Why Visit Japan, Part II

Nishiarai prefecture in Tokyo, Japan; Summer 2018

Nishiarai prefecture in Tokyo, Japan; Summer 2017

The year was 1998, and I was about seven or eight years old. I remember that it was some time just after school when my brother and I had gotten back home from Lockwood Elementary.

We’d sat down in the living room for what was supposed to be another afternoon hour of Batman and Superman on what was then known as the Kids WB, but that day, we were in for a surprise: as a band of characters from Japanese anime roared with life off the screen to meet us, Batman and Superman turned into afterthoughts. It was time for Pokemon, the animated series.

Although as a kids cartoon Pokemon hailed from an inherently magical world, there was also something almost nostalgic about their design, as if we had encountered their figures at some different time before. They moved swiftly, with energy in every motion, and interacted with pure curiosity towards one another and everything else around them.

From there, everything we thought we knew about cartoon heroes would be forever altered. They no longer had to wear suits and masks to cover up their identities, or be strictly “grown up” to save the world. They also didn’t need to drive fancy cars to drift through galaxies far unlike our own. And they could make mistakes too. Lots of them. They could be kids, just like we were, stumbling from one place to the next, and so we became inducted into the Pokemon universe.

And the series was just the beginning.

Not long after Pokemon’s cartoon series, Pokemon, the game for Gameboy Color stormed into our lives. Three different versions of it. We thus upgraded from our original Gameboy and Donkey Kong to a Gameboy Color for the Blue version of Pokemon.

And the game was even better than the series because it allowed us to live with our Pocket Monsters every day of the week at any time of the day with them, or at least it did for yours truly. I remember carrying my Gameboy Color with me everywhere, even underneath the covers when it was time to go to sleep. Back then, the Gameboy didn’t have its own LCD bright light to see the game screen through the dark, but I solved that problem easily by hiding a flashlight underneath the pillow. It was that serious. I had to catch them all, even late into the night!

Finally, as if to leave no room for strays, there came Pokemon, the game cards, including holographic versions that were almost sacred just to look at. Pokemon wasn’t a series then. It was a pandemic, a takeover of American life. Pokemon invaded living rooms and lunch hours and after-school activities all across the Western hemisphere, and I relished every minute of it. To this day, at my twenty-eight years, I still love Pokemon.


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