Twitter Reminds Us that Pokémon is in Fact Very Queer

by Andrea Marks Joseph

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday September 10, 2022
Originally published on August 29, 2022

A scene from the "Pokémon" anime series.
A scene from the "Pokémon" anime series.   (Source:IMDb)

The Japanese franchise Pokémon made its sensational American debut as a trading card game and video games in the late 1990s, followed by a popular kids' TV series — all of which has evolved into various successful spinoffs. It's been a global cultural phenomenon for over three decades now, and shows no signs of ever leaving dedicated fans' hearts, minds, or game consoles. Many of those fans have since come out as queer, and have found a deeper connection to the stories through identifying the Pokémon characters which reflect their queerness.

With so many iterations of the story, from the original "Pokémon Adventures" manga issues, to an ever-evolving video game landscape, and more than 1000 episodes of the ongoing anime on Western screens (currently streaming on Netflix), there's almost too much to unpack if you're looking to dive into any official themes — let alone ideas that hint at queerness. But a tweet that went viral for the passionate responses it received after saying that "LGBT doesn't exist in Pokémon" serves as a fun introduction to some obvious LGBTQIA+ representation.


Characters Jessie, left, and James, right, of Team Rocket on "Pokémon."
Characters Jessie, left, and James, right, of Team Rocket on "Pokémon."  (Source: IMDb)

Let's start with a quick look at Team Rocket:

The flamboyant villains of the anime series, Jessie, James, and their sidekick Meowth constantly show up in extravagant outfits, debuting new ambitious schemes to try to steal Pikachu from main character and all-round good-guy Ash Ketchum. It's their flair for drama, phenomenal outfits, frequent cross-dressing (which sometimes extends further into full-on body changes), and specific dynamic that feels deeply queer to fans.








Replies to the below tweet, which simply shared an image of the iconic trio in costume include: "The most unmistakably bisexual and gender fluid, arguably hetero pair in all of animation," and "There is no heterosexual explanation for this." To which we say: True.




Misty, left, and Jessie and James of Team Rocket, right, on an episode of "Pokémon."
Misty, left, and Jessie and James of Team Rocket, right, on an episode of "Pokémon."  (Source: IMDb)

James specifically

There is a strong emphasis from fans celebrating the genderfluidity of how James, specifically, is presented to us:






Sylveon appears in the "Pokémon" anime."
Sylveon appears in the "Pokémon" anime."  (Source: Screenshot)

Trans Pokémon

Whether intentionally or not, the Pokémon Sylveon is absolutely draped in ribbons that are the colors of the transgender flag.






Fans also reminded us about the times we saw Pikachus coupled off in seemingly same-sex pairings. (In this generation, Pikachu's gender is represented by the shape of their tails: Look for either a heart-shaped tip or sharp, squared end.)




In the above image, we can see that tape has been used to amend the shape of this Pikachu's tail, leading us to believe that this assigned-male Pikachu wants to be viewed and addressed as female. This is true, but not in the way we imagine. The taped-on-tail Trans Pikachu in these images is actually from an episode where Ash's Pikachu goes undercover to try to access a female-Pikachu-only area — but there's nothing about the Pokémon world that suggests there wouldn't be a trans Pokémon. In fact, this episode raises a possibility that makes it feel even more likely!

Ditto appears in the "Pokémon" anime series.
Ditto appears in the "Pokémon" anime series.  (Source: IMDb)

Ditto

There's an online fan debate as to whether the Pokémon Ditto is genderfluid or agender, pansexual or asexual. The jelly-like creature can switch between genders as it can shapeshift into any other Pokémon, which is its only real "attack" move. Ditto can also breed with any species of Pokémon. So, depending on your beliefs, Ditto is either frequently switching genders or temporarily shapeshifting into something which has a gender and then returning to its original agender form in between.

Ash in the "Pokémon" anime series.
Ash in the "Pokémon" anime series.  (Source: IMDb)

Ash Ketchum

Many fans were delighted by this description of Ash (known as Satori in the Japanese editions) by Rika Matsumoto, the actor who voices Ash Ketchum in the anime.






Canon trans character "Beauty Nova" in the games




If we look to the "Pokémon" video games, we'll find NPC (non-player character) "Beauty Nova," the most canonically and undeniably trans character in the "Pokémon" world. Now a "Beauty" (the female-only Pokémon Trainer delegation), Nova mentions being "Black Belt" (the male-only Trainer delegation) "a mere half a year ago."




In the Japanese version, where the English above is translated (via some Western censorship) to "Quite the transformation," Nova's original words are: "The power of medical science is awesome, wouldn't you say?" which is frankly, undeniable.




If this has sparked your fascination and you'd like to dive into it more, there's also Professor Ivy — who lives on a deserted island with only her female assistants, and was confirmed as lesbian by "Pokémon" head writer Takeshi Shudo; as well as Blanche, a nonbinary Team Leader in the game Pokémon Go — who is only ever referred to with the pronoun "they" by the official accounts.

We wish you all the best on your expeditions toward discovering more queer characters in the "Pokémon" universe. Whether their queerness is found only through your interpretation, or officially recognized in the realm, there are so many "Pokémon" characters and storylines to find yourself in, and we know you've gotta catch 'em all!

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