This one’s pretty basic.There are several hints that the pokéverse is actually a far-future earth rather than its own universe or an alt-reality. As of now there are three main things I think are worth discussing.
The mention of actual places
In episode 1.9, “The School of Hard Knocks,” Misty has a daydream about how much she loves Paris. This one is the weakest because I think this mention of real-world places happens infrequently, and also because there could be an alt-version of Paris if the pokéverse is simply an alternate universe (AU), roughly parallel to our own except with pocket monsters. On a Compelling scale of 1-10, 10 being “Super compelling,” I give it 6/10.
This one is weird. In episode 1.16, when the gang is adrift on a raft, we get this exchange.
Brock: I remember the story of Noah, who, when he had to find dry land, sent a bird to find it and return with a branch.
Ash: What a great idea! We’re gonna do the same thing as Noah!
Okay, wow, we get a casual reference to Judeo-Christian lore from Brock, the font of random wisdoms. This bit of evidence is pretty hard to explain away. I guess we could write it off as another possible AU, except that I’m pretty sure elemental creatures being very clearly not mythological would have changed how world religions developed, especially if they’ve been used by/as companions to humans throughout history. I know that later in the series we get creation myths and a creator-deity, but as of season one those things don’t exist, and I’ve never seen those eps/films, so I’m going to say that the existence of Noah is extremely compelling evidence that the pokéverse is far-future earth. I give it a score of 8/10.
“A dream-eating tapir”
A final bit of evidence is in episode 1.27, “Hypno’s Nap Time,” when Ash whips out his Pokédex to get a description of a drowzee. The ‘dex description tells us that drowzee is a species “Descended from a dream-eating tapir.”
Two possibilities–one, “a dream-eating tapir” refers to one specific, unique dream-eating tapir whose babies became a whole line of pokémon. This is… possible, I guess?
More likely, though, “a dream-eating tapir” refers to “a species of dream-eating tapirs.” This would indicate that pokémon, in their present state, evolved from more recognizable species that had begun to develop special powers. In this scenario, drowzee is descended from a species of tapir with powers who, in turn, is descended from the less powerful but still adorbs tapirs in our own world; this would explain, too, why there are so few real-world critters–they’re all the observed evolutionary progressions of species that we have around us now. While the ancestral forebears of pokémon aren’t around anymore (except for a few primary consumers like fish, insects, and worms), humans have cataloged and still remember those ancient species, which is why they sometimes refer back to them when describing or naming ‘mon.
This is at least as compelling a piece of evidence as the reference to Noah–it establishes that humans in this world know how pokémon have evolved over time and establishes that some are descended from species we have here. It loses a point or two because of grammatical ambiguity and because, well, tapirs in our world don’t eat dreams. (That we know of, I guess…). Take off another point for the fact that I guess it could still be an alt-world with alt-evolutionary development. Score for this bit of evidence is 7/10.1
As you may or may not know, later seasons of the show will begin to build up a mythology of the universe that spans from creation and the primordial world to the present day. A creator-pokémon and various minor deity or demiurge-like ‘mon pop up, and legends of pre-human earth begin to become important. This doesn’t disqualify the pokéverse as a far-future earth, since mythologies and religions change. It is interesting to see, though, how much narrower and less fantasy the series is at this point. I’ll have to keep an eye out for if and when the series starts to pull away from its affiliation with the real world. Will they mention Paris or America again? Will we get more references to Judeo-Christian or other religious narratives? We shall see!
1. (This gets some sub-conscious bonus points because in a few seasons we’ll find out that there’s another psychic-type, tapir-esque pokémon called munna, perhaps an evolutionary cousin of drowzee and descended from that common ancestral tapir. This doesn’t really count for the same reason that I’m not factoring in the creator-deity pokémon Arceus–it doesn’t exist as of ep. 1.27.)↩