Jason: Once a Pokémaniac, always a Pokémaniac

By Jason Offutt

The students were talking about Pokémon. What bothered me is I knew they were talking about Pokémon. I’m a grown man. I shouldn’t know such things.
“I’m going to use Primeape for my profile picture,” one boy said.
Apparently one month a year is “Pokémon profile picture month,” or some such thing, during which Pokémoniacs (or whatever they’re called) use a picture of their favorite Japanese video game monster to represent them on social media.
I didn’t (and don’t) want this knowledge inside my head. I also didn’t want to know the students were picking their Pokémon picture for the month. I just couldn’t help myself.
“Excuse me.” Of course I inserted myself into their conversation. I had to. My brain processed information it has no business possessing, embarrassingly understood said information, and had to get it out before my skull exploded. “Did you say Primape?”
“Yeah,” the student said, preparing to explain what that meant.
“You mean the evolved form of Mankey?”
A look of shock sprang to his face. “Whoa, dude.”
I kept walking having earned the title of Most Awesome Old Dude in History.  And, no, I haven’t gotten a T-shirt printed that says it, although I could.
I know too much about things I don’t want to know anymore. Like Pokémon. This popular Japanese anime somethingorother started as a video game in 1996, a movie franchise/TV show in 1998, a trading card game in 1999, and a source of stress for me since the Boy and the Girl decided this particular headache was something they really needed to latch onto.
As a good parent, I learned what I could about Pokémon so I could have knowledgeable conversations with my children about something they were interested in. When I was a kid, all my dad had to worry about was baseball, which he liked. Then I discovered “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and he just gave up.
While my formal education in Pokémonese progressed, I began to suspect two major problems:
1) I was getting pulled into semi-weekly, stress-inducing Pokémon card games that were quickly becoming regular.
2) I was in no way going to unlearn any of this. Nope. Not a bit. Once you memorize the evolution patterns of the major Pokémon (an Americanized contraction of the Japanese “Pocket Monsters”), that knowledge is not going anywhere.
If I’ve confused anyone up to this point, you’re lucky.
The basics of the Pokémon game universe are:
• People called “trainers” wander in the wild and capture these usually adorable creatures called Pokémon.
• Trainers then force these doe-eyed anime versions of Disney woodland creatures to fight gladiator style until one of them loses consciousness.
• The more these things fight, the faster they evolve into something new I have to learn.
• The card games with my children last way, way too long.
• Afterward I have a drink.
• The end.
If there were any Pokémon terms or concepts in this column you don’t understand, I’m not going to explain any of them. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ve done you a favor.
Thank me sometime.

Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at

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