What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this series has very simplistic dialogue and themes and is part of a gigantic licensing juggernaut. The often cute-and-cuddly Pokemon monsters appeal to kids as young as 4 or 5, but the subject matter -- pitting monsters against each other using a multitude of attacks -- may not be appropriate for them. The battles the monsters participate in can get fairly violent, with laser blasts and explosions. Characters strive to battle honorably, respect their elders, and care for their monsters, which partly balances the show's violent premise. That said, the fact that the characters have pet-like subordinates that they summon to do battle on their behalf is a bit disturbing.
What's the story?
After the POKEMON invasion began in 1998, "anime" (Japanese animation) became a staple of children's television in the United States, complete with rail-thin bodies, cavernous eyes, and continuing stories about children on quests that take them to mysterious and foreign lands. Over the years, main Pokemon protagonist Ash has traveled with different pals and made great strides in his ongoing efforts to become a highly skilled Pokemon trainer. Ash and his friends constantly find their efforts for good rebuffed by the ruthless, cunning Team Rocket, whose mission is to steal Pokemon in a quest for global control. This ongoing conflict makes many of the episodes feel very similar -- good guys battle verbally with bad guys, and when things get heated, they call on their Pokemon to do their dirty work with loud, explosive fighting.
Is it any good?
Pokemon has suffered a lot of criticism, as any product that inspires obsessions undoubtedly will. Like Harry Potter, Pokemon has even been called satanic -- and, indeed, sometime near the year 2000, it seemed poised to take over the world, with best-selling handheld games, record-breaking movie openings, and top ratings. To give it credit, the show/phenomenon did cut across cultural, gender, and age barriers to a remarkable degree, captivating a worldwide audience of girls and boys, preschoolers, grade-schoolers, and adolescents. And it does make an attempt to promote messages about choosing the right path in life and resolving differences peacefully (before the fighting starts, that is).
But brave parents who take a look at the show head-on may just conclude that marketing strategy fuels Pokemon's lasting success as much as imagination does. It would be hard not to, given the huge line of products spawned by what was once just a popular trading card game. And then there's the whole concept of the human characters summoning subordinates to battle in their place -- some kids may need a reminder that this type of relationship doesn't apply to the family pets.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the excitement when Pokemon first came to the United States. Why were the characters so popular? What kind of tie-in products were sold that were so unusual and alluring to kids (and collectors of all ages)? What do kids know about cross-promotion or using cartoons to sell goods? Which Pokemon is kids' favorite? The youngest viewers may have fun inventing and drawing their own kinds of Pokemon. Families can (and should) also talk about the differences between Pokemon characters and real-life pets. How do Ash and his friends care for their Pokemon? How about Team Rocket? Why will the Pokemon fight for the humans? How do we care for pets differently? Can we ever expect animals to fight on our behalf?