The Pokémon franchise doesn’t scare me that usually. Certain, after I see Pikachu take a tough hit in a battle, I’m scared for his well being. When Giratina exhibits as much as battle my beaten-down staff at the top of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, that’s additionally terrifying as a result of I’m working low on Pokémon to battle again. However when it comes to precise scares in a conventional horror sense, there haven’t been quite a lot of these over time. Nonetheless, as we enter spooky season, I’m reminded of a 1998 anime episode that aired within the US 25 years in the past, the place Gastly, the only ghost-type Pokémon of the primary era, lastly made its TV debut. The Pokémon anime can generally really feel a bit sanitized and sanded-down, however again within the ‘90s, Ash’s adventures had increased stakes, and that episode specifically nonetheless provides me goosebumps to today.
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Gastly walked so future ghost-type Pokémon might run
“The Ghost of Maiden’s Peak” (streaming on Netflix) is an effective instance of the Pokémon anime increasing on concepts which might be simply hinted at within the video games themselves. On the time, the Gastly household was the one ghost-type Pokémon, so centering them in a scary episode was a no brainer. Certain, the Pokémon video games take care of ghosts and dying within the universe in Lavender City’s Pokémon Tower, which serves as a burial floor for these critters, however ghosts within the Pokémon universe had been nonetheless a fairly summary idea in Crimson and Blue. Ash and Pikachu move via Lavender City on their journey, however the anime doubles down on ghost-types as a daunting, unknowable drive inside the universe, and in “The Ghost of Maiden’s Peak”, it’s used to wonderful impact.
The episode follows Ash and his mates as they go to Maiden’s Peak, a location that doesn’t seem within the video games however is residence to a summer season pageant and shrine the place the locals inform the legend of a younger lady who, hundreds of years in the past, was deeply in love with a person who was despatched off to battle. She swore to attend on the finish of a cliff, watching the ocean’s tides, ready for her lover’s ship to return. However he by no means did, and her physique turned to stone as she waited. She was the “when will my husband return from the battle” joke taken to its most excessive conclusion. We stan a loyal queen, however lady, you would have waited indoors and never succumbed to the weather.
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When our heroes arrive at Maiden’s Peak, Brock, Ash’s ex-gym chief buddy, sees the spirit of the maiden and is instantly infatuated. James, Crew Rocket’s lovable dimwit, additionally falls sufferer to her spell, and the 2 are transfixed by her, finally falling sufferer to her hypnotic talents come nighttime. Ash’s Pikachu is the one one who sees the reality of the matter: It is a Pokémon masquerading as a spirit. The 2 affected imbeciles disappear through the night time and are drawn into the spirit’s net. When Ash and the remainder of Crew Rocket discover them, they’ve principally misplaced their minds, succumbing to some form of love spell and babbling nonsense about their devotion to the ghost. A fast Thundershock from Pikachu later, the 2 change into considerably extra coherent however Brock maintains his timeless loyalty to a ghost lady he simply met.
With the assistance of an area previous lady, Ash, Pikachu, Misty, and the remainder of Crew Rocket try and banish the ghost through the use of Ofuda, which the previous lady calls an “anti-ghost” talisman (known as “stickers” within the English dub). In the true world, these are utilized in Buddhism and Shinto to guard a house from misfortune, however within the Pokémon world, they preserve out haunting spirits. Or, not less than, that’s the thought. When the ghost of the maiden returns the next night time, she’s capable of simply enter the shrine and telepathically drag Brock and James out into the open air She almost succeeds in abducting them once more, till Jesse whips out an precise rocket launcher and disrupts her focus.
Then the maiden conjures a number of terrifying ghosts, and Ash notes that he doesn’t acknowledge them as a Pokémon. He pulls out his Pokédex, and it confirms this small military of ghosts aren’t Pocket Monsters to be caught in a Pokéball—however the identical can’t be mentioned for the maiden’s ghost itself, which seems to be one thing totally completely different. Because the ghouls descend upon the group, Ash factors his Pokédex within the path of the maiden’s ghost, and the Pokédex says “nonetheless looking out” for what looks like an agonizingly very long time till it determines the maiden is definitely a Gastly in disguise.
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As soon as Gastly reveals its true kind, the episode makes gentle of the scenario (this can be a child’s present, in spite of everything) It transforms right into a mouse entice to chase after Pikachu when the mouse Pokémon tries to battle it. It conjures a ball to distract Meowth as he tries to reap the benefits of a gap within the battle. It even shapeshifts into a fireplace extinguisher to focus on the life-giving flame on Charmander’s tail. Whereas it might have been straightforward for Pokémon to maintain portraying Gastly as a terrifying creature that Ash and mates can’t defeat, the present as an alternative makes it a little bit of a prankster, one thing extra palatable for a youthful viewers.
The complete ordeal involves a detailed because the solar rises, and Gastly reveals that it does have one weak point: daylight. The ghost disappears and vows it’s going to return subsequent yr, however for now, James and Brock are free from its curse. Nonetheless, whereas harmless fool boys will proceed to fall sufferer to its hypnosis, the episode reveals the ‘Mon has noble intentions.
We see a scene of Gastly talking with the precise spirit of the maiden. It reveals it has a ardour for maintaining previous legends alive, and makes use of the summer season pageant to remind vacationers of her story. At this level, Gastly’s antics have change into simply as embedded within the pageant because the story of the maiden herself. It should journey to a different land searching for new legends to unfold, however guarantees to return to Maiden’s Peak to inform her story as soon as once more.
The complete ordeal remains to be hanging right this moment, each as a Pokémon ghost story and a riff on the supply materials. The Gastly “reveal” isn’t actually a twist, because the episode exhibits early on that the Pokémon is behind the entire scheme. Despite the fact that you understand the ghost is a Gastly, the anticipation of watching Ash stumble into that information in what appeared like a life-or-death circumstance is intense—particularly as a result of you understand the Pokédex’s guidelines of getting to “see” a Pokémon earlier than it could possibly determine it.
Within the first-generation video games, the one means you may “see” a ghost-type Pokémon is through the use of the Silph Scope. This proprietary tech was developed with the only intention of gazing previous illusions created by ghosts and figuring out the supply. Ash doesn’t have one in every of these, however the Pokédex, not restricted by the human’s bare eye, is ready to scan the setting and title the group’s ghostly foe. It’s such a rewarding second of readability in a tense, scary scene. Instantly, one thing that appeared incomprehensible is dragged into plain sight.
Even 9 generations in, Ghost Pokémon are nonetheless fairly enigmatic. Their lore is usually a number of the darkest you’ll discover within the Pokédex, and that’s solely change into extra obvious as extra of them have joined Gastly and its evolutionary line in subsequent video games. Yamask is outwardly the soul of lifeless people wandering the land of the dwelling, legend says Poltchageist originated from a bitter man dying over a damaged caddy. However even when Gastly was the one ghost we had, it was offering scares, spooks, and shocks from the start. It was a trailblazer for the way ghost-type Pokémon would exist within the collection for years to come back, they usually’ve solely gotten spookier as time has gone on.