I don’t think there a single person on Earth that has not at least heard of Pokemon. This multi-billion dollar franchise has dug its way into our collective psyche and defined the childhoods of millions worldwide. A big reason for this was the wildly successful anime that featured Ash and his pals travelling across the world to find Pokemon.
I, however, somehow managed to evade this show as a kid, despite literally everyone around me watching it. Sure, I watched a few episodes with my cousins, but pretty much the only things I remembered from that was the iconic theme song (which is still a banger) and an emotional scene. Eventually, at 21, I felt it was finally time to sit down and truly figure out what the fuss was all about – and I have to say, I was actually blown away by how much I enjoyed the original 4Kids -dubbed Indigo League episodes.
To start off, Pokemon is hilarious – seriously, it’s way funnier than I expected it to be. The one liners in this show are comedy gold, as characters take turns to throw jabs at each other. My personal favourites from Ash include him telling misty that “only one of us can hallucinate at a time”.
Of course, Misty always bites back, using Ash’s stupidity against him. When they get lost Misty tells Ash he “couldn’t find himself in a mirror”. Best of all, Brock has some of the most outrageous lines in the whole show pertaining to his lady loves, proclaiming that one of them could “violate my rights anytime“, WHAT. I actually had to pause the show to finish laughing at that one.
There were also several silly episodes that just show our characters interacting with strange people or going on bizarre tangents. Team rocket often gets entangled in this, and the absurdist humour that this usually leads to really appeals to me for some reason.
Along the same line, Pokemon often takes, shall we say, creative liberties with how battles are fought and what moves the Pokemon could use and some of these were unintentionally hilarious. Let’s not forget the legendary dubbing of Pokemon, that turned onigiri to JELLY FILLED DONUTS, as if the two look even remotely similar. Iconic.
Humour aside, the concept of Pokemon is just incredibly cool. Honestly, how awesome would it be to collect little animal pals that have crazy superpowers and fight along side them? Of course, this is already something I had figured out as a kid who loved to play the games (gen 3 is the best don’t @ me), but the anime truly reminded me about what it was that made the world so fascinating.
The Pokemon did not just look different, they all felt different with their own personalities and quirks. As our characters go on this grand adventure, we see how the Pokemon and their powers integrate seamlessly into the world. And we could go back to our games and catch them all – okay, almost all. Add an elusive and exclusive legendary into the mix and it’s no wonder kids were enamoured with this show.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the show for me was that it has a lot of heart, that still held up after all these years. As I had previously alluded to, the only scene that I have memories of watching as a child (pikachu almost dying) had an emotional angle to it. There was a reason why this scene in particular had such an impact on me – seeing the genuine connections that the Pokemon and our main characters build is extremely compelling.
It was really interesting that even as an adult, the emotional scenes still made me feel for the characters. Even if it didn’t make me bawl my eyes out, I think that’s quite an achievement for an otherwise goofy show. Whether it’s the lonely charmander waiting on the rock for his owner to return, or the Pokemon all huddling with Ash in the snowstorm wondering if they will make it through it, Pokemon really excels in making you care about its non-human characters.
Speaking of the characters, the show actually takes the time to show us each of their motivations, allowing the audience to root for them as the show progresses. Ash may be a bumbling idiot, but he genuinely wants to befriend his pokemon and cares for what is best for them. He doesn’t want to win using them, he wants to win with them. Brock and Misty both have their own goals to work towards and have entire episodes dedicated to them leaving their nests.
This does not only apply to the human characters – even the Pokemon have histories and episodes dedicated to them. Meowth dedicates himself team rocket because they took him in when the world turned against him. Pikachu doesn’t want to evolve because he’s afraid it will change who he is (a great excuse to keep your mascot). Pokemon does a really good job in making us care about what happens to these characters because their motivations are believable.
Ultimately, Pokemon is just really fun to watch. Sure, the plot and writing wasn’t exactly revolutionary, and didn’t even always make sense (especially when you take into account the games), but it achieved what it set out to be – entertainment. Not every episode is amazing, but it is consistently enjoyable – be it because of its humour or heart. I know I’m late to the party, but still, I’m now a fan.