Pokémon TV might just be one of the most beautiful gifts to the world, and each episode on the app is packed full of wholesome and political stories. People might not think of politics and pokémon, but its utopia was a warning for us all even back in 1999. The series 3 episode A Sappy Ending showcased just that.
In many ways, it was a typical pokémon episode. Ash is trying to catch pokémon, becomes sidetracked and then has to takedown Team Rocket who are trying to cause mayhem. But there is a lot going on in this particular episode. Ash is told repeatedly not to catch any pokémon otherwise it will upset the delicate balance of the forest, and protecting biodiversity is essential. This is highlighted further when an invading species does just that and throws the whole balance to hell. And why are the pinsir invading? Because Team Rocket are an invasive species too and are planning to strip a nearby forest so it can sell tree sap for profit. Sound familiar?
In a show that is very rooted in nature, almost every single episode Team Rocket manages to create some futuristic mechanical device. It’s a great science fiction element (and shows off their incredible creativity, particularly when they are extremely broke and very bad at their jobs) but it’s also deployed for a reason. Team Rocket consistently try to disrupt the environments around them. They aren’t just trying to steal pokémon – they are also upsetting the balance and local ecology by their actions, either by risking collapse by stealing such important predators or by causing direct disruption by tearing up the environment to catch their target (usually poor pikachu). Almost every episode, the plot fails and these futuristic creations are destroyed by the natural world. It isn’t done by guns, but by people and pokémon working in harmony. A Sappy Ending emphasises just how important a positive relationship with the environment is.
Pokémon was never subtle, but as kids its easy to watch and then listen to adults who say these stories are worthless and are just entertainment. Pokémon was informing us the entire time and was calling us out and maybe that’s why nobody listened, because kids are always dismissed. Look at how Greta Thunberg and the kids who are striking from school are treated. There is little respect for them even though they are right – and they are saying nothing new. The lessons, evidence and facts have always been there for us. Pokémon told us to catch ’em all, but Ash never did. Time and again he walked away from pokémon or released them into the wild because it was the right thing to do. Heracross only became Ash’s pokémon because that’s what it chose. Ash became an admired trainer because of that attitude – and that love of the world.