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Pokémon was the brainchild of Satoshi Tajiri[?], founder of the development company "Game Freak". The concept for Pokémon was loosely based on the practice in Japan among schoolchildren of collecting and training beetles for nonlethal fighting. The game got some initial funding and concept work from another game design studio, "Creatures", as Nintendo, partial owner of Game Freak, was unsympathetic to the idea at the time.
"Pokémon" is actually a contraction of the English words "pocket monster" ("poketto monsutaa" in Japanese transliteration). There are several other such contractions in the Japanese language, such as karaoke.
The Pokémon series is classified as a role-playing game, because they have elements similar to many other role-playing games (such as a top-down, tile based view, item management, and a turn based battle system with familiar elements like hit points and status effects), but they do not focus on plot and character development in the manner of Final Fantasy and many other role-playing games. Pokémon games, rather, focus on the collection and training of many little creatures, which are battled against opponents (either AI-controlled, or live opponents). Depending on the game in the series, there may be 151 or 251 available Pokémon, and in Pokemon Sapphire/Ruby, there is a set of 202 with 83 from the originals, though there are 386 in total. An unusual feature is the ability to trade one's Pokémon with other players via the Game Boy Link Cable; this forms an integral part of the game as some Pokémon can only be collected by trading with another version.
Pokémon Snap[?] and Hey You Pikachu[?] are not RPGs as the rest of the series are, but spinoffs involving the same characters. Pokémon Stadium[?] allows players to transfer creatures from a Game Boy cartridge or to rent creatures from within the game.
Translation issues Name of some Pokémon and other figures are different in Japanese and US version. Most translations are based on US version. For example Japanese 'Kasumi' is US 'Misty'.
Some Pokémon of note These are Pokémon which hold special places in the games, cartoons, or make cameo appearances in other games. The American name is listed before the Japanese name where they differ. A list of the original Pokémon is on List.
Battle Mechanics A whole subculture exists which is devoted to the study of Pokemon battling and strategy. Usually research centers around Internet bulletin boards such as GameFAQs (http://www.gamefaqs.com/), Azure Heights (http://www.azureheights.com/) and The Pokemasters (http://www.pokemasters.net/).
Different aspects of battle mechanics include:
Pokémon TV series The main heroes of TV series are Ash (Satoshi) and his companions Misty (Kasumi) and Brock (Takeshi). Ash wants to become the best Pokémon trainer, and the others accompany him for other reasons.
There are also two Team Rocket (Roketto-Dan) members, Jessie (Musashi) and James (Kojirou), who along with their Pokémon Meowth serve as the bad guys of the series. Jessie and James were for a long time the largest divergence between the game and the television series. In the game, the Team Rocket organization is a dangerous and widespread source of crime--in the series, Team Rocket is almost exclusively represented by the bumbling, not quite so evil Jessie and James. This was rectified in the later Gameboy game "Pokémon Yellow", which incorporated several elements of the television series into the game, most notably Jessie and James who follow you around and battle you occasionally.
The music of the Pokémon TV show was composed by Hirokazu 'Hip' Tanaka, better known for his work on Nintendo games such as Metroid. Nintendo disapproved of Tanaka working on the project, so he quit the company to turn his attentions completely to Pokémon.
On December 16, 1997, an episode of the cartoon broadcast in Japan caused several children to have epileptic seizures. Japan's Fire Defense Agency reported 685 affected people were admitted into hospitals of 30 prefectures by the following day. The phenomenon was repeated when a news broadcast about the event inexplicably replayed the offending scene. It was discovered that the very quickly alternating red and yellow patterns of the scene in question caused a reaction due to a previously undiagnosed (in Japan) form of epilepsy. (As it turned out, the American Federal Communications Commission, and equivalent agencies in most European countries, already knew that television used in this manner could sometimes invoke epilepsy, and had banned extremely high frequency color switching on television broadcasts in their countries years ago.) Nintendo's stock dropped significantly, and the episode with the flashing scene was not broadcast in the United States (along with a handful of other episodes in the first season with content deemed too mature for American audiences, for instance one episode where a park ranger threatens Jessie and James with a loaded gun). The British fans who are denied the right to see these episodes (they are not classed as too mature for British viewesrs) bemoan this.
On March 30, 1998 TV Tokyo announced its intention to resume broadcasts.
Many Protestant Christian groups in the United States believe Pokémon to be Satanic in origin. After the US release of Pokemon Yellow[?], there was a sudden widespread criticism of it passed through Christian congregations primarily by word-of-mouth. Most people believe these claims to be nonsense, and note that they are spread as urban legends. While this criticism has been a widespread phenomenon in the United States, little about it has been committed to print. It would be incorrect to state that the Christian religious community has an official opinion on this, but its widespread nature makes it a legitimate topic of study.
Pokemon has been criticised by some members of the Jewish community for its use of the swastika, the most widely known symbol of Nazism. This is considered by some to be a matter of cultural misunderstanding, as the swastika used to be used in Asian cultures as a symbol for "good fortune". However, many Jewish groups, as well as many Asians, hold that today it should be common knowledge how the swastika is perceived, and that it is inappropriate to use this symbol on children's toys. As a result of this controversy Nintendo stopped using this symbol.
Nintendo Tells ADL it will Raise Concerns of Swastika with Japanese Maker of Pokémon Cards (http://www.adl.org/presrele/Mise_00/3511_00.asp)
The confusion was in fact caused by ignorance on the behalf of the American producers. They did not notice that the Hindu swastika (a symbol of good luck) depicted on the Zubat card would become a Nazi swastika when reversed. All images were reversed due to the Japanese tendency to read right-to-left.
Many Islamic religious speakers in the Arab-Muslim nations of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt hold that Pokeman is part of a "Jewish conspiracy" to corrupt Muslim children. They claim that the word "Pokeman" is a Japanese word which means "I am Jewish" (this claim is patently false). One Saudi Arabian Sheikh has written "The Pokemon craze is a Jewish plot aimed at forcing our children to forgo their faith and values and to distract them from more important things such as scientific ambitions." (Sheikh Abdel Moneim Abu Zant)
The Anti-Defamation League has spoken out against these conspiracy theorites. ADL denounces claim by Muslim leaders that Pokemon game is "Jewish Conspiracy" (http://www.adl.org/presrele/IslME_62/3791_62.asp)
Note that these parallels may not be in accordance with a strict definition of Satanism, or even make sense. This is a point of contention to be held with their proponents, not the author.
Some groups in the United States also believe the show encourages children to run away from home like the main character Ash does in the game and cartoon. Others who are unfamiliar with Japanese beetle fighting claim that the game and show, which involve training of animals to fight other trainers' animals, were inspired by the practice of cockfighting. (See above to learn why this is not the case.)
Uri Geller, Israeli psychic famous for ostensibly bending spoons with his mind, has sued Nintendo over the pokémon "Kadabra[?]" ("Un-geller" in Japanese), whom he claims is an unauthorized appropriation of his identity. The pokémon in question has psychic abilities and carries bent spoons. The name is a pun; the katakana letter 'n' looks quite like the letter 'ri'. Geller sued for the equivalent of 100 million dollars, but lost.
A parents group is suing Nintendo of America and other manufacturers of collectible cards (such as baseball card makers), claiming that the collectible nature of randomly purchased cards constitutes illegal gambling.
Two other parents also set up a site named Pokémon Kills after their son choked on a Myuutsu Power Ball toy. The site was not particularly successful in its aim. A list of rants (complete with reasonable yet humorous comments) can be found here (http://www.dogasu.envy.nu/bashing).
See also: Strawberry Shortcake