Joseph Tobin, a professor of early childhood education in the Mary Frances Early College of Education, was recently quoted in a CNN article about the legacy of Pokémon.
Tobin, who’s also the author of the 2004 book, “Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon,” said the ability of Pokémon to evolve was part of the appeal.
“Along with Tamagotchi, the narrative was that you’re caring for them,” he said. “You care for them so they grow up, and kids can identify with getting stronger. But then you also care for them by (making sure they) don’t die. It was unusual to have this in a battle game … it took some of the features of war and then combined them with nurturance.”
Pikachu—arguably the franchise’s most marketable, successful and iconic character—has a likeable design, which fed into Japan’s efforts to export pop culture in the ’90s, Tobin said.
“The idea was—or the corporate strategy as a nation was—we want ‘our’ mouse to compete with Mickey Mouse,” he said. “So, I think the fact that Pikachu is a mouse-like creature is not coincidental, but (the character) was made to be hyper-cute—cuter than Mickey or Minnie.”
All Pokémon were part of a comprehensive universe—one that had something to offer for everyone. That mattered during the gender-normative world of toy marketing in the ’90s, Tobin said.
“At the toy store (at the time) you had a blue aisle and a pink aisle,” he said. “But Pokémon was created to reach across the aisles.”
The article continued to evaluate the legacy of Pokémon and the intergenerational nostalgia that comes with the nearly 900 Pokémon characters in existence today.