This is a bit of a difficult episode to review, in that the character it focuses on is one that is not really supposed to be judged, but listened to. And that is essentially what Ash and company do; they do not criticize Aaron for his actions as a child, nor do they try to make him feel better. As with Dawn's mother's rival at the contest a little while ago, Aaron is a flawed character, and thus he's realistic. But, again, his flaws are really not meant to be criticized, or treated with sympathy; nor his is hard work ethic or his devotion of his battling style towards bug pokemon as a sort of apology meant to be honored. But, in order to really "live," I guess, meeting different sorts of people and hearing their stories is just necessary. It's a part of growing up, and is helpful in appreciating the world and who you are. And that goes for Ash, Dawn, and Brock too. But more for Ash and Dawn, and probably most for Ash in this particular episode.
Aaron's character is developed really well heading into his childhood story, so that his flashback to Wurple is believable. He likes to show off; his public training session at the beginning is evidence of that-and I doubt he's very irritated that most of his audience is comprised of screaming girls. He also doesn't seem to have much creativity in his training, nor a real "spark," if you will. He training of his pokemon is focused on accuracy, with little innovation there; and it sort of shows later on, when his pokemon are captured by TR-Pikachu and Piplup are pretty much the leaders of that gang, with Aaron's pokemon looking a little disoriented w/o their trainer. Aaron's reasoning for taking Ash and the group to his training facility is, again, a show of pride. But it's believable and needed, too; after all, there has to be a good reason for why he would take them there. And the good reason is a "realistic" one: Dawn mentions the trio's adventure with Cynthia a little while back, and so Aaron decides to show off how hard he works, which, in his mind-I think-is a way of indirectly showing off to Cynthia. And he certainly succeeds, with Dawn saying essentially what Jenny said at the beginning of the episode: Aaron's training regime is what you would expect of the elite 4. Ash doesn't take that sitting down, and (politely, mind you) gets on a bike and starts pedaling at a really high speed. Aaron and Brock are aware of why Ash is doing this; but Ash maintains his dignity in the end, although he does wear himself out.
After that, the group are sitting outside, and the topic comes to bug pokemon. Ash remarks how Caterpie was his first pokemon, and how he thinks about it a lot. The way he tells his story (expressions-wise), you can see, that even though he misses it, he's satisfied as a trainer that he did his best to make it happy. His flashback (just for him; he doesn't say this, at least not in the dub, but thinks about it) image is of Butterfly flying off with the female Butterfree, and he's smiling thinking about it. Dawn's smiling as well, listening to the story, and I think that's important if just b/c, even w/o really knowing the story, she can feel that Ash is happy about what he did for Butterfree. Brock is smiling as well (he was there, of course). Aaron doesn't really get it, though, at least I don't think. Dawn's smile is a sincere one, if you will; Aaron though, is just saying the polite things he's supposed to say. As if, "of course this kid is going to try to impress me with stories of bug pokemon; I am a member of the elite 4, after all." The story has no real impact, and no real meaning for him. And by now, I feel like this episode is drawing some comparisons b/w Ash and Aaron. These two characters are really different. First, in the way they train. And second, as we find out later on, in the way they really care for their pokemon-and these two are a little linked, I think. Ash is more spirited, more creative; he works hard, of course, but I don't think he works the hardest. He works within his limits, understanding (since about the BF, I think) that it's his unique style that will give him a chance to one day succeed in defeating a champion like Cynthia. He does not work his pokemon or himself from morning to about afternoon, either; he treats them as living things, things that need to live themselves and grow. I think this is what Cynthia has tried to emphasize to him, as well, in the brief time they've been together. Aaron's goal in bringing the trio here is to show that he trains harder than Cynthia; and he probably does. The gang are conscious of his upcoming battle with Cynthia constantly throughout the episode. But Cynthia is not that sort of person; she enjoys life a good deal, and in doing so, she has a real creative, focused side to her as well. We only see that side of her when she battles, which is really rare; and so, most of the time, she feels like a "normal" human being (although she's quite exceptional, confident and elegant: someone I really wish I could be like). In her last appearance, it wasn't till the very end of the TG arc that Ash was reminded that she is the champion, and so must take on new challengers when requested to by the league (or whoever's in charge of setting up the battles). And I think that's honestly why Cynthia is the superior trainer compared to Aaron. And that's also why Ash has a chance to be better, too. He understands life, pokemon, and battling on a level that Aaron just does not. Hard work is important, but not to a strict regime, so that's it's turned into basically a show, as it has for Aaron. Ash has much more spirit, and creativity, in the way he trains (this region, and eventually the next-I know it's coming, eventually!). And although we're never shown her training, I imagine Cynthia's style is something similar does, if only b/c we're never shown it, meaning it's not something that consumes her life.
This episode was ok... It was cool to see Elite 4 Aaron for the 1st time. He really looks young for an Elite 4 member. It was great that he was able to reunite with the Pokemon he left, Wurmple, but this time it had already evolved into Beautifly and stepped in to save everybody. I'm surprised at how forgiving Wurmple was even though Aaron abanded it.
I liked that Aaron showcased his Drapion and Vespiquen at the start, although his Skorupi felt really redundant in my opinion. I was also surprised that he had fangirls. Anyway, I loved seeing rarely showcased Bug-types like Surskit and Ledyba appear here, and Aaron reuniting with Beautifly was sweet even if he abandoned it as a Wurmple.
I'm baffled at how honey candy got changed to syrup here. Since when is syrup that golden? Aside from Team Rocket's stuff, this was a pretty good episode. It was cool seeing an Elite 4 member, but his story wasn't anything we haven't seen before.
Hmmm I can kind of see it when I look at Aaron, Bugsy and Burgh's designs ha ha. In Aaron's case, I do admit that he looked kind of gender neutral and if it wasn't for his English name and voice actor here I might've thought he was a girl. ^^;
As bland as Aaron was, Bertha appearing in his place wouldn't have been any better. Aaron definitely needed more personality though. His whole Beautifly sob tale seemed lame for such a powerful trainer.
Ryou of the Shinou region's Four Heavenly Kings is my least favorite member of the group, although seeing him appear was still a treat. His demonstration with his Beequeen and Dorapion was fun, and I enjoyed seeing Junsa's enthusiasm. I also liked how Ryou's tale about his Kemusso reminded Satoshi of his Butterfree. Scorpi was surprisingly cute, too.
I'm glad we got a backstory on why Aaron loves bugs so much. This was a pretty good episode if a bit predictable. Aaron thankfully wasn't as weak as some fans made him out to be, and I thought the story with his Wurmple was sweet.
In hindsight, Ryou's backstory would've been much more satisfying if he had been a normal one-off character rather than a member of Shinou's Four Heavenly Kings, because as things stood it only made him seem like an average trainer.
I really laughed at Officer Jenny actually going into a fan-girl mode over Aaron like that and I was also surprised to hear that Aaron was actually going to challenge Cynthia. I never thought that he was that strong in the games but I've also never been a fan of Bug types. Anyway Team Rocket's plan to steal and show off an Elite Four guy's Pokemon was kind of weird.