You know, I see a lot of my students wearing Charizard shirts or Charizard hats, and I think, why is that? Isn’t Charizard outdated? But no, you see him all around. He’s probably the most popular Pokemon in the franchise. Well okay, maybe Pikachu’s the most popular because he’s the mascot, but Charizard is easily the second most popular. Why?
Sure, you could say it’s because he’s a big dragon. Dragons are cool, right? Not necessarily. You don’t see many shirts with Dragonite or Salamance. Yes, they have their fans, but they don’t hold a candle to Charizard. What’s so great about Charizard after all these years? You might also ask: What’s so great about Prometheus?
Charizard and Prometheus actually have a lot in common, I’ve found. You see, both my kids were big fans of the Pokemon cartoon back in the 90s, and they’ve since brought it back to Netflix, and boy, hehe, was my son excited when he saw it. So he put it on, and I was impressed. Here’s my son, basically a man now, and he still wants to watch this kids show. So I think, “Okay, let’s see why he likes it so much,” and I sit with him and I watch it with him.
I don’t think I need to tell all of you how the story goes, but Charizard isn’t always Charizard. When Ash first finds him, he’s Charmander. He’s just a small baby. He’s a cute, little thing, and he’s very obedient, just like all the other Pokemon.
After winning a lot of battles for Ash, he gains strength and evolves into Charmeleon and after a few more episodes, he becomes Charizard. It’s at this point that he realizes that he isn’t like all the other Pokemon. He’s not like Bulbasaur or Squirtle. He’s grown up. He’s at a new place in life, and it makes him reconsider where he stands with Ash.
But Ash, on the other hand, hasn’t matured one bit since he set out on his journey. Oh no, he’s the same goofy and sometimes reckless, kid that he was from day one. And when he tries to send Charizard out to battle, Charizard says, “Wait just a minute there. You’re just some silly kid. You haven’t grown at all, but I have. I’ve become a whole new person through the battles we’ve fought, and you haven’t. You can’t even pay Misty back for her bike. Who are you to tell me what to do?”
And then he spits fires at Ash and disobeys him. He’s just like the titan Prometheus. Prometheus also helps another person succeed in his own battles. He helps Zeus overthrow the other titans. And so Zeus is now King of Olympus, and he thinks he’s hot stuff now, but not Prometheus. He says, “Who do you think you are, kid?” And he also defies him with the power of fire, by giving fire to humans against the wishes of Zeus.
Ash’s story is the same as that of Zeus. Ash’s lead Pokemon, Pikachu, has the power of lightning, a power that Zeus also has, and they rise with aid of someone who has the power of fire, but this person doesn’t help them unconditionally. Both Charizard and Prometheus demand a certain level of maturity from their masters.
They say, “If you want to have a relationship with me, you need to grow too. You can’t be a kid forever. Become a man, like I have.” You’re all in college now. I bet you all have some friends from your hometowns where you’re thinking, “Gee, I wish they’d grow up.” Well, you’re in the same boat as Charizard.
And Charizard isn’t one of the bad guys. Oh no, Team Rocket are the bad guys. Charizard is one of the good guys, but he’s not a pushover. He’s standing up for himself. He’s a self-actualized adult, and he’s asking Ash to do the same, and he doesn’t obey until Ash grows too.
That’s why this character, I think, has maintained his popularity after all this time, because he fits into a very appealing archetype that dates back to antiquity. He’s his own man, and doesn’t tolerate unhealthy or one-way relationships. And that’s what Pokemon is about. It’s about how our relationships that we make with other people determine whether we’re adults or just children. The moral of the show is that you should be hard on the people you care about, and you should tell them to get their acts together, if you truly love them.