|PLUS - game
collecting is a hobby few can share," Shonen Knife once sang, but Pokemon creator
Tajiri Satoshi begs to differ. His childhood memories of looking for stag beetles and
fireflies in fields long since concreted over led to the basic collect, train, and fight
premise of Pokemon. Like bugs, Tajiri' creations also metamorphose from young to adult
but are far more visually appealing, of course.
The world of Pocket Monster is a largely rural one, with the cities given poetic names
like Viridian City, Cerulean City and Pallet Town. The monsters roam wild in the lakes and
the forests between the cities, and the boys and girls who hunt and collect them are known
The Pocket Monster cast is headed by Satoshi, known in the US as Ash Ketchum, a
ten-year-old boy whose dream is to be the greatest Pokemon trainer in the world. His
sidekick is Pikachu, the monster now known to millions as the cute yellow thing with the
lightning-fork tail, whose ability is to stun its opponents with electric shocks.
He is guided on his quest by the friendly sensei figure Professor Oak, and accompanied by
his friends (and sometimes rivals) Brock, Gary and Misty. The villains of the piece are
Team Rocket, always scheming to grab the glory for themselves - and always failing,
tripped up by their own selfishness, naturally.
It would be impossible here to list all of the monsters, but they are divided into
categories based on the properties of terrestrial animals or plants, and when caught, most
evolve onto their mature forms, which makes them more formidable fighters. There are water
types, rock types, bug types, and electrical types (of which Pikachu is one).
Some are hybrids of two types, such as the bug/grass monster Paras, and its adult form
Parasect, looking like a giant mushroom which scuttles around on long claws and two
fearsome pincers. There are several bug/poison hybrids, clearly based on predatory plants
such as pincer plants and Venus fly traps.
Grimer has the ecologically sound ability to consume toxic sludge (yes, there are
environment problems in the Pokemon universe!) but evolves into the disgusting and highly
toxic Muk. The absurdly named Wigglytuff, by contrast, looks harmless, but its psychic
"Sing Attack" can hypnotize the unwary.
Some do not evolve at all, such as the machine-like Magneton. Instead, they bond together
in threes to form the electrically-charged Magnetite, which shocks its enemies into
The Gold and Silver cartridges (just released in Japan) add to the natural history of the
Pokemon world by introducing 109 new monsters, as well as Wakaba Town, where lives Doctor
Utsugi, who holds the key to the whereabouts of the three monster "eggs" that
promise special powers to whoever finds them.
There are also clear echoes here of the folk tale Momotaro, where the prodigal youth bids
farewell to his parents, saying he's off to seek adventure and to kill monsters. It may
not be ideologically sound to kill them anymore, but as the tag line says, "You gotta
catch eem all" - and who knows? You may just learn something along the way.
John Paul Catton