Is Pokémon Okay for a Christian to Watch?

1.5em;" href="http://beneaththetangles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/season12_ep27_ss1.jpg">season12_ep27_ss1

I would argue that Pokémon is the single most influential anime in North America today.  I say this because I know far more people, many younger than me, who have seen or watched Pokémon and don’t otherwise watch anime. For me, my first anime was Pokémon: The First Movie. I watched it at my best friends house in 2000. So what does this show say about anime? What is it about?

(First off, I grew up in a home that did not allow anything related to Pokémon. Anime was considered bad by not just my family, but many Christians I knew. However, my best friend liked and introduced me to it at a young age. I do like Pokémon, but some Christian websites do have problems with it. I personally, find most of their problems with it unfounded.)

season12_ep27_ss4

Pokémon has 1.5em;">a couple of major ideas running through out it. Many of these are very important to Japanese culture, such as dedication, hard work, adventure, friendship, evolution, mythology, and collective improvement through personal advancement.

  • Dedication: Pokémon emphasizes dedication to what you do. Ash is a ten-year old kid who has been traveling throughout different regions battling Pokémon since before I was ten. The show says he does it to become the best Pokémon trainer, because that is his dream.
  • Work: Pokémon is very much about hard work. Battling is incredibly important to achieve success, but also at times for personal safety. Success in battling only comes after lots of training. Trainers Train Pokémon to execute orders and move on command, and to at times operate without instruction. One must also train oneself in order to be respected and obeyed by his or her Pokémon.
  • Adventure and Friendship: I believe that these two themes actually fit together. Pokémon in some ways has become as big and as important as Journey to The West was in its day, crossing borders and influencing many around the world. It has a strong taste of adventure, but at the same time layers on the importance of friendship. Adventure with friendship or better yet, camaraderie, makes all parties stronger. Ash makes many friends and rivals along the way that help him in all kinds of difficult situations. I believe this varies quite a bit from the classical tales of individual heroes. It is more like Sherlock.
  • Evolution: This is the part of Pokémon that makes many Christians squirm. Unfortunately, this is a clear misunderstanding. This does not refer necessarily to Darwinist Evolution, as Pokémon exists in an alternate world that is very different from ours. The show and games make this clear. This type of evolution is simple personal change – evolution at its purest definition. Pokémon species do change, but they change because of leveling up, or friendship, or touching a certain type of rock, not because of natural selection.
  • Mythology: Pokémon does have its own mythology that governs the games and anime. This, if anything, is what Christians should pay attention to. Many of the ideas of Pokémon’s mythology come from traditional Japanese and Chinese mythology. If our view of God shapes us, then this is something that may be important to discuss. Pokémon has a creation myth. It has myths about the creation of life, and most recently life and death.
  • Collective Improvement Through Individual Advancement: This is very much a Japanese idea. It is not very prominent in the west, except maybe in Capitalism. It is much more simple than it sounds. If I work hard, then everyone will benefit; if we all work hard, things will get better for everyone. Whether right or wrong, this idea is very influential in Japan. It runs throughout Pokémon and is one of the reasons each main character has a rival. The main character and rival continue to compete and grow stronger till they both reach the top. They support and kind of pull their friends along as they go.

I really like Pokémon, so I am clearly biased. However, I am trying to be as objective as possible as I have been on both sides of the arguments. So let me be clear, I do not believe anyone can condemn the Pokémon series because of religious reasons. I believe that is a religious spirit, not a Godly one. I am not saying Pokémon is Godly, but if we have an issue we need to deal with it, not run away from it. If we don’t know what to say, then don’t say anything at all. I believe that Christians and non-Christian alike can enjoy some anime, but if you disagree I would love to talk with you about why I believe that.

My character from Pokemon X
My character from Pokemon X

zeroe4

Artist with a heart for Japan.Student at SPU. Blogger and Nomad. Formally with YWAM Tokyo.Portfolio @ arxyuki.com - Blog @ zeroe4.me

26 thoughts on “Is Pokémon Okay for a Christian to Watch?

  1. I’ve been a devoted player of the games since the days of the original, and as you said, the “evolution” concerns really are an apples-and-oranges complaint, given that Pokémon’s concept of it works nothing like Darwin’s.

    One of the most unusual things I’ve seen is when I once knew a person who refused to use Dark-, Ghost-, or Dragon-type Pokémon. (And Dark-type Pokémon are not necessarily “evil,” nor are Ghosts or Dragons.) The complaint about dragons really confused me, and I’ve heard it before. Just because Satan manifested as one (Revelation 20:2) wouldn’t necessarily mean that all dragons would be evil if they existed. He also “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14, New Living Translation), but that doesn’t make angels evil by association any more than it would make dragons inherently evil.

    1. I think we tend to make assumptions about things we don’t understand in order to protect ourselves from potential harm. For example, I do not drink alcohol, because I think it will taste bad. It is a personal preference, and I won’t force it on someone else, because Jesus drank. I believe there is a very clear line of what is right and wrong. Anything in between is between you and God. I like and watch anime but avoid anime that supports incest or sexual themes. I personally, do not want to put something like that in my mind because it will cause me harm. However, watching Bleach for example isn’t going to change my view on God, death, or heaven, but for some people it may be a stumbling block. That is why we must take it before God and ask him.

      1. Pretty much. Romans 14. Take things you’re not sure of before God, without judging as sin what God has not called sin (Deuteronomy 4:2). As for alcohol, that’s also been spoken of as being permissible in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 14:26).

      2. That is so the same with me. I love the anime one piece but i had a little buggy thing with the fruits called devil fruits but i prayed about and and talked about with my parents and people at church and i realized and after some looking up research on it what it was just a name like how there is a cake called devils food cake.besides i just rather call them ability fruits anyway lol

  2. This post me realize things in Pokemon I haven’t realized in a long time (or rather, I have never put it in words.) It provides a different perspective on things, more specifically, on one of my favorite things. 🙂 Nice post.

  3. To be honest, about Darwinist evolution and other mythologies, I don’t think it’s something to flip out over bigtime. I can’t be sure if this or that is the way the world started, or if this or that is how we came around, too. I think that whatever happened in the past is already past, that we should respect each others’ beliefs, and that we should exercise what our faith or belief requires us to do. Friendship for the win, you know!

    1. There’s certainly a wide variety of ways Christians view media, depending on their values and reading of scripture. While I’m with you about the needless “flipping out” over evolution in media, the (I think unfortunate) truth is that many will focus on that idea, calling it evil and harmful, rather than focusing on perhaps more important, positive aspects of series like Pokemon. I can only imagine what some critics would think of Digimon, a series I prefer over this one!

  4. I grow up in a Christian family but animes or movies never became a problem. They are stories created by human. Why do we dwelling on other people’s imagination? If you enjoy it then watch it. If you don’t, then don’t watch it. If one’s religion can be changed by an anime or even science, then he know nothing about his religion nor science.

    PS: if people have problem with pokemon, then no kids should watch Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay night because they changed history.

    1. I agree with you. although fate/zero or anything nasuverse related isn’t meant for kids.

    2. I agree with you to a certain extent, but I think both experience and the Bible are clear on this matter – what we take in DOES affect who we are. Consume enough sinful material and it comes to change you, whether subtly or obviously. That’s why I appreciate posts like Daniel’s – they get us to think about what we’re watching. And I think Daniel impresses an important point – it’s not the surface things that are important (ex. Fate/zero’s alternate take on history), but the more thematic implications, those sometimes subtle, but powerful messages, that are more important (ex. Fate’zero’s take on the essence of evil, power, and what is right).

  5. I still haven’t seen a single episode of Pokemon. One of my older cousins had the cards, and I faintly remember some discussion over whether or not Pokemon was okay. I assumed the problem had something to do with demons or spirits, so this was an educational post. In some ways, the religious defensiveness some Christians have is really helping us. It forces me to think about the effects of anime I wouldn’t otherwise think twice about, including children’s anime like this. Nice post.

  6. I’ve always thought metamorphosis is a better word for what happens to Pokemon, then evolution. Evolution just sounds better in a game play view.

    1. That’s an interesting thought – certainly, “evolution” has that stronger sound when pronounced – so forceful and dynamic.

  7. You know, I have a cousin who held onto the steadfast belief that Pokemon was demonic and evil and wouldn’t let her child, (My Second Cousin) watch it. She even went so far as to take the Icons off the computer that was a pre-installed Pokemon game! Many a time I wanted to engage her in conversation to explain that Pokemon was about as harmless, if note more so than American Cartoons, but I don’t go looking for headaches, if you catch my drift. 🙂

  8. I remember quite a few experiences I’ve had with people saying Pokemon was “evil” or “demonic” and as a child it really infuriated me. Even now I look back on it and it baffles me how most of the people said those things without a true understanding of Pokemon.

    I clearly remember how a friend’s parents refused to allow their children to play Pokemon because of accusations like that and it really bothered me. I suppose things like “ghost Pokemon” might come across as occultish or demonic to some groups of people, yet I really felt that those people missed the point. I guess there was also the issue of “animal violence” and whatnot (which now makes me think of the laughable PETA material that exists today). But it’s just like you said, Pokemon isn’t about those sorts of things. At its core, Pokemon (at least the anime) is a story about how friendship and hard work can bring people success and how dedication is necessary to achieve your goals. If themes of that sort make a kids’ show bad, then we might as well just keep children from watching any entertainment altogether.

    I also distinctly remember a book fair catalog for my school (which was a Christian school, by the way) listening things for Pokemon, Naruto, and other miscellaneous anime series that I was quite a fan of back then. As it turns out, my school did not allow them for much the same reason and it was incredibly frustrating. Beyond Pokemon, it felt like anything categorized under anime was viewed as evil and that really irritated me because then it felt like an implication that my own Japanese culture was something that somehow offended the views of others (who clearly had no legitimate knowledge of the subject material of these series to begin with) and it really made me wonder what these people truly found to be important.

    I should probably stop rambling because I could go on with this for a while. I can’t say that such accusations are true of all Christians (of course they aren’t, and thank goodness they aren’t because it would probably drive me insane), but I’ve had far too many experiences with things like this to be content with claims that whatever random fictional entertainment story is somehow a tool of the devil or the worst creation in existence. The way I see it, people shouldn’t focus on how “this is evil” or “that is demonic” but rather how they can help other people, be more faithful to God, improve themselves, etc. It’s situations like these that really frustrate me because it feels less like those Christians are really doing what is right but rather imposing their own personal moral standards on other people, and that’s one of the worst things people can do in my personal opinion. Who’s to say that such things are “right” or “wrong?” The more people fixate on trivial things like the “evil” aspects of random fictional stories, the less they’ll notice the people who truly need help from God or intervention in their own lives. As a child in a Christian family and a person who regularly attends to church, I know many kind, respectable, loving Christians, and it’s because of this that I expect more from people than finding some irrational obsession with “cleansing the minds of children” despite Pokemon being about as innocent a story as you can find. I can only wonder how such people would respond if they heard about Berserk or Saya no Uta…..

    1. You know, I wanted to add something to your comments…but I’ve got nothing to add. You’ve said it all, quite elegantly. So I’ll just say this:

      Amen!

  9. My son came home upset bc a boy on the bus told him pokemon was evil. He does take this to heart. Not too long ago he deleted a game off the ipad that said a bad word, one he purchased with his own money. He came to me for answers. First thing this morning he asked did you look them up. I kneww what he was talking about I just said I needed to read more into it bc some where saying they were bad some were saying they are ok. Being a parent I don’t want to say it’s OK if it’s not I really don’t think he is learning anything bad from it but on the other hand I am not so sure

    1. Your son sounds like such a sweet boy. That’s awesome that he’s trying to do the right thing, even if it takes sacrifice. Most kids just aren’t like that, you know? You’re doing a wonderful job parenting!

      My kids are just starting to get into media that isn’t entirely wholesome – some with crude language (mostly “fart” gags at this point) and such. It’s difficult to tell where to draw the line. For me, important ideas to keep in mind are 1) does the media lead the child to sin or accept thinking that unbiblical and 2) can I use the media to engage my child in conversation about things that are of God.

      For the first, I think there’s more danger when it comes to media extolling a worldly life – reality shows for instance – than in most animation series. And for the second, you can use series like Pokemon as starting points for discussion about right and wrong.

      For more info about Pokemon, particularly, I would take a look at this article that just went up this week:

      http://www.geeksundergrace.com/gaming/pokemon-indoctrinate-kids-evolutionism/

      Take care!

    1. No worries, that interview isn’t real 🙂 The site is somewhat like The Onion for video game journalism. They made up the interview to basically showcase some satire about the Christian attitude toward Pokemon.

Leave a Reply