I spent the crucial years of 1st-4th grade at a tiny school (like, seven-kids-in-my-class tiny) and only watching PBS, which means that a lot of late-90s pop culture sailed waaaay over my head. Worst of all, I completely missed the Pokémon train, and have spent the last decade feeling like an idiot because of it. Everyone’s like, “Blastoise!” and “Team Rocket!” and “That guy is such a Jigglypuff!” and I have to lurk in a corner and blink until someone changes the subject.
I have long vowed to improve my Pokémon literacy in order to have something to talk to my generation about besides Arthur, and thus, I present the very first Revels Tuesday n00bsday!
What I Knew Going In:
- Pokémon is short for “pocket monster,” which I think is because they are small and can fit in your pocket? If they’re so small, are they really that powerful? Do they only fight each other? Do Pokémon ever attack people directly? Or have the people of the Pokéverse just agreed to settle all disputes by Pokeproxy? Something here smacks of animal cruelty.
- There’s something called Team Rocket, and I think they’re the bad guys.
- Pocket monsters “evolve” into endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful and with increasingly sillier names.
- People keep their Pokémon in little Poké Balls. I got one in a Happy Meal once. The fast-food-media complex tried so hard, and still they failed me!
- There was that one episode of the anime that gave everyone seizures.
- Gotta catch em all.
Other than that, I’m about on the same level as Noelle Stevenson, aka Tumblr’s gingerhaze.
What I learned from Wikipedia:
- THERE ARE 648 SPECIES OF POKÉMON.
- In 1999, two 9-year-olds sued Nintendo because they claimed that the trading cards caused them to develop a gambling addiction. They spent thousands of dollars on Pokémon cards. Wtf, American children? This would never have happened if you’d stuck to Wishbone.
But you can’t learn everything from the internet, so luckily I have a friend who is a self-professed Pokémon expert (i.e. had a normal childhood) who volunteered to educate me. (Thanks, Kaitie!)
I started by checking out the anime. Cartoon Network has several full episodes on its website, so I started there with a random episode, called “Climbing the Tower of Success!” I later learned this was a mistake, based on the sad, disappointed shake of the head Kaitie gave when I told her the first episode I watched was from the latest season, Pokémon Black and White: Rival Destinies. Apparently Pokémon is not what it used to be.
All I learned from this episode is that 1) Pokémon are not always pocket-sized. Whoops. And 2) I think there’s a Pokémon called Failwich, which I can only assume looks like a really ugly sandwich. If I am wrong, please don’t correct me.
I also watched a couple older ones, “Poké Ball Peril” and “The Lost Lapras.” You know. Classic stuff. It’s pretty cute! I see the appeal for small children and nostalgic adults. Team Rocket really are pretty rad. (And you know, at first I was like, so, what’s their deal? And then they explained. So helpful!) Also, Lapras is my favorite! That episode was legitimately heart-breaking.
And now to learn more from Kaitie!
Kaitie: So you never played Pokémon at all? What did you do…with your time?
What I did with my time, at that age, was read every book with a unicorn on the cover. We all have our vices.
First, she pulled out a giant binder and two huge boxes of Pokémon cards. She used to play in tournaments at Toys-R-Us and won, like, medals or something. What a badass! She tried to explain the rules to me, and apparently there’s this whole thing with different types of Pokémon?
Kaitie: Ground types can’t attack flying types.
Me: But can flying types attack ground types?
Kaitie: Oh, of course.
Me: So, how many types of Pokémon are there?
Kaitie: Um, that’s a difficult question. They keep adding more.
Kaitie: And now there’s dual types, too, so a Pokémon can be both a flying and a fire type.
Me: This is too complicated.
Kaitie: Water type is effective against fire type, ground, and rock…because of erosion. I guess. Bite is apparently a dark type move, which is effective against ghosts, which is dumb because it’s clearly a BITE. This makes me angry. Dragon has its own category…
She then showed me a collection of Nintendo 64 games, including Pokémon Snap, “the best one,” where you run around taking pictures of Pokémon, and you’re judged on the quality of your pictures. This sounds like my kind of video game (read: I don’t really play video games.) But since Pokémon’s original medium was the Gameboy, I chose to try out Pokémon Yellow. Also, the simplicity of the gameplay is suitable to my incredibly low level of competence. It’s charming! And fun. I think my favorite part is that you get to pick a name for your snotty rival. So you could be like, “Yeah, suck it, [name of that kid you hated]! Professor Oak likes me better.”
Of course, there is much more to the Pokémon franchise. More than I had even the slightest idea existed.
Kaitie: I saw two or three of the movies in theaters…rough. Oh, and the musical.
Kaitie: There was a musical.
Me: Like…live? With real people?
Kaitie: Yep. Definitely saw that at the Fox.
I asked her to explain some basic Pokéverse concepts to me, like Poké Balls. Apparently, Poké Balls are about the size of an orange, and sort-of dimensionally transcendental. “Like a TARDIS!” says Kaitie. (Yay! A reference I understand.) They use light energy to shrink Pokémon and trap them inside the Poké Ball. Also they are made from some kind of fruit. Who knew? (Everyone but me, probably.) And then, as with most Pokémon topics, everything got way, way, insanely more complicated. (“…there’s an Ultra Ball which is WAY better than a regular Poké Ball…and then there’s a Master Ball, which is the best kind, obviously. You cannot waste that thing on a Spearow or a Zubat.”)
In conclusion, I get why Pokémon is so popular. It’s cute, it’s fun, and I think one of the more endearing things about, I don’t know, I guess human beings in general, is our love of arcane knowledge. Which is really what Pokémon-love seems to be about. Like, some people know baseball stats, some people know how to write in Elvish*, and some people know all the species of Pokémon and what types they are and which ones you catch with a Love Ball.
I think Pokémon is lost to me. It was fun learning about it, but the franchise still doesn’t hold much interest for me as a n00b-y adult. However, given access to a time machine, I would totally visit my 9-year-old self, and be like, “Hey, kid. Do you really need to read Harry Potter a fourth time? This is a Gameboy. You’ll thank me later.”
*And by Elvish, you know I mean Tengwar.**
**(Pssst—that one’s me.)