Reflections of the Pokémon Anime: A History and Analysis
A rather aloof young boy has finally adopted a pet after years of watching other pet owners become famous in tournaments on television, yearning to acquire some of that amazing glory around which his whole world seems to be wrapped. He does not even know what mastery means for his quest, but that does not stop him from desiring it with every fiber of his being.
He realizes very quickly that journeys begin on sometimes bumpy roads. His pet, having only been recently taken from its natural habitat, dislikes the idea of submitting itself to a human being and does not care to take part in fights designed to acquire even more pets, as if the task were similar to stamp collecting (to use Misty's phrase in Pokémon 2000). However, when a huge flock of very angry creatures determines to avenge an injured member, brought about by the boy's carelessness and ignorance, the boy stands in front of his pet, making himself vulnerable to the flock's attacks in order to save the creature that does not like him. In a moment of clarity, the young Pikachu, a yellow and brown rodent with a lightning-shaped tail, comprehends that this human, Ash Ketchum, does not see this Pikachu, or perhaps any Pokémon, as mere tools, weapons or servants. Ash, despite his massive lack of understanding of his own desires, nonetheless cares about the safety and dignity of his charges-- and the abducted Pokémon uses the remainder of its power, a terrifyingly high-voltage attack, to protect its new friend.
The attack, however, has left the young Pikachu virtually exhausted. As they walk away from the scene of the Spearow attack, Ash and Pikachu look up and see a glistening rainbow in the sky, as well as a giant bird, at least as big as a large hangglider, which flies toward the setting sun, practically glowing in the sun's light. Ash would later learn that this was a Ho-Oh, a phoenix that appears to be similar to ancient Central American designs (wildly colored, not as elegant-looking as Chinese phoenixes)-- in other words, a legendary Pokémon, a class of Pokémon with almost god-like power and abilities.
These encounters mark the beginning of Ash's Pokémon journey, as well as our understanding of a whole new world to live in-- a world with unknown continuity with our own, a world foreign and yet eerily similar, especially as modern technology and customs begin to match pace with what is seen on this animated series. The goal of this column is to provide a serious look into the Pokémon world's history and its characters, an academic report, but without the pressure of being graded on it-- although we will strive to make this the ultimate guide to one of our favorite anime series.
We shall begin with the beginning-- a look into the origins of Pokémon, not the show or the games, but with the Pokémon themselves and how these first creatures possibly usurped that world's ecology and became the dominant form of non-human life besides the non-sentient flora. We shall discuss what it might take to achieve the powers Pokémon display, using our world's examples. The reader might be surprised what flora or fauna in the real world can already do things associated with Pokémon abilities.
Since the origin of Pokémon determines the evolving history of the regions covered in the anime, we shall then discuss how human-Pokémon relationships have molded the histories of the regions shown thus far. We shall see the technological advances that were designed to capture, train and transport Pokémon in a variety of situations, as well as look at the leagues that were set up to regulate such procedures.
We shall continue by looking into the moralities of Pokémon, using both Eastern and Western concepts. What does Pokémon mastery mean? Why is it acceptable for a city to use Electric-type Pokémon to run power plants, but not for people to use them as weapons? What is training supposed to accomplish for the human as well as the Pokémon? In the quest to capture as many of the creatures as possible, can the dream of catching them all turn disastrous in perhaps a global frame? How does our real world's sense of ethics match up to those presented in the show? We will discuss all this and perhaps more.
Finally, we shall look at selected characters, as presented in the anime, and analyze the meaning of their lives and the lessons they teach, from being a hero to unrequited love to emotional neglect to domination. Readers who do not see their favorite characters are be welcome to contact either of us to petition for the inclusion of other characters we may have missed.
Readers are also welcome to help us make this the most comprehensive piece on Pokémon history by suggesting elements or sources that would deepen our understanding of this world. Please BMGf private message or e-mail us. Credit will go where it is due, and please provide links/citations with your suggestions. We would like to thank you and the rest of Bulbagarden in advance for allowing us this opportunity. We hope to help stop the drain of fans by reminding them what was cool about the series to begin with.
The second column in the series, Reflections of Our World: Real-life and Mythological Inspirations, will be posted Thursday.