N asks:

Are bad dads a constant in the Pokémon Universe? Like i can’t remember for the life of me a single good father in the franchise. Hell, the entire plot of the Detective pickachu movie hinges on a son being unable to recognize his own father’s voice.

Well, I can think of… a couple of good dads: Professor Birch, in Ruby and Sapphire, seems to have a very strong relationship with his child, May/Brendan (whichever one isn’t the player character), while Norman, the player character’s father, is away all the time because he works in a different city but seems like a decent enough parent when we actually get to see him.  Bianca’s dad in Black and White… doesn’t really “get it,” but he’s at least trying not to be a $#!tty dad.

There is a standard explanation for this one, and there will always be one person who brings it up, which is: “absent fathers are a theme in Japanese fiction because Japanese fathers work 500 hours a day and are never around.”  That’s… true, and it explains a lot of the $#!ttiness of many Pokémon fathers – like Palmer in Diamond and Pearl being so distant from Barry, or Hau’s unnamed father in Sun and Moon being off in Kanto somewhere doing god knows what.  I think a lot of it really is just Pokémon’s own priorities, though, and a general lack of interest in the families of the player or other major characters (it would be fair to say, I think that the plots of these games are not what you’d call “character-driven”).  Like… fathers who are absent or distant because they work all the time are also a theme of American fiction; American fiction has practically created entire genres out of emotionally stunted men’s obsession with their $#!tty father figures.  But that’s not what the fathers of Pokémon’s main characters are like; they’re just not there, with no explanation and no relevance to anything.  Plenty of other characters have fathers who clearly exist, even if they’re not around very much or aren’t very good parents.  It’s also fairly common for both parents to be equally absent (as in Brock and Misty’s cases; I don’t think we ever meet Hau’s mother either).  I think the presence of the main character’s mother in each game is, in most cases, something of an admission that, at a bare minimum, it would be weird for a child to grow up completely alone.

Anonymous asks:

What did you think of the change to Lusamine’s motivations in USUM? I kind of preferred her SM version, but that’s mostly because Lillie telling her why she was wrong was Lillie’s best moment to me.

Iiiiiiiiii have mixed feelings.  I don’t want to go into it in too much detail now because a full article on Lusamine and the Aether Foundation is on my to-do list for after I finish my Pokémon reviews, but I think both versions of Lusamine’s story get at aspects of her character the writers wanted to show.  There’s an argument that a better writer would have been able to do that with a single cohesive plotline rather than two alternate versions, but I think there’s also an argument that showing how the same character’s story could have progressed in two different ways as a result of fairly minor changes in circumstance is kind of interesting – we’ve seen Lusamine both as the story’s primary villain and as an arguably heroic supporting character, and each portrayal is true to the other.  I quite like the anime’s characterisation of Lusamine and its portrayal of her experiences with Nihilego in Ultra Space, but unfortunately it doesn’t get Lillie’s fantastic “the reason you suck” speech either.

Analytic Mareep asks:

One thing I’ve noticed about Bianca and Cheren: Bianca always ends up being the more useful of the pair. In the Relic Castle sequence, Cheren just tags along behind you, ultimately adding nothing to the situation. Bianca, meanwhile, gets ahold of Juniper–which turns out to be really important since they find the dark/light stone. In the Elite Four sequence, the same thing happens. Cheren tags along and beats the Elite Four as well (not contributing much of anything to your predicament) while Bianca rounds up all the Gym Leaders (who save your ass). I think this was probably intentional, and it sheds light on how the writers wanted us to view Bianca and Cheren.

Hmm.  I think that’s a little unfair to Cheren; he does fight alongside you against Team Plasma on multiple occasions, and fighting usually makes up most of the player’s contribution to advancing the plot.  And I don’t… think Bianca is responsible for getting Professor Juniper involved in looking for the Dark/Light Stone, or at least I don’t believe anyone ever says that’s what she’s doing.  I’d be more inclined to assume that that was the elder Professor Juniper, who is present at the Dragonspiral Tower when the player confronts N, and works together with his daughter to identify the stone.  There is a general point to be made about Bianca and Cheren as foils to each other, though.  The early part of the game kind of sets up Cheren as more organised, more ambitious, a better trainer, more… well, frankly, more competent, whereas Bianca doesn’t really know what she’s doing or what she wants.  Over the course of the game, though, Cheren comes to realise (through Alder’s example) that his ambitions are basically hollow, leaving him somewhat listless at the end of the story; Bianca, on the other hand, grows into herself, figures out what she wants to do with her life, and becomes a researcher.  She’s ultimately the one who comes out of it with a stronger conception of her own goals and identity.  I think the message is supposed to be about taking time to explore life, and figure out what your goals are gradually and organically, rather than focusing on the single-minded pursuit of just one aim in the belief that it will complete you as a person (Cheren actually credits Bianca, as well as the player, Alder and N, with helping him realise this).

N asks:

What would be the biggest culture shocks for someone that comes from the world of Pokémon to ours?

listen if you’re thinking of making the move I don’t recommend it

but… well, I’m gonna guess the absence of Pokémon would be the big one, to be honest.

People in the Pokémon world rely on their Pokémon for all kinds of things, and it often seems like it’s kind of unusual to be a person who doesn’t care about Pokémon and isn’t in any capacity involved with Pokémon.  Like, in the real world, telling someone you don’t have pets is not a big deal.  In the Pokémon world, sure, not everyone is a trainer exactly, but almost everyone has Pokémon in their lives in some capacity, maybe as pets or co-workers or even spiritual advisors.  How big a change this is might depend on when and where you landed – people in real rural societies do “live with animals” in a fairly meaningful sense, while urbanites tend to be largely oblivious of even the animals we eat (and actually, this is a total tangent but my IRL friend Flint Dibble, who is a zooarchaeologist, talks a lot about this stuff on Twitter and is very good at making compelling stories of his work).  Of course, maybe then the culture shock is “you eat your animals!?” (but then, are we so sure they don’t eat Pokémon too?).  They would probably be confused at how far animals, other than pets, are kept at arms’ length in their involvement in modern society – and might think that we must be very disconnected from nature on account of that.

The dependence of children on their parents is probably the other big thing.  In the Pokémon world, it’s generally seen as pretty safe for kids to travel on their own if they have Pokémon, who can provide both protection and emotional support.  Adults are not necessarily better trainers than children either, so Pokémon are a big equalising factor in the face of any dangers you might face.  In the absence of that security and freedom, modern childhood (even modern life in general) in the real world would probably seem stifling.

jeffthelinguist asks:

I think you might have mentioned in another answer that you will cover this in a later article, but in case you aren’t going to… can we get your thoughts on the Rainbow Rocket thing that happened in Smoon? Like… I’ve no idea if it’s considered canon (though what even would canon be in Pokémon anymore?) but your speciality is overly dissecting implied lore in these games and, as much as Rainbow Rocket feels like a fan fiction (I mean it pretty much is one)… well I’m curious what you have to say about RR both in terms of your reactions and how you think it affects the world building here. Please be as pokemaniacal as possible!

This actually is on the list of things I plan to write full articles on after finishing the last few gen VI Pokémon, along with, uh… Team Skull/Guzma, the Aether Foundation/Lusamine, Lillie/Hau/Gladion, the player as Champion, maybe something Z-move-related… oh, and one of my Patreon supporters suggested doing something on the Alolan trial culture (which frankly is peak Pokémaniacal nonsense and something I will absolutely do).  But yeah, the whole Team Rainbow Rocket thing is… well, it… I mean, I like nostalgia fuel as much as the next millennial, but I don’t understand it at all.  Giovanni is a mob boss who ran an illegal casino – he’s actually in some ways the smallest-scale villain Pokémon’s ever had – but out of nowhere they’ve turned him into this comic book supervillain whose sheer overwhelming malice has bound every other villain in Pokémon history to his will, in order to… well, honestly I’m not even sure, but to conquer the multiverse, I guess???

I say all this now; often when I actually sit down to write a full-length article about something I start to discover things that I actually like about it and make it worthwhile, and can no longer bring myself to outright condemn it, so I guess we’ll find out, but right now I think the most valuable thing about the whole incident is that We, The Gays now own Team Rocket because rainbows (I don’t make the tea; I just serve it).

N asks:

I don’t get why the Pokémaniac Npc’s are called that way in the game. They seem to be as obsessed with Pokémon as anyone else in the games. What do you think is the reason they get this moniker? Pokemaniacs rise up!

This is kind of an interesting one, because in Japanese they’re not called Pokémaniacs.  They’re actually called かいじゅう(kaijū, or “monster”)マニア(mania, a transliteration of the English “maniac”).  Kaijū is also the name of the Monster egg group – the group that includes most ground-dwelling reptilian Pokémon that are not Dragons, a definition presumably influenced by the Japanese kaijū movie genre and its most famous star, Godzilla.  So they’re actually not obsessed with Pokémon per se; they’re obsessed with a particular group of Pokémon, almost always use Pokémon from that group and, starting in generation III, regularly cosplay as Pokémon from that group (they also tend to hang out in very out-of-the-way places, often in caves).  Of course, when the first Pokémon games were translated into English back in 1998, we didn’t have egg groups yet because the breeding mechanics were only introduced in generation II (released in Japan in 1999).  So some poor translator, who’d been told that “Pokémon” derives from the English “Pocket Monster,” probably read kaijū mania literally as “monster maniac,” thought “oh, this means someone obsessed with Pocket Monsters” and decided that “Pokémaniac” sounded better in English.  It wouldn’t have helped that the first two generations’ Pokémaniac sprites (see my avatar at the top of the page) look more like mad scientists than cosplayers.  Of course, I’ve only been learning Japanese for about six weeks, and I’ve been writing under the name “Pokémaniac Chris” on a blog called “Pokémaniacal” with a generation II Pokémaniac as my avatar for eight years, so there’s an argument I might have missed the window to back out on that one.  And anyway, to me, my Pokémaniac avatar represents the heart and soul of what this blog ought to be: pointing boldly forward into the unknown, with a wild-eyed grin, Pokéball at the ready, and a billowing cape just to add that subtle touch of “escaped cultist.”

Shauna asks:

Do you think Hau could be the “official” (non-player) champion of Alola? Would that even be a good direction for his characterization? And what the heck even happened to his dad, anyway…?

If you’re asking for, like, a prediction or something… what would that even mean?  Does Alola need an “official” Champion?  What for?  The idea of making the player the Champion was pretty cool and made Alola’s endgame unique, and I think that for Game Freak to canonically designate an NPC as the “real” Champion instead would undermine that.  But purely in terms of how being Champion might affect Hau’s characterisation… well, funnily enough this is kind of the direction I tried to explore in the epilogue to my narrative playthrough journal of Moon version, where I imagined my character trying to prepare Hau for exactly that future.  So, read that and see what you think, I guess?

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