Pokémon is more than a successful game, it’s a successful media franchise. No matter how you look at it, the games are only a part of the reason that the franchise is successful. Its anime series, now in its 13th season, is an integral part of the formula for Pokemon’s success. Here’s why…
We all want to be the very best. The increase of competitive gaming proves this. The journey from child to adult is an integral theme for the series. Whether it is Ash and his attempts to rise to the top of the Pokémon League, or May and her attempts to become a world-class coordinator, the characters work as a stand-in for our desires to succeed. The characters, while in a fantasy world, still feel down to Earth. We’ve all known an Ash, a Misty, a Brock, or a Dawn. It’s through these characters that we allow ourselves to experience the Pokémon world.
Yeah, the characters may be relatable, but the world portrayed in the anime is amazing. There may be some small amount of crime and exploitation, but the Pokémon world is a lot closer to a utopia than the world we live in. There’s a free, centralized system of health care and a dedicated police squad that exists to help people. Corruption is almost non-existent. On top of all this, there are hundreds of monsters who exist just to fight each other for your enjoyment. Anyone can rise to the top of the Pokémon world. While there are similarities to the real world, the Pokémon world portrayed in the anime just has those elements that make us want to go there, to live there.
Unresolved Sexual Tension
More prominent at the beginning of the series, the tension between Ash and Misty spoke to many of us who grew up with the show. Granted, there’s no canon pairing of those two, the show producers not wishing to focus on romantic relationships of the main characters. However, if you’re a diehard fan of the show, you’ve probably got Ash set up with someone in your mind. This “UST” is probably one of the things that still makes the show accessible as you get older. Maybe one day Ash will finally admit his feelings for (insert other character’s name here), but until then we’re free to fight over exactly why our “one true pairing” is correct.
We get very little about the Pokémon in the games. Oh sure, they’re captured and some only live in one place, and the Pokédex has a helpful blurb about each of them. But when you break it all down, in the games Pokémon are pieces of data with stats that make them good against some Pokémon and worse against others. The anime boldly confronts this fact and spits in its face. Pokémon are living, breathing creatures that are all different. The anime does a great job of humanizing these lumps of data and making them more than just numbers and a sprite.
Always Another Adventure
There’s always something else to take on in the Pokémon world. Ash travels the world trying to better himself and become the very best. There’s never a point when he has completed everything. He’s never going to have an Alexander the Great moment where he becomes the best and knows there is nothing else to aspire to. Pokémon shows us that there’s always something on the horizon to look to. Maybe we flunked that French test or totally struck out with that cute girl, but its all just one step on our continuing journey. Ash represents in us that desire to keep going no matter what.
It’s Ok To Suck
Watching some of the early episode can be borderline painful. Try watching Ash bumble his way through the first season, when he knows next to nothing and gets many of his badges thanks to pity and luck more than anything else. Now he’s a pretty competent trainer, though he does continually run into trainers who are better than him, but that’s why we get a new character every couple of seasons. It’s a reminder that it’s ok to start out knowing nothing. We all have to start somewhere, and unless we’re some kind of savant, it’s highly unlikely we’ll instantly be great in any pursuit. Pokémon reminds us of this fact without preaching or forcing it down our throats, and sometimes we just need to be reminded.
There are many other reasons to love the series. I’m sure that you may have one or two of your own. Feel free to share in the comments. We’d love to hear why you love– or even hate– the Pokémon anime series.