The walk to and from school everyday simply can’t be uphill both ways, which is why I don’t want to ever turn into a “back in the day” person. Fifteen years from now, when all media is streamed over the Internet and free from FCC regulation, I don’t want to be running around saying things like, “Remember back in the day, when we used to have artists like Ke$ha and Britney Spears? Those singers had class!” Unfortunately, not becoming a “back in the day person” is easier said than done. I know this because I caught myself unknowingly turning into one.
It all started when I decided to catch up on what had happened in Pokémon over the last 10 years. Why shouldn’t I be curious? After all, Pokémon has had a profound impact on my life. Not only was it perhaps the single greatest part of my childhood, but my attitude toward every activity I’ve ever gotten into is derived from the wisdom of Ash Ketchum — I want to be the very best. To top it all off, there’s no doubt in my mind that Pokémon’s implicit affirmation of the theory of evolution, as well as the availability of universal health care at PokéCenters, had a significant influence on my political ideology. My love of Pokémon is why, upon beginning my research, it was so shocking to discover the current, horrid state of the Pokémon franchise.
With each new installment, the video games got worse. Pokémon Red and Blue were the best. Pokémon Gold and Silver were the last truly great games. Adding tons of new Pokémon each generation turned out to be a bad idea. Two-hundred and fifty one Pokémon was already stretching it; the creators simply ran out of good ideas for new ones. As if this wasn’t bad enough, with the newer games came the appalling addition of the Pokémon beauty contest.
Unfortunately, the games were only the beginning; the same thing happened to the anime. The first couple seasons of Pokémon were epic. There were compelling themes, the rivalry between Ash and the cooler and more popular Gary Oak, the sexual tension between Ash and Misty, and the difficulty Ash had earning the respect of Pikachu and Charizard. The first seasons also had meaningful character development; viewers watched as Ash Ketchem slowly transformed from a novice into a veteran Pokémon trainer. To top it all off, Pokémon battles were exciting. When Ash turned his hat backwards, people knew stuff was about to go down.
Now look at the Pokémon anime. There is no telling how many people had the misfortune of viewing an episode of Pokémon DP or Pokémon Black and White (apparently all recent Pokémon series names are required to translate poorly into American culture), but these new episodes were entirely devoid of what made the first couple seasons of Pokémon so great. On top of this, since Ash stopped wearing his original hat, the pre-battle hat turn lost all epicness. The series has been in a downhill slide ever since the first couple seasons.
So troubling was the current state of Pokémon that it kept me up at night. “Back in the day,” I said to my pillow as I lay in bed, “Pokémon was just better.”
Back in the day?!
That’s when I realized — to my horror — that I had unknowingly begun the transformation into a “back in the day” person. While that day it was limited to Pokémon, the next day I might be running around saying things like, “Remember back in the day before iLive? Being alive used to be an accomplishment!” Because it’s human tendency to recall the good instead of the bad, there’s no telling where things will end when we let our tendency to idolize the past get out of hand.
So I bought Pokémon Diamond for the Nintendo DS. Guess what? It’s actually pretty good. It made sense to add more Pokémon; the original 151 would have gotten old. And why not have beauty contests? I’d vote for Jigglypuff over Ms. America any day. As for the anime, Ash looks better in his new hat. Back in the day, things really weren’t any better than they are now.
And that includes Pokémon.