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Regionals - Pokemon: Path to the Peak Episode 2 Review - Ava makes her Regionals debut

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It's time to duel!
I found this week's episode of Pokémon: Path to the Peak more enjoyable than the previous one. This episode focuses on the competitive side of the Trading Card Game, with Ava going to regionals with her trusty Oddish deck. I also think it’s an improvement because of the animation! I’m in love with the animation!

(Please note: This review contains spoilers. If you haven't watched the episode yet, take 10 to watch it now before reading on!)

I liked seeing how big regionals is, really showing the difference in scale between a club tournament and something on this level. With the support of Joshua, and her friends and family, Ava starts her regionals tourney, first beating Tonio, and then going all the way to Celestine in the finals and pulling off a victory. I mean, Ava is the main character, so it makes sense for her to beat her, but I didn’t expect Celestine's defeat to happen this quick. I thought she’d be the main rival until the end; Ava even had a nightmare about her in the beginning of the episode.

Ava faces off against Celestine
Ava starts off as her usual nervous self, but after winning against Tonio and seeing Celestine beat her dad, she shows a fierce, competitive side that allows her to reach the finals. During her battle with Celestine, she shows a more confident side. I just hope that confidence stays with her as she goes on to Internationals and then Worlds. I do like how she's using more Pokémon cards and not just Oddish and Scyther like last episode. This episode, she used a wide variety of Pokémon, including Roselia, Tsareena, Tropius, and Spoink, showing that she’s not a monotype deck player.

Speaking of Tonio, it’s unfortunate that his only role is to be Ava’s first opponent and then becomes a background character for the rest of the episode. Celestine, on the other hand, honestly surprised me. Given how much she is shown as a mean rival and the person Ava needs to beat, I thought she’d be a sore loser about her loss, but she’s a good sport. I didn’t expect that. It makes me wonder who’d be the final boss of Ava’s TCG journey; I have a feeling it might be her mother given the hints shown in the previous episode and this one.

Let's talk about those decks a little more. Ava's opponents were primarily playing either cards that are currently legal for play, or cards which currently have no real-world equivalents and which might represent cards that we'll be seeing released in the near future. Ava's deck however still included cards that aren't currently legal for play, having long since rotated out of the current Standard tournament format. At one point, you can spot Absol on the bottom of her deck, a card which was never even printed in English, from Japan's 2019 Team Up expansion. TCG fans, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Do you see these as just cameos that we shouldn't put too much thought into? Or could this be foreshadowing some big changes to the IRL tournament formats?

Ava's Vileplume
There is one other thing I must talk about, and that is the animation. Wow, the animation for the battles is simply stunning! It’s clearly an improvement from the previous episode as there are more battles and more Pokémon. My goodness, the way the Pokémon move in this episode was amazing. Tropius's dive-bombing of Trevenant was just awesome, and the animations for the Ghost Pokémon were particularly expressive. The way Vileplume launches an attack at Mismagius, and the way it was shot after Ava got heads, I could go on about this animation all day. I’d really like to see more Pokémon anime from this team. Taiko Studios previously worked on the Bidoof's Big Stand short, but they’re too good to be used for just shorts and mini-series. These animators have potential to be big! It was like a feast for my eyes.

Given how this show only has four episodes and Ava is heading for Internationals, will there be longer Pokémon battles and a new rival? What will happen once Ava becomes TCG champion? Regardless of what happens in future episodes, I’m most anticipating the animation. Also, I do hope that Ava doesn’t win by chance again since it feels too predictable. What are your thoughts on this episode?


Bulbanews Writer
I think the cards in the episodes are more cameos than expecting a rules change being hinted at by a miniseries. And there's every possibility that this episode featured an Expanded tournament, which would make that Absol a legal play. (Although, Expanded isn't really used in organized play so this is probably best chalked up to an inaccuracy for fun's sake)

(Also, Bulbapedia says the card was printed in English. The infobox is just using the Japanese card for some reason.)

I wound up not liking this episode as much as the first one, probably because it leaned farther away from the TCG mechanically than before. Like, this episode uses a spooky forest as the backdrop for the battle, fitting Celestine's deck. In the TCG, there are Stadium cards which add an effect to the game. These are flavored as locations, and SwSh card Old Cemetery would have fit the vibe, fit the deck, and added more TCG cards. In another example, at the end of the match Ava is pinned under the effect of Panic Mask, and frees Gloom from it by evolving into Vileplume. This works mechanically, but why bother showing Celestine playing Panic Mask if the show isn't going to explain it for anyone who isn't already aware? (Also, while this is fully a nitpick, Panic Mask technically places a protective effect on the user, instead of preventing the opponent from attacking. Holding Gloom with ghostly vines is a fair way to interpret it though.)

In more story focused issues, I found myself not really believing the twist that Celestine is actually a nice person. There just isn't a throughline to go from Celestine saying "I hope your dad's talent doesn't run in the family" to "Ava, I had a blast". I guess the answer is that she's a heel, but that isn't a satisfying answer to me.

Hard agree on the animation. I found the fact that they made KO'd Duskull fall over on the floor very funny. The sequence at Ava's house felt relatable, and I liked how Ava starts off being extremely nervous then builds up confidence as she competes.
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