Another day, another Christmas special! Today’s pick is from the first season of the Pokemon anime, an era that many people may remember fondly, and after receiving a request, it’s coming front and center. Here’s what happens when the first generation of Pokemon meets Christmas Eve: Holiday Hi-Jynx.
Special: Holiday Hi-Jynx
Year released: 1998
AniB’s thoughts: Crazy as it is, I’ve never actually discussed the Pokemon anime on this blog yet. It likely was the first anime for quite a few people around 20-25 years old, and in turn, it can evoke a lot of pleasant childhood memories from the franchise’s early days, be it the trading card game rush that was all the craze in elementary schools, or some of the earliest games that released for the franchise in Pokemon Blue, Red and the special Pikachu-themed one, Yellow.
Indeed, the anime is still running today, which is no small feat. It’s often panned for being extremely formulaic, but admittedly some of this is being a victim of its own success, as Pokemon is an incredibly valuable franchise, and as long as that holds true, the show will go on. And like any successful long-running shonen series, it has specials and movies- including the first of a few Christmas-themed episodes in its history, the infamous Holiday Hi-Jynx, which got banned stateside, technically.
So what was so wild and crazy that led to them pulling this episode from the air, and how did I still see it? Well, for the former, it was an accusation that Jynx (the Pokemon in the title picture) perpetuated negative stereotypes about African-Americans- a charge that frankly didn’t cross my mind when watching this episode. And for the latter, it turns out the episode still found its way around due to video and DVD releases, meaning that it certainly wasn’t as “forbidden” as they made it seem. The rest of the episode itself…isn’t really ban-worthy whatsoever. Here’s what happens, for anyone wondering what the mystery of this episode was:
It’s a Christmas special, obviously. Like most Pokemon episodes, particularly in early seasons, it involves a Team Rocket plot that just so happens to cross with the holiday and of course, the main heroes are involved. The other major plot thread is about a Jynx who got separated from Santa while polishing his boot (no, I’m not making this up), and after a wayward journey sees it in a pitched battle against Ash Ketchum and his friends, they wind up helping it, setting off a relatively quick journey to the North Pole (which looks far sunnier and bright than you’d imagine). In the meantime, Team Rocket pursues them in a Gyarados-themed pedal-power submarine, all to enact the always original scheme of stealing all of Santa’s gifts. Hijinks ensue, the plot unfolds like most standard episodes of this show (i.e. TR’s plot intially succeeds only to go belly up and they get blasted off again), and the heroes are given gifts in the true spirit of Christmas.
This really isn’t a classic holiday episode or anything, but it is the most noteworthy one from Pokemon due to its notoriety and status as one of the rare “banned” episodes. The most startling thing about this might be that Lapras (a large swimming Pokemon that looks like a Nessie) can telepathically talk to people, or that Santa Claus very casually exists in the Poke-verse, moreso than Jynx’s supposedly offensive appearance, which seems rather tame to pull the the entire episode compared to something like Electric Soldier Porygon, which actually caused epileptic seizures due to a certain scene.
Overall, it was an enjoyable little watch that I think Pokemon fans in particular might find nostalgic. There’s a sense than if this was the following generation, the Pokemon Delibird and Stantler might have put in appearances, but with only the original 151 to pick from at the the time, they got creative (i.e. Rapidash, a horse Pokemon as a “reindeer,” and the Jynx themselves as “elves.”) This version of the North Pole is probably one of the more simplistic layouts I’ve seen between various interpretations of the place, and this iteration of Santa is kindly and affable, though a bit generic. You can find this episode online rather easily, though official sources might not list it. And finally, what of the Jynx controversy? It actually triggered the future move to recolor all of the black areas in its design to purple, not only for any future anime appearances, but also in the games. Censorship or not though, this is a curious little slice of Pokemon history and another way to feel a sillier spirit of the season.
Like what you see? Big fan of Pokemon? Know the history behind this episode? Leave a comment!