Friday, September 19, 2008

Why I Love Pikachu


No. It's not a sneeze or a baby game (it rhymes with "Peek-a-boo"). Pikachu is a Pokemon.  If you have no idea what a Pokemon is, you probably don't have kids between six and sixteen. Pokemon is a popular cartoon (Japanese animation or "anime") about kids who train little creatures with special powers to compete in what amount to sort-of science fiction cock fights. Sound awful? Well, YEAH, when you put it that way!

But anime has a way of making the most ridiculous nonsense seem reasonable. Even endearing. And Pokemon is chock full of messages about love, loyalty and perseverance.

Anime is no novelty to me. I cut my teeth on G-Force, Voltron and then Robo-tech and my husband on Speed Racer and Star Blazers before me. So I don't question the characters' huge, moist eyes and jagged hair in an array of dayglo colors. I may roll my eyes a bit at the little Pokemon creatures whose entire vocabulary consists of their own name: "Pika…CHU!" "Turtwig!" "Roserade!" "Timmy!"---No, wait. That's South Park.

Can I explain the massive appeal of this essentially silly show? No. But I don't have to. I just LOVE Pikachu.


Sure, he's adorable. But that's not it.

You see, my son, Gavin, has recently become obsessed with the little rosy-cheeked guy. And while it's disconcerting to ask him a question and receive only "Peekah-peekah!" as an answer, he seems to have learned a few positive things from the lightning-bolt-slinging furball.

Gavin is now in second grade and the spelling tests have begun. During his first practice test at home, my little perfectionist couldn't remember how to spell "this" and the result was a howl of frustrated rage. We were teetering on the brink of a meltdown on par with the effects of firing the Yamamoto's Main Gun. I felt myself begin to panic as I envisioned a whole year of battles over this simple process.

Then inspiration hit me like... well... a lightning bolt.

"Does Pikachu win every battle he's in?" I asked suddenly.

This brought Gavin up short. He eyed me suspiciously, but there was something like hope in his huge, moist eyes.

"No," he conceded.

"Does he give up?" I asked.

"No," he said again.

"When Pikachu loses a battle, Ash just helps him train more so he can do better next time, right?"

If words could only convey the radiance of that boy's smile when he made the connection. It was okay to fail! Pikachu did it and he was still the greatest thing going!

"Peeee-kaaaaaah!" Gavin said joyfully and picked up his pencil again.

The next day, he brought home his first spelling test with twelve out of fifteen right. "Not bad for a beginner," he said, philosophically.

That's probably a line from the show.