Digimon Makes The “Are Pokémon Food” Anime Question Worse

By | June 4, 2022

Pokémon has struggled to answer the question of whether people eat its monsters, which is made worse by how easily Digimon addressed the problem.

One of the most persistent questions about the world of Pokémon anime is whether or not Pokémon are eaten as food – and Digimon just made Pokémon’s stance on the query worse. The Pokémon anime has wavered on this question quite a bit over the years, with early episodes showing iconic characters hungry for Pokémon delicacies. Digimon, however, provides a better example of how a franchise can head off uncomfortable questions in a way that Pokémon still hasn’t over its two-decade-plus run.

While Digimon technically began before Pokémon with a virtual pet game, the anime series was created in the wake of Pokémon’s runaway success, leading to natural comparisons between the two franchises. While Digimon has never approached the breadth and popularity of the entire Pokémon universe of media and merchandising, such as the recent Pokémon Legends Arceus spin-off game, its anime series has received favorable comparisons to Pokémon because of its more serialized and character-driven storylines. In this way, the seemingly silly question of how both the Pokémon and Digimon worlds source their meat helps to show how different the two franchises are in developing their universes.

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The Pokémon anime frequently shows characters eating meat, but there’s no indication of where it comes from. While early episodes of the series had Earth-like animals in them in addition to Pokémon, these were gradually phased out as the number of Pokémon expanded, with a Pokémon equivalent of seemingly every real animal eventually created. There are some early implications in the anime that some Pokémon are eaten: Ash and Brock fantasize at one point about cooking a Magikarp, and the description of Farfetch’d in Pokémon Red and Blue describes the bird as “a delicacy.” Digimon, in contrast, has been quick to establish its own in-universe “meat farms” – drawing a definitive line between the Digimon themselves and the Digimon universe’s livestock.

Something about the simplistic and familiar nature of the Pokémon world makes it a popular topic for off-the-wall theories that often turn dark, and the question of eating Pokémon is no exception. YouTuber Brian David Gilbert even recorded a video ranking Pokémon by edibility. However, developers and series heads have often been cagey about these questions. In an interview with GameInformer, GameFreak producer Junichi Masuda declined to provide a definitive answer:

There’s a lot of fruits and vegetables in the world of Pokémon. There is also a variety of snacks and various candies and whatnot that come from the different regions. The Pokémon world is much more technologically advanced than the world of our own, so perhaps there is probably a lot of different food that we can’t even think of.

More recent Pokémon media has suggested that most people in the Pokémon universe are vegan or vegetarian, but the eating of Pokémon isn’t explicitly ruled out. By contrast, the Digimon franchise clearly eliminates the possibility. In seasons such as Digimon Adventure and Tamers, the Digimon are part of a separate digital world that interacts with the world as we know it. Because Digimon coexist with real animals, there’s no need for them to become food, if such a thing is even possible. While Digimon are shown eating meat within the “Digiverse,” this can be explained as food that was digitally created and not harvested from living beings. Video games such as Digimon Cyber Sleuth even show “meat farms” where hunks of bone-in meat grow out of the ground.

It’s understandable why the Pokémon franchise doesn’t want to dwell on the question of Pokémon meat. Its young audience presumably doesn’t want to think about their favorite Pokémon dying and ending up on a dinner plate. But Digimon shows how easy it is to address this question, making it more bizarre that Pokémon has never provided a definitive answer. Part of the issue is Pokémon’s insistence on maintaining a relatively consistent universe across all of its games and series, whereas most Digimon series are set in their own, clearly different worlds. Pokémon is thus stuck with the often offhand lines in the early games and episodes that suggest another, often darker world than what the franchise ultimately ended up being. The result is that Pokémon seems uncomfortable with its own suggestion that its creatures are meat, but Digimon shows that there were many simpler ways to approach this bizarre topic.

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