Revisiting Kanto – We Don’t Deserve Lavender Town

Welcome back to another instalment of my weekly journey through Kanto, which this week takes us to the spooktacular Lavender Town. If you’re a returning reader, then also welcome to my increasingly tedious introduction where I find new ways to explain this column to new readers. Basically, I’m going across Pokemon Blue's Kanto as a tourist to soak up what makes it such a special setting, ignoring the battles to take in the places themselves. You can catch up on the journey so far here, but first, let’s check out Lavender town.

I haven’t really mentioned Pokemon’s music at all in my adventure so far. Despite having the supremely excellent music taste that puts me in the top one percent of Haim listeners (and perhaps more impressively, the top five percent for Taylor Swift) I don’t really care for music. I’ve never gone to a video game music concert, or even listened to it outside the context of physically playing the game. I rarely remember it. Video game soundtracks just aren’t for me. But Lavender Town’s haunting drone instantly dragged me back to nights under the quilt with the Game Boy screen light, playing Pokemon after bedtime because being the very best like no one ever was is an eternal quest.

Unlike a lot of people, Lavender Town is not one of my favourite Kanto regions. When you’re playing for battling purposes, the Pokemon Tower is a little repetitive with the same mostly useless junk (when replaying, trading for Gengar isn’t an option), and it’s an empty little town. I’ve already cut through it once to go to Celadon, and on coming back to it with no gym and no real story progression, it feels like filler.

However, while not my favourite, it is extremely memorable. The sound is a major part of it, but there’s also how vulnerable it makes you feel. Looking at it through fresh eyes, I finally saw what everyone else could see.

Lavender Town is a melancholy place of mourning. You are not supposed to enjoy your time there. Visiting a graveyard has no purpose but the visit itself. I’ve always been a fan of the theory that Blue’s Raticate died and that’s why you find him there, mostly because I like Pokemon being interpreted in dark and mature ways. But this time it didn’t feel dark. Only sad.

We can find the flaws in the cockfighting of Pokemon’s logic, but the game – and especially the material around the game – takes great pains to emphasise the bond between trainer and Pokemon. Blue, the cocky little brat who’s always one step ahead, is humanised by the idea that his beloved companion has passed on, and he wants to pay his respects.

Again, we are the interloper. Just like how we disrupt the peace of Vermillion, we do not deserve the peace Lavender Town offers. We see it as a place to train our ‘mons against a new type we’ll need to get the better of against the Elite Four, and a chance to add a Ghost to our line-up. Even freeing the spirit of Marowak is just a means to an end. This story has been built upon in various anime adaptations since the game first debuted, but actually playing through it isn’t all that impressive or touching. But that’s only because we don’t deserve it. It’s not our moment and it never was. We’re funeral crashers, only there for the open bar and the free food.

Lavender has a handful of other points of interest too. Mr. Fuji, who gives you the Poke Flute in exchange for exorcising Marowak’s spirit, has also been developed in much richer ways away from the game. The Name Rater is also there, but I never change my Pokemon’s names (and this time, to get into the tourist spirit, have not named them at all) so it’s all a bit pointless.

Lavender Town is as it always was, but I finally understand why. And I think we owe Blue an apology for intruding on his private moment, and then fighting him rather than consoling. Onward to our next part of the journey – the vastly under appreciated Silence Bridge.

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