Art of the Genre: The Art of Pokémon

Art of the Genre: The Art of Pokémon

Pokemon Study Hall by Hinoraito, and boy there are a bunch of characters in it!
Pokemon Study Hall by Hinoraito, and boy there are a bunch of characters in it!
I never wanted to watch Pokémon. It’s a phenomena that came WAY after I was too old for it, and in essence was driven by collectable card games ala Magic the Gathering which I stayed well away from at all costs.

Sure, I knew Pikachu as it’s pretty hard to be alive in this world without knowing the electric-type mouse Pokémon as well as his constant companion of Ash Ketchum. But truly, that’s as far as it went.

Then came 2006 when my son was born and I named him Ashur, which of course would get shortened to Ash at convenience as he grew. Did that name have anything to do with Pokémon? Nope, although there was a bit of Evil Dead in there to be honest, but for the most part it just fit. Three days before my Ash arrived, his cousin Iris was born. Again, nothing odd about that occurrence at the time, and yet these days I think about the event as I watch Pokémon: Black and White and scratch my head because the two main characters of that version… Ash and Iris.

Yes, I watch Pokémon with my son. It can be rather addicting, as any quest cartoon can, each adventure building on the next as Ash continues on his journey to be a Pokémon Master. My son loves it, collects plush Pokémon, and studies his Pokémon: Black and White handbook like it’s the gospel.


Heck, just writing about Pokémon: Black and White puts the theme song in my head and I can’t help but smile as I wonder what my sons favorite Pokémon will be tomorrow as I drive him to school. Certainly our conversation will run to all kinds of linguistically odd levels as we discuss the merits of a Ground-type versus a Ghost-type, what the exact qualities of a Hidden Power attack really is, and if Cofagrigus is hollow inside.

The various starter Pokemon from each animated series with Black and White at center.
The various starter Pokemon from each animated series with Black and White at center.
It’s all pretty par for the course if you’re a newly minted Pokémon father. Still, me being me, I always need to know more about the things my son does, and so I’ve delved rather deep of late into the history of Pokémon. In that journey, much like a Pokémon Master, I’ve also had the pleasure of enjoying the artistic merits of Pokémon, and how it has effected several generations of American youth.

First, you’ve got to understand the beginning. Of course Pokémon came from Japan, no surprise there, and the first series began with perhaps the most famous of Ash’s starter Pokémon, Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. When we first meet Ash of Pallet Town, he’s given his Pikachu by Professor Oak and begins his journey to be a Pokémon Master.

This epic beginning started many a child on their Pokémon journey as well back in 1998, and I wanted to start my Ash there as well. Instead, Cartoon Network was running the newest series, Black and White, so we somehow got into that version and the rest is history. However, as I studied the history, I realized that it really didn’t matter if my son was a 1st Generation Pokémon aficionado or a Black and White child because all Pokémon animated series are nearly identical.

There is a basic formula. Create roughly 150 strange looking Pokémon animals, throw Ash into a new region of the world he needs to explore and collect Pokémon Master gym badges from fighting with this Pokémon, and finally give him a girl companion and a boy companion to travel with.

Yep, that’s basically it, no matter if you started your journey in Series One, travelled to the Orange Islands, were the offspring of Diamond and Pearl, or like me were immersed in the latest craze, Black and White.

The ability to 'real-up' Pokemon is always awesome to see, as shown in this Raichu.
The ability to 'real-up' Pokemon is always awesome to see, as shown in this Raichu.
However, I will bet that no matter what series you grew up with, it has become your favorite, as are the characters associated with that series. So for me, I’d take Oshwat, Tepig, or Snivy over any of the starter Pokémon Ash has caught, and love Iris above Misty, May, or Dawn as his traveling female companion.

It’s funny, because I can’t help, as an adult, wanting to see some romantic interest in the shows. Certainly, there isn’t any, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t imagine Ash ending up with Misty, just as I’m sure others have wondered if Ash will end his journey with any of his leading ladies.

That concept of romance sometimes plays out in the fan art you see for the series, and if you ever want to see just how big Pokémon is, you can go to DeviantArt and search ‘Pokémon’. There, you begin to understand not only what Pokémon means as an artistic catalyst, but also the wide array of animated style a populace raised on these series can bring to the table.

Certainly animated art is tough to hold up as an iconic artist talent, and yet the more you delve into it, the more you can see it as a truly inspired technical skill. I mean look at Miyazaki. Here is a man who has defined a specific style of animation and made it his own with classic films like Totoro, Spirited Away, Nausicaa and dozens of others. In its day Akira was one of the most incredibly rendered animated movies ever conceived and still lives up to that billing twenty years later.

Perhaps Pokémon isn’t on the same level of these classics, but it can inspire art that not only diverges from the standard cartoon animation but also begins to spin into something truly talented and emotional.

So, I guess the point of all this is to say ‘never say never’ about anything, and when you think you know all you need to know on a subject, you might be surprised if you dig a little deeper. For me, images coming from Pokémon are now much sweeter than I’d ever before imagined, and I have to wonder what other classic animated series might have the same type of fan artist portfolios drifting around out there…

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Glenn

entertaining article. probably the last topic i expected for an art of the genre. I agree with what you said about animated art. I think people don’t realize it as much with animated art is they are paying more attention to the plot and character personality more than how they are drawn. also it lacks that eye popping affect that pieces like the raichu have.

Sarah Avery

You may have heard the story of how Jim Butcher got the idea for his Codex Alera series. He quipped in some online discussion that you can get a successful story out of juxtaposing any two things that wouldn’t ordinarily go together. One reply he got was along the lines of, Oh yeah? Well, try combining a lost Roman legion and Pokemon.

Next stop: bestseller list.

My older kid has not yet discovered Pokemon, but he lives and breathes Miyazaki. In fact, I’ve let him get a bit ahead of himself with Miyazaki. Funny, Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away are much scarier than I remembered them being. Too late now! I console myself by considering how much more violent and creepy tales from the Brothers Grimm are than anything Miyazaki tackled.

Sarah Avery

We started with Totoro and Kiki, and they’re still in regular rotation.

I’ll have to rewatch Howl’s Moving Castle to decide when it’s time for that one. And I’m not sure I’m old enough for some of the fight scenes in Mononoke.

RadiantAbyss

WTF? A Pokemon article?

Any ways I’m from the ‘Pokemon Generation’ though that’s my own term and I don’t really take it seriously.

This was huge when I was a little kid.

I was reading books, poetry and shorter fiction mostly.

Pokemon never really caught on with me though I have seen some of the show ’cause my friends were into it like all normal children around that time.

Taylor –

Your son may ‘graduate’ to Magic The Gathering, I saw a lot of kids do that and a few even went from MTG to Dungeons & Dragons.

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