Pokémon: An Ode to 1000 Episodes

Wow…1000 episodes…well, that’s 20 years for you, right?!

I’m sure that most of you reading this have at least a passing knowledge of what Pokémon is. Not only did it start in the mid-90’s, back when many millennials were growing up, but it also caught the world by surprise. It’s hard to imagine it now, but there was a time when adults were so confused by “Gotta catch ‘em all!” that the franchise was viewed as “the enemy”. It was so foreign, it even gained the ire of Evangelist Christians, who dubbed it “Satanic” in their sermons. How time flies…

Normally I’d avoid discussing the TV series unless I was desperate. Today, however, is a unique situation. I’m still desperate, but Pokémon has achieved the unthinkable: not only has it managed to survive for 20 years, it’s also reached its 1000th episode milestone. I know the longest-running anime series has been syndicating since 1969, but that’s still a big deal. To some, Pokémon is old enough that they’ve gown up with it existing. It’s not unlike how The Simpsons has been the cornerstone of a generation of adults, even if it’s long surpassed its prime.

For relative figures, I’m 27 years-old. I was 7 when Pokémon first syndicated as a show, and 8 when it first arrived in North America. I wasn’t even into it initially, opting to change the channel when I first saw it on TV during my annual vacation in Florida. It took a good few months of letting the games stew in my mind, which translates into me watching over other kids’ shoulders during recess, before I was ready to embrace it. The rest is history!

It’s easy to criticize my entertainment preferences in hindsight. For one, Pokémon hasn’t aged well. The dub, courtesy of 4Kids Entertainment, is pretty crusty by today’s standards, even if it’s far better than much of the company’s later efforts. Even once you get past that, the actual writing is awful. Contrivances, plot-holes, like how Ash was constantly able to win battles despite being incompetent, and cheap loopholes plagued the episodes, and it only got worse as time went on. Couple that with additional seasons that served to tie-in with the newer games, and you’re left with a cheap cash-in to a much better product.

And two, I liked pretty much anything I watched as a kid. For a variety of reasons that I won’t divulge, I didn’t have many friends growing up. The outside world was scary, so fictional entertainment was enough to keep me occupied. I was the kid who thought garbage like Kangaroo Jack was hilarious, after all, so my standards weren’t exactly high. This made me the prime target audience for Pokémon, and I used to throw tantrums whenever I missed the latest episode. Even with Digimon, its rival, being smarter (and having aged better), there was no denying that Pokémon held a special place in my heart, cheesy songs in the dub included.

I eventually grew out of the show in middle school, where Yu-Gi-Oh! was the hip trend. But while I left Pokémon for other shows, Pokémon never really “left” pop-culture. Even after the show switched distribution rights, to the dismay of fans, it still kept a presence on TV and video. Pokémon wasn’t going anywhere, not so long as the games still had their captive audience, and people were gonna have to accept that. So while I might’ve moved on, it didn’t.

All-the-more reason why Pokémon hitting 1000 episodes is a big deal. To be honest, long-running Shonen is a common trend in Japan. Shows like One Piece have been around since the 90’s too, and they definitely have their audiences. But they’ve yet to amass 1000 episodes, or even have a sliver of the cultural impact that Pokémon has had. To-date, Pokémon remains the first show that pops up in most people’s minds when they think of anime, and-for better or worse-it’s shaped how the medium's perceived. So for this iconic series to hit 1000 episodes? That’s significant in more ways than one.

So here’s to you, Pokémon! Here’s to your long-standing success, your incredibly-awkward writing and tonal issues, and the impact you’ve made on a whole generation of anime fans! Here’s to the weird memes, the in-jokes and the awkward edits that ruin the intent of the original scenes! Here’s to your English-added jukebox tunes, and your obnoxious theme song that won’t leave people’s heads no matter how hard they try! But most-importantly, here’s to your first 1000 episodes, and the 1000 more that’ll probably come in the future!

1000 episodes…that’s a really long time for Ash to remain a 10 year-old, no? You should probably fix that, it’s been long enough!


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