Why I Hate Pokemon!

(Or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the termites)

by Kurt Kuersteiner © Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards for The Wrapper Magazine


I know, I know. We're not supposed to bash any non-sport products because it can be bad for business. But sometimes a collector's gotta do what a collector's gotta do. Pokemon sales are a phenomenon that no amount of sarcasm or satire can reduce in any way. And more's the pity, because I for one CAN'T STAND POKEMON!

I hope I'm not alone either, but I'm really beginning to wonder. Watching the long lines of kids waiting to spend their parent's hard earned money on those-- those... (I can't quite say the word without wincing) "cards"-- it's very difficult to witness without feeling my blood pressure surge. I keep wanting to grab those kids and shake them hard while screaming: "Don't you realize there are thousands of better card sets for hundreds of dollars less!" (Of course if I actually did such a thing, my next column would be written in crayon from within the nut house walls. Yet still, the temptation persists.)

Note on the counter of the local Books-A-Million: "Due to the incredible demand for Pokemon cards, customers will only be permitted to purchase 10 packs per visit."

Okay, maybe it is envy. Maybe I'm jealous because I didn't think of it first. But you have to admit, Pokemon cards are pretty darn stupid. I've racked my brain trying to think of a single non-sport card series that was more inane or easier to make, and I can't come up with anything that surpasses the banality of Pokemon.

First off, the backs don't offer any text. (I haven't seen the Topps set yet, what I'm talking about here are the game cards.) So 50% of each card is wasted. That means the crummy artwork has to be reduced nearly half to squeeze it in on the other side with some text. Did I say "artwork"? What was I thinking? A kid could draw this stuff in third grade (if not kindergarten). Maybe that's the appeal to kids, but I like art that can't be doodled while talking on the phone. Many of the Pokemon pictures are grainy. It looks like they didn't even bother paying for new artwork, they just took video grabs from the cartoon. What a rip off!

Pokemon is crowding out all the titles on ebay. Almost 50 more pages of listings are on ebay than existed before Pokemon hit the market. It can be pretty aggravating waiting for page after page to download when most of it is nothing but Pokemon.

Also, the names of the monsters are gibberish. Many of them are regular animal names spelled backward (snake = ekans). Maybe the Japanese are reading the wrong direction like their cousins in China, and don't even realize it. How hard can it be to dream up original names? I'm surprised they didn't stick with Japanese. (At least then the cards would teach something.)

Which reminds me of another irksome aspect of Pokemon. It ain't made in America, pal! It's just another example of Americans sending their money overseas for a product we could have made better ourselves. (Is that Kate Smith in the background singing the national anthem?) How is it that our own guys invented the card business, but couldn't figure out how to revitalize it for themselves? What do the Japanese know that we don't?

Someone once said, "You'll never go broke underestimating the taste of the American people". Boy, did they get that right. Kids are paying bucket loads of paper money for these flimsy paper cards. (Can you believe it? They don't even offer decent card stock for the high prices paid.) I think I'd rather collect the dollar bills and put them in plastic pages, thank you. (Just don't remind me I said that when it comes to Mars Attacks or other classic expensive sets.)

I saw a card today that really drove me over the edge. The "monster" was called "Dugtrio". At first I thought it said "Dung-trio", because that's exactly what it looked like: Three pieces of dung stuck to one another. Anyone could have drawn this picture in less than 5 seconds. "Primitive" would be too advanced of a word to describe it. And someone was paid to create this?

And that's another thing that really bugs me about Pokemon. It's supposed to mean "Pocket Monsters". What an insult to REAL monster card collectors like myself. Pokemonsters are not "monsters" at all, they're cutesy little doodles with silly little names. Gremlins were scarier than these things. Pokemon will set the "monster card cause" back many decades. (I'm not sure where we were going before, but we're certainly not getting there with help from Pokemon.)

Now for the obligatory silver lining remark: Yes, Pokemon has brought in new blood for the hobby, which means more customers and more business. But we all know that success breeds imitations, and success this big is going to breed God knows what. Better brace yourself for many more years of Pokemon knock-off products and insipid cross-over items. (And you thought Beanie Babies were bad? Help! Stop the insanity!)

I'm sure somebody out there has some very positive and legitimate things to say about Pokemon, and I'll be glad to listen when they do. But right now I'm going outside to sprinkle a saw dust trail from the wood pile to my nephew's Pokemon storage box. I've spent thousands of dollars maintaining a wood frame house which feeds millions of local termites. Now it's their turn to do something for me.


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