Though I've already talked about Pokémon this week, I think this is a topic that could use some elaboration. I will warn you, I was a nerdy, nerdy child and spent far too much time with this franchise, so there's a lot to get off my chest.
While I talked about the games before, it’s the show I’ll be talking about. So, with that, let’s get down to it.
Like the games the cartoon was based on, Pokémon didn’t have much of an original plot. The first season was pretty basic: we were introduced to our protagonist, Ash Ketchum, and his first Pokémon, a yellow, hamster-like rodent called Pikachu, as well as his travelling companions: the tomboyish Misty, and Brock, who rather liked the ladies. We were also introduced to the key villains of the story, a trio of white-clothed organized crime members: Jessie, James and Meowth – a talking cat (with a Brooklyn accent), as well as the rival-character, Gary – the grandson of Professor Oak (the mentor-figure, and man Ash got his Pikachu from). The plot revolved around Ash, Brock and Misty learning the ropes and going from gym to gym so that Ash could become a Pokémon Master by defeating the gym leaders in battles and earning badges, and Team Rocket trying to steal Ash’s Pikachu. There wasn’t a whole lot of character development and there still isn’t—many seasons later, and Ash is still a stupid, impulsive, incredibly naïve ten year old and Team Rocket are still trying the same tired gags to try and win the day. The only things that change from season to season are the Pokémon, and sometimes Ash’s friends that travel with him.
Let me say this now: when I was a kid I used to think that if Pokémon were real, I wouldn’t be in college, now. I’d be off roaming the countryside and capturing as many Mon as possible. Who needs an education when you can have animals that can shatter the laws of both nature and physics? And most of them look cute when doing it!
However, now that I am in college, and capable of critical thought, frankly the breakdown of the Pokémon series is sort of horrifying. I mean, the protagonist is a ten year old child who leaves home to go wander around the country by himself, with very little money or food. His mother is, apparently, very proud of him for doing this, and shows little concern over his health. What were you doing when you were ten years old? The animals he captures (that can breathe fire, distort reality, fly, or lift things much heavier than humanly possible – that could otherwise kill him in an instant, if you allow me to be blunt) he forces to fight other animals for rewards (and sometimes, in tournaments for the entertainment of others). We have a term for that, folks. Dogfighting. It’s illegal. And yet every major battle is with another trainer’s Mon, and they fight until one Pokémon of the other faints.
Don’t even get me started on the whole Team Rocket concept – a shadowy group of criminals that use Pokémon to try and conquer the world with various schemes – with the most well-known team stalking a ten year old boy in order to steal his pet from him, to boot. Why are there terrorists and animal cruelty and theft in a television show aimed at young kids? I haven’t clue.
But though the Pokémon series dealt with topic that really weren’t made for kids, the merchandise and the presentation of it made sure that kids ate it up like candy. And we did – you know we did. Even now I look back fondly on the stories I came up with when I was watching the show, despite the dark premise.
So, if you haven’t seen Pokémon do yourself a favour and take a look – the link to the first episode is in the side bar – and revel in the what-where-they-thinking with me. My childhood (and yours) will thank you.