Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gotta Catch 'Em All!

I was at the store the other day and spotted a huge display of Pokemon Cards. There were the famous booster packs, and also some enormous boxes, very deluxe looking, that must have cost a fortune. I remarked to my youngest brother, the one who still keeps me informed on all the newest, coolest things in anime, video games, and Youtube, that the box sets must be for rich kids. We both shared a laugh, but we both longed to crack open the box (at least I know for sure that I did!) and see what was inside.

This led me to wonder: is Pokemon to Japan and the United States what Doctor Who is to the UK?

I remember watching the show when it first aired on US televisions in seventh grade. It aired conveniently right before I had to get on the bus, so I never missed an episode. Pokemon is indelibly etched into my memory because of this, and I collected as many cards as I possibly could - and even resurrected a small collection recently for nostalgia's sake.

But, the show aired in Japan long before it was dubbed for Americans, so it was already prepared for a long rollout of content week after week without stop, and the toys and games were things my siblings and I couldn't get enough of. I thought when I left the little pocket monsters behind after a few years that their time was limited. I was wrong. They are still here, and there are still new series being made yearly, as well as two new games every few years, with at least four spin-off games for the next-gen handheld gaming systems. The franchise just keeps going, even as the cast of characters mixes itself up, leaves others behind, and recruits new talent and faces. This is not unlike James Bond, where the actors can be different, but the lead character is always the same.

Ash Ketchum has been absent before from the series (as far as I know), but there are other characters that keep us anchored in the world of Pokemon, and that is the pocket monsters themselves. Pikachu is instantly recognizable no matter where I go. The entire story of Pokemon is a cross-media extravaganza that I can't help but be sucked into. It's those kind of stories that I enjoy where they don't have to end because the show is done for the day. I can pick up a manga volume and read on my iPad, or I can play some of the Nintendo games, new or old. It's an amazing thing.

One thing's for sure: the creator of Pokemon used one of the greatest taglines ever, because every child wants to catch 'em all, and that is certainly good news for all the outlets that sell Pokemon merchandise! Good inspiration for future storytellers? You never know when your story will take on a life of its own.