Today’s post was actually inspired by a meme I saw from a Pokemon page I followed on Facebook back in high school. The post read, “To me, God will always be the guy who could have created Pokemon but instead decided, ‘Nah, malaria …'”
The meme was made and shared by someone who was presumably outside of and unsympathetic to the faith. This itself didn’t bother me except for the unnecessary snideness toward God. After all, religion factors very little into the franchise itself, and so going out of his way to disparage God for a quick laugh felt nasty for nasty’s sake. Just so, it did get me thinking all these years later.
Why didn’t God create Pokemon? Yes, I have actually given thought to this question.
I mean, there’s certainly a logistical element at work. God’s mortal children would never get very far if there were literal Charizards flying around torching people’s houses from day 1. But that’s not what actually interests me. Why does God allow his children to make things that can’t exist in real life?
First, some context on the appeal of Pokemon.
The Pokemon franchise began in Japan 1996 with the games “Pokemon Red” and “Pokemon Green” landing on the gameboy color. Since then, the franchise has proliferated not only videogames across a myriad of platforms, but also anime television shows, merchandising, virtual-reality games, and recently a live-action feature film, 2019’s Pokemon: Detective Pikachu.
One of the appeals of the Pokemon trainer journey is the opportunity it gives you to explore the unique corners of this unnamed world of Pokemon. There’s a dual thrill with this challenge. You are at once playing with the toys that someone else designed while also reaping the rewards of creating your own unique team. There are to date something like 800 unique Pokemon (and that’s not even counting regional variants and mega-evolutions and whatnot).
In this way, the appeal of the Pokemon mythology is not so different from any other branch of pop culture or even the appeal of entertainment as a whole. Pokemon are not “real,” but they have a real effect on the fans they bring together. That there aren’t literal Pikachus roaming the forest is kind of irrelevant to the impact that digital Pikachus have on pop culture.
Let’s compare this experience with what we know about the ultimate creation: the creation of the world.
The details of the creation are ambiguous, though they are described poetically, beautifully in the Bible. Read Genesis 1, and four or five different verses that describe how God saw his creation and said it was good–God was proud of what he made.
This feeling is familiar to anyone who’s ever made anything, be it a novel, a house, a multi-faceted entertainment franchise like Pokemon, or anything that requires the full use of our mental faculties. The feeling we get when we create something, or even appreciate something someone else created, offers a glimpse into the brain of the supreme creator.
Is it a little gauche to compare God’s creation of the heavens and the earth with the creation of a toy franchise? Perhaps a little. But like most things we discuss on this blog, there’s something divine to be discovered from viewing temporal things through a heavenly perspective, and that is true even of Pokemon. The creator of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri, has disclosed that the concept of collecting fantastical creatures stemmed naturally from his childhood hobby of insect collecting (that, and his love of Godzilla films). Pokemon was his way of expressing his love of the natural world, the world created by God, and Tajiri’s creation pays that forward by inviting others to experience the glories of creation as mediated by these fantastical creatures he invented.
God grants his mortal children the chance to envision fantasies for themselves as a gift. He allows them to imagine things that can’t exist in this world but still stimulate our hearts and minds because creation is a privilege he wants us all to experience.
In short, God didn’t make Pokemon so that we could.