On the eve of J's long-awaited fourth scheme, it's eerily good timing on my part to glance over the character's debut...
110 episodes later, and this is still a viable contender of Diamond & Pearl's greatest outing. In addition to featuring the series' first villain that lacks any form of sympathy for any other individual, it has everything you could possibly ask from this series in terms of character action and chemistry. The entire concept of Hunter J is new terriroty for this series, with past villains either having misconceptions of the world (Archie/Maxie), being menacing but getting caught (Sebastien/Nanba), or starting out menacing but becoming watered-down later on (Butch/Cassidy). But not J. She was a heartless, soulless demon-witch from the very beginning and has never let up since. Hunter J is the villain this series has long needed and is one of the reasons that Diamond & Pearl can actually claim itself treading new territory (unlike countless other BS reasons people give).
Aside from J, however, this episode has an excellent plot. It never stops and could have even been a two-parter, but as it stands, the whole dynamic with Ash and Team Rocket is done better here than any team-ups in the past. The bits with Meowth, while containing a bit of comedy, even hit an emotional note among all the desperation. And just to give the episode even more of an evil twist, having J escape while abandoning all her men and leaving them to die is just too awesome for words. I still believe that Gardevoir deserves some true redemption after Hoenn, but I'm glad they gave it some form of role here, however minor. The ending may be my favorite moment, with both the main gang and Team Rocket clenching their fists at how J remains on the loose. She has yet to disappoint, and as an introduction, this is about as excellent as this series ever gets.