I never really got behind the whole nostalgic appeal of Pokemon. It always seemed odd to me. Pokemon never really went away. How do you get nostalgic for something that’s never even left in the first place?
A couple of days ago, I came across the first intro theme on YouTube and ended up watching the entire thing. All of a sudden, I wasn’t just watching the Pokemon theme anymore, I was reliving the memories of years and years ago back when I first saw this intro as a kid. Memories started flooding back into my mind, playing out in my mind’s eye.
I was about 12 Pokemon came on TV here. Just on the edge of it being okay for me to watch without losing my cool cred, had I had such a thing. Although my first exposure to Pokemon was even before even that.
You see, here in Europe we were late to the Pokemon game. I’m not sure if it’s just a thing for mainland Europe thanks to the extra translation work, or if the UK was as slow as us. What I do know is that I remember buying an American gaming magazine for their walkthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time because I was hopelessly stuck at some point shortly after the seven year time skip. That same gaming magazine had a brief 2 page guide on Pokemon, including a list of all 150 Pokemon, where to catch them, when they evolved, as well as some additional tips and tricks.
Shortly after, I started coming across more and more information about this new thing from Nintendo, and the more I heard, the more I got interested in it. I still wasn’t entirely sure what this was about, but if Nintendo made it, it must be good!
One afternoon, at least a full year later, I saw an advertisement for the Pokemon series on TV. It was going to air soon. Upon seeing the ad, I literally leaped into the air and shouted something incoherently. I also remember seeing Pokemon Blue and Red in an ordering catalogue. I was allowed to choose a game, I choose Pokemon Blue because of that cool looking turtle thing on the cover. The hype hadn’t gotten anywhere near starting yet.
In fact, it took surprisingly long for the hype to start. When Pokemon aired, it did so early in the morning during the weekends. I’d set my alarm clock to watch it, and then videotaped the episodes to watch with my friends later on. Those tapes became a weekly tradition for a while, up until the network that was airing them realized what they had on their hands and restarted the whole show, moving it to the weekdays, about an hour after the schools went out.
It wasn’t until then that the hype really got started.
When the hype was there, Pokemon was everywhere. Trading cards, toys, shirts, TV, books, magazines, movies… Everything was Pokemon. I felt special. Like I had personally discovered this thing and brought it to my friends. And then later on it exploded.
As I was watching that intro theme, I realized that I wasn’t just watching the intro theme, I was watching a time long gone unfold right in front of me. For the first time ever, I was feeling nostalgic about Pokemon. The sensation came over me much in the same way as pain did for Captain Hammer the first time.
So that’s what the whole nostalgic deal with Pokemon feels like. Oddly enough, I doesn’t make me feel like playing a Pokemon game because of it. I don’t want to catch them all again. I’ve done that. I’ve been there. I got the certificate. I never cared much for Silver/Gold. I liked Ruby/Sapphire. I thought Diamond/Pearl was cool because of the online thing. I still haven’t properly played Black/White. Somehow my feelings towards playing the game don’t have that much of a nostalgic appeal to me. The games have always gotten released one way or another, they’ve been around me for much too often to actually be nostalgic about playing them.
It would be like feeling nostalgic about the mailman. There will always be a mailman. There will always be a Pokemon game being released. Heck, the DS had three separate titles. Six if you count the way they’re released two at a time. And that’s still not counting the Mystery Dungeon spin-offs. Or the other spin-offs.
But the cartoon? Well, yeah, nostalgia. Although my nostalgia is still different from yours. I watched the cartoon dubbed. There were no puns. I know, that’s really Oddish, isn’t it? Pokemon without terrible puns scattered everywhere. How the hell did this ever become such a hit here?