As those of you just now tuning in have no doubt figured out by now, while Diamond & Pearl may be my favorite saga, I hardly kiss its *** in the slightest. Episodes have to deserve high marks.

Fortunately, Natane's debut exceeds probably the ten episodes before it. Introducing a gym leader prior to their respective town is a great idea, especially since it gives a chance to really flesh out the character beforehand. And speaking of fleshed-out characters, Natane is undoubtedly one of the wackiest and most vibrant gym leaders in the entire series. Her entire masochistic routine with grass Pokemon is outright hysterical, especially once Kojiro enters the picture. Thanks to some wild Iwane expressions, it's highly entertaining on a visual front as well. I'm fine with the admittedly uninteresting Momi story taking a backseat here, although we do get more insight into Natane's knowledge through it.

The episode isn't perfect; in spite of giving us the classic name jumble known as Muku.MOWER, the battle is pretty lame. I know they were saving the real action for the real gym match, but I'd like to see something longer than two minutes (and I'd also like to see Cherinbo do something). And besides, Melissa would get a much lengthier pre-gym match. Still, this episode is highly entertaining that actually leaves a lot of breathing room for Natane's development once they hit Hakutai City, and Natane is such an amusing character that she gives life to any situation.

A-