Annalyn’s Corner: Leave the Pokemon Village

For a long time, I felt out of the loop whenever Pokémon came up. It seemed like half the anime fans in my generation watched or played Pokémon growing up. Meanwhile, I didn’t watch anime until I was sixteen. My family didn’t have Cartoon Network, so I didn’t even watch dubbed anime in ignorance, like many of my friends. I never had a video game console, and none of my friends were into the card game. So whenever anime fans got nostalgic, I was left clueless.

I finally found the Pokémon anime on Netflix, researched which was the first season (Answer: Indigo League), and started watching. It’s definitely a kids’ show. I can’t say I’m a fan. But the tenth episode, “Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village,” managed to turn on my aniblogger brain, so here I am. 

(Note that Netflix does not have the Japanese version of Pokémon. I have no idea how much liberty they took with the English script, but I’m going to plow ahead with the version I am most familiar with.)

In this episode, Ash, Misty, and Brock are lost in the woods after Ash led them down a “shortcut.” They come across a Pokemon and try to catch it, only to be fended off by a Bulbasaur. After stumbling into a few traps (and getting helped out of them), they finally arrive at a village full of Pokemon (which, by the way, is short for “pocket monsters”). The village, run by Melanie, is a sort of “health spa” in which Pokemon who have been injured or abandoned by their trainers can return to full health. It would be very easy for Pokemon trainers to take advantage of this and attack while they’re weak, so Bulbasaur has volunteered to protect the village.

Melanie explains why Bulbasaur should leave with Ash.
Melanie explains why Bulbasaur should leave with Ash.

After the main conflict of the episode is over, Melanie suggests that Bulbasaur join Ash. She explains that he can’t grow in the village. It’s too small. When the kids ask about the village’s protection, she responds:

It’s true that Bulbasaur has done a great job. Maybe too great a job. See, these Pokemon shouldn’t remain in this village forever and ever. After they recover, Pokemon are supposed to leave, but it’s too safe here, so none of them wants to go away. They don’t want to return to the outside world. But I think it’s important that all of them return to the wild. That’s where Pokemon belong. And hopefully someday they’ll find good trainers like you. Of course taking care of sick Pokemon will always be my mission. But I know my job isn’t finished until they return where they came from. So it is the day a Pokemon leaves that is most rewarding to me.

Pokemon aren’t supposed to stay where it’s safe. If they do, Melanie can’t consider their recovery to be complete—healthy Pokemon eventually move on to environments in which they can grow.

Christians are like Pokemon. Sometimes, we need rest in order to heal or prepare for work ahead (that’s what Sundays are often for). But eventually, we have to leave what’s safe and comfortable in order to grow, train, and fight.

Like Pokemon, we should be growing—”evolving,” so to speak (note that I used the little e). The New Testament often talks about maturity. The writer of Hebrews sounds a bit exasperated that he (or she—the writer is unknown) has to go over the basics about Christ again:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14

Mature Christians can always benefit from meditating on basic truth about Jesus Christ, but they should be prepared for more difficult topics—more than that, they should be equipped to teach. To become mature, we can’t just passively listen to what their favorite pastors say—we have to be proactive, studying the Word, listening carefully to what others say, and questioning words and actions that don’t seem quite right.

From what I’ve gathered in the anime, Pokemon can’t “evolve” unless they see action. Good trainers know how to train their Pokemon and use them in battles in a way that they’ll gain strength, both in their current form and in order to “evolve” to their next form. Similarly, Christians can’t grow unless we see action. Sometimes, that means “training” in a relatively peaceful environment, like a Bible study—we need to confront any sins or false beliefs we’re holding onto, and that can be very uncomfortable, but we may not need to confront anyone or live out our faith in an obviously hostile environment. Sometimes, though, there’s something more challenging in front of us. Maybe it’s confronting a Christian brother or sister. Maybe it’s sharing your faith with an unbelieving friend. Maybe it’s standing firm in obedience at work or school when everyone else is minimizing a sin—whether that’s slacking off behind the manager’s back, cheating, or something else.

Many Christians are called to live out their faith in physically dangerous places—whether in their native country or as missionaries. But there are other types of trials and challenges, both small and large, and we’re not supposed to hide from them. Situations that are unsafe, uncomfortable, and even agonizingly painful are to be expected in a Christian’s life. And the Bible says we’re to welcome them—they’re opportunities to follow in Christ’s steps, to grow spiritually, and to bring glory to God (1 Peter 4:12-19). We are asked to give up our lives—not just possibly become martyrs, but to hand over our dreams, attachments, and values. We’re to be willing to give up everything that makes us feel comfortable, because Jesus Christ is giving us a new life—a new set of dreams, attachments, and values (Matthew 10:24-42).

I’m the cautious type. I like to be sure I can do something before I try it. I weigh the risks and try to predict what will happen. Job hunting right now is particularly stressful—Mom tells me that I shouldn’t keep disqualifying myself before giving the potential employers a chance to read my resume. It’s hard to remember to trust God’s hand in the process. I’d rather know exactly what I’m going to do, whether I’ll like it, when I’m going to do it, and where—like I did for the past three and a half years at a Christian university. But if I wanted an easy, predictable life, then I signed up under the wrong Lord.

Pokemon aren’t supposed to live in a “health spa” village forever, and Christians aren’t supposed to sit in a pew at church forever. Unlike the Pokemon, we don’t have to worry about facing the wild alone when we leave safety. We’re more like Bulbasaur at the end of the episode—except our trainer is a lot more reliable than Ash. We don’t know what roads he’ll take us on or what kinds of battles he’ll ask us to fight. He will ask us to do things we can’t do on our own. If we’re following Christ, the question isn’t if things will get hard but when. So if, like me, you’re in a place of rest right now, let’s thank God for it and take this time to study up on Scripture, pray, and be ready for every opportunity to serve others and to confront sin that threatens to entangle us. Confess with me any reluctance to trust God with your future. If you’re in a place where spiritual battles are obvious and daily, and you find yourself growing weary—be encouraged, friend. No matter how hard it is right now, God will use this for his glory—and for yours.

Don’t let comfort hold you back. It feels good in the short term, but we’re not made for easy “village” life. We’re made to grow, train, and fight in the service of God—all to glorify him and enjoy him forever.

 

18 thoughts on “Annalyn’s Corner: Leave the Pokemon Village

    1. Thank you for commenting, John! It means a lot to hear that this post resonated with you, and it’s really encouraging to know you enjoy our other posts, too. ^_^

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    2. I’m so glad that you come to read the articles on Beneath The Tangles! Having a non-Christian perspective can be really refreshening, helping the writers and fellow believers do their jobs better! I love that you are here and welcome!

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    3. Annalyn,

      When I saw the word “Pokemon” on Beneath The Tangles, a loud, obnoxious girl scream escaped my mouth hole, and I have no clue how it got there! In all seriousness, Pokemon has been my first introduction into anime, as I watched the VHS reruns from when I was five until I was eight. My parents never had cable, so from then until the Nexflix Age when I was fourteen, I’ve been stuck with shows like Curious George, Word Girl, and Super Why. So entering the anime world two years ago with shows like Attack On Titan and Sword Art Online was a life saver!

      I think that your article really impacted me in a positive way! When I have my periods of comfort and rest, I tend to not take advantage of them, and wonder why I struggle so much when trials come. From what you wrote, although not directly, I have learned to make a better use of my time so that my faith will be stronger, being firm on the strong rock foundation. Putting myself out there as a Christian and sharing my faith with complete strangers has been something that I have already been pressed about by the Holy Spirit, so reading what you had to say was really encouraging!

      Keep up the great work! I love reading your thoughts and learning new truths about the Bible!

      Regards,
      Micah Marshall

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      1. Haha! Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm, Micah!

        I’m so glad to hear that my post was able to impact you. Praise the Lord! Anything true and constructive in this post comes from him, and his timing is better than mine. (This was just my backup topic—I had it on hand in case new episodes of this season’s shows failed to inspire a post, and I didn’t start developing it until the day before it went up. I didn’t expect to get such a response from people!)

        Thank you again for your comment—it’s encouraging to read. ^_^

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  1. Welcome to the Pokemon nostalgia club! I was in a similar boat to you, though it sounds as though my parents weren’t quite as strict (we had an antenna with one channel that aired cartoons, and they let me play video games, albeit only on Fridays and Saturdays after I had completed my homework and chores). I kind of watched Pokemon out of necessity as it was the only cartoon that aired after school for a good year or two. Like many of my friends, I also played through one of the games (Crystal: the only Pokemon game I’ve completed, and it holds a rather special place in my heart because of that).

    I think I rewatched the first season or two of the anime about 4 or 5 years ago, and I recall being surprisingly struck by some rather serious plot developments. For being unabashedly aimed at children, sometimes they threw some heavy stuff out there! One of the funniest secondhand stories I retell, as heard from my brother, was when his twenty-something friend called texted him out of the blue and told him he had cried when Ash had to set a certain Pokemon free (I won’t mention which one because spoilers :P).

    Anyways, the theme of existing in a “bubble” is something particularly applicable to people attending Christian schools or living in predominantly conservative areas. It’s definitely a concern, and one that needs addressing! How apt to apply a theme from Pokemon to do so!

    As a brief aside, I wonder if Christians should learn to be less concerned when they see the word “evolve,” but that’s an entirely separate article.

    Thanks for the article this week, Annalyn!

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    1. We had an antenna, too, but Pokemon wasn’t on PBS, the only one of the three channels with cartoons. There were three shows we enjoyed watching after homework and before dinner (there weren’t any kids’ shows on after dinner anyway—PBS switched to boring adult stuff). Then we got cable for a few months, lost the antenna (I think we got a new TV), and ended up without any way to watch cartoons except the computer—once we were a little older. So, no Pokemon.

      Serious themes in some of the episodes? I look forward to them!

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  2. Oh wow, is this a blast from the past for me. 😀 Great post, and I know I have to always work on stepping out into more “dangerous” places in faith (though the military also has ways of throwing me into said places whenever I start getting too comfortable…).

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  3. Very good! I do have a longish comment that I’ll need to break up, unfortunately.

    Clarification: Christian use of retreats are periodic and habitual rather than incidental.

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    1. First, the Desert Fathers went to the hostile environment, chancing robbery and every kind of death to more deeply pray. Hermitage is both a renunciation of the world and combat against the devil. Yet in renouncing the world, it in some sense is a refuge.

      Second, monks specifically embrace the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience to enter an environment where the three can be encouraged. Their way is also specifically a refuge and battle.

      Third, friars, the preaching orders of monks, most clearly model the lay Christian way of engaging spiritual combat. They have the advantages of the monastery, i.e. community life, with a specific role in acting as a community out in the world. Again, refuge and battle, refuge and battle.

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    2. So too must the lay Christian find refuge and do battle, find refuge and do battle. If there is no refuge, there is no prayer, for God is my refuge as well as my strength.

      (Sorry about the triple comment, but the view I have of this Web page doesn’t let me go over a certain length without hiding the “Post Comment” button.

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      1. Thank you for your comment! I appreciate what you added about “periodic and habitual” retreat. It’s a good extension/clarification of the topic. I have nothing else to add, so I’ll just leave it at that. ^_^

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  4. Are you kidding? No way am I gonna’ leave the village! Some kid might hit me with one of those fishing bobbers. Have you any idea what it’s like inside one ‘a those things? MAN, IT’S REALLY CRAMPED!

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  5. Welcome to the Poke-club, Annalyn. We meet Wednesdays 😛

    A period of rest followed by a period of action. As you said, these are parts of our life. One of the greatest examples I can think of in the Bible is the entirety of the Book of Judges. Judges follows a cycle – the people sin, the people are conquered, the people realize their errors & cry out to God, God sends a Judge to save them & they are granted a period of rest. Each period of rest is followed by a period of struggle. In the case of Judges, this struggle is of their own doing. But, in our lives and in the life of Bulbasaur, this struggle can come from anywhere and anything. Struggles beset us our whole lives.

    For me, the example I think of is when I began my first job out of graduate school. I had been schooled for a very long time, spending the past 6 years in the same city for undergraduate and graduate school. I was a chemical engineer with a heavily biology based Masters. Now, I was about to start my first non-academic job and I was…in the field of environmental engineering. It was a tangential field to what I had been doing for years. It was scary, different, and very new to me. New regulations, new requirements, new types of reports to write, and a new boss who was very unlike my graduate advisor. It was a risk that I had to take.

    Nearly 9 years later here I am still working in the environmental field and enjoying the difference I get to make, as well as the interesting nature of the ever changing field. When it comes to finding a new job, as it appears you are looking to do – you never know what you’ll end up enjoying or be good at, until you try it for the first time. At 18 when I entered college, I expected I’d be working at a chemical plant one day. Now? I’m sitting in an office planning out how to deal with an environmental release in southern Mississippi.

    Good luck to you both in your job search as well as your Pokemon journey. Well said.

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    1. Thank you, Matthew! I really appreciate hearing about your job history. It’s too easy for me to disqualify myself from a job because it’s not in a field I’m very familiar with, instead of giving it a try. I entered college expecting to become a math teacher. I planned to get experience as a student teacher, graduate, fulfill the requirements for my TEACH Grant in a needy high school, and teach for the next several decades. Then I switched my major to Creative Writing. Instead of one nice, predictable path, there are many possibilities in front of me. Trusting God and stepping onto a path full of unknowns is difficult. So it’s good to hear about job experiences like yours.

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  6. I know the feel: I got into Pokemon very briefly before I was no longer allowed to watch it (the Christian anti-Pokemon craze happened at my school, and my parents decided to play it safe, not fully knowing what it was all about). I never saw this episode, but you did an excellent job of applying it to the Christian faith. Goes to show you that just about anything can be used for God’s glory if we look at it with the right “lens.”

    The verse about consuming milk VS meat in Hebrews is what instantly sprang to mind (so glad you mentioned it!). I think on one hand, a “baby Christian” should be kept from “meat,” while on the other hand an “adult Christian” should not be fed on milk. In the former situation, the complexity of the “meat” could be dangerous to a baby Christian not yet capable of digesting (read: discerning) it. In the latter, and adult Christian will quickly become malnourished if only fed on milk–simple spirituality better suited to those young in Christ.

    I think too that God often removes the “Bulbasaurs” in our lives when it’s time for us to move on and grow as Christians (and oftentimes, this is when we’re tempted to question God’s “goodness”). This thrusts us into new and usually uncomfortable situations, encountering what I like to call “sandpaper people” and “sandpaper places”–individuals and situations that rub and grate on us, but ultimately make us more polished as a result.

    I know you’ll do great wherever you end up next. You’re very talented and intelligent, and this gives you a unique spirit that will be attractive to employers and educators alike. Don’t sell yourself short 😉 Totally get where you’re coming from though. I just graduated with my BA and now I’m twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out where to go next–work, more school, something else? The Lord seems to be leading me to pursue my education further through the Masters program at my university, but the new experience is a bit scary and uncomfortable all the same.

    Ultimately, though, we all have to mature, physically, mentally, and spiritually, and as a Christian I believe that reliance on God and trusting his guidance is key to all of the above. 🙂

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    1. I love what you added about God removing “Bulbasaurs” and what happens when we encounter “sandpaper places.” That is an excellent way to put it.

      I want to go for a masters degree, but in the meantime, I need to start paying off my first set of loans. And I want to make sure I’m not running back to academia just because it’s comfortable to me. Yes, a graduate program would be difficult and come with its own set of challenges (especially if I became a teaching assistant with one of those huge classes I hear big colleges have). But school is where I feel comfortable and confident. I know it well. I can see myself as a professor. But first, I need to give a non-academic route a try. I can’t enter a graduate program this year anyway, so I’ll take at least the next year and a half off from school. From there, only God knows what’s next.

      Thank you for your comment!

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