Pokemon Diamond & Pearl

The world of Pokémon constitutes one of the largest multimedia franchises in history. The series, created by Satoshi Tajiri, spans numerous video games, comic books (manga), animated series (anime), films, and merchandising. It has become a mainstay for Nintendo’s popular handheld platforms, having its inaugural run on the Game Boy. The Pokémon series raises a number of thematic questions which range from ethics to artistic representation. These questions are rarely addressed in social commentary or review of the games. If any criticism is made of the games at all, industry journalists call it childish, and mainstream journalists and pundits decry it for its addictive hold on young people. Those obvious and boring arguments aside, nobody has really taken a close look at the themes and issues raised in this series.

Animal Cruelty

The most obvious issue with this series stems from the fact that it involves capturing and raising animals for the sole purpose of battling other animals. While the animations are antiseptic and have no blood, no contact, and no visible wounds, the actions taken include a myriad of harmful acts. Many fan-made collateral materials, like comic strips, depict how brutal many of these battles would become were they real. Some of the Pokémon are small and defenseless, while others are very large and fierce.

The game goes a long way to reinforce its friendly image despite this barbaric central focus. The animals never die. They “faint” when sufficiently wounded and can be revived at clinics which pepper the map. Even so, an ethical crisis exists in a world where animals are captured and bred for to fight other animals. Bear baiting, dog and cock fighting, and other sports are expressly considered forms of animal cruelty. Were Pokémon real, the system of battling and capturing that exists in the game would be expressly illegal.

This, however, is just a game. No matter how many overpaid pundits wish to promote their slanted causes, no children are going to capture animals and attempt to make them fight in competitive tournaments. It is highly unlikely that organized dog fighting has spiked because of this series. The characters in the related media, like the anime, share powerful bonds with their animals, and treat them as close friends. It would not be possible to pass off Pokémon as children’s programming without doing that.

Team Work

One aspect of the Pokémon series is the idea of building strong teams. As mentioned in previous articles, this theme reinforces the notion that building strong teams, or families, is the key to success. The more well rounded and collectively strong a unit is, the more success it will have in future endeavors. This is evident in the Pokémon series as the player captures, or trades, to build strong dedicated teams which can thrive in any circumstance.

Systems Dynamics

Another aspect of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl is the sense that everything works as part of a plexus. The game pushes the player to build not just a strong team, but a diverse team. Pokémon all exhibit a series of “types.” These types, usually elemental, include fire, water, grass, ghost, psychic, steel, and ice. Every type has drawbacks, strengths, vulnerabilities, and special features. Building a strong team means being able to defend against every type and being able to launch successful attacks against every type. In this way, the player must grow to understand that since one can only use six characters at one time, it is imperative that their team include robust characters which can counteract anything they may encounter. A team may thrive against a horde of bug-type Pokémon, but may flounder against a powerful ghost-type. The facts and details of this system take a common sense “rock/paper/scissors” approach (fire defeats grass, grass defeats water, water defeats fire), but demands the player learn and acknowledge that there are strengths and weaknesses to all things. Furthermore, some Pokémon exhibit more than one type and can defy standard type weaknesses.

Utopia & Dystopia

Finally, this series draws from a common utopian paradigm. In the game’s universe, the player controls a child who roams around the country, hunting animals and talking to strangers and defeating evil corporations. In reality, no country on Earth is arguably safe enough for children to roam around free. This format is compelling game play, but defies common childhood mantras like “don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t feed the animals.” This appears to be a common theme in children’s literature. Children appreciate characters they can relate to, other children, which are placed in adult situations without real world dangers.

Japan’s society is known for honoring loyalty to the corporation. This is as paramount as similar feelings towards family or country. Yet every Pokémon title thus far features an evil corporation bent on leveraging power over the region. This time, it is Team Galactic. In style with their counterparts from previous games, the workers or “grunts” from this company wear matching outlandish uniforms and sport unusual hairstyles. Their crimes include wanton destruction of public property, racketeering, attempted blackmail, theft, and illegal experiments on animals. Again, this is just a game. However, it is very interesting that a country so caught up in corporate culture would so vilify the corporation in every installation of this game thus far. At the center of Team Galactic is a man named Cyrus, embittered since youth, he seeks to bring destruction upon a world he does not understand. This is a fairly common theme in anime, and it has been seen before in this series

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