One lunatic's love-hate relationship with the Pokémon franchise, and his addled musings on its rights, wrongs, ins and outs. Come one, come all, and indulge my delusions of grandeur as I inflict my opinions on anyone within shouting distance.
I think we should start 2021 with a weird curiosity, don’t you?
I’ve been reading the excellent book Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination by Anne Allison (2006), which has two chapters on Pokémon (and one on tamagotchi, arguably Pokémon’s immediate spiritual predecessor). In discussing Pokémon’s place within modern Japanese history and culture, Allison cites a very early Pokémon strategy guide, published in Japanese in 1996 (and never in English, as far as I know) and titled simply ポケットモンスター図鑑 (poketto monsutā zukan, or “Pocket Monster Illustrated Guide”). This book has all the things you’d normally expect of a strategy guide, like game maps and encounter tables, but also has some developer interviews and a short section on the history of the Pokémon world. I haven’t laid hands on a copy of this book myself, nor would I be confident enough in my Japanese to translate it myself, but Allison’s summary certainly includes some points that Pokémon fans today might find… eyebrow-raising.
well, it was only a matter of time before I found an excuse to talk about Pokémon for an academic conference
Trinity History Con is an annual conference on intersections of science and pop culture, run out of Trinity College Dublin. It’s been in-person previously, but is all online this year, for… obvious reasons… so the presentations are all on YouTube. And I submitted one! My co-writer and presenter here is Elena Romero Passerin, who’s doing a PhD at St. Andrews (where Jim the Editor did his PhD) on the history of biology in early modern Europe, specifically botanical gardens in the 17th and 18th centuries. We talk in this video about the “collector” mindset of enlightenment naturalists, the involvement of non-professionals in scientific research, the utopian ideals of western science, and Pokémon’s place as a cheerleader for environmentalism and life sciences. We put a lot of work into it, so I hope you enjoy it!
also, if you’ve watched any of Jim’s Final Fantasy streams you will have heard my voice by now, but for most readers this will be the first time you’ve seen my face (albeit in a tiny corner thumbnail), so get ready to be blown away by my sheer on-screen charisma
If you have ever made the dreadful mistake of paying attention to my Twitter feed, which you should be able to see in the sidebar on the right side of my main page, you may have seen instructions for cooking and eating several Pokémon. These are my submissions to a podcast I listen to, I Chews You, where the hosts compete each week to come up with the most appetising and creative recipes for cooking a predetermined species of Pokémon (because I think we all know deep down that, just as Pokémon are smarter and more powerful than real animals, they also taste better). I’m normally not really a podcast person at all – it’s just not a format I particularly enjoy – but Pokémon and food represent a… very specific combination of my interests that don’t normally intersect. I Chews You is nothing intense or super-analytical, just good relaxing fun and generally pretty zany: four friends chatting about Pokémon and food, $#!t-talking each other and, for some reason that I honestly think even they have forgotten, discussing the pros and cons of La Croix sparkling water.
Anyway, I thought it would be nice to have all my recipes in one place, where they might provide some passing amusement to any of my readers who haven’t come across them before. If you enjoy these, maybe give I Chews You a listen, and if your own creative juices are stimulated, you can always send in your own recipes (on Twitter to @ichewspod or by e-mail to email@example.com) for their Wailord’s Mail Hoard segment. I usually submit something each week, and it’d be nice to hear someone from my own audience join in now and again.
okay, we just had a thing, let’s talk about the thing
anyone who hasn’t watched the Pokémon Direct broadcast and wants to watch it for themselves, or just wants to not watch it and wait for Sword and Shield, stay out, ’cause I’m going to be talking about the thing
Now, I’m sure you’ve all
been waiting with baited breath for Chris’ thoughts on Detective Pikachu; well,
I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that Chris has a very long post – so long that it might turn out to be 2 posts – with all the thoughts he can muster about the long-awaited live-action Pokémon adaptation.
The bad news is that there
were some minor structural issues I had with the draft and Chris has begrudgingly
agreed to make a few changes here and there to ensure that we put out only the
best content for all of you.
In the meantime, because
we promised Detective Pikachu content today, we decided to give you all a
special Jim the Editor post containing my 5 favourite scenes from the movie!
Look, the raw, unvarnished truth is that I think all hype is dumb and everyone should just sit down, shut up, and wait for the movie in an unfurnished stone cell in perfect, motionless silence without eating, drinking or breathing. But I guess that’s the kind of attitude that people around me are always calling “not normal” or “disturbingly aloof” or “please put down that Necronomicon,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. I’ll just have to say something and get on the record as being just as wrong and dumb as everyone else.
So, recently I read this article from the New York Times Magazine about the growing evidence for a precipitous decline in global insect populations over the last couple of decades, a phenomenon that has gone largely unnoticed until quite recently (except as it pertains to a few species we care about, like honeybees) because insects are just so hard to count. Because the available data is still quite limited, it’s hard to draw detailed conclusions about what’s happening, how fast, and how we can stop it, though it seems like a good bet that global climate change and indiscriminate use of pesticides are probably both involved.
Now, to most well-informed people this is clearly part of the ongoing social, political and technological crisis around humanity’s relationship with the natural environment of our planet, and probably brings to mind any number of ecological catastrophes brought about by human agency, the debate over what kind of action is necessary to prevent or mitigate similar catastrophes in the future, and so on and so forth. But for me, as a lifelong Pokémon fan with an analytical bent and a more-than-passing interest in Pokémon’s origins, my mind went instead to the childhood hobby that Satoshi Tajiri dreamed of sharing with children who couldn’t experience it in an increasingly hyper-urbanised Japan: insect collecting. The people who collected the data that sounded the alarm to the scientific community, and allowed this article to be written, are people like Tajiri might have grown up to be, in another life: amateur collectors who, for the most part, aren’t professional scientists, but still do the hard work of science while receiving little of the glory, all for the love of bugs. They are real-world Pokédex compilers, whose contributions don’t depend on exhaustive formal education or sophisticated experiments, but on the foundational scientific skills of observation and curiosity. Their work is Pokémon’s spiritual heritage… and everything they study is slowly dying.
And I’m not sure if Pokémon has the capacity or even the desire to pass meaningful comment on it.
In lieu of a Pokémon review (because what even is my life right now, arghghghl; next weekend my students are handing in essays and I have to write an exam for the week after that), here is a message log with a conversation between me and Jim the Editor about game balance in Pokémon (and elsewhere). This is the kind of thing I might post regularly to a Patreon page, if I ever actually create one? So, comments would be useful.