If you were a kid growing up in the 90’s then you might’ve been involved in the various trends of that decade; Hot Wheels, Power Rangers, Video Games, and Anime. Speaking of which; this was the decade where a lot of the franchises we’ve come to know and love when we were kids (now as ‘adults’), had their origin stories and started making their mark on the world. Mario and Sonic are prime examples of this, but we’re talking about a franchise that is still making history to this very day. 26 years have passed since this franchise started, and the fandom behind it has risen to a global level. The lore behind it is so vast that there is not enough time in the day for us to cover all of it, so we’re going to give you the brief history…of Pokemon! Que season one’s opening!
To get an idea of just how influential this franchise is, we have to go back to when it all started…
February 26, 1996
In Japan the franchise began as Pocket Monsters: Red and Green for the GameBoy, of course when it was exported to America the name was changed to Pokemon: Red and Blue. The name Pokemon is actually an abbreviation of Pocket Monsters; where if you take out the letter ‘c’ and ‘t’ you get Poke’, and if you get rid of the ‘sters’ you’re left with ‘Mon’, so THAT is how we got the name “Pokemon”. The franchise was created by Satoshi Tajiri, as it focused on creatures called Pokemon, and the vast world that they live in while co-existing with the humans of that world who are called Trainers. (Not Tamers, we’ll get to that.)
The concept of how the Pokemon universe came to be actually dates back to around 1989 (the same year most of the fandom was born); where Satoshi made a hobby out of collecting insects which was a rather popular pastime of his. This became a major part of the overall gameplay experience of Pokemon; where trainers would catch wild pokemon in their region and train them up to boost their strength and abilities, so they can challenge other trainer’s pokemon and defeat them to win the championship of their region.
By 1998 Nintendo promoted Pokemon to Western audiences, but we’re a bit hesitant because they were not sure if it would be well received. However Alfred Kahn convinced them that the series was going to do well, and the person who knew that the most was his colleague; Thomas Kenney. By this time the franchise already had two video games (for the GameBoy), a Trading Card Game, and an anime series. Once the 2000’s rolled around; the franchise was a mixture of anime television series, anime movies, video game series, a trading card game, manga, and mobile games. (Which are STILL being consumed to this very day!)
Pokemon: The Anime Series
Dubbed by 4Kids Entertainment; the Pokemon anime series tells the story of Ash Ketchum, and his journey to become a Pokemon master. We’ve seen the series ourselves growing up but we’ve only watched all the way up to Diamond and Pearl. (The series has the same amount of episodes as One Piece.) Throughout the 2000’s and 2010’s the Pokemon anime series also received 23 movies, two 8-part series entitled Pokemon: Twilight Wings and Pokemon Evolutions for Youtube (the latter being in part to the 25th anniversary of the franchise), and a live action movie where Deadpool is the voice of the face of Pokemon franchise himself; Pikachu. Yeah, that yellow electrical mouse is about as iconic as the speedy blue one with two box-office smash installments (with a third on the way).
Do we even have to talk about how many Pokemon there are? If you’re wondering how many species of pokemon there are, we can tell you the answer is no longer 151. There are a grand spankin’ total of 908 different species of pokemon; each with various looks, designs, and abilities. Guess its safe to say when the Pokemon GO craze happened, EVERYBODY wanted to capture all 908 species all at the same time. (Trust us, we’ve heard the stories of Pokemon GO players – some of which range from hilarious to saddening.) The Pokemon Company International which oversees all of the Pokemon IP’s divides them into generations, and as we speak there are a total of nine generations; which are chronological divisions by release. With so many species of pokemon, of course they’re going to make appearances in the anime and video games based on what generation they’re from; and when its released. (The latest generation being Scarlet and Violet.)
Pokemon’s Pop-Cultural Influence
Just like the Big Three, Pokemon’s influence on Western audiences expanded to other forms of Western pop-culture. From being a part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade to making cameos in shows like The Simpsons, South Park, and Robot Chicken; Pokemon’s influence has even made in mark in the realm of Science. You know you’ve made it when animals are being named after Weedle and Charizard. Although Pokemon made its mark in Western media, it didn’t come without competition in the form of a rivalry; the Pokemon v. Digimon rivalry! Just like the early years of Marvel v. DC, Pokemon and Digimon fans didn’t like each other very much. To this day there have been on-going debates about which franchise came first; even though Pokemon’s first piece of media (being the GameBoy games) came out in February of 1996, while Digimon’s first piece of media released in June of 1997. (16 months between them.) Despite the fact that Pokemon’s popularity overshadowed Digimon’s influence on Western culture, the Digimon franchise has a dedicated fanbase.
In the last 26 years the Pokemon community has grown in range from 8-year-olds; to people in their 20’s, 30’s, and yes even their 40’s. With new games, new cards, new anime series, and possibly a sequel to a live action movie; Pokemon’s influence on Western mainstream media and pop-culture will only expand and grow from here on out. Its one of the easiest and most identifiable franchises to get into and be a part of; even members of the general audience who have never played any of the games are familiar with the franchise (because they know, or have people in their circle who play the games and watch the series). Pokemon is just one of those franchises that you can’t ignore; like Mario, Sonic, DBZ and Naruto, because even those franchises are recognizable by the general public, and not just by members of their fandom. They’re so popular, that they’re even in Super Smash Bros. and that says a lot when your brand is represented in another game.
For many 90’s kids growing up Pokemon brought them into a world that was different from their own. Many of the humans of that world had goals to become the best of the best in training pokemon, building friendships, and overcoming challenges and obstacles. They were able to find friends who shared their love for the franchise as much as they did, thus forming communities around the franchise which in turn created the fandom around it overall. Sure, Pokemon didn’t come without its own controversies and criticisms (some of which are dumber than others), but overall, this franchise has brought together fans and communities from all over the world. Who knows what’s next for this franchise when it turns 30 years old in 2026; a Six-Flags style theme park? A Pokemon themed hotel chain? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Until next post, stay nerdy and go catch em’ all! 😉