Pokemon started with as a simple video game and now has expanded into numerous anime series, some of them even more popular than the original video game. As the anime became popular, fans started to go to extreme lengths to delve into every hidden crevice of the Pokemon universe. That been said, one aspect of the Pokemon universe that have been never directly addressed is death.
For as long as the Pokemon franchise has been around, the aspect of Pokemon dying has only been implied. Within its canon, cemeteries and ghost Pokemon have been sprinkled throughout, leaving more than a hint at them dying on a regular basis, but it’s never been directly addressed.
Fans of the video games might confuse the state of “fainting” in battle as an example of dying but it’s not the same. A Pokemon can recover from fainting but there’s no coming back from death. The same principle can reasonably be attributed to the anime as well. That said, it wasn’t until the latest episode of Pokemon: Sun And Moon that a Pokemon’s death was actually depicted in its entirety.
In Episode 21 of PokemonSunandMoon, Ash’s Pokemon, Litten, returns to the sickly Stoutland, for whom Litten had been caring before becoming Ash’s Pokemon. When he returns, Stoutland is much worse off. Ash arrives soon after and they take Stoutland to the Pokemon center for treatment. It’s there that Ash learns Stoutland’s illness is irreversible and his death inevitable.
Litten then attempts to comfort Stoutland during his last hours. Some time during the night, Stoutland walks out of the Pokemon center and returns to its home under the bridge. Litten follows Stoutland to the bridge, where the Pokemon finally passes away.
What’s interesting about Stoutland’s death is that there was a lot of heavy emotional weigh in the scene. Between the grieving process and all the symbolism of passing on, it was a lot to expose fans to. Considering how the Pokemon anime is heavily skewed to a younger audience, the episode might be criticized for being too dark in the United States. The episode has only aired in Japan so far and it may not make it to America if the episode is deemed too intense for young viewers.
Still, the death of Stoutland is an amazing development for the Pokemon universe, seeing as how it finally answers some of the long-standing questions fans have had about the nature of death.
Now that Stoutland has died, we can expect some of these things to become Pokemon canon.
Where Do Their Bodies Go When They Die?
From what was seen in Episode 21, Stoutland’s death didn’t leave a body behind. When Litten woke to find Stoutland gone, there was nothing left. That said, the absence of a body implies that the remains of dead Pokemon simply evaporate or disintegrate into nothingness at the onset of death.
This evaporation was implied when a oddly shaped flurry of dust vanishes from where Stoutland was once laying. This raises the question: Do they have souls? More proof can be found in Stoutland’s couch collapsing, as well as a single leaf dropping off a nearby tree. We should also note that Pokemon like Mew and Mewtwo have been depicted as evaporating in death, but not everyone will consider those deaths canon since they took place in the Pokemon movies.
Graves Are Mainly For Memorial Purposes
At the moment, Stoutland’s death appears to be canon in the Pokemon universe. If his death is an example of what happens to every Pokemon when it passes on, the Pokemon cemeteries we’ve seen in the past were merely set up in memory of past Pokemon. Without there being any remains to bury, a plot is simply placed as a memorial to the fallen.
What’s The Deal With Ghost Pokemon?
So Pokemon seem to be aware of death. We saw that Litten, Stoutland, and Meowth were all scared of what was happening to Stoutland, handling the situation like humans despite being Pokemon. That said, it looks like Pokemon come to terms with their own mortality and know that they’ll die at some point, which means they have no reason to return. Unless they return as ghosts when they feel their lives haven’t been fulfilled.
That explanation would give reason to the existence of Pokemon like Haunter and Gengar when they’re obviously perfect examples of Pokemon who either can’t or refuse to leave peacefully. Still, we don’t know with exactly why some Pokemon die and return as ghost Pokemon. Nor do we understand the nature of Pokemon Tower in the first installment of the anime.
How Does Pokemon Tower Fit Into The Universe?
For those who don’t know, the first season of Pokemon: Indigo League featured a cemetery-like structure for ghosts, called Pokemon Tower in Episode 23 “Tower Of Terror.” Within the tower, many Gastly, Haunters, and Gengars roam about. Their presence in the tower is never fully explained but its origins are described by one of Lavender Town’s residents as a burial site for Pokemon.
The citizen from Lavender Town tells of how the Pokemon Tower was set up as a burial site but he doesn’t go into detail of how said Pokemon are laid to rest. Though, if what we learned from Stoutland’s death is canon in the Pokemon universe then we can assume Pokemon Tower is merely a memorial, not a burial site.
Regardless, we’ll have to wait until the aspect of death is officially addressed by the creators of Pokemon. Now that a Pokemon has actually died on the anime, the question is bound to be of interest.