Alola, PokeNerds! Welcome to the latest Straight Outta Kanto blog post! Straight Outta Kanto – your brand new number one blog nerd culture, nostalgia, nonsense and… more! We’ve been crazy busy lately in the non-Pokemon world AND in the Pokemon World what with the craziness that was both Artist Alleying and panelling at the one and only J Con 2018! If you missed that con then ya-boo-sucks to you – it ROCKED!
So, the J Con panel Straight Outta Kanto held was all about *tiny drum roll* Horror in the Pokemon World! It was a packed out standing room only talk that was lively, heated and with full audience participation – the roaring round of applause and standing ovation from the back was a nice touch as well 😉
Now, while I freely admit the fact that my talk was tremendously improvised and what little notes I did have were written in smudged ink on my hand (much like Homer Simpson when he’s preparing a break up speech for Mindy) – there was enough core material to write down as an actual blog post here and share for you guys!
How many of you PokeFans out there continued playing this game on from childhood through your teenage and adult years? Or, how many of you actually first discovered Pokemon as a teenager or an adult? I for one started at the age of eight and have carried on playing it religiously for the past nineteen years, I will continue to do so – and will most certainly continue to add to my growing Pokemon tattoo gallery on my body. (Let me be ancient, wrinkled and be-decked with ‘mon…!)
A common refrain many, most or all of you older Pokemon Players will be familiar with from the other “adults” in your life will be “Pokemon!? But Pokemon’s a… CHILDREN’S GAME!”
Is it now?
While we seek comfort and solidarity from our fellow nerds in online forums, on social media and at conventions – there is no escaping the fact that the wider world does generally regard Pokemon as purely a “Children’s Game” – but it’s so much more than that.
While the basic premise of Pokemon may be to entertain the children it’s primarily marketed at, the adults who created this Pokemon built the games on a solid foundation of Japanese cultural influences, references to ye olde folklore and mythology, drawing dark inspiration from the cruel and savage natural world/animal kingdom, and of course – Japanese Pop Culture. All elements that your typical happy-go-lucky casual child gamer may not initially pick up on until they’re much older.
Like many things, horror is generally taboo – and not something you wouldn’t immediately associate with “a children’s game” such as Pokemon, but hear me out. Horror, whether we know it or not, is everywhere. In everything. Just as there can be no light without dark, there can be no fandom without it’s Creepypasta.
Horror is fascinating because it provokes in a person a series of natural human reactions and emotions just as real, thrilling valid as fanservice or the giddy little thrill that comes from an anime bikini beach summer spin-off episode. (#TentacleFun…) Pulse racing, heart pounding and memories of the event that stay with you long after you’ve switched off and tuned out.
Japan has a rich, flavoured dark folklore and history that has inspired countless anime, manga (take the work of legend Junji Ito for example), J-Horror movies (Ju-On:The Grudge, Ringu etc) and urban legends (If anyone else has seen the movie made about the Slit Mouthed Woman legend you’ll know why I sleep with a very bright Jigglypuff night light…) Japan Pop Culture, cinema and literature has inspired some of the most shit-scary nightmare fuel that the world can create – they live with these legends and stories (and even just their basic and bloody history – Hiroshima, anyone?)
So, as Pokemon is a Japanese game created by Japanese people in Japan, it was inevitable that as big as it is in the West, there are certainly typically Japanese elements prevalent in all the games and T.V. show. For example: tatami mats and shrines in the NPCs houses, the Kimono girls of Johto, the region locations being inspired by real-world Japanese places, Brock’s “Jelly Filled Donuts” actually being Onigiri Rice Balls. The list goes on.
Being a Japanese game by Japanese people it’s inevitable then that certain elements of the darker side of Japanese culture sneak insidiously in to the games. A prime example of this is the Pokemon Indigo League T.V. episode “The Ghost of Maiden’s Peak.”
This spooky story of lost love isn’t especially Japanese specific but the character’s acts of evil prevention and exorcism by way of Spell/Curse Tags (Or “Stickers” – to dumb it own for us Western viewers…) and recruiting the help of a traditional medium to exorcise the Gastly is overtly Japanese. While this would be a perfectly normal spiritual reaction to the supernatural for the Japanese, at the time when I first watched this episode it seemed so exotic an approach to me, more used to the Western ideas of the West as I was.
Even darker than this, the games themselves are filled with grim an ghoulish segments, such as: Lavender Town, Ghost Type Pokemon, the Celadon Mansion horror story, the mystery of Unown, the story of Cubone’s mother, the Kalos Ghost Girl, Sailor Eldritch’s son, the majority of the storylines for the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon franchise, the list goes on! We discussed a lot of these already on the Straight Outta Kanto blog: https://straightouttakanto.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/pokemon-the-spooky-side-a-top-thirteen-of-terror-straight-outta-kanto/
So, a game filled with juicy tidbits of horror and strangeness is bound to whet the appetites of those already inclined towards Creepypasta and other dark ways of utilising the internet to destroy your happy childhood memories…!
It was at this point here during my panel talk that the audience really came in to their providing me with examples and anecdotes about their own personal favourite Creepypasta stories and general spooky fan theories.
Some of the most famous Pokemon Creepypasta/fan theories as discussed at the panel were: The Lavender Town Syndrome, Lost Silver, Cubone, Buried Alive, Strangled Red, Missingno’s true identity, Pokemon forced to evolve, Pokemon experimented on, are Pokemon aliens, Pokemon BrVr, AZ’s story, are Grimer and Muk Team Rocket’s attempt at making ghost Pokemon, the strange and warped relationships between Pokemon-People-Animals, traditional Japanese Yokai making their way into the backgrounds of the games… Drifloon, Hypno’s Lullaby, The Pokedex Entries…
As we touched on lightly earlier, some Pokemon are roughly based on real animals in the natural world, however the natural world is a vicious kingdom of Survival of the Fittest. Some of the Pokedex entries are cruel, savage and ‘mon eat ‘mon. For example:
*Dexter Voice* CACTURNE:
“If a traveler is going through a desert in the thick of night, Cacturne will follow in a ragtag group. The Pokémon are biding their time, waiting for the traveler to tire and become incapable of moving.”
And then there’s the more sinister…
*Dexter Voice* FROSLASS:
“The soul of a woman lost on a snowy mountain possessed an icicle, becoming this Pokémon. The food it most relishes is the souls of men.”
Froslass’s is particularly interesting as I’ve read/seen countless old Japanese short stories and old movies about a spectral woman in the mountains leading lost men to their doom… Taken from traditional Japanese folklore? Maybe… (#PiplupPhotobomb)
The undisputed King of Pokedex Entries? This muddafuqqa:
Hypno: The Peddafeel ‘Mon.
Jesus. That alone is enough to counter any argument from your mom when she’s in full swing about “Why are you still living at home in your 30’s playing a children’s game all day!?” Just show her Hypno. How did Hypno or any of the other dubious and questionable Pokemon make it legitimately into any of these games!?
This is darker than you could ever imagine. Hypno, Darkrai, Drifloon, Drowzee, Banette, Mimkyu, the theories, the child suicides – look them up online! The list is endless. THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S GAME! It is a game that children happen to play, but it’s so much more… So much darker… The nightmare fuel is real… thank you for the childhood, Satoshi Tajiri, thank you for the sleepless nights…
So, this was Straight Outta Kanto’s first ever panel talk and hopefully the first of many. We will expanding and elaborating on this article and bringing you stranger and more in-depth insights into the weirdness that is Pokemon.
Sweet screams… 😉
There we have it nerdlings! Keep watching the skeys, I mean skies!
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Thanks for reading! 🙂