On windy nights their voices can still be heard. Merely echos of a once great nation. Countless victim’s bones lay merely inches below the dirt and yet over the span of a few short years they have been forgotten. We remember the Holocaust and the Atlantic Slave trade, both sick and shameful examples of genocide and ethnic cleansing. But somehow the capture and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Pocket Monsters (Pokemon) in the 1990’s, seems to slip our minds.
The initial movement started in Western Kanto, in the small village of Pallett Town. Here, children were given a domesticated Pokemon at a young age as a method of desensitizing them to the violent life of becoming a Pokemon Trainer. What they called Trainers, historians say are comparable to the position of SS-Scharführer in the Nazi party, who captured and deported Jews to ghettos and extermination camps. The Trainers were instructed to raise the domesticated Pokemon until they were strong enough to fight. Then the Trainers were sent from their homes on a bloody pilgrimage across the land, to search far and wide for free Pokemon to capture and force into captivity.
Some of the methods they used have been lost in translation as Pokemon become a more distant memory, but I will try to break down the process as best I can. A Trainer would traditionally keep captured Pokemon inside what were called Pokeballs. The engineering and design that went into Pokeballs was simply astonishing for the early 90’s and is still not fully understood today. Physicists believe that they had a particle accelerating core and held as much energy per mass as an atomic bomb. Pokemon as large as a fully grown, 200lb Charizard could be reduced to the size of a tennis ball and stored easily in a backpack or on a utility belt. Inside these tiny and uncomfortable balls, the Pokemon experienced what was likely a variation of Stockholm Syndrome and after being held captive and beaten for days they developed a dependence and love for their trainer that was so strong , they would willingly fight and die for them. When the Trainers came across a free Pokemon, they would force the domesticated to attack and scourge it until it could no longer fight back. Once it was near death and posed no threat to the Trainer, it was captured inside a Pokeball and later forced to perform the same acts of violence.
As time went on, and the capture and trade of Pokemon became common-hat, the Trainers began to make games out of fighting the Pokemon. Similar to the concept of Mandingo fighting during the Atlantic Slave trade, two trainers would each place a bet, then each chose one captured Pokemon and force them to fight each other to the death. This practice was known as “battling”, and its popularity spread like wildfire because of its high entertainment value and money making potential. Soon, some trainers with particularly large and powerful collections of Pokemon built gyms, where the majestic animals were born and raised for the sole purpose of fighting. The gym leaders were commonly known as Pokemasters and were idolized by young trainers. Ash Ketchum, born and raised in Pallett Town, was one of the most well known Pokemasters, famous for his coined phrase: “gotta catch ’em all.” Some historians believe that he might have been the very best… like no one ever was.
Because of the Pokemon’s low cognitive ability, they were not capable of much resistance. In fact, with a few exceptions, they could only make noises that sounded like the name of their species classification, or some variation of it. There is no doubt that an average Pokemon would defeat a human in hand-to-hand combat but because of their low intelligence and poor organizational skills, they were no match for the technology that the Trainers possessed. The only documented resistance against the Pokemon Trainers was from a rebel group known as Team Rocket, which was made up of 2 humans and one of the rare talking Pokemon. However, leaders of the Fascist Pokemon training movement, like the infamous Professor Oak, used propaganda such as a Pokemon TV show and Pokemon trading cards to squash the resistance. The media at the time positioned Team Rocket as a group of foolish villains who were hell bent on world domination. Because of how they were portrayed, Team Rocket received little support and their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
The Fascist Pokemon training movement eventually failed when people’s interests just kind of changed and the capture and slaughter of Pokemon became nothing more than a distant memory and a game that nerds play on weekends. Although it has diminished in popularity, there are still people who perform Pokemon battles using the methods championed by the Pokemasters of the 1990’s. We may never completely rid the world of such horrific behavior, but I write this essay for the purpose of remembrance. So that we never forget the innocent Pokemon that lost their lives and the tragic acts of senseless violence that went unpunished. So come with me, the time is right and there’s no better team. Arm and arm, we’ll win the fight, it’s always been our dream. We must work together to ensure that the Pokemon are never forgotten.