That was a pretty crazy review last night, even for me. And I also got the episode number wrong for the one I was referencing to: it's dp 180 and not dp 181.
Well, hopefully this one will be a little more normal.
This episode is probably one of the best and most memorable episodes in Sinnoh, as it introduces Barry. Barry's not a "serious" rival, in the sense that right off the bat Ash defeats him. But he's such a fun character, that it really doesn't matter. Paul can be the serious rival; Barry has his place being the funny one (although he certainly has decent skills as a trainer). So, I think with this episode, Ash's memorable rivals have all been introduced. Barry, and Paul are the obvious ones; and there's one more, who it wasn't really clear right at this time that he would be Ash's rival at the league-but he's been shown. So, all of the pieces of Sinnoh are starting to fall into place, at least from Ash's perspective.
The battle itself is the most physical battle I think that's been shown up to this pt; alot of the battle scenes were shown in the preview for this episode, and I remember thinking how cool this episode was going to be. And this is quite a high-level pokemon battle, in terms of the pokemon used. Barry uses 3 fully evolved pokemon, and Ash uses Gliscor (speaking of Gliscor, it's really been shown a lot in the past few episodes) and Pikachu, which are fully evolved pokemon for him. So, at least in terms of the pokemon lineup, this isn't too far off what I would have expected to see at a league battle. And considering this is taking place when Ash has yet to even win his 5th gym badge, I really started to think at this time Ash just might win this League.
Sort of a side note, and so that anyone who reads this can see how I can let my imagination run away a little bit, but before the Sinnoh League, we were told some information about one of the pokemon that would be used by a trainer Ash would face in the league. It was sort of general, so there was a good deal of guessing and stuff over the actual identity of the pokemon. In the episode where Ash was at the Sinnoh League Pokemon Center to register, we were shown a pokemon that fit the description. Well, considering who that pokemon was, it was really funny how it was shown-nobody seemed to mind at all, or payed any attention to it. And of course, that was strange. But I actually managed to rationalize it, with the reasoning that's sort of shown in this episode right here: technology. Barry saw Ash on tv competing in the Tag Battle Comp (and other characters have too; same with Dawn's contests), and so that's how he knew him. So back to the future, I thought, "Well, no wonder that no one gave that pokemon a look. I'm sure they already saw it on tv. That makes sense." Well, in the end, that pokemon turned out to be a complete red herring; there was actually another pokemon instead that was to fit the description, and when the Sinnoh League crowd saw it, they were absolutely stunned-the reaction you would expect. So, I guess sometimes personal stupidity is part of the fun of trying to analyze stuff.
Okay, back to this episode. The serious stuff relates to Ash seeing that Barry wants to be just like Paul. Once Ash realizes that, he's quite bothered, especially when Barry questions Ash about who won their battle. The writers cheat us even more than usual here, as we can't see Ash's face when Barry places his arms on Ash's shoulders in excitement (and a little fear, too, that Ash might be THAT good) and asks about the result. But I think Ash must have had a bit of dejected look, b/c Barry draws the conclusion that Ash didn't win, and he probably didn't have much of a chance. This fires up Ash a little, and before you know it, the two are battling each other.
Once Ash is down to his last pokemon, he decides to use Pikachu, telling it that he needs to win here if he's going to beat Fantina. I think this shows just how much what happened last episode really bothers him. He's really not sure if his style of training is "right," and so he sees this battle as his test. If Ash had lost this battle, I really wonder how he would have taken it; it's sort of like wondering what would have happened if Dawn had lost to May at the Wallace Cup. I think he would have accepted losing, but then he would also, in his mind, have had to accept that Paul was right to great extent, and that would have hurt him very, very much. He probably wouldn't have been the same character afterwards. He probably isn't the same character afterwards here, either; I think he gains a great deal of confidence from this victory, and this is one of his most important battles in Sinnoh. Sure, he battles Paul later on, and Barry, and some other people. And he loses a few times after this..., but he's okay. Somehow, around this period of episodes, he really begins to feel comfortable with himself, that the way he's training is the best way for him. I think the best example of how he changes is when both Barry and Paul show up in the same episode way down the road. Ash is again asked by Barry about the results of a battle with Paul, and this time Ash is able to answer that Paul is really strong-and also, I think in the way Ash answers that time, you can tell he feels he himself is really strong too. He's not scared of losing to Paul anymore, b/c a loss, at that time in the show, does not mean that Ash is "wrong" for the way he trains his pokemon.
With all of that said, Ash very nearly loses here, and Pikachu comes through for him in a very big way. This is, I think, Pikachu's first real serious contribution to Ash's success in Sinnoh since the battle against Roark, which feels like a really, really long time ago. And I think Pikachu was the absolute right pokemon that should have been used in this battle (which isn't always the case in big battles, I feel; I think Pikachu was overused in the Sinnoh League), b/c Ash feels he needs to win. I feel like (and this is an important plot point to an extent in Sinnoh for Ash, and not just simply a "we need to showcase new pokemon" by the writers) for the last part of this particular battle, Ash would not have hesitated to use Charizard or Sceptile or one of his pokemon from previous regions if he had the pokeball with him; he's that determined to win this battle. And Pikachu really senses that, I think; and that's why it's able to recover from what should have been a hyper beam KO, and completely turn the tables around. I really think this is one of Pikachu's finest moments in Sinnoh, and a great show of how much Ash trusts it to come through in a battle he feels like he has to win. But the fact that it nearly doesn't it is also a nice touch, b/c Pikachu doesn't feel overpowered-just based on types, it should win this battle. And so, in order for Ash to succeed in winning the Sinnoh League, he's got to train his other Sinnoh pokemon and help them become as strong as they can be. I feel like Pikachu is as strong as it will be; and I don't think it's too big of a stretch to say that the way Pikachu is shown in this episode is probably, skills-wise, the same way it shows up in the Sinnoh League. His other Sinnoh pokemon, though, although some maybe not as strong as Pikachu right now, can grow to maybe be even stronger in the end.