The Pokéfriends

A look at the remarkable ties that Pokémon builds between people!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/17/2014 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

It goes without saying, but siblings don’t always get along.

When it comes to my sister Angela and I, we’re are no exception. We’ve had our fair share of disagreements over the years, some leading to long and barren days of no communication, to small little flair ups that fizzle out after a couple of minutes. We’re human beings, what can I say; we don’t always see eye to eye. Still, a lot of brothers and sisters have different sorts of relationships, from cold and combative, to extremely warm and close. I think of Angela as my friend, and a lot of the reason for that is owed to… Pokémon.

Angela would come home from school every day and, without fail, watch the Pokémon TV show. We didn’t grow up in a big home, and there was only ever one television in the house, so she and I would often find ourselves together in the front room while our dad sat in the kitchen reading his newspaper. Angela would control the airwaves, but I was not a fan of her choice of Pokémon. At least, that’s what past-Robert would say, refusing to acknowledge the series as anything more than cutesy fluff. Yet, every day, just like Angela, I’d sit and watch Pokémon with her.

Angela’s Pikachu doll, in the living fuzz!

I didn’t have to watch it with Angela, but I did anyway. Ash, Misty, and Brock, on an endless quest to see Ash become a Pokémon master. What started innocently enough with the show gave way to an outright obsession after a scant few weeks. My sister and I were inseparable, despite being a few years apart in age (I’m the eldest), so even though I didn’t “like” Pokémon, Angela did, and it was fun to experience it together. One day in the summer, though, something special happened. Swimming in the pool in my grandma’s backyard, my aunt came home from work with a surprise for Angela. From a large Kay Bee Toys bag, mounted to a red cardboard base and staring ahead with an impenetrable smile on its face was a stuffed Pikachu doll. My sister practically exploded with glee, while I found myself entirely nonplused. That would change fairly quickly.

With its squishy body and big head, the Pikachu doll was irresistibly cute. It didn’t truly look like the Pikachu on the cartoon, but it had a charm that was virtually immutable. Angela had owned a number of “favorite” stuffed animals, including a Woody doll from Burger King and an Exxon stuffed tiger (named Tiger), but Pikachu supplanted them all with an unrivaled swiftness. He went everywhere with her. Everywhere. He also became a part of whatever nonsense we got up to with our other toys. From the basic cries of “Pika Pika!” came a voice and personality all its own, molded by both Angela and my own personality.


It went on that way for years. Pikachu, the stalwart travel companion! Time and wear eventually took its toll on the doll, however. The white pupils on its eyes were rubbed off and re-painted on a handful of times, until it was settled upon by Angela that Pikachu had more personality without the pale dots. Its tag shredded into fine strands of fabric, the face darkened by endless presses and manipulations, so much so that the washing machine finally stopped putting a noticeable dent in the doll’s accumulation of dirt after a certain point. Its cheek is ripped. Some of the fuzz is mottled and even missing. Pikachu’s a mess. But he’s Angela’s mess. And mine.

Pikachu represents such a huge chunk of both Angela’s and my childhood that it’s hard to think of the thing as a mere doll. It feels more appropriate to refer to it as a stuffed time capsule, a menagerie of memories and in-jokes that wouldn’t make sense to anyone but the two of us. Heck, there are certain turns of phrase that the two of us still use that originated from that Pikachu doll! That’s what Pokémon does in general, though: it unites people. Pokémon is more than a game, or a TV show, or a merchandise empire. It’s more than the sum of its parts. Pokémon is defined by what its players and fans make of it for themselves.

Whether it’s naming one of the pocket monsters after a beloved character or pet, reenacting battles with the toys, reading the comics, or just wandering around the various games’ sprawling worlds, the act of engaging with Pokémon is often an incredibly personal experience. What’s more, these experiences are very often shared by the nature of Pokémon in general. The social aspect of the series is integral to it, with fans trading Pokémon, cards, and even toys, forming bonds and connections as a result. Pokémon is much about the individual as the community, and it’s a big part of what makes it so special.

For my sister and I, though, Pokémon is something that added to our bond as friends. My memories of weekday afternoons are flecked with images of Jessie and James failing their mission, Brock turning to goo at the sight of every woman who crossed his path, or just seeing Angela plopped at the foot of the couch with her pink Game Boy Color in hand, playing the games. Or even better, going through her voluminous collection of Pokémon cards (I can’t even describe how epic it is; she’s got an entire binder devoted to just holographics, for crying out loud!). My favorite memories, though, come from that Pikachu doll, and its squished face, ragged body, and fading fur. Pokémon strengthened a friendship I value above all else, and it’s one of the many reasons that Nintendo is my favorite video game company in the world.

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