Raichu has long been my favorite pokemon. People who have known me long enough usually figure it out. I’ve even been asked the question, “Why Raichu?” I think it’s about time I answer that question.
I’ve also had it asked of me whether Raichu would still have become my favorite pokemon if Pikachu weren’t the Pokemon series’ mascot. Would I have noticed a pokemon like Raichu if it didn’t receive so much reflected attention from Pikachu? I don’t know, it’s hard to say. But we don’t live in that timeline, so we really don’t have to give it much thought.
Raichu is appealing on so many levels. It’s both cute and tough at the same time, which is something that’s very difficult to pull off. It’s a very aesthetically-pleasing pokemon.
When I first saw Raichu, it was in the episode of the Pokemon anime, “Thunder Shock Showdown”. That episode introduced Raichu as the prime pokemon of the gym leader, Lt. Surge. Being Pikachu’s evolved form, Raichu had a clear statistical advantage that would make it a challenge. Eventually, Ash’s Pikachu did defeat Raichu, providing an explanation for the victory that was satisfying and at the same time had some truth to it from a game mechanics perspective. It was the first gym badge that Ash truly earned, without question.
The episode made Raichu out to be a formidable opponent, a challenge that would be difficult to overcome. Which is why it was a change of pace when we saw another Raichu in a future episode which was friendly with Pikachu. It was an early example of how different pokemon of the same species can have a different personality.
What Raichu represents is a kind of realization of one’s potential, a coming-of-age where a person becomes what they would develop into. While some get romantic about the world we live in, the fact is, we have to develop strength in order to soldier on. Those who choose to flounder about, content with what they’ve achieved so far, tend to be left behind. A desire to realize their potential is one of the reasons why children look forward to the day that they’ve grown up.
Having said that, there is a metaphor for a careful upbringing in that a Pikachu can learn some speed-based moves by level that a Raichu that was evolved too soon would not have access to.
It’s the tendency of people to look at the past through rose-colored glasses. We tend to remember our own childhoods as idyllic, even if they might have been every bit the struggle for survival that our adulthoods may be. We remember clean environments and being under the care of our parents, and we felt loved. But the fact is, we live in a world that acquiesces to decay, and when we move outside of the shelter of our parent’s care, we take up the battles that they’ve been fighting, and we must continue to develop strength, as time will continue to move forward, whether or not we make the effort to keep up.
The Pokemon anime shows us how some of Ash’s pokemon prefer not to evolve, which was an apparent decision by the show’s writers to maintain the appeal of those pokemon at their lowest stage of growth. In the show, this is acceptable, because it’s only intended for entertainment, and in entertainment, it’s okay for the characters to maintain consistency in such a manner. But, in reality, stagnation is often rewarded with failure.
Having attended the Pokemon TCG League a while back, I’ve made a few friends. They were some great people, and they were a blast to play with. But I do remember that one of them in particular continued to live with his parents into his late twenties. While he had a responsibility to make a better attempt to live up to his potential, his parents were enablers who were more interested in seeing him remain so that they may continue to have a child at home. Though I encouraged him to come out of his comfort zone, he wasn’t interested in living up to his potential, and his parents preferred that he didn’t. He preferred to remain a Meowth long past the point that it would have been far more practical to become a Persian.
Some might see evolving a Pikachu into a Raichu with a connotation of corruption, seeing it as an induction of change into something that loses its popular appeal and may even be more brutish and inelegant. I disagree. In a sense, it’s like the realization of maturity. Part of what it means to be a trainer is to bring out your pokemon’s potential.
While there is more to like about Raichu, I think that’s sufficient to share for now. Strength, coolness, cuteness, and a connotation of realized potential are what makes Raichu a standout pokemon to me.
By the way, in case anyone is thinking of asking, yes, Alolan Raichu also counts as a Raichu. Because it is one!
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu! and Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee! might already be available in your part of the world by the time you read this. Is there a generation one pokemon with meaning to you?