For someone who doesn't cry a lot, this hits the nostalgia square in the chest that it makes it hard to keep from crying (since I watched it at school and not at home like I should've), and yet I'm not that sad. Butterfree may have been around as a Caterpie since the end of the second episode, but we didn't really see him a lot—from what we know if him, we just know he has some self-esteen issues, but he's a determinator who loves and respects Ash. Still, Butterfree has remained one of the most talked about Pokémon in the fandom if only because of how memorable the departure was. It's not often a Pokémon is released onscreen for reasons other than “so it can become stronger”. As the first Pokémon Ash caught being the first he ever released, there's just something special about Butterfree even if he wasn't that unique.
Ash is close to Saffron City, but what are the odds they happen upon a swarm/flock/whatever of Butterfree getting ready for mating season—oh I'm sorry, season of love. Really? They couldn't call it “mating season”? No, seriously, they couldn't get away with “mating season”? It sounds so much less awkward than “season of love”. I'm going to be surprised if Eric Stuart didn't find himself snickering in-between takes. And is that the ideal spot to release the Butterfree, at least in Kanto? There has to be a place to give out hot-air balloons if that's the case...
I have to laugh at Brock in this episode. At first, he was all, “Yeah, this is the season of lurve for the Butterfree so they can make babies,” and then a pretty lady shows up and he tries to get Butterfree to choose a specific female Butterfree so he could pair up with the owner. I'm actually a bit surprised at how much I forgot how reserved Brock was in the first season. This is episode 21, he has of yet to invade a girl's personal space. Not that I want him to, but his character flanderization hasn't yet happened, so I'm trying to cherish these moments while I can.
Besides the ending, this episode is worth notable for having the first instance of a shiny Pokémon, or at least a different colored one. A shiny Butterfree isn't pink, and yet there's a pink Butterfree. I don't know why they did this, if it's so we could tell the difference between Ash's Butterfree and his eventual-mate or if it's just to make it look more feminine. Whatever the reason, they wanted us to remember Butterfree's mate, and it worked.
But first, Butterfree has to get rejected quite a few times. And it's actually a bit harsh how the pink Butterfree slaps him across the face for putting the moves on her. That hurts a little. Then we get a slightly heartwarming moment with Ash and the others trying to encourage Butterfree to try again. Misty's definition of love is funny, basically beat up your guy and you'll get him. xD Yeah, that's gonna work... since that's not exactly being assertive. Plankton handles the definition of assertive better than you, Misty, sorry. Brock's approach to helping Butterfree is more simple: try for appearance. And the yellow scarf looks good on him, but it and showing off his attacks still wasn't enough for the pink Butterfree.
Now... why would Team Rocket care about the swarm of Butterfree? Are they're just doing it for the evulz to make up for last episode? Okay, then... not sure how Giovanni would think of it. Still, made for a funny moment with Ash, Misty and Brock impersonating the motto which would (probably) be a running gag for a bit throughout the season. It's nice to see them poke fun of their enemy or at least show just how silly it is and that they really aren't afraid of them.
I have to say that Butterfree's determination really shines in this episode. After all of the rejection he got from the pink Butterfree, he cared enough to rescue her (and the other Butterfree while he was at it), and that was what got her attention. Really, how often does one find someone who would go out of their way to put everything on the line whether it's a rescue attempt or something—especially if that person was a big jerk to them? Whether the pink Butterfree is shallow or what, it took a bit before she realized there was more to Ash's Butterfree than originally thought. In a way, I feel this goes against instinct just slightly. The fittest are the ones that carry on the species, right? Perhaps the pink Butterfree saw from a glance there was nothing remotely special or traits worth having for the next generation. However, it wasn't strength that changed her mind, it was courage and determination. Pokémon are smart, yes, but don't they still have instincts? So how is it that the pink Butterfree eventually decided to be with Ash's Butterfree when she wasn't interested in him to start with? I'm probably going into this too deeply or something (why should we question Pokémon logic to begin with especially if they came from space?), but I'm pretty sure there's something in that it differentiates itself from the norm.
If that makes sense... I can't tell if it makes sense anymore...
Um... d'awwww, look at Pikachu body slamming Team Rocket's helicopter and giving them a creepy grin as they squeal “It's gonna shock us!” throughout! Isn't that the more precious mischievous thing you've ever saw?
And here's the part that everyone remembers: the release. Ash takes this pretty well even when he's having flashbacks. He gives his (in)famous promise of “We'll see each other again” and “I'll always remember you” that we all make fun of. Then he says this, “I'll just tell the other Pokémon you're on a trip.”
Wait, what? Is he... is he planning on giving a half-truth to his Pokémon? What? But I guess there's always Pikachu to correct everything, but... what? I can't tell if that's horrible or not. I mean, I don't know how close the other Pokémon were to Butterfree, but...
I'm sorry, I don't think Ash should lie to his Pokémon like that. I guess he doesn't know if he's going to see Butterfree again (and chances are he's not), but that doesn't mean he should tell a half-truth if his Pokémon are going to question it. And even then, I think they can hear things outside of their PokéBalls anyway, so I don't think they'll believe him anyway. I don't know... that kinda irritates me a bit and takes away from the emotional build-up slightly when I probably shouldn't let that nitpick eat away at me.
Also, I know it's been talked about to death, pretty much, but it wasn't mentioned that Butterfree die after mating. Just because Pokémon are based off real-life animals doesn't mean their mannerisms and lifespan match. Someone just mistranslated the episode. Throwing it out there at the very end because... I dunno.
So for what it was, while the pacing kinda felt weird to me and the pink Butterfree didn't really have a character outside of being pink, it was still a sweet episode, a way to respectfully send off Butterfree. His cry echoing at the end just before the credits roll is a nice touch, almost like it's a cry of farewell or something that resonates in memory. While we're most likely never seeing Butterfree onscreen ever again, he remains in the hearts of fans 15-16 years later, and that's pretty impressive for an otherwise decent character.
Bye-bye, Butterfree. Even if the writers have no need for you anymore, we definitely aren't forgetting you any time soon.
Butterfree: Episode 2-21 (1997-1997)
([sub]Okay, I won't do the dates, it's just going to get a bit silly quickly.[/sub])