How Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Surprisingly Addresses Bullying

Warnings: Trigger warning for bullying. Mild spoilers only. End game spoilers avoided.

I purchased and played Pokemon Violet day one, and I’m still playing it despite the hiccups in graphics and performance. This new open-world Pokemon title promotes several ways to tackle the game, leaving it up to you, the trainer, to select your path.

Do you wish to become a champion and defeat all the gym leaders and Elite Four? Great–Victory Road is your path. Want to discover Titan Pokemon and forage for mystical herbs? Try the Path of Legends. Want to fight some punks? Sure, join Operation Starfall on the Starfall Street path. However, I’m sure that most people who have been playing Scarlet and/or Violet agree that you sort of need to take them all on to get the best experience.

Image Credit: Nintendo

For example, beating gym leaders will allow for Pokemon at higher levels to be easier to catch and obey you. Defeating Titan Pokemon will “upgrade” Miraidon and Koraidon to go faster, jump higher, climb, swim, and glide which impacts world traversal.

In my personal journey, taking on Team Star was the last on my priority list because they were portrayed as bullying, self-entitled, punks. I viewed them similar to taking down a Team Rocket, which is a worn trope in the franchise. Why make that your primary treasure hunt when you can be a Titan-hunting Champion?

Turns out the Pokemon Company actually has some good storytelling elements hidden in Starfall Street.

After beating two gyms and one Titan Pokemon, I needed a faster way to level up and gather TM materials. That’s when I caved and tried out some Team Star camps. I rolled my eyes when I saw “Clive” (who is obviously Director Clavell) enter the cut scene. Apparently, he wanted in on some of the action, too. I rolled up my sleeves and went to town on the Schedar Squad. I defeated the grunts and Mela, the squad boss, with relative ease.

Turns out, a mission on Starfall Street isn’t that bad. You muster through some cheesy dialogue, then your send out three Pokemon via auto-battle. Once 30 Pokemon are defeated, then you take down each squad’s leader. Each boss was exceedingly flashy in their own way, but it made for fun fights. However, it was at the end my first Team Star Boss battle with Mela where I realized this was more than a “Team Rocket” clone.

In fact, you see a short cut scene after each victory over a Team Star Boss, taking place not too long ago when each squad boss prepared for their mission under Team Star’s unnamed leader. Each squad boss had their own role–Mela as the ultimate role model, Giacomo to create their theme song, Ortega to create the Starmobiles, Eri to teach everyone how to battle and evolve their Pokemon, and Atticus to create their uniforms. So, what was Team Star’s mission?

Team Star prepared for war…against those that bullied them.

For a Pokemon game, this twist and plotline to tackle bullying shocked me more than a Raichu’s Thunderbolt to the chest. Each of these leaders were bullied because they were different, and they sought refuge under Team Star’s Big Boss. After each defeat, you hear the Mela and gang admit that their biggest treasure was friendship. They had iron-clad dedication to Team Star because they valued the bond they had with one another. This bond was that of inclusion, acceptance, and support in a school where teachers turned a blind eye to the ugliness that is bullying.

I now have empathy toward Mela, Giacomo, Ortega, Eri, and Atticus. In fact, it took me back to my high school days. I luckily was not bullied to the extreme, but I was certainly an outcast for hobbies that were not aligned with the “norm”. I liked anime, drawing, and I also did martial arts. I didn’t watch a lot of MTV, wear pink (as a cis-female in the 90s and early 2000’s, pink proved your feminity), or drool over Leonardo DiCaprio. I did not sit with the popular kids, and I was made fun of for joining the Library Club. So, through the Starfall Street path, I found similarities to Team Star, especially Atticus and Eri.

Image Credit: Nintendo
Image Credit: Nintendo

Team Star’s original mission is now one I understand. They wanted to stick up for themselves when the adults did not. What seemed like a shallow storyline of kicking the snot out of some spoiled brats turned completely on its head, and it now left more of an impression on me than beating the Elite Four or challenging Titan Pokemon.

While Pokemon is a hot franchise, it is not generally known for any deep cutting themes. Friendship and teamwork, sure, but not bullying. The Pokemon Company shed light on the perspective of the victim’s of bullying and looking at life through their lens. It also sheds light on how adults and the school system can fail us, and it’s important to right any wrongs, and welcome children and teens into a safe and inclusive environment, regardless of how they dress or what their hobbies are. While we have come a long way since I was a child, there is still so much more we can do to deal with bullying the right way.

Image Credit: Nintendo

I believe anyone that owns Pokemon Scarlet and Violet to make sure they complete this arc of the game. I am avoiding end-game spoilers so you can be enticed to do so! It is surprisingly impactful for a game that most people do not take seriously.

Have you completed the Starfall Street path? Please share your thoughts with us on our Boss Rush Facebook Group or our Boss Rush Discord.

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