Gotta Catch ‘Em All… Visual Rhetoric!!!

Once upon a time, in a region far, far away, there lived a plethora of animals that could only learn four moves. They were called pokemon. And they were awesome. Who am I kidding, they still are. Pokemon come in all shapes, sizes, and types:¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†,¬†, and¬†. Look at all those pretty colors. The colors add to the intratextuality of the game, but so do the appearances of the pokemon.¬†Bulbasaur is one of the starter pokemon given to you at the beginning of the game. He is from the first generation of pokemon; the generation in which there were only 151. Without knowing his name, or seeing his pokedex entry, what type do you think he is based on colors and appearance alone?¬†If you guessed¬†¬†you are correct. If you guessed¬†¬†I have to wonder how he looks like a bug…

On Bulbasaur’s back is a flower¬†bulb. As he evolves the flower blooms. This is metaphoric gold on a semiotic level. The flower blooms because Bulbasaur has grown not only in size but also in experience. He has fought many battles and learned many moves (or not, it’s up to you). The flower on his back is a symbol of all this pokemon’s hard work.Many of the pokemon are the color of their type, but not all of them. Some pokemon are depicted with popular tropes. If someone told you they were¬†¬†and had telekinetic powers what would you ask them to do? Move something off the top shelf? ¬†What about bending spoons? That’s just what the¬†¬†pokemon Alakazam is shown doing. But he’s not the color of the¬†¬†symbol. In fact, that color isn’t on him at all! How am I supposed to know what he is before he hits my pokemon with a nasty, over powered¬†¬†move? Well, I could memorize what each pokemon is, not hard in the first generation, but significantly more difficult with the most current generation (number six) considering there are now¬†719… OR I could look for clues on the pokemon.

Pokemon relies on intratextuality, informational references within the game, and intertextuality, informational references outside the game. Prime example:  pokemon.

See that huge ball to the right? What kind of pokemon is he? (Ignore the hint I gave you one sentence ago) He’s an¬†¬†pokemon. His name is Electrode.¬†An electrode is¬†an¬†¬†conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit (so says Wikipedia). Let’s assume you are the target audience for this game: young children around eight years old. Do you know what an electrode is? Probably not.

Not all the intertextual references work on all audiences.

On another note: he’s round. Remember what I’ve mentioned about circles? Well this one is¬†lying¬†to you. One of his moves is called¬†self destruct¬†in which he blows up and takes your pokemon with him (unless they have a high defense). This is not a safe circle at all.

Let’s take a look at some hotter pokemon.

Meet Arcanine (he’s on the left), a¬†¬†pokemon. He’s a mixture of colors and shapes isn’t he? He’s one of the pokemon that makes the intratextual reference to its type’s color. Notice that the symbol for¬†¬†and Arcanine are similar colors. They are both an orangey red, just like a fire. Arcanine’s light tan tufts of fur appear similar to a flames and we know he’s a force to be reckoned with because of the many triangular portions of his fur tufts, his triangular stripes, his triangular eyes, and his sharp teeth sticking out from his mouth.

How about some more direct pokemon with special abilities relating to their intertextual inspirations?

Plusle (with red markings) and
Minun (with blue markings) are the cutest little¬†¬†bunnies. Even their tails show their charges! There are two types of¬†¬†charges: positive and negative. They work like magnets: like charges repel each other and opposite charges attract. Plusle’s special ability is called¬†Lightning Rod.¬†With this ability, Plusle¬†attracts¬†all¬†¬†type moves. Minun’s special ability is¬†Volt Absorb.¬†With this ability, Minun will heal whenever he is hit with an¬†¬†type move.

In Pokemon games, when the color coded system fails, it is important to examine the gestures performed by the pokemon.

Sometimes, our base knowledge and gut reactions lie to us. For the most part, the legendary creatures (legendary because there is only¬†one¬†of them in the game) look like their types. The first generation legendary pokemon are¬†¬†Articuno, the¬†¬†legendary bird,¬†¬†Moltres, the¬†¬†legendary bird, and¬†¬†Zapdos, the¬†¬†legendary bird. Since they are all birds, it’s not a surprise that they are also¬†¬†types. The birds are all colored to the same color as their type, making it very simple to figure out what type of pokemon they are (as if their names were not enough). But not all of the legendary pokemon in later generations do this. Take Uxie, Mespirit, and Azelf for example.

Uxie (yellow), Mespirit (pink), and Azelf (blue) are all . If we were to look strictly at their colors and the intratrextuality that almost 20 years of gaming has told us, Uxie is , Azelf is  or , and Mespirit is the only  pokemon of this group. Gestures are important, just like they were with Alakazam.

By J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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