Pokémon- The 25th Anniversary: What the Franchise Means to Me

by Antonia Haynes

I’m getting a little personal with today’s blog as I want to discuss a little bit of what the Pokémon series means to me as a fan. With 2021 being the 25th anniversary of Pokémon– and several celebrations already announced such as the P25 Music Project– it seems like a good time to reflect on how I came to be a fan and how the series helped me through some difficult times in my life. Let’s start by rewinding back to the decade of questionable fashion statements and Tamagotchi’s: the good old 90’s.

Well I think I’m already failing here as I said I wanted to reflect on how I came to be a fan of Pokémon but the truth is, I actually don’t really remember. Pokémon was just sort of there. I was born in 1992 and so I was very young when the franchise began in 1996 so I don’t really remember what my very first encounter with it was. I actually think I may have watched the anime series before I played the games but either way, I remember feeling drawn to the world of Pokémon and wanting to delve further into it. Even though I don’t remember exactly how it started, I definitely remember the obsession I had with Pokémon. I had all sorts of merchandise: notebooks, stationary, plushies, those rubber balls with Pokémon trapped inside and- of course- the video games and the trading cards. A fair amount of the children in my school were just as obsessed as me and so we would often bring our merch into school with us. I even did a killer Pikachu impression that I impressed my classmates with. Hold your applause.

One of the many trading card boxes that I had growing up.

Cards were the most popular item to bring in and trade around (though admittedly I wasn’t really that into the trading card game. I liked to collect them rather than trade them). An incident surrounding my card collection is when I experienced my first major heartbreak and also when I learnt a significant life lesson. One day, I decided to be cocky and brought in every single one of my Pokémon cards to show off to my friends. I put them safely in the tray that we all had in our desks and left them there when we went for our break. When I came back, they were gone. Every single one, and there was a lot of them. All of the Pokémon cards that I had spent so long collecting had been stolen. The tears, the pain, the betrayal, it was like an anime come to life. Honestly, it was as an excruciating blow to me, not going to lie. Not only that, but once my mum reported the theft  the school then banned Pokémon cards all together to avoid more incidents. It had been on the brink of that for a while as kids had started to fight and argue over them more frequently but my situation was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  It felt like my incessant need to show off had brought about not only my own downfall, but also ended the fun for my peers. Weirdly enough, it really was one of the first, big learning curves for me. I learnt not to be so proud, not to be such a show off and also learnt to protect my belongings far more carefully. The whole experience truly had a life altering effect, as I have always tried to be a humble person since then and don’t let silly things like material possessions go to my head. I wanted to be cool and respected and I thought that I could prove it by showing everyone how much stuff I had. I learnt the hard way how that isn’t how you gain friends.  Once I finally got over the loss of my precious cards I realised that at the end of the day, that was all there were. They were items. Material possessions.  They could be replaced. Even if I couldn’t afford it at the time, I could start collecting again. It wasn’t the end of the world and whilst it was okay to be upset about it, it wasn’t the world shattering event I had initially thought it was. It feels like Pokémon was inadvertently responsible for me learning this life lesson as a child, one that I never forgot and one that changed my behaviour growing up. That was a big deal for me and it would never have happened if it wasn’t for Pokémon.  Side note: they never found the person who actually stole my cards so if you’re out there, thanks for helping me learn a lesson but in all seriousness you are absolutely the worst.

I actually had another situation with Pokémon where I learnt a pretty significant life lesson. So the next situation came when I obtained a used copy of Pokémon Red for the Game Boy. As it was used, whoever had played it before me had a game saved on it. I decided to pretend that it was my own save file as whoever had owned it was obviously amazing at the game, had gotten really far and caught loads of brilliant Pokémon. Let me tell you, the guilt was soul crushing. I couldn’t take it and I finally admitted to my older brother that it wasn’t actually my game. That was one of the first major lies I told and it made me realise that not only am I a terrible liar but I just don’t have the conviction to lie about big things. I know now that it wasn’t a big thing but as a child, it was a major deal. I had respect from my brother and from others who I showed the game to, but I couldn’t enjoy this attention as I knew it wasn’t deserved.  From then on, I decided it was way easier to be honest even if I felt like my actual achievements weren’t particularly impressive. Stealing the achievements of others and passing them off as my own was something I would never do again and I genuinely think this experience with Pokémon Red taught me the importance of being honest and being true to myself and my own accomplishments no matter what they were.  Again, Pokémon helped me to align my moral compass and taught me to be the person I am today.

I found my old Pokémon Collectors file! I can confirm that my handwriting has increased in quality since then. At least a little bit anyway.

Pokémon was always there for me when I was growing up. Whether it was switching on my Nintendo 64 after school and spending the evening on Pokémon Stadium, writing my own birthday in my Pokémon planner in case I forgot it, trying to memorise the lyrics of the “PokeRap” or even just cuddling with my Pikachu toys, no matter how I was feeling or what was happening the franchise was always there to whisk me away to a magical world when reality got too difficult for one kid to manage. So thank you Pokémon, thank you for helping me through some difficult times in my life and for giving me some great memories. Here’s hoping that if I have children myself one day, they too can find solace in the characters and world that comforted me and taught me so much when I was little.

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