Pokemon and the Animals in Captivity Debate

Explore the various discourses with in the Pokemon series (and there is enough information in the Indigo League seasons for this) on issues regarding animals in captivity. If Pokemon creatures are seen as pets, trained animals in captivity, or beasts of burden, what are some examples of the ways that the series treated different philosophies and consequences of humans keeping control of highly "evolved" creatures?

  • I haven't seen the black & white seasons but in the game team Plasma focused on liberating pokemon, yet they were still the bad guys. It would be good to take a look at their actions/mission and how it interacts with how pokemon are seen/treated. – LaRose 7 years ago
  • I just re-watched the first few episodes and it is mentioned that "wild pokemon are jealous of captured pokemon" and therefor act aggressively towards them. I found this an odd explanation but it kind of answers why pokemon also resist capture, they want to play hard to get and be with the best possible trainer; it's not because they don't want to be captured. However I find this dangerously supportive of a "no means yes" mentality... – Slaidey 7 years ago
  • One thing we need to be careful of when looking at Pokemon is reading them as animals too eagerly. From an exclusively Western perspective, this is certainly the case, as many look like animals, and humans cannot understand their speech. In the anime, they are shown to have a language (not spoken by humans) but in the games, they seem only capable of the roars, cries and sounds we associate with the concept of "animal." But a reading of Pokemon in its original, Japanese context reveals a more complicated relationship. One thing to understand is the concept (not unique to Japan) of "discipleship." Basically, a common trope of Japanese and other Asian fiction is of a martial arts master who encounters an attacker while in the wilderness. The two fight, but the master bests his assailant. After being beaten, the would-be-attacker asks to join and learn from the master. Anyone who has caught a pokemon in-game can attest to this narrative being built into the game mechanics. The wild pokemon always initiates the encounter, often in the wilderness. The player has the option to flee, but only in rare exceptions will the wild, aggressor pokemon do so. Catching a pokemon, in most cases, requires a demonstration of the trainer's superiority via lowering its HP. Now, without knowing this context, the situation does look pretty bad, and it's understandable why people react with discomfort at witnessing what they see as forced animal combat. But not only does pokemon draw its ideas from cultural tropes which have nothing to do with animals, many pokemon have no animal characteristics. Some look like plants or snowflakes, and even garbage bags and ice cream cones. In Pokemon's in-game discourse, pokemon are never framed as animals. Instead, they are seen as partners, working alongside their human counterparts, reflecting an image of positivity. Children and adults alike playing pokemon are encouraged to forge bonds and strife for their goals alongside partners who may not look like them, but share their outlook and ambitions nonetheless. – magicmark 7 years ago
  • I would like to clarify that the topic specifically mentions the tv series (not the games) and the indigo league to narrow it down. – Christen Mandracchia 7 years ago
  • Ok, I can see the pokemon-as-animals argument more in the Indigo League arc for sure. But don't you feel the focus of that is a bit narrow? It's like saying (only example i could think of off the top of my head) that Star Trek Next Generation has Natasha Yar as its protagonist, and only using Season 1 as an example. I think narrowing focus is a good idea for the sake of keeping an article manageable, but I don't think the rest of the series outside of Indigo bears the argument out. – magicmark 7 years ago
  • The Indigo League has 82 episodes which counts as several seasons in a normally syndicated tv series. Since the Indigo League was the first installment and covers a complete arc from beginning to end, it is quite sufficient especially since subsequent seasons follow the same format. If following seasons refute the animals in captivity argument that Indigo makes, and the author would like to comment on this phenomenon, I would suggest that the bulk of the article focus on Indigo with a brief paragraph or two summarizing how future seasons have remained consistent or have strayed from the ethics of the first installment. – Christen Mandracchia 7 years ago
  • That's a really good idea - comparing the seasons to see how the discourse changes. I like it! – magicmark 7 years ago

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