Pokemon: The Controvercy

Ash in a silly mask.

(Note: This section needs a large rewrite, with some reorganization.)

This is the hardest section to write. In fact, I actually took these pages down last year because I had trouble writing this. But this is necessary, since controvercy was a part of the late 90's Pokemon experiance.

Pokemon was new, & few parents really understood it. Moreover, kids were going crazy for anything with a Pikachu on it, or for anything that ended with "mon." The series takes place in it's own world, with it's own rules. There was a lot to learn, especially if you didn't have an hour each day set aside to watch cartoons, plus another half-hour at recess to talk about it. Shoot, most of Nintendo's execs didn't really get the game; Shigeru Miyamoto convinced them the series was worth developing. Tesco hired an eight-year-old kid as a consultant just so they could understand what they were trying to sell. You want to know what your kids are into; if it has a good influence or not. Pokemon was so hard to understand some misconceptions were bound to happen, especially if some one took a few moments out of context.

And now I must not this: Neither my teachers nor my parents, nor my church had any problem with the series. This is all stuff I've heard, going back to when the show was new.

Cavet: This represents my understanding of Pokemon as of Gen 1 & 2.

Does Pokemon Promote Violence?

No. Outside of The First Movie, there were at least two episodes of the TV show which delt with that subject, Charmender, The Stray Pokemon, & Showdown at Dark City. Pokemon are there to protect their owners & other people; in the show, Ash constantly has to defeat Team Rocket's latest scheme; in the games the main character carries Pokemon to protect himself/herself from wild Pokemon.

Does Pokemon Promote Gambling?

No. Gambling exists in the Pokemon world, but both the show & the games show it as a bad influence.

In the show, Ash & co. come across a city where everyone stays up all night & day, playing slots. This makes them surley, because they never go to sleep. At the end of the epsisode, Jigglypuff accidentally forces the entire city to stop playing & start sleeping. They awake refreshed, & appologise for being so rude. In the games, Team Rocket, the series' bad guys, own the casino. Both the games & show correlate gambling with evil. Any later mention of gambling can't erase that.

Parents were concerned that kids might be gambling with Pokemon cards, since some kids played a version of the game where the looser lost their cards to the winner.

I suppose someone could get hyped up about Pokemon cards coming in randomized packs, but then they'd also need to get hyped up about gumball machines.

Historically, kids have played games where the winner took the looser's toys. Marbles comes to mind. This is optional. Kids don't have to play anything "for keeps." (And they shouldn't!)

And I feel I have to mention that players win money from other characters you battle in the game. I've wondered for awhile if trainers were betting on which one would win. Today I don't think so; you win money when you fight Team Rocket too, & I doubt a career criminal would honor a wager with a 10 year old. The money you win is probably just a trope Pokemon inherited from other RPGs.

(Caveat: Characters can gamble in the early games; there are slot machines. But playing the slots isn't required; it's optional.)

Does Pokemon Promote Witchcraft?

Pokemon are broken into several types, including a Psychic type. Spiritists sometimes clain they have Psychic powers. Since spiritism is listed as a type of forbidden activity in the Bible, this aroused concerns with some Christian parents. Do Pokemon get their powers from evil spirits? Are they evil spirits themselves?

No. First, Pokemon are not evil spirits. Pokemon have a physical presence; you can touch them, feel them, pat them on the head. Spirits are not physical; they're spiritual; try to touch one & your hand will go right through it. Pokemon may be captured by men, but that's like someone capturing & training an animal. In fact, that's what inspired Pokemon; Satoshi Tajri used to catch bugs as a kid, & he wanted to give the next generation something similar.

Second, there are no positive references to spiritism in the series. The TV show does have an old lady who sells the main characters "anit-ghost" stickers, but they don't work; she just wanted to make "a quick buck." There are channelers in one section of the video game, but they're posessed. Getting posessed doesn't sound positive; it sounds like a good reason to leave spirits alone.

Third, while the word psychic is used by spiritists, it's also used as a generic term for supernatural phenomina. Also, "psychic" refers to mental pheonomina, not spiritual phenominia. Pokemon don't call on any spirits when they use their powers, & they don't use their own spirits to generate powers, whatever they may be. Pokemon generate the phenomina themselves.

That should take care of the biggest reason sone have said the series promotes witchcraft, but there are still a few details which I've not covered. I'll try to cover some of them below:

In the first games, there is an old woman who uses "magic powder" to create a clean area, which you can use to heal your Pokemon. That's not technically spiritism, but it might still meet a defination of witchcraft. I'd generaly assume the area's just covered in repel, so wild pokemon won't enter it, & you can rest in it to heal up. Magic was her explanation; it doesn't have to be yours.

Pokemon also has a Ghost-type. Early on, most of these were just ghost-like creatures, not actual ghosts. Newer games seem to vary their descriptions a bit, but there's usually some indication that the spooky bits of each Pokedex description are just legends. I see no reason to take the worst interpritation of something. Considering that Ghost pokemon still hatch from eggs like any other of the 800 or so creatures in the franchise, the bits about them being spirits are probably just legends. There was a real ghost in the first games, but you can't catch it. As such, it's presence still cannot support witchcraft or spiritism.

And Pokemon introduced a Dark type in the 2nd generation games. Apparently, the work used in Japan directly translated to "evil." Looking up the defination on Google Translate & Naver Pappago, it seems this was more underhanded/sneeky than demonic. Unless they meant soap; that was another defination. Direct translations are weird; Nintendo went with Dark for a reason. If I remember right, most of the moves were physical moves, like biting, not anything which would affect a creature's soul. If it's not dealing with spirits or souls or the like, it can't be witchcraft.

I've read some parents were also concerned because a few Pokemon are described as dragons, or pictured as snakes. That's never bothered me; it's obvious that these are meant to be living creatures, which, if they existed, God would've had to create. If you're worried about symbolism, you'd also have to worry about any character who's a pig, goat, or dog. Shoot, snakes areen't even consistantly used as a symbol of evil; Jesus himself asked his followers to be "wise as serpents".

(Caveat: Apparently, one of the developers said ghost pokemon can eat life energy. Not sure if that appears in the acual games as anything but a legend tho. There is a move in the dreams called Dream Eater, & a few other moves which transfer healh from one Pokemon to another. Not sure if that' supposed to be a character's life force or what.)

Does Pokemon Promote Eastern Religions?

No; if there were story elements inspired by Animism, Confusism, Taoism, Buddism, or Shintoism, they were rendered generically, so they could fit into any religous context. That, or said elements can be taken as in-universe legends.

(Cavet: The games, comics, & show vary a bit when describing the franchises' mythos. There were some Pokemon described as gods in the second movie, & in some of the later games. These were re-written in the U.S. releases, removing references to Pokemon-as-Gods. The newer games, however, are willing to call some legendary or mythical Pokemon gods. I suppose that could just be a statement that people in a region worship said creatures, not as a statement that the creatures are really gods. Or it could be taken symbolicaly, like Narnia.)

Does Pokemon Promote Evolution?

No, Pokemon Evolution is more similar to growth or metamophisis than biological evolution. Pokemon change through out their lives, but their kids are "un-evolved" versions of themselves. Pokemon don't pass mutations to their offspring, & unfit Pokemon don't die off. (Ironically, this point was already made in a Japanses-only novel written by the anime's head writer.)

(Caveat: There was a manga released in the U.S. which stated that Pokemon evolved faster than regular animals, implying biological evolution. There were a few other books released with this idea in Japan. But those same books said pokemon could breed, & that their adult forms gave birth to their pre-evolved forms. That doesn't completely disallow fictional biological evolution; some od Edgar Rice Burrows works have animals which are born in their ancient forms, which grow into their modern forms. The first games were't always clear about what was heppening. Evee's Pokedex description says it may mutate, if memory serves, which would imply biological evolution. By the second games, it seems really silly to think of this as anything but metamorphisis, misnamed/misunderstood.)

A Conclusion...

Pokemon is a fun series, & there are even some good lessons about friendship & respect in it, but it is fiction. It's an imiginary way for kids to experiance bug-collecting in a metropolitian world where fields & forests have been paved over to build shopping centers. Don't worship Pokemon, or a Pokemon, or Satoshi Tajiri, or anyone else who helped create Pokemon. Worship God, who created the real world, & take a ride out of the city sometime, to see His great works.

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