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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Pokémon Demonstrates the Futility

Pokémon Demonstrates the Futility by timtak
Pokémon Demonstrates the Futility, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

My daughter May is at the age where she has got the language bug and goes around mumbling to herself, in a perpetual monologue, often based on the theme of Pokémon, a cartoon series that she watches with her elder brother.

Pokémon are pocket monsters: little creatures with large superpowers that live in the pockets of their human trainers. The most famous pictured (poorly) above is Pikachu, a cross between a mouse (that say "chu chu" in Japanese) and a lightening flash, "pika", in Japanese onomatopoeia.

The interesting thing about these monsters is that while they speak, the only thing that they say is their name. Pikachu only ever says "Pikachu," or "Pika" for short, in various tones of voice, often by means of self-encouragement or self-comfort. Pokémon are bundles of auto-affective cuteness that use language solely to remind themselves of themselves and how cute they are.

Various theorists have argued that language is useful for communication (Dessailes, 2007), and the most famous that language must be useful for cognition (Chomsky, 2002). But the truth is Pikachu.

The mental mirror that language provides when we use it, the means, is the end. Futility!

Incidentally, the nuclear bombs were called "pika don" (flash boom) by the Japanese children upon whose cities they dropped on. Perhaps even, through Pokémon, they will have peaceful, but mind-blowing retribution. Pika!

I note that Pokémon can even dangerous to Japanese children.
Radford, B., & Bartholomew, R. (2001). Pokémon contagion: photosensitive epilepsy or mass psychogenic illness?. Southern medical journal, 94(2), 197-204.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.