When the Pokemon game (cards, video games, and spinoffs) was becoming huge in the culture, I was getting questions about it from both parents and teens, especially when I spoke to youth groups, I had the Pokemon cards, which I had carefully looked through. I also had a large book on the game that revealed animism and occult concepts.
I had warned previously that any entertainment from Japan needs to be scrutinized due to the animism in the religious heritage and practices of Japan. Just about every video game I knew of and a lot of anime from Japan contains animistic magic and occultism. If people would recognize this one principle, then it would be easier to discern the issues.
Animism and Occultism
Pokémon owes much of its its conception to creator Satoshi Tajiri’s childhood love of bug collecting, but the mythology and animist religious history of Japan also provided rich inspiration.
Shintoism, Japan’s oldest religion, teaches that the world is inhabited by thousands of kami, or gods. When made offerings of food and incense, kami bestow good luck in business, studies and health, but when disrespected, they can turn vindictive.
In many cases, the parallels are clear: the water/ground Pokémon Whiscash bears a strong resemblance to namazu, a catfish who causes earthquakes in Japanese mythology; meanwhile, grass/dark Pokémon Shiftry is clearly a tengu or goblin.
Together with the slightly more sinister yōkai (monsters), kami inhabit trees, rivers, rocks and other natural phenomenon, including thunder and lightening. Similarly, Pokémon also live in trees, rivers, rocks and the sky. In Pokémon Go, when offered food and incense, Pokémon become your allies, rewarding players with points and special items. Alternatively, they can run away or resist capture.
In her 2006 book Millennial Monsters, scholar of contemporary Japan Anne Allison argues that popular culture phenomenon such as Pokémon demonstrate a kind of “techno-animism”, which imbues digital technologies with a spirit or soul. (Credit to Paul Carden for this article)
Understanding occultism as delineated by God in Deut. 18:10-12 is key to discerning occult concepts in games, literature, videos, movies, books, etc. This is what my book SpellBound: the Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids is about.
These practices were connected to the worship of false gods and is how those worshipers connected with and learned the supposed will of these gods, which of course, are demons. Several places in the Bible equate false gods with demons.
This is from the CANA Occult Terms document:
Pokemon – A Japanese-originated video and card game which means “pocket monster.” This is a strategy game distributed through Wizards of the Coast, a company which is now a subsidiary of Hasbro Manufacturing. Wizards of the Coast also owns Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. Pokemon involves many characters and several types of energy cards, one of which is termed “psychic energy.” Some of the Pokemon characters have occultic or occult-type powers such as casting spells, hypnosis, the power to put another character to sleep and “eat his dreams.”
Animism in James Cameron Film, “Avatar”
This is an excerpt from the CANA article on James Cameron’s movie, “Avatar:”
Neytiri, the female Nav’i that Jake falls in love with talks to Jake about “the flow of energy.” There is a “network of energy that flows through all living things;” this energy is “borrowed and one day you will have to give it back.” This latter statement is not explained but could mean, given other indications in the movie, that when one dies, one goes back into the elements of nature via Eywa, the deity of Pandora.
When Jake kills an animal, he says, “I see you, brother, and thank you. Your spirit goes with Eywa and your body stays behind to become one with the people.” Eywa, the goddess of planet Pandora, could be seen as Pandora itself.
This action implies that Jake is respecting the animal, yet the animal, for all this respect, is still very dead. Do these words make it better for the animal? There is a myth like belief in our culture that tribal or aboriginal peoples who live in nature have a deep respect for nature simply because it is nature. Actually, these people are animists who believe that spirits and deities inhabit nature and must be placated in order to avoid disaster (see Dan Story, “Are Animists Model Environmentalists?” Christian Research Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2010). As Dr. Gailyn Van Rheenen writes in “Defining an Animistic Worldview”:
“…animists believe that all of life is interconnected. People are intimately linked to their families, some of whom are living and some who have already passed into the spiritual realm. They are also connected to the spiritual world: The ambivalent yearnings of gods and spirits impact the living. Animists feel a connectedness with nature: The stars, planets, and moon are thought to affect earthly events. The natural realm is so related to the human realm that practitioners divine current and future events by analyzing what animals are doing or by sacrificing animals and analyzing their livers, entrails, or stomachs. Many animists also believe that they are connected with other human beings. They are able to access the thoughts of other human beings…” Nature is respected because a natural disaster can mean death and because food and sustenance depend on the well-being and abundance of the plants, soil, and animals in the environment.
Shintoism is animistic and permeates the culture of Japan. These concepts were imported into the West via anime, video games, cartoons, and movies. As I have said before, just because something is a cartoon, is cute, or is for children, does not make it innocent.
Talking to Teens and Children
When I talked to teens about this and whenever I talk about occult themes movies or games to teens, I rarely say, “This is evil. Don’t do it.” I want them to think for themselves and see how to apply biblical worldviews to what they encounter, so I explain the worldview behind a movie or game and compare it to the biblical worldview, or ask them to compare it. It is not conducive in getting teens to think things over by simply declaring a movie or game is evil.
For younger children, parents need to make the decision and explain in terms the child can understand.
Is Pokemon Still Popular?
Although it is not at its peak as it was in 2016 (when I first wrote on it), it is still very popular:
“Apart from being a global gaming giant, Pokémon has also become one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time. Today, the brand’s empire encompasses a popular anime series with over 1,232 episodes, a trading card game, merchandise, and several movies that continuously draw fans to the theater …”
See SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids (on Kindle; prices for hard copies vary and can be high, but this book will be republished in 2024, Lord willing).
James Cameron’s “Avatar” movie
Short link for article http://tinyurl.com/2knv67ct