Pokemon – Too Cute to Be Cool?

For those of you who know, Pokemon got its start with the name ‘capsule monsters’ before finally being ported to Game Boy as ‘Pocket Monsters’ which was later shortened to ‘Pokemon.’ As the game grew in popularity, so did its spinoffs, and this is where Japan’s graphic animation artists come in.

Somehow, in my Western mind, I think of mutating monsters with special powers like electrical charges as being kind of slimy, reptilian beings or sea creatures with lots of tentacles. But instead Pokemon were promoted as cuddly, furry animal-like creatures. You wouldn’t want to wrong a Pikachu, as you wouldn’t want to grab an electric eel either, but Pikachu is cuddly and cute whereas an electric eel decidedly is not.

Whenever a phenomenon like Pokemon booms, there are bound to be spinoffs (though I haven’t seen any t-shirts actually). Pokemon has gone into the stationary market like Hello Kitty, but not quite as far. I guess my point is that while Pokemon is huge, it is not ubiquitous and retains a kind of fervent, cult following.

The Pokemon Card Game is far more popular among boys than many realize. If you think about it though, cards are pretty cheap, you can play them together, and you can play them almost anywhere. There is also that important social interaction whereas the computer game is definitely solo. Again, the Pokemon on the cards, be they Legendary Pokemon or Shiny Raikou, are far more ‘cute’ than monster like. In the game though, even after years of rendering and development, Pokemon look neither particularly cute nor fierce in action.

But the cutest of all are the Pokemon stuffed toys. I still don’t know what exactly these pokedolls are for. You can set them on your study desk, or even sleep with your favorite Pokemon plush toy like a teddy bear, but do kids go around doing battle with their Pokemon plushies?

When it comes to Pokemon animation, I definitely find myself in a lost generation. When I was just wee little girl, I vaguely remember the last dregs of Speed Racer and Ultraman. Another generation grew up (boys mostly) with the Power Rangers. By the time I was in my 20’s I was already in Japan and could never have guessed that Japanese ‘cute’ animation like Pokemon would boom in the U.S. There is even a movie. And in fact, as an English teacher in Japan, the English version of the Pokemon animation was some of the first video I used for English study.

I always thought of my American counterparts as tough guys who would never have a soft spot in their heart for anything like Pikachu. I guess I was way wrong.. Pokemon Plush Toys

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