Spotlight Series: Ethics of Pokémon Training

Hey everyone! Jim the Editor once more (I know, twice in one week is a bit excessive but hey there’s a lot going on…). This time I’m here with the second entry into our Spotlight Series, where Chris and I go back into the archives in order to rediscover articles from the rather immense back catalogue here on In doing so we hope not only to introduce some of the more recent additions to our little community here to the work we – mostly Chris – have done in the past 8 years but also to add a little commentary to those posts which are by now nearly three generations out of date.

Last time we went right back to the origins of the blog and revisited Chris’ Unova Reviews. This time we are taking a more thematic approach by delving into the collection of posts and articles devoted to the somewhat problematic topic of the Ethics of Pokémon training.


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Jim the Editor asks:

How does the use of pokeballs by oranguru and their inherent empathy impact the pokemon training as enslavement argument?

So this is something that came up while Jim and I were proofing the Oranguru review, and frankly that was long enough already, so we decided it would be better to publish this separately in question-and-answer format. I haven’t talked directly about the whole Pokémon-and-slavery “thing” in a while, so to summarise my “standard” views on the subject (which are, of course, anything but standard): Continue reading “Jim the Editor asks:”

Anonymous asks:

Can you PLEASE talk about why Pokemon aren’t slaves? I’m tired of that being thrown at Pokemon as an insult.

You probably want to start here – my “Ethics of Pokémon Training” is by a fair margin the most popular thing I’ve ever written.  I essentially try to argue here that the act of catching a Pokémon represents a sort of ritualised contract that is made between a Pokémon and a trainer, and that this contract can be broken by either party.  You can also read this, where I compare Pokémon to professional gladiators and Greek teachers and doctors under the Roman Empire, who were technically slaves but in some cases got a pretty good deal out of it.  See also here, here and here.

Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Anonymous asks:

What do you think of the comment going around the internet about James actually being the best Trainer in the anime, because he actually asks and/or invites his Pokémon to join him? What do you think that says about his character?

Well, I don’t know about best necessarily, but he definitely has a lot going for him!  We don’t actually see how a lot of his Pokémon join him, but off the top of my head, Yamask, Mime Jr., Cacnea and Inkay all come along because he shows them kindness (and Yamask is particularly interesting because it shows that James retains this trait even during the Unova series, when he and Jessie are portrayed in a much more sinister manner than at other times).  I probably see this somewhat differently to a lot of people because I think Pokémon usually choose their trainers, to an extent – the battle is a test, of sorts; ultimately Pokémon are captured when they feel they’ve found a trainer who will make them stronger.  I think the fact that James doesn’t do things this way speaks to his very unassertive personality – next to the domineering Jessie and Meowth he sometimes seems outright wimpy, but he also ends up being the closest thing their group has to a voice of reason sometimes, because he’s not so concerned with imposing his will on others.  Winning a Pokémon’s respect by defeating it in battle, as most trainers tend to do, probably seems needlessly confrontational to him.  This kind of approach sets a different tone for how he interacts with his Pokémon, because they’re not necessarily joining him to grow stronger by fighting for him; they’re joining him for more of a mutual protection/benefit arrangement.  The result is probably a degree of equality that we don’t normally see between trainers and Pokémon – though of course James is still nominally in charge.