I’m a fan of Pokémon. Yes, at 31, I’m an unabashed fan of the Pokémon video games. I don’t really care for the card game or television show, but as far as a jRPG goes, it’s one of the better ones, even if it’s become relatively stagnant in the last few years.
With that embarrassing plaster ripped off, now I can explain to you a theory I’ve come up with after talking about the world of the Pokémon video game series with my brother, fellow D+Pad contributor Alfred Etheridge-Nunn.
In case you’re unaware, Pokémon is a Japanese roleplaying game on Nintendo’s hand-held systems. You play a tweenage boy or girl thrust into the world of pocket monsters. You, and several other children (and varied adults, but I’ll cover that later) hunt, collect and fight using strange-looking monsters. They number into the six hundreds as of this article, and each core game release “generation” seems to add another hundred or so. Like turn-based Japanese RPGs, it uses menu-based combat, random encounters and grinding levels. Unlike Japanese RPGs, instead of a class or a party of people with classes, you use a party of six monsters, each with their own level progressions and inaccurately-named ‘evolutions’ into newer, deadlier forms. The world appears modern, and there are several issues which come from a near-modern Earth-like environment with most of our innovations, but where EVERYTHING is about these monsters which inhabit the world.
This is where my theory comes in…
Pokémon is a post-apocalyptic horror.
Yes. A post-apocalyptic horror. You heard me right. Okay, there’s the premise, now allow me to elucidate in nine simple points:
1) The World has gone wrong: It’s our world, but it isn’t. Rather than be a generic fantasy land, Pokémon’s nations are all parts of Japan, given new names. There are references to parts of the real world, even though those places don’t exist. It’s warped enough to look like there’s been some major tectonic upheaval, and atmospheric problems which result in some districts suddenly being plunged into desert, snow, jungle and beach all in one small zone. In several of the games, Arcanine’s Pokédex entry refers to ancient Chinese folklore, as do several other entries in the games. Lt Surge, the lightning-based gym leader is referred to as “The Lightning American”. The list goes on. These things are spoken about, but don’t really exist any more. While Kanto, Sinnoh and the like are all based on Japan, the new nation of Unova is apparently what happened to part of America. So from that we can conclude that the countries as we knew them don’t exist any more (as with Panem in Hunger Games or the Knighted States in Gamma World, for instance).
2) Civilisation, or what’s left of it: Look at the towns and villages, they have what? Maybe a dozen people in them? The largest city, Nimbasa, has 239 people in it, because it’s the only place with recreations which aren’t specifically only for Pokémon (which I’ll expand on later). Without the stadiums it has a population of 150. And that’s a city. They have a currency, and that’s kind of admirable, but at the same time it’s a hollow gesture when few people seem to have a job, and the only way you acquire money seems to be from battle. If, say, you go into a house, then it’s a tiny one-room affair, with maybe one bed for a family of four. They’re all huddling together, inside, trying to avoid the outdoors, and especially the long grass. You don’t want to go into the long grass…
3) Don’t go into the long grass…: If you do, you’re dead. Proper dead. Why do you think there aren’t people? Normal people, I mean, wandering the countryside. The second you step into the long grass outside of your village, you’re prey to monsters, and there are monsters EVERYWHERE. They roam the sea, the caves, the grass, everything, and they will all kill you. That caterpie? It’ll fucking have your face off.
To prove my earlier point about this being a post-apocalyptic Earth, these monsters look like ours and they have names which reference Earth animals which no longer exist (for instance pidove is a “Tiny Pigeon Pokémon”, but pigeons don’t exist, pidgeys and pidoves do). Maybe radiation mutated them? Maybe something warped animals and insects so that they changed form. Some were able to become a turtle with weird cannon things on their backs, some were sentient plants, others, for whatever reason, made themselves look like ice cream. Maybe it was to adapt to the world and hide amongst the ruins of civilisation, so some felt the need to adapt and evolve (in the proper term, not the Pokémon term) into ice creams, garbage and pokéballs. One debate I entered with a friend regarding this is the existence of “fossil” pokémon, however I posit that this is simply either those which were unable to make the transition from the old “pre-monster” world to the present “overrun by monsters” world, now able to survive in the world because of having a trainer look after them. That or perhaps the radioactive devastation was so much that even dinosaurs extracted from DNA in fossils have been affected by whatever made dogs into snubbull and houndours.
4) This Is The Year The Food Runs Out: No one knows anything in Kanto, Johto, or any other nation, apart from where pokémon are concerned. If you talk to anyone, then they’re all about the pokémon, talking about tips, tricks, how to feed, breed or otherwise cultivate pokémon. All apart from one or two people who yell things such as, “I like shorts!” but we try to ignore them. Don’t get me wrong, this is a world where a whirling magnet could murder you, where butterflies spray poison powder and horned goldfish charge you from the water. It’s a deadly world, and it’s understandable you’d want to know how to keep the beasts on your side. Still, no one knows how to make food, they only seem able to make say, poffins.
They don’t know how to get fruit or anything a human would eat, but they harvest berries for their pokémon all the time. There are no cows or sheep, but there are miltanks and mareeps, and I never hear of people killing, cooking and eating them. In fact, the milk of the miltank is only potable for pokémon. Whatever food this culture already has, what technology they have, is all they will ever have. There’s maybe only one or two windfarms, there are no new buildings which don’t have Machokes or anything building them. Pokémon power everything, they do the heavy lifting, medical assistance, cutting down of trees, lighting of caves and so on. Humans don’t know how to do anything but placate their beasts. This is not a world where people will survive. Soon the existing food supplies will run out, and humanity will either have to eat pokémon… or each other.
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