Is there anything wrong with collecting Pokémon cards or toys?

Pokémon or Pokeman originated in Japan in 1996 and means ‘pocket monsters’. Apparently they originated from a series of cartoons in Japan which features 151 ugly or cute little monsters which are individually named such as Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Meowth, Charmander, Nidoran and the yellow mouselike Pikachu. This was the infamous series that caused the seizures incident in Japan on 16th December, 97 where 700 children were hospitalized due to a flashing effect in one of the episodes. In any case, in this cartoon, a young hero by the name of Ash Ketchum, embarks on a journey to become a great Pokémon trainer. To do so, he must catch as many wild Pokémons as possible. But in order to catch one, Ash must first challenge it in a match with a Pokémon which is already in his possession. Each of the Pokémon possess special powers and abilities such as evolving into more powerful creatures, sending out ‘alpha waves’ to induce headaches, mersmerising opponents and rendering them defenceless, using psychic powers to move around, draining and stealing opponents’ energy to neutralise them, etc. The power become available for use by the owners of the creatures possessing them.

From this series of Japanese cartoon have emerged one of the latest fad-phenomena as the mysterious little creatures won the hearts of children as young as 4 years old. A movie: Pokémon: The First Movie grossed $100 million in just 15 days in the U.S.A. When a US TV show announced a ticket giveaway, the phone system at Warner Bros Studio crashed after it received 70,000 calls in a minute. Nintendo GameBoys (electronic game set) featuring Pokemons, retailing for US$29.95, have sold more than 4 million units in the US, and have, together with other Pokémon products reaped over US$1 billion for Nintendo of America. A role-playing, interactive card game featuring the Pokemons has grossed about US$225 million in sales. Around the end of last year the Pokémon was the most popular toy in America according to a survey; and another report suggests that Pokémon is set to top the chart again in 2000, with the introduction of new characters and toys, another movie in summer, and heavy marketing.

The popularity of Pokémon cannot be over estimated. The Americanised version of the daily cartoon series, achieved the No. 1 spot in Saturday-morning and weekday-afternoon slots across the nation. A search on the internet using AltaVista returned over 400,000 pages with references to the craze. There are even website dedicated to news related to Pokémon. There are books written about it: such as How to become a Pokemon Master by Hank Schlesinger or the Pokemon Trainer’s Survival Guide by Mark McDonald. Hundreds of thousands of Pokemon cards are being exchanged each day. And multitude of children are engaged in playing the Pokemon game which takes 4 months to complete!

The Pokemon may not have come in full force to Singapore yet. But you would have observed that many kid’s clothings and assessories are featuring the monsters. And you would have probably seen kids huddled together in isolated corners of the shopping centres exchanging or playing Pokemon cards—which include role playing the creatures depicted in the cards. You would probably also heard about them from your children, nieces or nephews who learned about them from their classmates.

Is Pokémon just a harmless toy? When I first saw it on the children’s clothings in a Pasir Malam (night market) I asked my 6 year old what it is? He quickly acquainted me with what he had learned in school, adding that some of the creatures are evil looking, though one of them is cute and harmless. Though the yellow Pikachu appears harmless, I had immediately some discomfort both with the unnatural appearance of the creature and with its popularity. I am particularly adverse towards anything that can capture the heart of children so powerfully that it becomes obsessive and idolatrous: Power Rangers, Tele-tubbies, Hello-Kitty, etc. I asked my son if he thinks the Pokemon is idolatrous (meaning: does it promote idolatry in the hearts of children), and he agreed with me. Christian parents must be extremely wary of any toy that can captivate the heart of their children so that they become obsessed with them. These things can easily be used by Satan to promote bad values subtlety.

Pokemon is an obsessive toy with a vengeance. It is promoted with carefully engineered incentives to drive the obsession such as (a) a seductive vision: to become Pokemon masters; (b) tempting promise: supernatural power; (c) an urgent command: "gotta catch them all." These enticements are drilled into young minds through clever ads, snappy slogans, and the "Pokeman rap" which is repeated at the end of each TV episode: "I will travel across the land, Searching far and wide, Each Pokeman to understand. The power that's inside. Gotta catch them all!"

It is not difficult to see how the last line of this rap fuels the craving for more Pokemon related cards, games, toys, gadgets, and comic books.

Not surprisingly, in America, numerous schools,—both public and private,—having seen the damaging effects of the Pokémon craze, have imposed a ban on Pokémon, refusing to allow it on their campuses. In Orlando, Florida, the Orange County School Board imposed a ban in November last year when card trading resulted in kids trading lunches, stealing backpacks and threatening bodily harm for deals gone bad. The testimonies of mothers who allowed their children to collect the cards or play the games are revealing: The host of a conservative radio show in Washington, D.C. revealed how her 9 year old began to develop obsessive behaviour after he started playing with the Pokemon. "He’s a sweet boy and had always been very generous with his toys, except when it came to Pokémon," she says. "He became obsessed; that’s all he wanted to talk about." "It’s unlike anything I've ever seen," says another mother, a licensed clinical social worker as she saw the same obsessional nature emerge in her usually well-behaved 9 year old. "His whole demeanor changed. He became irritable [and] deceptive.… It was interfering with his schoolwork. Instead of spending time on extra credit he was drawing pictures of Pokémon."

But is there more to it? I believe so. The powers of the creatures depicted in the cartoon are actually occultic, and children playing with them are given the impression that they can possess those powers in their hands if they possess the card depicting the creatures with the powers. Moreover, the instructions in the cartoon and games introduces occultic concepts such as: channelling, summoning, spell-casting, psychic-powers, witchcraft, enchantment, possessions, shamanism and hynoptism. Incidentally, Pokémon monsters in the game and the cartoon can only say their name, so when they talk they are really chanting their name. Chanting is a form of self hypnosis and is utilised by many occultic religions to call forth spirits! And some of the games require the children to role-play the monsters, and thus involving them in hypnotically chanting the name of the creatures! Is there no danger? If the hypnotic flashes on TV could cause 700 children to suffer seizure attacks, how do we know that these chanting has no effect physical or spiritual?

Is there anything wrong with collecting Pokémon cards or toys? I believe the answer is obvious. But let Scripture have the final say: "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God" (Deut 18:10-13). "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph 5:11).