Now I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t seen every episode or classic battle of Pokemon, Dragonball Z or Yu-Gi-Oh! But, I have seen quite a few of them. So you can imagine my surprise when in casual conversation with a friend and family member, they mentioned that Pikachu, Goku and Yugi had all been defeated at one time or another in a fight. My mouth literally fell to the floor in shock. At first, I vehemently denied it. It was impossible. Pikachu, Goku and Yugi really losing in a fight? I said again, impossible! It was blasphemy to suggest such a crazy thing. After all, these were the superstars of mainstream anime cartoons. For lack of a better analogy, they were the Hulk Hogans of their respective genre. Like Hogan, who could take a brutal beating with steel cages, folding chairs and turn buckles for 45 minutes or more before popping up from the canvas, full of energy, shaking his head in defiance and somehow capable of doing his signature move (remember, the leg drop?) to defeat his opponent in a matter of seconds, Pikachu, Goku and Yugi were every geek kids’ proof that the schoolyard bully and all enemies of humankind would one day fall.
Anime battles are epic. Pikachu, Goku and Yugi never failed to disappoint in that arena. There was always the classic 5 episode stare down to wet our appetites and then the 5-10 more episodes of actual combat perfectly animated and fast paced. These guys weren’t like the Avengers who seemed to manage to lose the big fights even when they knew exactly what the villain would be doing (we will discuss Infinity Wars and Endgame in another post). When all seemed lost, Pikachu would shout out, “PI-KA-CHU!” and blast his opponent with an endless stream of awesome lightning and win. Goku would yell out something (I never could understand him) and go super saiyan, harness a power ball of energy that was stronger than the sun and vaporize his opponent into oblivion. Yugi would lament in what appeared to be his final moment how he still “believed in the heart of the cards”, turn into the Pharaoh, draw the Dark Magician and drain all the life points of his adversary with absolute confidence. It was cool, like at the Fonz level. Team Rocket, Frieza, and Seto Keiba never had a chance. It really was the WWF meets Japanese anime. And, IT WAS AMAZING. It still is. Didn’t we all dream that one day we would do the same to our antagonists? Don’t we all still do?
But alas, in this modern, digital, video age, it didn’t take them long to pull up multiple videos and websites that shattered all of my childhood delusions and fantasies about these characters. It turns out the anime heroes of my youth weren’t indestructible or undefeatable after all. Maybe that was never really the point. Maybe what is really most important about them is not their respective fighting skills but their incredible ability to endure from age to age, battling evil and bringing the marginalized out from the shadows. And I’ve found that even though they may have lost some fights over the decades, it doesn’t make their adventures any less enjoyable for me. And, Pikachu is still awful cute.