Nostalgia Rewind: Pokemon
Did you want to be the very best? Did you play the Game Boy games? Did you spend all your allowance on the trading cards? Did you ever threaten a Burger King employee after you got the same Pokémon toy with your meal for the fourth time in a row? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might just have what it takes to be a Nostalgia Rewind Master. It’s time to reflect on the TV show that coincided with a worldwide phenomenon. Obviously, the show has evolved over a long time, but today we’re just looking at that first magical season, the Indigo League.
Ash: A young Pokémon trainer whose love of sleeping results in him playing catch up for much of the series, constantly being reminded how much further along his rival is in the quest to become a Pokémon Master. I have never seen a trainer take the L in so many battles and still end up with gym badges! Seriously, he earns almost none of his badges and it is infuriating as a Pokémon trainer who has fought for every badge I have ever gotten.
Pikachu: A Pokémon who has broken down countless barriers for his (or her?) kind. From the start, Pikachu refused to be contained in the prison that humans call Pokeballs. Pikachu demands to be Ash’s equal and partner, which is what makes them such a successful team. This lightning mouse Pokémon isn’t afraid to stand up to people and electrocute them when necessary. It is SHOCKING no one has died from this yet since it happens basically every episode.
Misty: Former gym leader who begins following Ash around until he repays her the debt of a bicycle he stole and destroyed (I guess they don’t have a way to transfer money electronically even though they can transfer Pokémon, living beings, from one location to another instantly). Misty’s role in the show is often to teach the viewer about battle strategy through her yelling at Ash whenever he makes a stupid decision. This gives Misty an overabundance of opportunities.
Brock: Another gym leader who ends up abandoning their post to travel with Ash. Brock is an expert in Pokémon nutrition. He is also one of the creepiest men in the history of television as he can’t stop himself from making advances on the nurses and police officers in every city they go.
Team Rocket: Evil organization that always introduces itself by reciting a poem instead of being stealth. Jesse, James, and Meowth claim to be in search of rare and valuable Pokémon, but become obsessed chasing one Pikachu, neither a rare nor valuable Pokémon. Speaking of Meowth, he is the only Pokémon that can speak in words other than its name. There is an episode that explains that fascinating and tragic backstory, titled Go West Young Meowth.
Professor Oak: The Pokémon researcher who gets Ash started on his journey by giving him Pikachu and a Pokédex. Professor Oak provides information and guidance along the way. Also, he is definitely hooking up with Ash’s mom
Gary: Professor Oak’s grandson and Ash’s rival. Gary is superior to Ash in every way. He is a better Pokémon trainer who EARNS his gym badges, evolves his Pokémon to their superior forms, and he gets all kinds of ladies. A show centered around Gary would be much more interesting.
What Do You Remember?
Epic theme song that will make you believe you can do anything.
“Who’s that Pokémon?” If you ever got one of these wrong, you might as well turn in your badges.
"To protect the world from devastation..." the epic poem said all the time by Team Rocket, which of course was written by Maya Angelou.
Bye Bye Butterfree is the most heart-wrenching episode in the history of television.
Psyduck had incredible comedic timing.
Pokémon helped bring the anime style to mainstream US audiences. Maybe after this you were able to convince your friends to watch Dragon Ball Z. Pokémon needs to score high in this category for bringing the imaginative pocket monsters to our television screens. The battles are thrilling, Pikachu lighting up humans and Pokémon alike always brings a smile to our faces, and every explosion that sends Team Rocket blasting off again is so satisfying.
If this theme song doesn’t light a fire under you, you don’t have a pulse. The tunes that play as our heroes travel from city to city and the music during battles are all great as well. Also, I don’t know about you, but I never felt cooler than when I mastered the PokeRap. If you could spit every Pokémon’s name by putting the 5 portions of the PokeRap from the week together, you felt like Twista. The PokeRap is said to have inspired many of today’s great hip hop artists. Chance the Rapper got his name from the Pokémon Chansey. Dylan from the Chappelle Show skit came up with the phrase “spit hot fire” from the Charmander/Charmeleon/Charizard evolution. The evidence is all around us, so keep practicing if you want to make it in the rap game.
We were a prime age when the anime series, Red and Blue versions of the Game Boy games, and the Pokémon trading cards were all released in the U.S. and reaching their peak craze-level. I remember one kid got Pokémon cards banned from recess because he was selling them on the playground. Seeing Ash’s Pokémon adventure unfold in a fun TV show, going through the same locations and gyms as you were in the Game Boy game was magical. Rewatching the original Pokémon series takes us right back to those glorious days.
If you enjoy Dad jokes, you’ll appreciate the humor in Pokémon. This show loves a good pun. There is some more mature humor sprinkled in occasionally, but there is even more in the Japanese version of the show that was not allowed to be aired in the US. Search for it at your own risk, some things you can’t unsee.
Pokémon has lived on through many TV series, games, and had another recent resurgence with Pokémon Go on our cell phones. Still, nothing quite captures the magic of that first journey. Even when you remove the nostalgia piece, the show itself is still a blast. The sense of adventure, wacky characters, and epic music provide ample reason to go back to Kanto.
Are you craving more Pokémon? Make sure you check out our Deep Dive Podcast of Pokémon: The First Movie.
Image Credits: The Pokémon Company