It’s 1997. Propped up on your elbows under the dark recesses of your Rugrats duvet, your breath hitches as a plinky musical sound prods your Gameboy screen into pixelated, grayscale life and threatens to wake up your sleeping parents next door. Frantically you turn down the volume, rapidly mash A to get past the loading screens and hit “New Game”. You’re going to be the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them will be your real test, to train them will be your cause. This is Pokémon.
It’s an innocent enough scene from many a 90s childhood, where playground status was decided on how many shiny Pikachu cards you owned, or how far away you were from filling up all 151 spaces on your Pokédex. But today, as I sat in my room planning my next move as a soon-to-be graduate, I realised my childhood is a pretty distant memory. And actually, when you think about it, the low-resolution landscape our youthful selves spent hours exploring was a pretty twisted place. Not least of which because…
Everyone has Daddy Issues
Well, not “issues”. More just one big resounding issue: they don’t have a Dad at all. The theory goes that there was a huge war that decimated the male population of the land. Children have now been left with no Father figure, or worse, they are left with Professor Oak (“This is my Grandson. He’s been your rival since you were a baby… Erm, what is his name again?” “Poo face.” “Ah yes! Of course!”). The game starts with Ash sitting cross-legged in front of his SNES, presumably laying low, avoiding the wrath of his arch-rival after the whole “Ha-your-dementia-suffering-Granddad-thinks-you’re-called-Pooface” trick. After a few minutes, this plucky ten-year old decides it is time to venture forth from the house’s single-bedroom and find his fortune in the big wide world. Walking past his Mother’s spot at the dining table he says goodbye.
“Goodbye” she replies to her TEN-YEAR-OLD, “all boys leave home one day, it said so on TV” she adds sagely. Solid parenting right there. Ash, realising that his Mother does not fully comprehend that her TEN YEAR OLD is now walking out the door with a proverbial stick and spotted hanky on his shoulder, says “Alright Mum, I’m leaving and don’t know whether I’ll ever return”. His Mother looks up with dawning realisation in her eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks and says “Sorry love, I wasn’t really listening. Oh that’s right, you’re leaving. I forgot. Don’t forget the milk.” Thus, the metaphorical umbilical chord is unceremoniously severed, and with that Ash leaves home, out into a world inhabited by creatures that breathe fire and poison spores. Completely alone. Did I mention he’s ten?
And He Has No Concept Of Stranger Danger
Heading into the dark forest at the edge Pallet Town, Ash draws a deep breath and takes his first step into the big wide world. Glancing back for one final time, he sees an old man approaching through the trees. In an urgent voice, the man begs Ash to come to the basement of his laboratory to look at his balls and decide which one is best. Ash agrees to this proposition.
It soon becomes clear that the Professor has been performing experiments on small animals and he wants to share one with this young boy so that when he finally leaves he will be protected from the deadly creatures and dangerous men of the wilds. He offers a turtle, a lizard or a shrub. Now if someone tries to jump Ash between here and the next town he can unleash the unbridled fury of his bloodthirsty rhododendron. Cower before him. As days pass and Ash trains harder, strangers are no danger to this red capped child. He adds small walking radishes and sprouts with lightbulbs for heads to his murderous collection of cannibalistic shrubbery, because really….
Ash Suffers From Serious OCD
Honestly, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is the only explanation. He obsessively categorizes and collects various small animals, painstakingly noting their attributes, traces their growth and applies elemental “types” of his own that have no basis in science. He travels from town to town, squeezing every creature he stumbles upon – regardless of whether it’s a 30ft high snake made of boulders, or a tiny bat that just can’t get enough of travellers – into a plastic spheroid about three inches in diameter. When confronted about this his justification is inevitably a wild shriek of “Gotta catch em all!” Essentially, the entire game follows a megalomaniac child who forces his pets to battle for money, pushing them until they lose consciousness whereupon he takes them to a centre that stuffs them in a giant computer where they are trapped for days at a time, locked in their little metal sphere seemingly without food, water or company. But hey, no one’s going to stop him because
Pokémon Democracy Is A Myth
Whether they’re running a giant casino, carting off ancient fossils or desecrating Pokemon graves, terrorist and criminal organizations run Kanto. As Ash explores the caves, seas and towns of Kanto on his little bicycle, not once is he stopped by a concerned police officer wondering how a ten year old got hold of a bike that costs 1,000,000, – yes that’s right – a million….um, whatever currency is used in this lawless frontier. Because really, that’s what the Pokémon universe is. It’s the wild west, but with mice that fire off five-thousand volts of electricity and catchy music that plays when you walk through long grass. The whole place is run by a single giant corporation (who gains its wealth from exploiting small, vulnerable animals) which exists in conflict with smaller crime syndicates. And gyms run by teenagers.
Even the country’s village dedicated to burial and mourning, Lavender Town, is utterly unprotected, ending up filled with mentalist “Channelers” who accost passing children on bicycles screaming “GIVE… ME….YOUR BLOOD!!! Be possessed with me! Kekeke KWAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!” before attacking them with Pokémon so horrifying one of them is actually called “Ghastly”. This was the point where you switched off your Gameboy and buried deeper under your duvet fort, your knees hugged to your chest, rocking back and forth until morning came and you could crawl from your room bleary-eyed, avoiding eye contact with every human being lest an exclamation mark appear above their head and bloody violence ensues.
But that’s not the most horrific part of the whole series. Oh no, because it’s a little known fact that
Nikki Minaj Started Out As A Pokémon
“Its cries sound like human speech, however it is impossible to work out what it’s trying to say”
“It speaks a language similar to that of humans, however it seems to use dancing to communicate”
…. Enough said.