I've been going ahead to watch the episodes again because one: I don't believe I saw every single episode, two: this includes the banned episodes, and three: why not? For a show full of nostalgia and childhood, I believe I can still understand what it is about Pokémon that we've loved as children. So I'm going to attempt to write my thoughts on every episode as I make that effort to watch it with a story in mind.
The first episode I feel was a strong way to get us into the Pokémon world. Sure, while the pacing was excellent for an episode, more could have been done with it, and it felt a bit clunky with the voices, but I can easily forgive the voices as it's the first episode, and the dubbers haven't settled into their roles yet. Veronica Taylor I feel was able to pull Ash off almost from the start. He's very energetic and excited about his journey, and yet he gets frustrated because it's not like how he thought it would be: he's late getting his Pokémon, all of the ones he wanted to pick were gone, the one he did pick won't listen to him, he has to (recklessly, remember that he's ten and has a lot to learn) do things himself, and it ultimately gets him into huge trouble that almost kills him and Pikachu. But it was never said being a Pokémon trainer was easy and safe. And for that particular, rather subtle tidbit to be in the first episode says a lot about the writing at the time. Sure, the anime does have its flaws in both original and dub, but when I watched this episode and saw that happen, I came to really appreciate the writing more. (It's a shame it doesn't keep this up in the future, but we'll get there when we get there.)
Pikachu may have a particular reason for not liking Ash, and I suppose it was this mystery that made us question (and write fan fics about) why he doesn't like his trainer. But haven't we all had problems like this with our own pets? Perhaps Ash didn't realize that he had to train and gain respect from his Pokémon. He may have thought that all Pokémon obeyed without question from the start, but that could be because Professor Oak himself tames the starter Pokémon for the trainers. So if that's the case, then Ash and most likely the other trainers were misled into believing everything was going to be a piece of cake--which is a little sad when you think about it. But how else are the trainers going to learn for themselves? If each Pokémon has their own unique personality, thus much mean they all have different methods of taming. Ash never exactly thought of this, but he truly did care for Pikachu, and was willing to take the blows of the Spearow for his disobedient Pokémon. It would take a bit while longer before Pikachu came to truly trust Ash, but his bravery (even if a bit stupid) was enough to convince him to give him a chance. If the show's main theme is teamwork, loyalty, and friendship, they really made sure that was the foundation from the start.
Ash was probably a good character for this setting. He's no Red, but at the time did we really want Red? We would've been fine with anyone being the part of the protagonist, honestly, as they were going to be the spokesperson for the world of Pokémon. He's just an ordinary boy who was able to go on a journey, and as Pokémon is a case of escapist fiction, many children his age and younger (if not also slightly older) found it exciting to be able to leave home and be on their own to explore the world. The world of Pokémon has this childlike air to it that is not particularly naïve, but it's full of wonder, curiosity, and optimism. The ending to this episode really shows that in the form of a rainbow and (then-unknown) Ho-oh, and it's a great way to end off the first episode. It's a brilliant way to introduce us to the adventure that is to come, and we as children looked forward to the next episode.
Adults may not have understood what was great about this first episode, but children sure did. Because of how long ago it was, I can't remember why I was so attached to the Pokémon anime from the start, however, I can feel it. It's something I can't quite put into words without coming off as nostalgic or a bit nonsensical, but I suppose I've already given the reason why. It was full of optimism, full of adventure, and most importantly, full of hope. The perfect way to begin a show that sadly has been going unnoticed or is under-appreciated by younger generations.
I can't see myself always rating Pokémon episodes, but this episode does deserve a 10/10 for being strong and well-paced.