Shows I Missed – Pokémon

Growing up in the 90s, there were a lot of shows I missed, for various reasons: I was rarely allowed to watch a lot of television, some were shortly before (or after) my time, and I never really got up early in the morning to watch them (seriously, who wouldn’t want to sleep-in?). Basically, there’s a lot of "nostalgic" things that are not so nostalgic to me. Time for me to rectify this.

(This is a repost of an article from the author's blog.)

Pokémon has long held a position as a household name, particularly if said household is addicted to any one of more than 70 different games released over its twenty-year existence. Pikachu is easily one of the most recognisable non-human characters there is. And Pokémon Go has swiftly become one of the most popular mobile phone apps.

When I was a little girl, I never really had much (or any) interest in Pokémon. I’d decried it as a fad, perhaps as a means to act high-and-mighty against everyone else. Later, of course, I got into the games, having borrowed a copy of Pokémon Blue (though the games were in their third generation at the time) from a friend, and have been a semi-avid follower of the (game) series ever since. Of course, the original anime series had slipped me by, and I wasn’t exactly interested in watching it at that age anyway. Now I’m twenty-one, I’m clearly in the target demographic, so I decided to find out why so many people are nostalgic about the show.

Over the past weeks, I’ve watched 18 of the damned episodes, of the original series’ 80. If this were an in-depth review of the series, I’d have watched the whole lot, but instead, this is simply a fairly quick summation of my thoughts on the show. One last disclaimer is that I’m watching the U.S. dub, as that's the one that aired here, regardless of which was “better.”

Welcome. You've found hidden Alt Text. Witness the words I am writing here in procrastination... Mwahahahah.
“Nidorino begins the battle with a Horn Attack.” One thing to note about this show, is that type matchups aren’t a thing in this world.
We’re introduced to the world of Pokémon, a nightmarish world of animals being forced to fight each other, children roaming alone across the countryside, an ineffectual police force being powerless against a crime syndicate. The show begins with 10-year-old Ash Ketchum expressing his dreams of becoming a Pokémon Master; at the time of writing this essay—in the show's 18th year—the young protagonist has still not achieved his goal, sending the lesson that if you put your heart into something, it’s probably neither attainable nor worth doing.

Ash is honestly bland, character-wise—with fan-theories concerning the identity of his father being about the most interesting thing about him (for the record: it’s Giovanni, obviously). I understand that he’s basically one of the typical anime/manga archetypes, but therein lies the problem. I just don’t find him particularly interesting.

Moving on, Ash visits Professor Oak, the professor from the first game who can’t remember you (or even his own grandson’s) name, in order to receive his first Pokémon. Unfortunately, there’s only a single Pokémon left, although at least Ash doesn’t have to worry about his rival picking the Pokémon that’s effective against it. Naturally, the Pokémon is Pikachu, who seems to have a violent temperament that in the real world would probably lead to it being put down.

While out on his journey, an attempt to catch a Pokémon in the wild goes badly, and Ash finds himself fleeing a swarm of vicious birds eager to leave a peck-mark covered prepubescent corpse. It is there he runs into Misty, stealing her bike, and setting up the motivation for her to be following Ash throughout the series. Again, tropes abound with her character, and I still generally can’t look past the usual clichés for this genre of show, despite the fact that perhaps (part of) the reason it feels clichéd is due to later shows taking cues from her character.
“I’m sorry, Ash, but after paralyzing that small child, it’s really the kindest choice.”

Weirdly, Misty is unable to battle in certain situations, due to water-type Pokémon in the show needing to have water nearby (needless to say, this was not a rule in the games). What’s more is that despite this, Misty insists on the superiority of water-types, despite this outright debilitating disadvantage. I mean, when you’re in a setting in which we know by the end of first episode that everything is out to kill you, you may want to debate carrying a fish tank with you, at the very least.

Moving on to the second episode, we’re introduced to the first in a spate of bizarre cloning experiments, Nurse Joy. We’re also introduced to the fact that people actually use video phones in this world (because 90s). Lastly, we’re introduced to, well—

Prepare for trouble. And make it double.
Jessie and James are easily my two favourite characters from the series. While I'm generally not a fan of the recycled villains, there's something about these two that makes me genuinely want them to succeed. Sure, they're often comic relief villains—but their banter is probably the most entertaining part of the show to me, and episodes where they're not required to play the role of the villain (there's been a few so far) are pretty damn enjoyable. Also, there's Meowth, voiced by the late Maddie Blaustein.

(Though, one thing that bugs me is their costume design. Not just about Jessie's tight, awkwardly-designed top and miniskirt, but there's nothing exactly "rocket"-related about their uniforms in the first place.)

It does annoy me when "hijacked by Team Rocket" seems to be a somewhat regular occurrence. By which I mean the episode's actual conflict being hijacked by Team Rocket, and this conflict being somehow resolved by the "teamwork" of defeating them together, or the fact that the main characters can prove themselves by defeating those people they've already defeated quite a lot of times before.

Ah, Brock: the character western audiences generally coded as black long before the series actually had any real racial diversity. Assuming we're not talking about a certain Pokémon...
Lastly, there’s Brock, who is introduced in the fifth episode (after about two episodes that technically aren’t filler episodes, but are pretty boring so they might as well be). I don’t have a lot to say about him, although the fact that he occasionally fits into the "Team Mother" role does kind of subvert things very slightly, maybe?

All in all, I’d say the show is probably better than I thought it would be; what I’ve heard (and seen) of similar shows implies the majority of them are mostly about battle scenes—and that sounds rather tedious, to be honest. I wouldn’t say it’s a good show, exactly, but all the while, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad show, either.

Of course, as the series goes on, the number of filler episodes increases. And, speaking as someone who tends to consider something a filler episode if it has little to do with the game (whether or not it’s  "technically" one,) it’s kind of a series that seems to lose my interest fairly quickly. And there’s only so many times I can listen through the "Pokémon Rap":

For now, I’m pretty damn sick of Pokémon. And I just know I’ll be obligated to do Sailor Moon in the future…

Rana Newlove is a transgender panromantic asexual activist living in Melbourne, with an obsession for music and hair dye.