This week’s post isn’t really ecocritical, not directly, and it isn’t even about the anime. Today is, instead, a bibliographical romp through internet fandom, Japanese literature, and an alternate poké-canon.
Takeshi Shudo was the lead writer for the first several seasons of Pokémon. Last week I discovered that in ’97, Shudo apparently wrote a two-volume novelization of the Pokémon anime that contradicts the canonicity1 of the show in various ways. From the sounds of it, the novels are best read as Shudo’s own particular spin on the pokéverse. His take is a little darker (he goes into some social issues caused by pokémon battling) and there’s apparently some crazy origin stories for pokémon themselves. It’s gratifying that some of my own speculations about battling’s effects on family dynamics, or my own thoughts on where pokémon fit in relation to humans and non-human animals, are also ideas that Shudo thought and wrote about. It’s also fascinating to see how the series, already flexibly manifesting in the differing canons of anime, various manga, and the video games, has (dare I say) evolved in other directions as well.
The novel is only available in Japanese. It took me over half an hour of late-night internet detective work to even confirm that there really was a novel and it wasn’t all an extensive internet legend. The info out there is all pretty sketchy, sometimes either contradictory or pretty obviously lifted from another source, and doing an extensive bibliography would be a fun and insane time. Here I’m just going to offer a brief annotated bibliography of the best sources I found after a single evening of researching. I think I’ve covered the major available information out there, and it was enough to make me wish I could read Japanese. Or that there was an English translation. Or both? Regardless, I’ve ordered a copy of the first volume of Shudo’s novel, mostly because of the illustrations and also because having it on my shelf will make me feel so legit. Shudo’s novel is a major shibboleth in the fandom. I will now judge all fans by whether or not they know of Shudo’s novel. Congrats, my small audience, by reading this you now have major fan cred.!
Everything quoted from the sites is [sic] x a billion. [Author’s note]s are from me, not the author of the quoted material.
– The first post in the thread gives us a translation of the prologue I’ve seen reproduced fairly often, although the original source is unclear. Here it is, copy/pasted from the post, emphases added:
It happened one night.
In the darkness, a small light shone.
There was a small sound, like a burst in the air.
Then, a creature was born.
At that same time, in other places…
Those creatures were born, one after another.
Those creatures were of all shapes and sizes.
Some of those creatures resembled ones we already knew.
But in truth, they were in many ways completely different from any creature that had ever lived in this world.
Like humans, who long ago evolved and branched off from a species of ape, every species in the world had descended from creatures that had lived here before.
But these creatures were different.
Suddenly, one night…
They appeared as they are, in forms we would not recognize from our reference books.
Later, people would come to call these creatures “Pocket Monsters”.
“Why are Pokemon here in our world? Explaining this mystery would be as hard as explaining the mystery of mankind.” -From An Introduction to Pokemon Studies by Ookido Yukinari [author’s note: Prof. Oak], Professor of Pokemon Studies at Tamamushi University.
– Fairly random discussion of some aspects of the novel. People seem to get really excited that 10 is the legal age of adulthood in Shudo’s novel, because it would mean “canon shipping,” which I guess is important to internet people? Maybe someday someone can explain the appeal of shipping to me because I do not understand why it is such a big deal.
– On Satoshi/Ash: “He was a pitcher for his Baseball team reason why he is so handy with catching pokemon’s [author’s note: might also explain the baseball cap.] He never saw his father face not even in photos, for this reason Satoshi (Ash Ketchum) was bullied in school.”
– Ash’s grandfather lived with Ash and his mom; “he was a pokemon trainer also he teach the basics to satoshi starting at age 5. Satoshi develop the same love his grandfather have for pokemon including battle even thought Grandfather Sathoshi wasn’t a good trainer.”
– “The book says that ‘there is a legend that the God created this world in a week. This god ‘doodled’ some extra animals in the seventh day. Those animals were born on holiday, and they weren’t ordered to ‘be ruled by humans’ or ‘rule human’. They are Pokemon.'”
– “Pokemon are dangerous, of course. It is stated that not understanding fully about Pokemon and trying to train them is very dangerous and there are many people hurt or dead doing so.”
– “The 18th centuries, zoology became professional scientific discipline but there were some mysterious creatures that can’t be assorted, like dragons or mermaids. Then Count Tajirin of France (…of course this is from Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon…) discovered and studied Pokemon for the answer of it.
– “A gym leader is disqualified when s/he loses three times in a row. They often bribe challengers. Also it is a terrible job (cost a lot of money & the government support is not enough).”
– “When kids turn 10, they are legally treated as an adult. They have to pay tax, get arrested when they commit crime, can marry, can get a job, etc, etc. . . . Most of the males in the world try to be a Pokemon trainer, and of course, most of them utterly fail hard.. . . That’s why most of the workers are female.”
– Some background about Team Rocket’s illegal manipulation of the pokémon market and Jesse’s first jobs: “Once, in her late teen years, she [Jesse/Musashi] had disguised herself as a anchorwoman of a national radio station. The program was ‘Popular Pokemon Top 100’… Her job was to rank some unvalued Pokemon in the top 10 list, to keep the prices of Pokemon that Team Rocket stole high. By the way, the fake Top 3 then were Shellder, Paras and Magnemite.”
– A warning about misleading paraphrases or representations of Shudo’s novel in various blog posts. Also, it sort of hints that Ash’s mom might be abusive? Idk what that’s about.
– “Compulsory education ends once children reach ten years of age, as they are then considered adults. As of the April following their tenth birthday, they may continue on to secondary education, or leave school to pursue other interests, be it Pokemon training, starting the career of their choice, or even getting married.”
“Out of Chaos” (potentially ongoing translation?)
– Discussing translation of the novel and the Japanese penchant for puns–“I’m on page 10 and already have a lot of footnotes, and that there are a lot of puns which are very near untranslatable. For example, the third chapter title of the first book is, “旅立ちの日はオニスズメ”, literally “The Day of Departure is Spearow”, but considering the word for Spearow is オニスズメ “onisuzume” comes from the words おに oni “demon” and a word that sounds like すすめ susume “an advance”, the title is more likely to mean something like, “The Day of Departure is a Demonic Advance.”
Translate the page into English and there’s actually a good bit of info here I didn’t see elsewhere.
– There’s some background on Oak (like he was a professor emeritus at age 25, had a rumored heartbreaking affair with an actress, and that his brothers are a police chief and mayor).
– Covers the information about Ash’s family I keep seeing paraphrased on other sites. Worth a look, if only for some of the weird garbling we get in the linguistic journey from Japanese to English by way of whatever language the translator spoke. Also, who doesn’t love a parallel translation?
1. The game and anime universes are pretty clear that ‘mon have existed on earth for some time, to the point that the pokéverse has a creator-deity pokémon, Arceus–and, less mythically, fossilized pokémon. The games, though, seem to span a fairly sprawling multiverse, with different games taking place in different universes (as hinted at by the Delta Episode at the end of OR/AS) so I suppose Shudo’s novels might be one bizarre parallel reality? Ah, multiverses–the ultimate excuse for inconsistencies.↩