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The Path to the Pokémon League
Road to the Pokémon League
First broadcast
Japan May 20, 1997
United States September 17, 1998
English themes
Opening Pokémon Theme
Japanese themes
Opening めざせポケモンマスター
Ending ひゃくごじゅういち
Animation Team Ota
Screenplay 冨岡淳広 Atsuhiro Tomioka
Storyboard 鈴木敏明 Toshiaki Suzuki
Assistant director 鈴木敏明 Toshiaki Suzuki
Animation director 志村隆行 Takayuki Shimura
No additional credits are available at this time.

The Path to the Pokémon League (Japanese: ポケモンリーグへのみち Road to the Pokémon League) is the eighth episode of the Pokémon anime. It was first broadcast in Japan on May 20, 1997 and in USA on September 17, 1998.

Ash battles a seemingly barbaric Pokémon trainer who runs an unofficial Pokémon Gym.

201 Spoiler warning: this article may contain major plot or ending details. 201


Ash, Misty and Brock are on their way to Vermilion City. Misty wants to see the luxury cruise ship docked there, and Ash plans to win his third badge.

Ash's Pidgeotto defeats a Rattata, making Ash's 10th victory. The trainer admires Ash's two badges, leading Misty to muse that giving Ash the badges may have been a mistake. The trainer points Ash to A.J.'s unofficial gym, where he trains "savage Pokémon." A.J. has "never lost a single match," a challenge Ash cannot resist. Misty says, "He's getting a big head." Brock replies, "Yeah, but his brain's still the same size!" Pikachu says, "Pika pika," while nodding his agreement.

The sign outside A.J.'s gym indicates that he has a record of 98:0, but his gym is not licensed by the Pokémon League. As Misty twits Ash over his swelled head, A.J. walks up and challenges Ash to battle. A.J. snaps a whip, making Ash jump. He says he plans to start competing for badges after his 100th win. Ash smugly says, "I have 10 wins, and I have two Pokémon badges," at which his nose begins to grow, a la Pinocchio. A.J. insults the gyms, calling them "Failure City" and "Wimpsville," angering Misty and Brock.

A.J. summons his Sandshrew. Misty reminds Ash that Pikachu's electricity is useless against a ground Pokémon, but Ash nastily rejects her advice. He summons Pidgeotto. Brock notes that a flying Pokémon should have the advantage. However, Sandshrew rolls itself into a ball like an armadillo and hurls itself into the air, striking and eliminating Pidgeotto.

Ash calls out Butterfree. Ash orders a Stun Spore attack, but A.J. snaps his whip and Sandshrew digs underground, avoiding it. It bursts out of the ground, eliminating Butterfree.

Ash wants Pikachu to fight, but the Pokémon grabs hold of the edge of the playing field and refuses to go. Pikachu ThunderShocks Ash to make him let go.

Team Rocket are spying on the match from a tree nearby. They decide they want to steal A.J.'s Sandshrew, then spend a moment critiquing his wardrobe. James clobbers Meowth when the Pokémon criticizes his style.

Ash accuses A.J. of cheating, as he obviously would have won in a fair fight. He demands that they rematch at another location, but A.J. tells him to quit whining.

Ash overhears A.J. training his Pokémon, yelling angrily and cracking his whip. Ash intervenes to stop A.J. from hurting the Pokémon, but A.J. tells him to mind his own business. His Sandshrew is wearing a "strength intensifier" invented by A.J. himself. It enables the Sandshrew to withstand the weakening effects of the water. A.J. says he's tougher on Sandshrew than his other Pokémon because it was his very first.

Ash asserts that a great Pokémon trainer should make friends with his Pokémon. He asks Brock's input, who only wants to know what kind of food A.J. is using. A.J., like Brock, mixes his own food to a secret recipe. Pikachu attempts to pick up one of Sandshrew's dumbbells, but falls backward under the weight, as Sandshrew does rapid alternating curls.

Team Rocket is crouched behind A.J.'s tent, checking the equipment for their latest plan to catch Pikachu. They argue over rewriting their motto.

A.J.'s Pokémon are all exhausted. A.J. insults Pikachu, and Ash takes a swing at him, dumping them both into the pool. Pikachu tries on the strength intensifier, but it fits badly and pulls him into a ball.

Team Rocket rolls into the tent inside a rubber ball, but they grab Sandshrew by mistake. A.J. ends the rest break and realizes that Sandshrew is missing. He releases Pikachu from the harness, but Pikachu doesn't know where Sandshrew is, either. Ash suggests he ran away, because he saw how much better Ash treats Pikachu. A.J. flips out, insisting Sandshrew would not have run away after all they'd been through together. He sends his other Pokémon (three Rattata, a Butterfree and a Beedrill) to look for Sandshrew.

James and Jessie argue over who has to carry the bag, when Sandshrew bursts out, surprising them. Meowth grabs Sandshrew's tail in his teeth as he starts to dig.

Ash is trying to convince A.J.'s Pokémon to leave with him, but they ignore him. Suddenly, Sandshrew bursts from the ground with a dazed Meowth still biting his tail. Watching A.J. and his Pokémon, Brock points out how deeply A.J. cares for them; this explains their loyalty to him despite his tough training methods.

Ash wakes Meowth and gets a claw swiped across his face. Meowth realizes he's facing a lot of angry Pokémon and their trainers. He's trying to figure a way out of the situation when James and Jessie begin their standard litany. Jessie tells A.J. that taking his Sandshrew was a mistake; James calls it "second-rate," earning A.J's ire. He challenges them to a battle. As usual, Jessie summons her Ekans and James uses his Koffing. Sandshrew takes them both out, then takes out Meowth when the cat tries to bite his armored skin. Team Rocket's three Pokémon concede when Sandshrew digs until the ground splits.

This being A.J.'s 100th win, they now leave to begin earning badges. He too, like Ash, wants to be "the world's greatest Pokémon Master." They part as rivals, agreeing to meet in the future at one of the League competitions.

Major events




Who's That Pokémon?: Sandshrew


  • This episode is one of the few times a real animal is mentioned. Misty claims that A.J. controls Sandshrew with the crack of his whip just like a lion tamer.
  • This episode is technically the first filler episode in the series.


Dub edits

  • The sign over the Gym is heavily edited:
    • The text is translated.
    • The background changes from plain white to a grey that fades into white.
    • The numbers are made to look digital.
    • The number of losses (0) is added.
  • A sign inside the tent saying "Fight! Work Harder!" is changed to a picture of a Poké Ball being hit with a whip.
  • Team Rocket experiment with a different motto:
    • Japanese:
      • Jessie: "We are the pretty thieves"
      • James: "Target: Pikachu!"
    • Dub:
      • Jessie: "Team Rocket will do what it has to do"
      • James: "To snatch that little Pikachu"
  • At the end, a five second panning of the battle field is cut by three seconds and replaced by a three second clip from earlier in the episode.

In other languages

  • French: Le chemin qui mène à la Ligue Pokémon
  • Portuguese (Brazil): O Caminho para a Liga Pokémon
  • Spanish: El camino a la Liga Pokémon

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