A theological quandary

I caught my first-ever “legendary” pokémon the other day, which has turned out to be rather less amazing than I expected. However, the fact that my pre-teen trainer Yukiko is carrying around what is tantamount to a god in a gatchapon ball on her belt raises some alarming questions, such as: Isn’t it kind of a problem that my pre-teen trainer Yukiko is carrying around what is tantamount to a god in a gatchapon ball on her belt!?

I know, I know. Repeat to myself, “It’s just a show game, I should really just relax.” I’m probably just too accustomed to the Judeo-Christian monotheistic tradition and figure that just because something is a god it’s, like, all-powerful and probably has better things to do than cockfight for ambitious children. Pokémon did originate in Japan, after all, a place where the “gods” of tradition tended to be more akin to animistic spirits. And if Greeks heroes could diddle goddesses, I suppose there’s no reason that some little upstart punk couldn’t impose on the guardian spirit of Johto’s skies the need to spend a slice of eternity in Box 9 of Someone’s PC.

The way the whole showdown with Ho-Oh played out was undeniably, intrinsically Japanese in character, though: Surrounded by a bunch of kimono-clad women, the nobility of my character’s spirit summoned the mighty beast from the pages of obscurity and into reality, at which point I beat it into submission. “Wow, you’re really great!” said the ladies. “You had the purity of heart to summon this force of nature! And then you completely enslaved it, as is only proper.”

I would really love for Nintendo to convince Hayao Miyazaki to direct the next Pokémon flick. I feel like he might have some interesting things to say about it.

19 thoughts on “A theological quandary

  1. It didn’t bug me when I first played Gold/Silver, but dear gods was it messed up in Diamond/Pearl. “This is the creator of the universe. In the beginning there was nothing, and then there was this. It seems to have some kinky BSDM desire burning in its eyes for you to beat it up and enslave it. Will you do so?” I’m paraphrasing of course, but only SLIGHTLY is the messed up part.

  2. Some of the movies promote the idea that the legendaries aren’t unique gods so much as extremely rare, god-like species. While there’s one Lugia in the game, for example, there are a handful in the world. That still doesn’t do anything to excuse Arseus though.

  3. As far as I’m concerned, the only god Pokemon is Mewtwo. I’ll let the fact that you can catch him (and defeat him) in the original games slide, since I like being able to do whatever I darn well please in my games. But he could certainly take any of those other chump Pokemon down like Arseus down.

  4. Didn’t some of the background information in Diamond/Pearl actually indicate Pokemon and humans intermarried? That makes this even more disturbing.

  5. Really, I never dwelled much on that before, but it is quite freaky that I’ve got almost a whole box filled with world-shaping deities, shapeshifting space aliens, and Spiky Horse God in a kids’ game without Shin Megami Tensei somewhere in the title.

    @Netbrian: Really, I don’t think that’s any more scary than Pokémon breeding as a whole already is. Here’s another disturbing ‘lil factoid: In spite of what the Pokédex or anime may say, the female Nidoran’s evolved forms are sterile. On the opposite gender side, the male Nidoran’s are not.

    That leads to some bad mental images there.

  6. The special Arceus event thing is even more disturbing, where he rends space and time itself to create another Pokèmon from nothing for you. I thought I was watching Evangelion or something with all the shifting between a busy highway, wilderness and other stock footage while a god did his thing.

  7. Are there really almost 500 Pokemon? I suppose following that question with “aren’t a lot of them redundant?” is unnecessary…

  8. It’s mentioned in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum that the act of catching one of these legendaries in a ball severely limits its power; it’s a plot point that the villain of the week is enslaving them with different methods, so they’re still at full power. On one hand, this explains why none of your legendaries are exploding the universe every time it attacks. On the other, it means you have fifty or so little balls in your backpack that are MORE POWERFUL THAN GOD ITSELF.

  9. Pokemon makes it possible to catch the lord of all creation and use it in battle. Granted, he’s so powerful that I think he might even be banned in the Uber tier…

  10. To be fair, you’re merely forcing these gods into indentured servitude, rather than brutally murdering them and using their severed body parts as items/weapons like in God of War.

  11. You know, some of us haven’t reached the Ho-Oh fight yet.

    (uh, how was the music? I heard it was pretty good!)

  12. Bah, the Pokemon you capture are so impressed with you beating them down that they WANT to be your bitch. If your Pokemon don’t respect you you can barely get them to do anything. It’s the warrior spirit. Beating someone in a fair fight earns you their respect and they will be proud to call you master.

    Anyway, the fact that pokemon can be stored in little balls or on a computer, or traded to distant lands over wifi does imply that they are not necessarily all they appear to be. In the Pokemon universe does anyone eat Kentucky Fried Pidgey? or Miltank burgers? Even the vegetarians; do they put Bellossom petals in their salad or eat stuffed Weepinbell? What about the robot pokemon like Magnezone or the digital Porygon? If all animals in the Poke-universe are Pokemon, then where did the people come from? Are they a type of Pokemon too? Not to mention the repeated presence of the GameFreak staff in the games breaking the fourth wall… It’s probably best not to take this stuff too seriously, I don’t think Nintendo do.

  13. It’s canon as of D/P: Pokemans are food as well as battle minions and your best friend.

  14. Well, this takes me back. I remember back when you told us about capturing a level 1 Piplup and sending her off to the breeding farm to start cranking out babies. I figured then they must use the same kind of rape box as used out in the real world for dog-fighting dogs. Wickedness.

  15. I know just enough about Pokémon to know it’s impossible to catch a level 1 Piplup, so I have to wonder what kind of hallucinogenic drugs you’re on!

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