Fan Theory: Pokemon/Kanto War

5th June 2016

Kanto map

Background:

This theory stipulates that in the Pokemon games (and by implication also in the television series and films) the story takes place in the aftermath of a great war that cost many lives and had a huge impact on the infrastructure of the Kanto region, which it is still recovering from. I will not go into this theory in great depth and for the purposes of this post will focus on the original Pokemon games (Red and Blue), although much of this is also relevant to the later games, TV series and films. As with other fan theories I have discussed before this is not my own but I am elaborating on it.

Lack of male adults:

One of the biggest pieces of evidence often cited as support for this theory is the makeup of the population of Kanto, where the games are set. For such a fairly large (for late 90s game standards) in-game world with many towns and regions, Kanto has very very few adult males present. Of those that are present they are either very old (like Professor Oak) or they have a job in the military or organised crime. Throughout history it has been very common in some post-war societies to have a large shortage of young and middle aged men. A prominent example of this is following the First World War, where it was not unheard of for whole male populations of villages and towns throughout Europe to be wiped out.

Also, the behaviour of the children in the world of Pokemon and their circumstances is also evidence of the Kanto War theory. The main protagonist (played by yourself) does not have a father and their mother is happy to accept them as the man of the house, making their own decisions and travelling on their own. This appears to be the case with other children in the Kanto region. They are all scattered throughout the game, travelling on their own without adult supervision. Gary Oak (Professor Oak’s grandson and your rival) is an orphan.

Infrastructure:

There appears to be a lack of communication between the different regions and a loss of information which could be why Professor Oak is keen to have young people go out and explore the wilderness and record details of Pokemon on their Pokedexes that he provides. This could be to gather information on species present throughout Kanto to see if/how any Pokemon populations were affected by the conflict as endangerment or extinction of Pokemon species could be a very likely by-product of conflict using chemical weaponry.

The settlements throughout Kanto appear to have been organised for a utilitarian ethos. There are many hospitals, gymnasiums and supplies stores but no forms of entertainment like cinemas for example. Does this also mean the settlements themselves may be temporary and built for war time? Also, interesting, in Lavender Town the player comes across a very large tower which is a Pokemon cemetery. Could this mean that Pokemon were regularly used in warfare and many perished in the same way as many of the adults? We know one character at least had done so (see next point).

Dialogue:

We know from gym leader Lt. Sarge that there was a war although he does not say how long ago it was:

“Hey kid! What do you think you’re doing here? You won’t live long in combat!

That’s for sure! I tell you what kid, electric Pokèmon saved me during the war!”

Some people counter this theory by suggesting that the lack of dialogue about the war would imply it is not in living memory of many of the characters. But it should be noted when considering this that the majority of the characters the player comes across are children themselves or teenagers so would not have had involvement in the war themselves. Also, this assertion assumes that there would be no taboo for discussing the conflict, which there very likely would be – especially with strangers.

Conclusion

In conclusion it is clear that the social structure of the societies in Pokemon are very unusual to say the least, and we know from gym leader Lt. Sarge that there was a war involving the residents of the region although it is not ever stated how long ago this was. But the premise of this theory is that the war was very soon before the events of the game and presumably in living memory of the characters despite (or perhaps because of) their lack of acknowledgement of it. But the war is still affecting their day-to-day life and has had a large impact on the adult population.

Further Reading

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