"The final straw, though," he said, elaborating on why he no longer watched the series. "was that episode that was basically a snuff film." Understandably, I scoffed at this premise. "You can't seriously tell me they released a Pokémon snuff cartoon."
He went on to explain that it was a "lost episode" - not too far of a stretch of imagination, seeing as how there were already several episodes that had been given that title. He said it was the "sickest thing he'd ever seen" and that "it gave him nightmares for a long time." He refused to share the content of the episode, but instead offering the VHS he had somewhere in the back of the closet, claiming that I wouldn't believe him unless I saw it myself.
I had heard about other popular cartoons having legendary, unaired episodes that were reportedly uncharacteristically disturbing, such as Suicide Mouse and Dead Bart. However, the only "evidence" of those ever existing were poorly made Youtube videos by fans of the stories. I figured this was simply Pokémon's version of such.
About a month and a half went by before I saw this friend again. True to his word, he delivered the video tape, but promptly left, not wishing to stick around for the viewing.
Looking the tape over, I noticed nothing strange, save for the fact that it was unlabeled. Already, I was getting chills, having learned the potential horrors of an unmarked videocassette from "The Ring". I decided to press on and watch it anyway - after all what was the worst that could happen? Some amateur production of Ash screaming and his face melting?
I inserted the tape into my VCR and it started right up like most store-bought shows and films would. Initially, I thought perhaps this was just a standard Pokémon VHS with the label removed. Immediately, though, I knew it was something different, when a grainy Japanese title appeared on the screen. The quality was terrible, like the millionth-generation fansubs of Dragonball Z I had seen as a youth. There was no opening theme, just this screen with barely legible hiragana. What I believe to be Meowth's voice actor shouted the title - my Japanese is very rusty and the sound quality was lousy, so the only word I caught was, possibly, "Kojiro".
After a few seconds, the title vanished and was replaced by an extreme closeup of Ash's face, sideways. In what I had believed to be a result of the trashy video quality, it looked like Ash's eyes were wide open, yet completely blank. I soon realized that they may have indeed been blank when, as the focus slowly zoomed out from his face, it was clear that there was a trickle of blood emerging from his right temple. I cocked an eyebrow in confusion.
The scene changed to that of James. A sinister grin was on his face - or at least, what I thought could have been, considering the fact that the video quality was so terrible that I couldn't be sure if I was making out all of the details correctly. What was perfectly clear, was that he held a pistol in his hand.
James said something that sounded like he was gloating. Again, because of my poor knowledge of anything outside of basic Japanese, and the abysmal sound quality, I wasn't able to make out anything he said, but the voice actor sounded entirely different - more of a deep voice, uncannily like Yasunori Masutani's fused villain in the Dragonball animated special "Osu! Son Goku and His Friends Return".
There was another shot of Ash's body, and it was definite that he been shot in the head. The blood had stopped actively trickling, but it was apparent that it had pooled underneath him.
Although the video quality made it tough to tell, it appeared as if the animation were on par with the rest of the series during the first season. If this was indeed a fake, it was a darn good one.
The focus switched back to James, who had started some sort of wicked-sounding monologue. Jessie and Meowth emerged from the bushes after about 40 seconds. They took a look at Ash's corpse and started speaking nigh-simultaneously in rapid, panicked voices.
James interrupted them with a laugh. Putting a hand on his hip, he started gloating again, his chest puffed out with pride. Jessie started screaming at him. I caught "Roketto-dan" (Team Rocket) and "ja nai desu" (it is not), but that was all.
The scene then focused on an enraged James' face. The detail was still horrid, but it was clear that James was pissed. The focus zoomed out as he pointed his gun offscreen to the left, shouting "Shi ne! Shi ne! Shi ne! Shi ne!" - in essence, telling them to die.
A clear-as-day gunshot echoed from the speakers, and Jessie took a bullet to the forehead. She stood, looking upward as if trying to see the wound, as a spurt of blood sprayed from the bullethole. She slowly collapsed to her knees, then fell facefirst to the ground.
Meowth yelled something and protracted his claws, leaping through the air with speed lines in the background. He was stopped short by a bullet to the abdomen. Meowth catapulted backwards as blood leaked from the wound.
James laughed in triumph, and ran off through a clearing in the forest. At this point, I had begun to wonder that if this was indeed a legitimate production from the anime studio, what sort of sick minds would develop such a thing. At the very least, it was apparent that the roles of Jessie and Meowth were voiced by their usual seiyuu, which further complicated the matter - why would they participate in such a production?
The scene shifted to Ash again, and Pikachu approached the body. A happy shout of "Pika Pi!" was soon followed by several confused repeated queries of "Pika Pi?" It cut to a closeup of Pikachu's face as he realized what had happened, tears streaming down its face with a very depressed "Pi...ka...pi..." and then outright crying. I began crying, too, feeling bad for this adorable fellow and a personal favorite character of mine, who had just lost his best friend.
I tried drying my tears as the scene shifted back to James, running through the forest. It appeared as if he had a wicked smirk on his face. I could hear his voice, which had kind of an echo to it, and since his mouth wasn't moving, I deduced that he was thinking something.
A few seconds later, Pikachu's very enraged voice cut through. James looked startled, and slipped behind a tree, his back pressed up against it. He continued thinking, his expression panicked for several seconds before his evil grin returned.
Pikachu approached the tree, shouting angrily. James slipped out from behind the tree, pointing the gun at the mouse.
"NO!" I yelled. "Don't hurt Pikachu!"
I wanted to grab the remote and shut off the tape, or at least the TV. Unfortunately, my hands felt like two cold stones at the end of my arms, and I don't think all of my willpower would have allowed them to move. Likewise, I was unable to look away.
Before James could fire, however, Pikachu attacked with an electric attack, shouting "PI-KAAA-CHUUU!" in the same enraged voice he had been yelling at James with. The attack hit spot-on, and instead of the goofy zapping animation that one had come to expect from Pikachu's attacks, James' hair and clothes began to catch fire and he screamed the most inhuman scream I had ever heard. It didn't sound like any of the show's voice actors, including this new voice of James', but instead some sort of guttural yell of pain, like some sort of animal or demon.
It began to zoom in on James as his hair began to thin from the fire, and his shirt had partially fallen off. His skin was charred and he began to drop to his knees. The fire then ceased, and all that was left of James as he fell to the ground was a bald, cooked corpse with half of a shirt.
Pikachu fired off two more electric attacks, yelling through its tears. This served no effect on James other than causing him to flop a bit upon initial impact.
I was surprised to see Misty run into the patch of forest where Pikachu was standing. She ran up to Pikachu and said something, wrapping her arms around the little yellow mouse. Both of them began sobbing heavily, and the scene ended with Pikachu's tear-streaked face in closeup.
The cut to static startled me, especially since this entire production seemed to last naught but eight minutes total. I fast-forwarded to see if there was anything after the static, but there was nothing.
I shut off the video and rewound it, putting my head in my hands, trying to decompress. I had definitely seen much worse than what had just occurred on my screen, but the fact that it was Pokémon, a more-or-less wholesome show, that made it so disturbing. What really got to me was seeing how sad Pikachu was - that in and of itself was depressing.
About ten minutes had passed before I decided to call the friend that had lent me the tape. He refused to discuss the content, and the only question of mine he would answer was the origin of the tape - apparently, he had found it at random in a drawer of his, and had no idea how it had appeared there.
There was an awkward silence for about a minute after this, before my friend spoke up again.
"You didn't happen to see what was at 02:16, did you?"
I replied in the negative, not recalling timestamps or anything that would have stood out. His response was "Good, you don't want to." He then abruptly hung up. I knew that I should have heeded his warning, but curiosity got the better of me.
I flipped the tape on again and fast-forwarded it to about two minutes in. Watching closely, I could definitely see something flash onto the screen very briefly, that I had missed before. Going back to the 02:10 mark, I advanced frame-by-frame until I came across the screen he had likely been referring to, one that nearly forced me to change pants.
It was some sort of bear-like creature, with spiraling, goat-like horns. It was like no Pokémon I had ever seen, and strangely, this frame was much cleaner than the rest of the video, and the art style was vastly different - much more detailed and realistic, like an Alex Ross painting. The most terrifying part was that Brock was strung up on a tree across from the beast, and it was pulling his intestines from a large gash in his gut.
I knew not what this scene was supposed to represent, or what this monstrosity that had disemboweled Brock was, but I immediately ejected the tape and took a lighter to it, setting it on fire while praying over it. After the tape had melted sufficiently, I doused it with Holy Water to put out the flame. After it had cooled off enough to handle, I had thrown it in an empty box I had lying around and immediately ran outside to heave it in the trash.