's effect on Barry with is counter-oriented battling style, but it is still considerably minimal. This is the first glimpse for the development of the Barry's own style, but unfortunately, it is also a foreshadowing of something terrible.
In its next appearance, Empoleon is found battling a Mothim. In this battle, it uses Hydro Cannon:
and then blocks Mothim's Signal Beam with its wings:
and finishes off Mothim with Metal Claw:
Right from the get-go, we can see the similarities between the first battle between Kenny and Ash, and how Prinplup blocked Thunderbolt and later on Iron Tail with Metal Claw:
It is clear that Barry is further influenced by Kenny's tactics, even if he still uses his own style for offense unlike the case of Hitmonlee. Barry also showcases further growth by telling crowd to cheer for Mothim and his trainer as well. Barry and Empoleon get along better as well as they laugh together at the mention of Sunyshore Gym:
which he calls the best, showcasing that he still prefers shortcuts to his victory.
In the start of the battle against Monferno, Barry mimics Ash's nose touch as he is pleased by the type advantage:
Later, Barry's Empoleon becomes incapable of dodging Mach Punch due its speed:
and gets pissed while Ash dodges commands Dig for dodging his attacks(even though he had no problem handling it in the battle against Gible):
But Barry's skills have not been completely degraded as he quickly commands Hydro Cannon while Monferno is in the middle of its jump, knocking it out far away:
In the battle against both Gible and Monferno, Empoleon and Barry showcase a lack of control, which further appears in Kenny's own appeal in Grand Festival:
Regardless of who this stems from, this and their favouritism towards their starter obviously parallel to each other.
The biggest moment of Empoleon happens in the battle against Paul. Intending to use an offensive pressure on Paul by disabling his ability to switch, Empoleon appears first against Magmortar, but after Paul switches regardless, he decides to switch to Hitmonlee:
After Hitmonlee faints, we can see Kenny's countering style have affected Barry greatly, as he not only overpowers Guts boosted Ursaring's Slash with Drill Peck:
he also uses Ursaring own Focus Blast against it:
This actually surprises Paul, but he decides to use Electivire instead. At this case, Barry pushes the offensive presence and uses Hyper Beam he believes type and advantages won't matter with it(well, they do, but not in this specific case unlike Drill Peck and Steel Wing). Paul of course counters with Thunder:
Left vulnerable, Empoleon dodges the follow-up move ThunderPunch, while mentioning he has raised Empoleon's speed to maximum as well:
Paul decides to do Barry's own old tricks against him instead(that Paul wasn't around to see, so he really is unintentionally doing this as he is pretty much throwing a sissy fit, which I guess still mimics Barry regardless) , by successively punching and later on using Giga Impact on the cornered Empoleon:
Needless to say, Empoleon fails to dodge it. However, Barry cries for Empoleon to keep up, much like Ash did for Pikachu in their initial battle:
Barry's Empoleon activates Drizzle, but their Drizzle powered Hydro Cannon ends up being Protected by Electivire:
And Empoleon takes a last stand, not to dodge or block, but not lose its own pride, the biggest similarity Empoleon and Barry share:
Barry later states that he has no regrets, while mimicking the nose itching again, and Paul accepts that it was a good battle:
Despite utterly breaking down Paul's own tactics as well as his own pride, Barry only manages to barely reach his own personal style even if he manages to marry different styles well. And let us not forget his several mishaps in his battles and training. But one thing is left relatively unanswered. What is Barry's true style then?
From the influences of the characters he met, as well as his father, Barry's style is not necessarily unique. Much like his father's he relies on highly powerful moves, and knows how to time them(though not exactly). And much like his father's, he openly baits opponents by their battling tendencies, but unlike his father he doesn't use buffs and a defensive backbone to support the amount of buffs necessary. Barry prefers to hit powerful moves and use his speed to dodge and time carefully, instead of increasing the speed in the battle. This shows that Barry's own conquest for power was actually integral to his character, rather than a flaw. The flaw is how he goes about it. Somebody who prefers speed and attack must know how to have coverage, what stats should be considered important, what abilities Pokémon work with best and most important how to have a good instinct on the battle and check the opponents plan, and cripple them whenever possible. As a bulky offense user myself, I thought like many others that Hyper Offense, which is the true calling of Barry was a relatively shallow tactic. As I attempted to use them myself, I found the opposite, they require great knowledge of the opponent, how to cripple them, when to buff and how to switch in. A Hyper Offensive trainer must know how to be stall player, not to use his/her defensive cores efficiently, but how to hunt the prey down. You must convert the area to your own pleasing, or ensure your playground is effective for your team. You must have great synergy and accept sacrifices. You must be on the look for places to hurt and exploit, and unleash your power quickly before they can strike back or notice you. It is important to have an offensive pressure, but as long as you can defeat a threat more quickly, that is not important. Once its dead or at least crippled enough to be killed, you have already won.
After all, this how the falcon hunts the pigeon.
Special thanks for Sushi and Sunain for the translations, as well as Paulisthebest for noticing the Hitmonlee debacle. Additional thanks for D/P era BMGf forum members Shinneth, TheFightingMisty, Iteru, CommanderPigg and Hellion/Gible for the endless discussions we had regarding the show, as well as Druddigon for reminding me of this.
I own everything ever. Nobody ever owns anything related to a subpar children's animé except the merchandise I make money off. No, not really. Next up is a Best Wishes because otherwise this will take another three months.