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Pokémon

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Gogoat: A great Pokémon, or the greatest Pokémon?
You gotta spin it to win it
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Pokémon (often simplified to Pokemon when typing the accent is inconvenient; frequently mispronounced as "Po-KEE-mon", "Po-KUH-mon", or worse, "Po-kee-MAN") is one of the most successful and popular Japanese media franchises in the world, featuring cute (or sometimes ugly) creatures beating the crap out of each other to the point of being knocked unconscious. It started in 1996 with the first set of video games, developed by Game FreakWikipedia and published (and later translated) by NintendoWikipedia for the latter's Game Boy portable gaming console (though the games didn't get an English-language release until 1998); it has grown to include many games, manga, movies, and an anime series which has been running for 15 years and counting. One equally long-lived manga series, Pokémon Adventures, includes multiple volumes based on every non-spinoff video game in the series. (There are other manga series, but they tend to feature plots focused on specific video games — such as Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl Adventure!'s case — rather than on all of them as with Adventures.)

One anime episode caused several hundred children's brains being fried, and another showed a man inflating fake breasts in order to win a swimsuit competition. Sadly, it took until Pokémon #638 until the designers finally recognized the error of their previous ways and based one of the glorious creatures on a goatCobalion.[1][2] And again in Generation VI, they gave us a true, Grass-type, non-legendary goat simply called Gogoat.

"Controversies"[edit]

Being an international phenomenon, a lot of these are colored by the cultural lenses from the parties plus ignorance of Japanese culture. It's a good study on how cultural differences aren't apparent until these sorts of things crop up.

"Pokémon Shock"[edit]

Unlike other media hysteria, this one is founded on a grain of legitimate concern, though it was still massively overblown. There is one episodeWikipedia of Pokémon: The Series that can seriously be hazardous to your health. "Dennō Senshi Porygon" featured explosions in which the entire screen alternated very quickly between red and blue. On December 16, 1997, when it was aired on Japanese television, 685 people were sent to the hospital.[3] This was dubbed "Pokémon Shock" and caused hysteria, resulting in some guidelines being put in place for the use of flickering images in animated cartoons. The episode itself has been altered to induce less harsh flashing lights. One lesser-known casualty is that Porygon and its evolutionary family members, despite not being responsible for the violent flashes, aside from extremely minor cameos, have not since appeared in any newer episodes of the series. In a later follow-up, researchers determined only a small fraction were diagnosed with photosensitive epilepsy.[4]

Pokémon is satanic[edit]

Some Christian fundamentalists have stirred up a Satanic panic claiming the series promotes witchcraft, occultry, and claims of blasphemy.[5][6][7][8][9][10] In particular, they've latched onto the fact that the franchise features Pokémon "evolution," concluding that the series promotes the theory of evolution[8] despite the fact that the concept of "evolution" in Pokémon is completely different from the actual theory[11] and more closely resembles stages in the normal growth of an organism — most notably insect metamorphosis (the creator of Pokémon, Satoshi Tajiri,Wikipedia had a fondness of insects when he was a kid and collected them as a hobby; the aspect of catching wild Pokémon in the games was intended to allow people in more urbanized areas to have what is essentially a virtual version of his hobby). Despite such moral panics, the Vatican has so far found Pokémon to be highly acceptable,[12] although the existence of Lord Helix may temper that in the future.[13]

Actually there's a very similar game series with Satanism and occultism in it, it's called Shin Megami Tensei, but no one bats an eye for these. Probably because it wasn't exported from Japan for a long time and the first game released in North America was a spin-off action game for Nintendo's failed Virtual Boy system called Jack Bros. Additionally, the series is marketed for a much more mature audience, with many games not recommended for those under 16. Also, the newer games are much lighter and softer (e.g. the Persona series) than the older ones, with a few notorious exceptions having been released lately for the handheld Nintendo 3DS (Namely the Devil Survivor series, Soul Hackers, Shin Megami Tensei IV, and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, the last of which actually pissed off some people... but those were Hindus [14]).

Haram-mon[edit]

It happens that in 2001, Saudi Arabia banned the Pokémon franchise completely, claiming that the series defames the name of Muhammad promotes Zionism.[15][16] Some fundamentalist Muslims also claimed "Pokémon" means "I am Jewish," showing complete ignorance of the fact that the series originated from Japan (and that "Pokémon" is a contraction of "Pocket Monsters" — Poketto Monsutā — when written in Japanese). Why the Saudi government still allows games such as Yu-Gi-Oh, a card game which has actual Jewish references [17], remains a mystery for the ages.

PoKKKémon[edit]

The Pokémon Jynx's design and appearance has been heavily criticized by cultural critic Carole Boston Weatherford, who described Jynx as representing blackface after seeing the character's depiction in the anime.[18] Due to complaints, Gamefreak modified her appearance and now depict Jynx with purple skin instead of black, though criticisms from 1UP.com and similar sources have persisted. It should be noted that Jynx was likely inspired by ganguro, a Japanese fashion where women tan heavily, bleach their hair, and apply large amounts of makeup, instead of a black stereotype.[19]

PETA[edit]

For some reason, PETA has had no issue over a game where wild creatures are captured and forced to battle.[note 1] They then released a "parody" game on the day of release of Black 2 and White 2, proving again that they don't do any research.[note 2][20] When Pokémon X and Pokémon Y were released, PETA released another abomination parody game named Pokémon Red, White and Blue that tries to connect NIntendo to McCruel McDonald's and mocks dual-version release and the idea of a third version for Dialga knows why.

Team Rocket joins the Khmer Rouge[edit]

The Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Cambodia banned Pokémon Go due to players trying to catch Pokémon in former Khmer Rouge torture centers. Similar occurrences have happened in Nazi concentration camps and Hiroshima bombing memorials.[21]

Hitler and Pokémon Go[edit]

Slavoj Žižek considered Hitler to be the greatest Pokémon Go player of all times[22], which is not really surprising considering how it is Žižek.

Pokémon Black and White(Washing)[edit]

June 2019 saw a rather heated controversy arise over one Japanese artist's depiction of the new Pokémon character Nessa with slightly lighter skin than she actually is depicted as. A few overreactions in response on twitter caused artists to take matters into their own hands by depicting Nessa either as straight-up white or pitch-black, culminating with one artist's drawing of her as a monkey.

Dexit[edit]

Dexit was/is a controversy that kicked off on June 11th when the producer of the highly anticipated Pokemon Sword and Shield games, Junichi Masuda, announced that the new games would not have all of the Pokemon up to that point. This was considered a 'slap in the face' to the general fanbase who had caught every Pokemon and/or brought all of their favorite Pokemon that they felt a special connection with to the new games. It didn't help that one of the series' catch-phrases was, "Gotta Catch 'Em All". This was the turning point for a growing resentment within the fanbase who had qualms with some of the problems of the previous games despite GameFreak owning the most profitable media franchise, and ultimately split the fandom into two; the 'Dexit' crowd (borrowing from England's Brexit due to the new game being based off England) and the '#ThankyouGameFreak' crowd. [23]

Each main series Pokemon game has what's called a 'Regional Dex', which is a list containing every Pokemon that can be found in the game, and the 'National Dex' which contains every Pokemon ever made up to the date that game was published. Due to the large number of Pokemon, it isn't possible to catch every Pokemon ever made in one game. You have to transfer Pokemon from older games. In every game so far its been possible to do this. Some of the reasons that someone might want to transfer Pokemon from older games are: 1. Complete the National Dex and '-Catch Them All' as the series motto goes. 2. Some people have strong sentimental attachments to their Pokemon. 3. Shiny Pokemon are Pokemon with a different color scheme that are very, very rare and time-consuming to get, and therefore valuable. You only have roughly a ~1/8000 chance of randomly finding one. If you had a special monster that was competitive, wouldn't you want to be able to use it in the latest game?

On June 5th, the trailer for the new games, Sword and Shield came out and fan reactions were largely positive, although there was some criticism of the new Dynamaxing mechanic which is essentially the same Pokemon, but bigger and more powerful, replacing Mega-Evolutions which changed the forms of old Pokemon and made them more diverse. Then on June 11th, Nintendo Treehouse (E3) revealed the new graphics which looked bad but most importantly, that only Pokemon in Sword and Shield's Regional Dex would be coded into the game. This means that it would be impossible to transfer Pokemon into Sword and Shield that weren't already in the new games' Regional Dex. This was the straw that broke the Camel's back. Up to this point fans were used to not-so-great graphics, gimmicky mechanics, favorite features not being included in the new games... but in every single game in the franchise's twenty year history, there has always been a National Dex. This was a big deal.

The game's producer, Junichi Masuda, explained that there were nearly ~1,000 monsters in the game so far and eventually at some point, they would have to start making some cuts. So by cutting some of the Pokemon from the game, the company could focus their resources on making the graphics of the game better. That video ended up having a 21K/80K like-to-dislike ratio. The Pokemon Community didn't believe the reasons given for the cuts when the graphics were actually pretty bad, like this tree, which became the symbol of the graphics problem. Many fans felt that the recent Legend of Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, defined what graphics should look like on a non-handheld console. Another issue people took was the video of a certain bird Pokemon ("Wingull") flying around in the open world without even flapping its wings. To prove the community's point, one amateur animator made a far superior model in 24 hours, effectively demonstrating that the "extra resources dedicated to existing Pokemon" argument is utter bullshit. Another argument against the 'better graphics' argument is that it is well known that the models for the Pokemon were made 'future-proof' during the transition from 2D to 3D, so that they wouldn't have to reanimate them every time they released a new game. Additionally the tiny size (in terms of data) of Pokemon games in comparison to games such as Skyrim was also raised to reject the claim that 1000 Pokemon is too many for the Switch to handle. It didn't help that they raised the price from $40 to $60, for a huge drop in over-all quality. This all turned into a PR-nightmare for GameFreak as people on the Pokemon subreddit shitposted, vented, made memes, etc. This is when people referred to what was happening as 'Dexit' as a play on Brexit since England was the region the game was based on and Pokemon were leaving the series like England was leaving the EU. Above all this drama was the one, overarching question - Pokemon is the largest media franchise in the world, outstripping the likes of Star Wars and the MCU. Where, exactly, was all this revenue even going, if not to the games?

A small but significant portion of the fanbase were actually fine with the changes. Some of these fans felt they were being pressured by other fans to boycott the game. Another influential group, 'Poketubers', or Pokemon Youtubers, were making videos in support of Dexit to bring in views and watch-time so they could make more money off ad-revenue, which didn't help.

Then on June 28th, just as the outrage was beginning to simmer down, Mr. Masuda responded to the drama with the following message:

Thank you to all of our fans for caring so deeply about Pokémon. Recently, I shared the news that some Pokémon cannot be transferred to Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. I've read all your comments and appreciate your love and passion for Pokémon.

Just like all of you, we are passionate about Pokémon and each and every one of them is very important to us. After so many years of developing the Pokémon video games, this was a very difficult decision for me. I'd like to make one thing clear: even if a specific Pokémon is not available in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, that does not mean it will not appear in future games.

The world of Pokémon continues to evolve. The Galar region offers new Pokémon to encounter, Trainers to battle, and adventures to embark on. We are pouring our hearts into these games, and we hope you will look forward to joining us on this new journey.

Junichi Masuda

Needless to say the community did not respond well to this. A key take-away from this message however was that "-even if a specific Pokémon is not available in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, that does not mean it will not appear in future games." implies that the Pokemon games not having a National Dex would be a permanent feature (or lack thereof) going forward, which worried/pissed off Pokemon fans even more. Then it came out that GameFreak had assigned Pokemon to their B team, while their A team was working on their new project, Little Town Hero. Besides their best people not working on a beloved franchise, another insidious implication was why they were making this new game in the first place. The way their corporate organization is structured, Nintendo gets 33% of the profits, while the remaining 66% is split between GameFreak (the people who actually make the games) and The Pokemon Company. Assuming this is split evenly, that means that GameFreak only sees a third of the profits. From a business point of view, it would make more sense to establish more streams of revenue like Little Town Hero, where GameFreak would get 66% of the profits (if published under Nintendo) which is substantially more and if it became a franchise would offer GameFreak a safe stream of revenue if Pokemon were ever to go bust. Pokemon is well-known to be a franchise that always sells, and impacts the financial outcome of Nintendo's consoles. So GameFreak doesn't have to make Pokemon the best game it possibly can be. They can just release a shoddy game with just enough content to ship and package. Even with half of the beloved Pokemon cut from the game, Sword and Shield have proven to be the fastest selling Nintendo-Switch game, and having the most successful launch of any Pokemon game to date. Yet in the shadow of Pokemon's success, there exists a foul and corpulent devil, a symbol of Masuda's complacency and greed.

Miscellaneous[edit]

Other lesser known "controversies" include right to publicity infringement,[24] Nazism,[25][24] materialism,[26] and gambling.[27][15][note 3]

Other weirdness[edit]

In 2011, long after most people other than PETA had stopped complaining about the series, Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain killed his chances of being president (again) by quoting the theme song from the second Pokémon movie in a speech, referring to the writer for said line as "a poet".[28][note 4] Some analysts have noted that the decision might not have been as bold as many people thought; by then he had already lost most of his support, it was in fact his concession speech, and much like poor Kadabra he had already been accused of wearing the Number of the Beast.[29] Besides, Ronald Reagan lifted the phrases "evil empire" and "freedom fighters" straight out of the opening crawl of Star Wars...

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. In reality, only a couple of Pokémon have issues with battling.
  2. Their parody suggests that characters don't care about the well-being of their Pokémon, but in fact the player characters all do, and only villains are shown not caring for their Pokémon (with animated series protagonist Ash Ketchum suffering the most grievous character derailment of all the human characters, all for the sake of a shallow parody). This was in fact a plot point in the original Black and White games, proving that the PETA parody is obviously uninformed.
  3. Note that although the "gambling" (which actually involved game tokens and not the in-game character's money) was removed in the non-Japanese versions of HeartGold and SoulSilver, it was for the purpose of making it easier to release the games in Europe — for some reason the video game-rating system there is extremely strict when it comes to gambling references: after all, New Super Mario Bros. DS, in a later release for the Wii U's Virtual Console, received a 12+ rating from the European age rating board, comparable to a T-rated game. (In case you were wondering, the gambling machines were replaced with a card game that resembles a cross between Minesweeper and PicrossWikipedia, which the guy that wrote this can't stop playing.)
  4. If he wanted to be profound and quote Pokémon, he should've stuck with this line from Pokémon: the First Movie and villain Mewtwo: "I see now that the Circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are."

References[edit]

  1. Yet there have been a plethora of sheep Pokémon over the years: Mareep, Flaaffy and Whimsicott.
  2. Arceus, however, was goat-like. And also God. But stuck in a fence.
  3. Oh noes! It's Pikachu, Causing children to die be sent to the hospital!!
  4. Mikkelson, D. (August 8, 2007). "Pokeman Seizures".[sic] Snopes. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  5. Religious Objections to Pokémon
  6. "Christian perspective on Pokémon"
  7. The Dangers of Pokemon!
  8. 8.0 8.1 Pokemon: What is it?
  9. "The Danger of the Pokemon Fascination"
  10. Some fundamemtalists claim that if you backmask the Pokemon rap, you'll apparently get "I love Satan!"
  11. The concept of Pokemon "evolution" fully explained
  12. That's right, the Vatican said it: There is no Satanic brainwashing in Pokémon
  13. Leave it to the hivemind of the Internet to create a cult out of a bloody fossil.
  14. http://nichegamer.com/2016/02/03/hindus-are-pissed-that-krishna-is-in-shin-megami-tensei-iv-final/
  15. 15.0 15.1 Banned in Saudi Arabia, now I wonder if anyone have the guts to bring in Pokemon Platinum into the kingdom now.
  16. It is speculated that this is because the symbol for colorless energy in the spinoff trading card game resembles the Star of David.
  17. http://yugioh.wikia.com/wiki/Qli
  18. Question of the Month (September 2009): Racism and Pokemon, David Pilgrim, The Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State University
  19. http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_controversy
  20. If you really want to see it...
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/10/pokemon-go-players-banned-from-cambodia-genocide-museum Pokémon Go players banned from Cambodia genocide museum
  22. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7CYDTSDjA0
  23. https://www.reddit.com/r/HobbyDrama/comments/c9to6e/pokemon_dexit_or_the_pokemon_are_removed_from/
  24. 24.0 24.1 Uri Geller sues Pokemon, claiming it defames his name!
  25. See here, keep in note that the swastika (or manji as the Japanese call it) have a completely different meaning and it's not always associated to Nazism.
  26. Pokemon the Movie: 2000, Pop Matters
  27. Lawsuit Slams Pokemon as Bad Bet for Addicted Kids
  28. We have to link to this again.
  29. 999 is awfully close to...