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HISTORY:

The Subway Masters are first shown patrolling the tracks, when the Roketto-dan (Team Rocket) members cause a disturbance by switching tracks. The two brothers notice their shadows and race to confront them, but the Rockets disappear before they can be stopped. Some time later, in the control room, Kudari spots a moving blip on the radar, suggesting a train is moving, despite it being too early for even the earliest train to be running. When Kudari calls to his brother to tell him about it, it disappears. Nobori does not doubt his brother's claim and they both decide to investigate it.

Later, Nobori and Kudari are patrolling the underground subway of Raimon City, when they spot their "ghost train" running at a time and place where there shouldn't be one. They decide to chase after it, but it seems to vanish yet again.

At this time, Satoshi (Ash) and friends, accompanied by Nyasu (Meowth) who had been pretending to no longer be part of the Roketto-dan, arrive at Raimon City. Nyasu reveals his deceit at the Pokemon Center, by taking the other trainers' Pokemon to a "luxury spa" that winds up being a trap: he rejoins his team from the Roketto-dan and they steal all of the Pokemon from the city's Pokemon Center.

The Rockets escape using their "ghost train" along the underground lines, after causing a commotion that included cutting off power, communication signals, halting all trains, and disrupting operations of the drawbridge, effectively cutting off the city's major routes of transportation. Nobori deduces that because their "ghost train" is travelling only on connecting lines, they cannot go to their destination directly, forcing them to take a longer route. Kudari adds that if they must use the connecting routes, they will eventually pass through the D3 point no matter where they're headed. So, they decide to ambush them there!

There's a line connecting the Raimon Central Station and the post office that also has a carriage, which Kudari suggests using, but when Satoshi and his friends volunteer to go with them because they want to save the Pokemon so badly, the Subway Masters are shocked at first, then, decide to allow him to come, if he follows Nobori's guidance.

Nobori runs along the tracks to lead Satoshi and friends to a small, manual mail line carriage. The kids take the carriage and Nobori informs them that he must leave to see to the ATO and lead the rest of the passengers out. Before he leaves, he gives Dent the D3 route map, salutes him, and tells him to be careful.

Nobori returns and asks Kudari how the ATO is, but only the sensors have recovered. This is enough to track any trains... Nobori contacts Dent on walky-talky and asks him if his carriage is what's heading towards D3. Dent denies this because their carriage was derailed and finds out it was the Rocket's train, as it goes by.

They initially thought this would be enough to track the Rockets, but as soon as they passed through D3, several different trains appeared to leave it on different tracks, as if the "ghost train" had multiplied. The Rockets had sent fake trains in all directions! The kids didn't see which way the real train went, so the real one is unknown.

All the underground railways of Raimon City are sent from the rail yard in Kanawa Town, so the only way out for the train is through Kanawa Town; this is Dent's deduction, so Nobori agrees to meet with the kids in Kanawa.

So, he and Kudari run off to get their carriage, with Nobori suggesting that they speed up the carriage with the help of his brother's Shibirudon's Discharge (the tracks are normally electrified, so an Electric Type attack would power it).

They meet up with the kids much faster than expected, and try to save the Pokemon from the Rocket's train. Some of the Pokemon had already managed to make their way out and worked together to break their car away from the rest of the Rocket's train.

Satoshi and friends want to help their Pokemon so badly that Nobori, despite initially having some reservations about endangering them, honours their request by allowing his Chandela to carry them with its telekinetic powers over to the cart carrying their Pokemon. Not that this entire ordeal wasn't already ridiculously dangerous, but these kids have been through worse.
Satoshi and friends' Pokemon fight off the Rockets. While standing on a moving train car. In the end, the Rocket Gang's plan is foiled, the stolen Pokemon are returned to the Pokemon Center and Satoshi and friends part ways with the Subway Masters.

Later, they meet again when Dent decides to partake in the Subway Stamp Rally, while Satoshi and Iris go have fun playing tennis, eating ice cream, seeing a musical, and trying out other things in Raimon City, when they come across a lost Kibago and try to help her find her trainer, who separately crosses paths with Dent. The Subway Masters, wanting to repay their debt because Dent helped save the subway previously, take him and Erin (the wayward Kibago's trainer) into the control room to figure out where Kibago might be based on the clues left behind by Iris and Satoshi.
Just when Erin and Kibago are reunited, the allotted time for the stamp rally ends, and the Subway Masters watch wordlessly as Dent makes a big, melodramatic fuss over missing out on his dream battle, before Erin reveals that she took the Kibago stamp hoping it would help her find Kibago in some way: that would be the last stamp Dent needed! So, the Subway Masters make a special allowance for Dent because he helped the passengers of the subway twice, and allow him to engage them in battle in a specialized battle train.

So, Dent and Satoshi have a double battle with the Subway Masters, who are impressed with their combined strategy and battling styles, but nevertheless easily overpower them and win. Dent and Satoshi are grateful for the battle, the trio of friends say their goodbyes, and leave Raimon City now that the bridge has been repaired.

Also, the Subway Masters were never defeated in a random corn field by two cocky twins who think they're going to be the best double battle trainers in the whole world. Also, their Pokemon were NOT taken down in one blow, nor did they throw tantrums like overgrown children. Although this does happen in a silly fantasy sequence in a later episode. :D;;

PERSONALITY:

The Raimon City Subway system is run by two brothers known as the Subway Masters. Their names are Nobori and Kudari and they are identical twin brothers, with Nobori being the older brother. They both dress similarly, wearing the same uniform and hats with a slight change in colours (Nobori's coat is black and red; Kudari's is white and red), and a share a bit of an eccentric tendancy to be flashy and dramatic, while simultaneously taking their jobs very seriously. Sometimes, they even walk, talk, and point in sync.
Although the two brothers are very similar, they also have their marked differences: Nobori is exceptionally polite and formal in his speech, frequently addressing others with the "-sama" suffix attached to their names, always using "-masu" form, and very frequently attaching "o" and "go" prefixes to words to convey respect (to convey this in English, I try to have him speak using as few contractions as possible, use polite forms of address --Sir/Madame--, and maintain a formal and dignified if ocassionally verbose and overblown manner of speaking). Kudari, conversely, uses very informal language and is casual to the point of sounding rather rude.

The safety of the subway is their top concern; even their own seems to run second. The Subway Masters' desire to protect the safety of the underground subway is said to be as strong as Satoshi (Ash)'s desire to save his Pokemon... and considering it's frequently shown how powerful the bond between trainer and Pokemon is, that is incredibly strong. They patrol it with lanterns and race along either side of the tracks should they spot anything suspicious, an impressive feat that necessitates familiarity and repetition, while also being incredibly dangerous, as the subway utilizes a third-rail electrification system, so the electric conductors are literally just a few steps away from the outer tracks that the two choose to run on-- one wrong step and they complete the circuit! And they do so with wide smiles and certainly don't sacrifice any of their dramatic flair for it. Also, they do bird runs (think Naruto) and it's kind of funny.

Raimon City is based on New York City, while the Raimon City Subway is largely based on Tokyo's (even the time table features all the famous Tokyo lines, only written in the Pokemon world's unique alphabet), the Subway Masters practice the more distinctly Japanese train conductor habit of pointing and calling. This is a precautionary measure which involves pointing while verbally stating what action you're about to take, meant to lessen the chances of errors caused by lack of awareness. Because it requires the coordination of hand, mind, and voice, it lessens the chances that the conductor might make a mistake or oversight and will also increase chances that others will hear/see him and understand what is about to happen. The oddity in this is that Nobori and Kudari practice it even outside of work, frequently making wide, sweeping gestures, pointing, and loudly stating what they are about to do.

To an extent, they sanctify their railroads (Nobori literally describes the underground as sacred) and will not forgive anyone who threatens them or the safety of their passengers. They only gave up the pursuit of the Rockets after they had flown away and because the safety of all of the Pokemon (effectively passengers, as they were held captive in a train car) took precedent. This, along with the occasions in which they speak in sync and some of their darker smiles make the Subway Masters seem very creepy, maybe even sinister, to some... which likely isn't helped by their choice of Pokemon: Nobori's partner is a Chandela.

Chandela is a Ghost Pokemon and the only Pokemon Nobori is revealed to have in the anime. As a species, Chandela are the final evolutionary form of the Litwick line, all of which are known to prey upon humans in one form or another, either by sapping their lifeforce or devouring their spirits whole. They are also known to be tricksters, especially as Litwick, pretending to be guiding lights to wayward travellers in the dark, before feeding off of them. Both first and final forms are shown casting deceptive illusions in the wild as well.

Not to be judged by his appearance or his Pokemon's ghastly nature, Nobori is quite kind and pleasant unless wronged, if unlikely to involve himself in unrelated matters, and the same can be said of Chandela. If he calls to it, it will unquestioningly assist in any task: it uses its powers to levitate Satoshi, Iris, and Dent and carry them to where they can reach their Pokemon. He also has a strong sense of gratitude and will repay kindness: as a favour to Satoshi and friends for assisting them in saving the subway, he and his brother help them reunite a very forgetful trainer with her lost Pokemon Kibago by allowing her to pinpoint her Kibago's location on security camera footage.


He is also a very powerful Pokemon Trainer, such that even a Kanto-based organization like Team Rocket recognizes his and his brother's skill (the man in charge of this operation advises the Rocket trio not to engage the Subway Masters in battle, which is why their early confrontation essentially devolves into a game of hide-and-seek on the tracks). The Subway Masters are known for their teamwork and their skill in double battles are legendary: trainers come from all over for a chance to battle them, and events like the Subway Stamp Rally are held for an opportunity for the winning competitor(s) to challenge the Subway Masters to a battle in a specialized train built to endure Pokemon battles.

He relies on his Chandela, who he affectionately refers to as his partner, in all the battles we've seen.

Nobori has a great love for trains; he attends conventions dedicated to them, which is how he and his brother met Dent prior to the latter joining Satoshi's travel party, and loves to use train metaphors in almost any occasion. Even if they might sound rather silly, he uses them rather unironically; he drops the habit in some dire situations, reverting to a monotonous, almost robotic back and forth exchange with his brother, but not always. Even his signature phrase for calling out his Pokemon is a reference to trains: "Chandela, depart!" It can also be compared to the way a Pokemon Sommelier speaks, comparing Pokemon and trainer relationships to food and wine marriages, describing battles in terms of flavours and aromas, as Dent does... only Nobori describes battles in railroad terminology. Such as comparing Yanappu's straightforward attacks to moving through the town square and Pokabu's roundabout defense as taking the belt line.

He admires hard work, dedication, and staying true to one's convictions. It is Satoshi's inability to stand still and watch while others try to save his Pokemon that moves Nobori to assist him in accomplishing that goal. He is very encouraging and can be expected to provide the occasional motivational speech, as he urges challengers to continue working towards their goals, even after they suffer defeat.

Although Nobori comes up with the plan of using Shibirudon's Discharge to power up their maintenance train after the Rockets cut off the power in Raimon City, he does not go through with the plan until he receives Kudari's permission first, even though catching the ghost train is time critical; politeness and respect is ingrained in his nature such that it doesn't break, even in dire circumstances.

However, this does not mean that he never gets angry: he expresses anger more outwardly than his brother. While his brother goes into a momentary shock when he sees that the Ghost Train they had intended to catch unexpectedly began to multiply, Nobori grits his teeth angrily, glares, and immediately contacts Dent to update him on the situation.

Aside from his brother and their Pokemon, Nobori does not appear to have any close friends, possibly due to his rather reserved nature, in addition to his stoicism; although he does smile when he's genuinely happy as well as when he's politely speaking to passengers, he smiles less than his brother does (and frowns in photographs too xD;;;).
His facial expressions are harsher than his brother's and his smiles tend to be subtler, half-smiles and somewhat crooked smirks. He displayed some rather sinister smiles and grins while trying to chase down the Rockets switching tracks, however.

It has been confirmed that his brother is his only frequent human companion. He is on good terms with and acquainted with many people, but is not especially close with anyone else. He has a rather traditional mentality, being quite reserved and typically keeping to himself, in a curious contrast to his dramatic posturing; he always speaks with a level tone unless he's truly been pushed to his limits. When he's saddened, he brings the rim of his hat down to hide his expression, even while speaking to Satoshi and friends, who understand the situation and are, well, children. So, it can be deduced that it takes Nobori quite a while to open up to other people, even if they're going through the same ordeal he is and even if he respects them as equals (he did trust them with catching the Rockets and saving the Pokemon and also saluted Dent). However, he does not engage in the common practice of rejecting praise, simply accepting it without comment. He is proud of the title he and his brother share and of their strength, and for good reason! Their teamwork is widely-known and certainly draws in challengers, but he is a capable battler on his own as well.

He puts duty first and also owing to his endless fascination with trains, one might say he's a bit of a workaholic. Both brothers take it quite seriously and personally if anyone should impede the subway's operation or bother its passengers, which can make them rather vengeful (when Kudari says "People who compromise the safety of the subway…", Nobori finishes with "… cannot be forgiven!"). If one were to work past the formality, stoicism, one-track-mindedness, and dutiful nature to get close enough to him that he could consider them a friend or anything more than an acquaintance, they would have to put a lot of effort into it! Should they succeed, he should make a very supportive and respectful friend, although it would definitely take time for him to openly display emotions or talk about what's bothering him, so as not to burden others, unless it's absolutely necessary. They'll also likely find he's more awkward and eccentric than grim and aloof as he might initially come across.

As a cultural side note: while all the previously showcased Pokemon Regions were based on Japanese geography and culture, the Isshu reason is based on New York, with a culture that's a mixture of that and Japan's. This difference is shown in the races and names of the characters (like Dent, Iris and Aloe, who have Western names and the latter two are probably meant to be of African descent, what with their skin colour, some elements of Iris' style of dress, and the latter's afro... while Aloe's husband, Kidachi, on the other hand, is portrayed as much smaller-built and shorter than her, along with having a Japanese name)! Nobori and Kudari have Japanese names in the original, so they're likely intended to be Japanese or, well, the Pokemon world equivalent of Japanese. Appearance-wise, while most Pokemon characters have rather small noses, the Subway Masters are drawn with rather exaggeratedly large, long noses, which has been a typical animation and comic shorthand for Western characters in anime/manga since Osamu Tezuka's day, in addition to being a bit of an anomaly among this particular series' character designs. It's also common in this series to portray foreigners as being much taller than the main cast... and the Subway Masters are both very, very tall. So! All those factors together imply they might've been intended to come across as being multiracial (haafu or otherwise), and even their names in the English adaptation have some foreignness to them (Ingo being a German name), but nothing specific has been stated officially.

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Subway Master Nobori

November 2012

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