On September 8, 1998, the first episode of the Pokémon anime aired in the United States. That was 21 years ago yesterday. Oh God.
The episode, Pokémon - I Choose You!, is the beginning of the whole Pokémon universe, showing Ash’s first ever meeting with Pikachu. It’s all fairly pedestrian in hindsight when you just watch this episode in isolation, but by reaching such a milestone Pokémon has proven itself almost eternal, immune to the whims of kid’s ever-changing tastes and the rolling tides of popular culture.
(This is the part where I point out that the show debuted over a year earlier in Japan, in April 1997, while the first games were released even earlier, back in 1996).
Some long-running properties like Transformers and TMNT have needed breaks in between periods of popularity to catch their breath, while others like Barbie are forced to constantly and completely reinvent themselves. Pokémon, on the other hand, has just kept on being Pokémon, which is a testament to how strong the central hook — some kids on an adventure with cool and weird monsters who sometimes fight — has proven.
What’s not eternal is anyone old enough to remember those first episodes, because this anniversary is a reminder that we are all made of ash and dust, and our fleeting time on this Earth can now be measured not just in years, but in Pokémon series.
If you want to reminisce and watch the whole episode, it’s up for free on Pokemon.com.
Thanks for the reminder Bulbapedia!