Pokémon’s most iconic catchphrase is more than a just strategic choice for a well-planned victory, it’s a declaration of love that lasts beyond five minutes of gameplay
By Pipo Gonzales
The ‘90s—aside from its grunge glory, girl power, and rave parties, also witnessed the meteoric rise of one of pop culture’s most influential titles of our generation: “Pokémon.” What started with a couple of Japanese video game titles on a hand-held console has since become the highest-grossing media franchise of all time.
And even if one can claim to have been a fan since its early days or admit knowing too little to be considered one, the truth of the matter is, “Pokémon” has effectively carved its path to our streams of consciousness, its fantastical universe and unique language included.
Many may argue that “Gotta catch ‘em all!” is the franchise’s most defining catchphrase, considering it to be the encompassing brief of the game and, yes, even the series’ main objective. I, for one, speculate this to be an underlying capitalist lesson being ingrained in the curious minds of potential trainers.
But it is this fictional universe’s reality. And whether one’s intention is to collect all 250 first-generation ”Pokémon” and complete your Pokédex (only to leave more than 200 of it on Bill’s computer) or predetermine your final six in early preparation of the Indigo League, “Gotta catch ‘em all!” does its job well in introducing new players into the world of “Pokémon.”
At the heart of its religion, however, is a universal message that I believe is a more significant piece in a Pokémon trainer’s communicative jigsaw: “I choose you.”
In the end, by drawing a mental blueprint of my journey in the Kanto region, saying ‘I choose you!’ was never uttered the same way again.
Back then, I paid no attention to the repetitive script of the gameplay. I button-mashed away in my illusory manner, thinking it could speed up my battles. But being an extremely emotionally-driven guy who renames all the first characters of his RPGs to his name, I became naturally immersed in its cosmos with each run-through.
As expected, my mindset evolved quickly without needing an evolutionary stone, from the “Gotta catch ‘em all!” perspective to a more strategic and time-efficient outlook. Who needs a Raticate anyway? In the end, by drawing a mental blueprint of my journey in the Kanto region, saying “I choose you!” was never uttered the same way again. And the most often used phrase in the series found its way to becoming the most meaningful piece of spoken literature in the otherworldly experience, cementing its place as a phrase synonymous with a declaration of affection.
With each battle fought with my Pokémon of choice, the text is decisive. “I choose you!” does not equate to “You’re a monster that trumps my opponent’s elemental type!” because I already leafed through all other Pokémon to end up with my all-time favorite, Eevee.
The initial declaration of choice then changes to that of trust. Because by putting all my Pokémon dollars on Eevee, I am unswayed by monster stats and firmly believe that I can win regardless of the odds. And with more evolutions created by the franchise, I will continue to choose Eevee and its evolutions among other assumed better and stronger Pokémon.
So much can be said on our side of the screen. The words “I choose you!” have become a pedagogical philosophy on relationships, whether filial, platonic, or erotic. And in a world that grows increasingly fast-paced, our choices become just as strategic and time-efficient.
Time spent with people is now predetermined by choice. We build connections, linger with a few, and shelf others to an imaginary Bill’s PC, saving them for an eventual reunion. This is our generation’s modern way of navigating relationships, where we don’t “catch them all,” we instead, “choose.”
That, perhaps, is the most important takeaway from the “Pokémon” franchise: That we have a choice, we make that choice, and we live with it—through wins and losses.