Pokémon’s ability to evolve was part of their appeal, according to Joseph Tobin, a professor of early childhood education at the University of Georgia and editor of the 2004 book “Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon” (a subtitle that, he readily admits, completely failed to predict the franchise’s revival).
Tobin said, “Along with Tamagotchi, the narrative was that you’re caring for them. You care for them so they grow up, and kids can identify with getting stronger. But then you also care for them by (making sure they) don’t die. It was unusual to have this in a battle game … it took some of the features of war and then combined them with nurturance.”
This juxtaposition was reflected in the designs, which were at once both cute and fierce — or, through the process of evolution, morphed from cute to fierce. None more aptly embodied this dichotomy than Pikachu, the franchise’s most successful and marketable figure.