Satoshi is set to go to school for the first time ever starting this fall, but what does that mean for the Pokémon animated timeline?
So it turns out there’s a new arc of the Pokémon anime set to start this November. That’s not really so surprising, since the animated portion of the multimedia franchise has been airing new episodes continuously since 1997. Also to be expected is that the new arc is called Pokémon Sun and Moon, since that’s also the title for the paired Nintendo 3DS video games set to be released around the same time.
The setting for both the Sun and Moon anime and games is Alola, a Hawaii-like island community brimming with Pokémon in both regular and tropical versions. But unlike previous subsections of the Pokémon anime, the main impetus for protagonist Satoshi/Ash setting foot in this new region isn’t to catch Pocket Monsters, but to go to school!
Yes, it seems that after hundreds of episodes living the life of a vagabond Pokémon Trainer, the powers that be have decided that it’s about time Satoshi got some formalized schooling. While some may argue there’s nothing you can learn in the classroom that you can’t learn more effectively on the Pokéstreets, promotional text for the Sun and Moon anime says that this is “The start of the sort of student life Satoshi has never experienced before. Is he aiming to graduate!?”
That tiny little question actually stands to have some very big implications for the franchise. Like a lot of animated characters, Satoshi never ages. Even after nearly two decades on TV, he’s still officially ten years-old, and ostensibly he’ll be going to elementary school in Alola. But this talk of graduating implies a passage of time within the anime’s world, which would mean that Satoshi is going to be getting older.
While there are certainly grown-up Pokémon fans who would enjoy seeing Satoshi go on more mature, perhaps even violent, adventures, Pokémon is first and foremost a kids’ series, especially in Japan. It’s highly unlikely that producers or sponsors would want a lead character who’s significantly older than their target audience of preteens, which then begs a question: If Satoshi is going to get a year older in Sun and Moon, is he going to continue aging in subsequent arcs? And if so, will there eventually come a point where he steps aside and hands over the mantle of Pokémon’s leading man to a new, younger hero?
If you really want to get speculative, there’s also the fact that “graduate” has become the code word for “retire” in the Japanese entertainment world over the last few years. Idol singers, for example, never quit or get fired because they’re too old to appeal to fans; they “graduate.”
Of course, the “Satoshi goes to school” angle could all just be a way for the anime’s writers to shake things up from the usual narrative of Satoshi wandering about pseudo-Japan doing nothing but chasing Pokémon. The fact that Alola is very much a stand-in for Hawaii also sets up opportunities for cross-cultural friendship, which is something the Pokémon franchise’s handlers are no doubt keenly aware of following the global success of Pokémon GO.
▼ Making friends from different countries through a shared love of Pokémon was also the theme of one of the first ads for the new games.
We also can’t rule out the possibility that Satoshi’s parents are just concerned that after so many Pokémon tournament losses, their son will never become a full-fledged Pokémon Master, and so he’ll need an education to fall back on when it comes time to look for some other job. Still, it’s probably best to appreciate the character while he’s still around.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where’s he’s thinking that his elementary school mascot, the gryphon, could have been the basis for a really cool Pokémon.