It’s not that the entire franchise is based around foisting cheap plastic toys and video games on undisciplined parents who refuse to say no. If that were true I’d have a beef with every cartoon series launched between the 1970s onward. It’s not that the series, after twenty-two years in production, has exhausted the premise of children collecting colourful monsters in a make-believe sport. It’s not that the Pokémon Company plays it so loose with the licensing that they’d make Walt Disney blush. It’s that the whole damn organization is built on a plain of sand.
I was twelve when the franchise was first brought to North America in '96. In my own community, the television series was the vanguard of this cultural revolution. Gameboy’s Red and Blue were still a couple years out. The trading cards would wait on advantageous corporate partnerships before reaching Canadian cafeteria tables and playground pavement. This then, is maybe why I am less inclined to enjoy the pop culture artifact than my younger millennials peers; as Pokémon’s weakest leg lies, by a large margin, in the anime series. Perhaps if I was born a few years later, and been fully immersed in the movement I might have been more inclined to enjoy the series.
What is so terrible about Ashe’s adventure on screen to become pokémon master? If I were to make a checklist of all the terrible things creators can do when crafting a children’s cartoon series I’d end up with a lot of checkmarks on that list. Shallowly written characters -check. Terrible drawing –check. Annoying voice actors –check. Cheap animations and transitions –check. Bad art design –check. There are some exceptions however, the pokémon themselves are often drawn and animated well, this is to be expected considering they are the driving point of merchandise, but it doesn’t help when their actions are on a background of neon intestinal lining in strobe. It’s like the Pokémon Company decided that they would take all the lessons, knowledge and technique that had been developed since the 1960s Speed Racer, throw that in a garbage bin, and light it on fire. This is what grinds my gears so much. Pokémon, for many, is their first experience with Japanese animation, and its poor quality will turn away swaths of people. Those creepy, unrealistic, vertical eyes staring out into nothingness cannot be erased from history.
My peers at the time were split between YTV adherents, and those of us more focused on their burdening puberty. I myself fell into the second category. This meant that my experience with the clash between Pokémon and Digimon was a tertiary one at best. Even watching the two out of the corner of my eye, hanging out at friend’s houses, while I thought about the girls in my class, I could tell which was the better production. Digimon’s art was far superior, they even managed to incorporate cutting-edge CGI. The characters were well developed, and I didn’t feel like stabbing my ear with a pencil when they talked.
Truly Pokémon is evidence of the marketing adage, first-mover advantage, where the first product to market gains the largest piece regardless of quality. Pokémon is the McDonald’s of pop culture; lots of people enjoy McDonald’s. In this case, I want something of better quality.
Tristan is a level six wizard imbued with an enchanted Staff of Intelligence. The charming hybrid of punk, geek, and hippie culture. An avid writer, and even more avid reader. His focus covers topics like pop culture, history, politics, gaming, and science fiction.