Over the years there have been tons of Pokémon Theories: Are Ditto failed attempts at cloning Mew? Has Ash been in a coma this whole time and that’s why he doesn’t age? Are humans and Pokémon actually related? Whether video game or anime, fans have struggled to fill in the gaps and explain those things left unexplained by the creators. Obviously these theories rarely – if ever – get confirmed, but they’re still incredibly fun ways to look back upon these games with new understanding and appreciation.
As you can imagine, some theories are better than others; but there is one in particular that still manages to capture our imaginations even 15 years later. Some would even call this the ORIGINAL Poke-Theory. I’m of course talking about The Kanto War.
The Kanto War Theory:
Kanto as many of you may – or may not know – is the land of the original 151 Pokémon (Red & Blue Versions). In a world where children are allowed to go on grand adventures and most male adults you meet are either gym leaders, technicians or involved in organized crime, fans initially reasoned that at some point in the not too distant past there was a massive war in Kanto. This idea got a lot of support thanks to many in-game characters seeming paranoid, as well as you yourself not having a father and your rival being an orphan.
This was of course all circumstantial, but things changed as you challenged the Vermillion City Gym Leader – Lt Surge – to a battle. At first he mocks that “you won’t live long in combat!”; but that could easily mean Pokémon battles. It’s his next line that sparked the Pokémon War Theory in full and made all those other pieces come together
Since this line, people have long since imagined what a Pokémon War would look like: Pidgeot carrying Electrodes like bombs, Golem as rolling tanks, the ideas go on and on. Although, there is surprisingly one question very few have ever asked: What was the war about? Was it a Civil War? If not, then WHO was the war with?
My Thesis is that not long before the original Red/Blue version, there was a massive War in which Kanto tried to annex Johto. I will then go about proving this by looking at the Original 190 Pokémon – no, that’s not a typo –, Pokémon League, regional knowledge, architecture, Saffron City Gyms and the timeline between the Generations I & II games.
Evidence #1: Why Johto? – The Pre-History Of Generation II:
With Pokémon currently on it’s 6th Generation of games, there’s no shortage of regions Kanto could have hypothetically battled. Some claim the war was with Hoenn (Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire) and Mewtwo was the result of scientist trying to find a way to battle Deoxys. Others claim it was with Kalos (Pokémon XY) because that region is based off of France and in a prior game (Pokémon HeartGold/ SoulSilver) Lt Surge eventually offers to trade you a “French Pikachu”.
Both of these theories – while interesting – ultimately fall short due to their subjects (Generations III and VI respectively) differing greatly from Generation I in not only timing, but also stylistically. IF there was ever an idea of a War in Kanto, it would have to be with a region that went hand in hand with Pokémon since the very beginning – and that is Johto!
Of all the Pokémon Games, Generation I & II are truly the only two to go hand in hand as original and sequel. After you defeated the Elite Four in Generation II, you then got to travel to Kanto and defeat all of those Gym Leaders until you finally faced Red – the protagonist/Champion from Generation I. Johto – and Generation II as a whole – is all about expanding the story of Kanto; but what if I told you this partnership began even before Generation II?
In the first episode of the Anime, Ash sees an early adaptation of the mythical Generation II Pokémon Ho-Oh. Though if you want to only deal with the video games, then take a closer look at Missigno’s true purpose. That’s right! The pixelated L-shaped glitch Pokémon was never intended to multiply items or cause your game to go crazy if captured. “Missigno” was actually short for Missing Number; and after inspecting Pokédex Index Numbers, we realize that Missigno was the placeholders for 39 different Pokémon left out of the final version. These 39 additional Pokémon would later appear in Generation II – and in some cases the corresponding Missigno’s even transformed into their original Pokémon forms when traded into a Generation II game.
In fact, this whole idea of there originally being 190 Pokémon in Generation I started as a theory too! This theory turned into fact one day when Game Designer and Programmer Shigeki Morimoto confirmed that there was originally 39 additional Pokémon set to appear in Generation I, but they decided to leave for a later game. Since the VERY beginning – in both anime and video game – the seeds and connections of Johto were planted. So if Kanto was going to have a twisted pre-history with any region, it might as well have been the one it was always intertwined with.
Evidence #2: Shared Government – The Pokémon League Connection:
Ok, so we know Kanto and Johto are connected in at least a coexisting sense, but how do we know these two actually went to war? After all, these two regions do share a Pokémon League… Wait, how can two different regions share a Pokémon League? Yes, now we’ve come to know that all regions have some form of Pokémon League, but as I showed in the previous section, Johto and Kanto’s stories were intertwined from the start – long before Hoenn, Sinoh, Unova and Kalos were ever though up. But even if we did include them, the fact remains that all of these regions have THEIR OWN Pokémon League and Champion – more on this in the next section. If this truly is THE Pokémon League then there would be one League and Champion for all. And as we learn in Generation II, there is one League, and Red is THE Champion. So how does this happen?
In the anime, you must go for your Pokémon Trainer’s License and receive your Pokédex – both issued by the Pokémon League and can be revoked by the Police for criminal activity. Considering all this, these items serve as a form of Government ID, which would make the Pokémon League a form of government. Additionally, we have to remember that the Gym Leaders are selected by the Pokémon League; but not simply as ‘Leader’s, but also as ‘leaders of their town. In the games we see many times where Gym Leaders deal with official happenings. In fact, in Generation II we even find Lance – the head of the Elite Four – traveling to Johto for official Pokémon League business regarding Team Rocket? How does Lance have any jurisdiction in Johto? The answer is of course because the same Pokémon League governs both regions. As to how this deal was set up, I’ll save that for ‘The War Ends’ section at the end.
Evidence #3: Knowledge Of Pokémon – 151 vs 251 vs 700+:
Even if Hoenn, Sinoh, Unova and Kalos all have their own ‘regional’ Pokémon Leagues, these leagues aren’t connected by anything else. If they were, then each would have knowledge of other regional Pokémon from the start. That would mean the Pokémon League – the people who pick gym leaders, etc – would converse with others all around the world and know everything about the other region’s Pokémon. There would be no need for scientists like Prof Oak or Birch. This proves that Johto’s and Kanto’s League is a self-contained one; but that’s not all the Knowledge of Pokémon proves.
Similarly, how do we know Kanto annexed Johto and these two weren’t originally one in the same land? Perhaps the war before Generation I was a War of Secession and Johto separated from Kanto? Well for starters, this idea won’t work out because IF Johto and Kanto were once a shared land, then Kanto would have certainly known about more than 150 Pokémon. Sure a select few (travelers and war veterans) could have seen some undeniable Pokémon, but – as we saw in Generation I and Anime Season 1 – any actual knowledge of these mysterious Pokémon was purely theoretical at best. Though the greatest evidence for it being a War of Annexation over Secession lies in their drastically different aesthetics and architecture.
Evidence #4: Architectural Inconsistencies – Industrialization vs Tradition:
Kanto is full of sprawling cities, huge buildings, Power Plants, cycling roads, museums, aquariums… the list goes on. Now think about Johto – REALLY think about it. Johto is a land of deep rich traditions: dragon caves, kimono girls, sacred wood towers, and a dairy farm. Aside from a lighthouse and Goldenrod City – which I’ll get to in a second – the majority of Johto is small old fashion houses. Whereas Kanto is a land that has fully embraced industrialization, Johto remains true to its centuries old traditions. So what about highly industrialized Goldenrod City?
As we learned in the last section, Kanto set up its Indigo Plateau League after conquering Johto; but most likely wasn’t all. Goldenrod City is the pinnacle of architecture, advancement and aesthetic beauty in Johto – all of which are in contrast to Johto’s overall humble nature. The description for this city even calls it a “developing city”, which means it’s certainly a recent addition. As a sign of good faith and progress, Kanto could have constructed Goldenrod City in order to bring Johto into the current times. Even the Gym Leader herself Whitney is shown to be a relative newcomer who was selected as Gym Leader by the Elite Four due to her beauty and skill – contrary to all other Gym Leaders of Johto being selected for their long standing knowledge, power and heritage. There’s a bit more to this Goldenrod tale, but – again – those will be discussed further in ‘The War Ends’ section at the end.
Evidence #5: Dark Fears – Expanding Upon The Saffron City Gym Dispute:
When most people look back at the original Generation 1 games and think of ‘town drama’, they’ll probably think of the break-in at Cerulean City, the Pokémon Tower hauntings of Lavender Town, the Game Corner trickery of Celadon City, etc. So what if I’d mention Saffron City? Chances are you’d pick the Silph Co takeover by Team Rocket; but what if I told you there was another story in this town?
Unlike most other towns in Kanto – and any of the Pokémon Regions – there are two Gyms in Saffron City, an official Psychic Type one and a sub gym of Fighting Types. We aren’t told much about why this is, but for whatever reason these two gyms once competed to become the official gym of Saffron City. Considering the vast superiority of Psychic Types over Fighting Types, it seems ridiculous that a Fighting Gym could EVER think it had a fair chance of competing for town superiority. There must be more to the story. There must be some reason a Fighting Type gym though itself just as important – if not more so – than a Psychic Type gym. And the answer to that question could lie in a War with Johto and their Dark Type Pokémon.
In Generation I, Psychic Type Pokémon were just as powerful – if not more so – than the famed Dragon-Types considering they only had one weakness and reduced effectiveness against one other type. This changed drastically when Dark types were introduced in Generation II who were not only strong against Psychic Type Pokémon, but were also completely unaffected by Psychic attacks. Besides the weakness to Bug Types – a Type that hadn’t received much support at that time – Dark Types could only be combated by one Type – you guess it – Fighting!
The advent of Dark Type Pokémon would explain why a Fighting Type Gym would have felt it deserved just as much recognition as a Psychic Type Gym. Physic Types might crush Fighting Types, but in the war Psychic Types would have been almost completely worthless against these unknown threats of Johto’s Dark Type Pokémon. Fighting Type Pokémon on the other hand would have handled them with ease.
Oddly enough, this idea of Dark Pokémon giving Johto an advantage in the War sheds some new light on past pieces of evidence. What if all the paranoid people and those warning of ‘dangers around every corner’ did so because they saw the might of Dark Type Pokémon? This could even add more meaning to Lt Surge’s words about how Electric Pokémon saved him during the war. Imagine Lt Surge and his team stranded in the dark woods with Dark Pokémon closing in all around them. Electric Pokémon could LITERALLY shed some light on the situation and prevent sneak attacks, while also paralyzing these shifty foes.
All In fact, this Fighting Gym explanation is only strengthened when we also take into consideration the other Type-addition of Generation II – Steel Type Pokémon. Steel Type Pokémon were resistant to not only Psychic Types, but also countless others. These Pokémon would have been virtual tanks! The only real weaknesses they possess are Fighting, Fire and Ground. This again supports why a Fighting Type Gym thought itself very worthy of recognition. Additionally, it’s also important to point out that the two remaining Types ‘strong’ against Steel Types – Fire and Ground – were also the specialties of the last two Kanto Gym Leaders (Blaine and Giovanni). If those two got regards for helping end the Kanto War, then surely the Fighting Gym deserved the same respect. Sadly though, when push came to shove, their competition (the Psychic Type Gym) just happened to be Super Effective against them.
The War Ends – Timeline and Unease In Victory
Whether the war was dragged out or brutally quick, a Peace Treaty would have been signed to stop the fighting. With Johto more concerned with preserving its traditions and way of life, they probably accepted Kanto’s Government only upon the condition of reserving some autonomy – which makes sense considering Johto kept its name and wasn’t fully absorbed into Kanto. So what were the details of this Peace Treaty? Well we’ve already touched upon some of them.
For starters, Kanto and Johto would co-finance Goldenrod City, which would bring Johto into the modern day. Sure it would be quite the disconnect from the rest of Johto, but the shops, lights and technological advancements could serve them well. This city would also serve as the bridging point of connection between the two Regions – as shown by the Monorail and Professor Oak’s guest radio program. And in this town the Pokémon League could appoint one of its 8 new Gym Leaders –newcomer Whitney. The other 7 Gym Leaders would have been decided by Johto itself, explaining why each Gym Leader is an expert in their field and/or comes from a long line of influential people – thus keeping the spirit of tradition alive. Additionally, these Gym Leaders would have a say in the Pokémon League itself – ie: have a vote. Though despite all these favorable terms, hard feelings still persisted on both ends.
The memories of war wouldn’t have faded over night. If this war took place before Gen I, then – again – everyone would have known about the Johto Pokémon. This means that even after the war, both regions kept largely to themselves. Many probably didn’t even know what the outcome of the war was, simply that it was over. This explains why even though the war was over, communications didn’t truly start until Gen II – 3 years later as we learned in the Multiverse Article. After all, how could these once enemies forgive and forget the past? So what finally helped bridge the communication gap between Johto and Kanto? Well, a large part of it was YOU the player – or more specifically, a boy named Gold.
Pokémon Generation II was a lot more than just the story of a boy named Gold becoming the Pokémon League Champion. It is the story of a boy from JOHTO who becomes the Pokémon League Champion. The Pokémon League – a Kanto creation – has now been defeated by a boy from Johto. To make things even more poetic, rather than remain home he continues on to Kanto and takes on all of their Gym Leaders until he finally goes to take on THE Champion himself, Red. This Cinderella story would have be huge for both regions and shown that these two lands could work as one. After all, if a kid from Johto can work with the brightest mind in Kanto (Professor Oak), fight alongside the Leader of the Elite Four (Lance) and then become sparring partners with the Pokémon League Champion (Red) – all while helping out various people in Kanto as well – then Johto and Kanto can truly work together for a better tomorrow and put the horrors of the Kanto/Johto War Of Annexation behind them.
As I said at the start of this article, the fun of Poké-Theories is that they allow us to revisit things so pivotal to our childhoods and get a chance to reexamine them all these years later. We might have beaten the games and captured all 251 Pokémon, but thanks to Poké-Theory, we can keep finding new stories in the wonderful world of Pokémon!
And who knows, perhaps one day Shigeki Morimoto or someone else will confirm this Kanto/Johto War Theory? Either way, there’s one thing we can all agree on: We’d pay BIG MONEY for a game about a Pokémon War.
– I’m here if you need me Nintendo 😉
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, sound off in the comments below! And stay tuned for our next Poké-Theory article.
16 thoughts on “Poké-Theory: The Kanto/ Johto War Of Annexation”
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Isn’t Lance from Johto? From Blackthorn City specifically… How does that relate to the Cinderella story you mentioned?
Oooh, nice catch! Well that’s just it, we don’t know where Lance could have fit in during that story. But his rise would have coincided with the war if it had taken place right before Gen I. Perhaps he was the one who brought about peace or maybe he changed sides mid war. Probably not the second option there since he handles a lot of Johto matters as well. So most likely he was one of the people who called for/caused an end to the war. And as a result got his position. He is regarded as a hero and is shown to have quite the following. And bringing an end to war whilst riding a dragon does sound like the stuff heroes are made of.
There’s no way we can know for sure of course; but that was a very fun thing to think about. Thanks so much for your commend Guilherme! 😀
Interesting side-note to Lance’s story: In the Pokemon Manga, Lance was actually a villain; he and the rest of the “Elite Four” wanted to wipe out Humanity, believing that they had enslaved Pokemon-Kind, and create a world where Pokemon would live freely. Team Rocket actually joined forces with Red and Blue and the other Main-Protagonists, in order to help stop them.
Maybe Lance was appointed to the Elite-Four by the Pokemon League as a “Good-Will Gesture” from Kanto to Johto, as Lance is shown to be one of the most skilled Dragon-Trainers in the world. It serves as another, proverbial “Olive Branch” between the two regions.
“We recognize the amazing talent and power of your Dragon-Pokemon and Dragon-Tamers.” — If you think about it closer, Lance is really a kind of a “Sore-Thumb,” sticking out from amongst all the other trainers/leaders in the Kanto Region.
The only other Dragon-Pokemon you really encounter are in the wild; Gyrados, Dratini, etc. You don’t run into other, major “Dragon Trainers” like Lance. And there are no “Dragon-Type Gyms” until you get into Gen II, in Johto. As I recall, his sister is the leader of the Dragon-Type Gym in Lance’s home village, isn’t she?
Lance’s family may have been on Johto’s side in the war, and their Dragon-Types would’ve been absolutely devastating as a fighting force. They may have provided enough resistance and made the battle difficult enough for Kanto to decide, “Granting them Conditional-Surrender is a more sensible choice than continuing to lose lives.”
They may have made the War so Costly, that Kanto was willing to concede and allow Johto to retain a part of its Independence, and keep its cultural-heritage in-tact.
Well, I’d like to add a detail, I mean, despite of being only a theory, It really has sense!
I’m surprised by one fact you may have missed: at the beginning of Gen III, your family recently moved from Johto; that could have been an irrelevant fact, but, think about it. The official (I mean, cannon) timeline says that Gen III (not the remakes) happens at same time as Gen I, so, why did your family really moved from Johto? Maybe the war made your father lose it’s job as a Gym Leader (your father has the same Pokémon tipe as Whiteney). Maybe he was one of the main members of Johto’s nationalist team, maybe he didn’t want to live in a Johto ruled by Kanto. Maybe he came from the old Goldenrod city and he was terrified by the changes, and decided to leave all behind and start a new life.
Maybe all this facts are nonsense, but, due to the timeline, I really thing it can support (I some ways) the Kanto-Johto war theory. And, if they not, at least I tried.
Sorry if something is bad written, English is not my native language.
Ooooh, nice! I like it and yes that definitely works with the theory. Perhaps I should update the article with some of this new emerging information and ideas you all are commenting with.
One issue with your theory, in Generation II and IV there are not actually any dark Pokemon native to Kanto. This is a clear example of retconing that has to be taken into account. I find it hard to believe that Kanto exterminated all the wild dark Pokemon in Johto and brought them into Kanto. Check it out though:
Houndour is found on Route 7 (between Celadon and Saffron)
Murkrow is found on Route 7, 16 (West of Celadon) and 18 (West of Fuchsia)
Sneasel is found on Route 28 and Mt. Silver (both on the boarder, but Route 28 is in Kanto and is the only way to get to Mt. Silver)
Tyranitar finally is not found in the wild, but his earlier evolutions are at Mt. Silver.
So clearly all dark Pokemon at the time of the games are actually found in Kanto, or at best the border (but still requiring you to go through Kanto). So clearly dark types in fact are native to Kanto and they would have know about them, and been able to get them in number during a war while Johto could only hope to catch new dark types by going right to the front lines.
Not saying your theory is bad, but that aspect of the theory may be off.
But if they were native to Kanto, why didn’t they appear in Gen 1. That was more what I was saying. Maybe the species original habitat were destroyed due to the war; and by time of Gen 2 a small population is starting to pop up in a new area (Kanto). Just an idea; but you do bring up a good point. I think it can still work; but just requires a little more creativity. Thanks for sharing 😀
If you consider what you yourself pointed towards – that Kanto won the war – One could assume that Johto was losing ground and Kanto’s forces managed to strike deep enough into the region to reach the Dark type habitats and eliminate them from Johto, thus removing a huge tactical advantage that Johto had over Kanto. Striking at enemy supply depots and resource points like mines and factories are well known and common military tactics, and such an action very well could have been the turning point in the war, whether Kanto was winning or losing already.
Whoops, I meant there are not any dark Pokemon native to Johto, they are all in Kanto or the border (as I go on to say. Just noticed I had a typo in the first sentence)
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So I was looking at the fan art at the end and it actually is a crossover fanart with BBC Sherlock! The man is supposed to be Dr. John Watson. It’s from aiwa-sensei on tumblr.
Ahhhh! That’s amazing and makes me love this piece even more!!!!
Just been looking into this whole ‘Kanto War’ theory for a few hours now, and information is pretty scarce. This is one of the only articles i have found that isn’t afraid to talk about it a bit deeper. Bulbapedia won’t even acknowledge anything other than Lt. Surges quote. They don’t take this any further for questioning.
From my findings, i have a few ideas that i have read about that fit hand in hand with much of the above. Also, hopefully this gives you and others some ideas to start putting the pieces together.
So, firstly, i would just like to state some information which is now being confirmed with the newer released titles of Pokemon, and that’s Infinite Energy. The idea isn’t that hard to understand when we think about Japanese culture in gaming. Lifestream anyone ???? 😉 The idea is, is that Pokemon and humans alike are born from that ‘energy’ of the planet, and return there once they die, and are reborn. So, the cycle continues. Now in official media and newer released titles its confirmed that Pokemon can be broken down into its ‘Spirit Energy’ (I guess that’ll do) and reform itself. This is what the Pokeball does, it manipulates and ‘traps’ a Pokemon’s energy……Think that red light/flash that happens when a Pokemon enters/exits a Pokeball. Onwards….. now, on Bulbapedia, there is a great page about the history of Pokeballs. Talks of giant prehistoric Pokemon mentioned/seen in a few episodes of the Anime and these Ancient capsules that were found (earliest known ‘pokeball’ devices). Dating around <20,000 years. Well, the point is, is that manipulation of the 'Planets Energy' is obviously key in the Pokemon Universe and has been for many years.
"Ok……So what does this have to do with the Kanto War?" I bet your asking?
The key is the Silph Co. and the Master Pokeball.
Silph Co. is the BIG super-power company that has taken economic control over Kanto. They own the Marts, they own the Pokemon Centres and own and produce the products, ….. everything in Kanto is Silph tech. They have a badass business structure, where they take out all competition, own all links in the chain of sales which can not only maximise profits, but they can control profits by manipulating the supply.
At some point, Silph Co had figured out pretty much how to harness and manipulate 'Infinte Energy'. There are many examples of this: For instance the Master Ball, that can catch anything, just fully controls the spirit energy of whatever strength Pokemon its thrown at. Or how about the teleporting tiles found in Silph Tower?? Silph Scope that can see ghosts???? Shall we talk about Devon harnessing Pokemon bioenergy to power the Submarine ???? Hi-Tech Stuff…..
For more info on Silph Co and it harnessing Infinite Energy, visit: https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemonconspiracies/comments/40y4qy/silph_cos_sinister_secret_infinity_energy_has/
So, after economically taking sieze over Kanto, what next. Take over more, the closest neighbor……Johto!
There are examples and evidence everywhere, alot stated above in the article.
Look at Article 4: Kanto industrialized vs Johto being traditional. Now take a look at the above Ecruteak City, and many other towns and cities in Johto. There's the traditional buildings and then a few more modernized, Kanto Style, PokeCentre and Mart! Like Silph just moved in and set up shop. The Goldenrod theory above goes hand in hand with this idea, just expand it a little further. Silph Co owns th shopping centre there. Let alone the ideas above about it being the first city and centre state of Johto.
Also, regarding Evidence 5 and the Saffron Gyms. I always have believed (from the story in the anime and games) that the fighting gym was and has always been Saffrons Gym up until recently when Sabrina came along and pwnd. This, again is a particular tie with rise of Silph in Saffron and the uprising of Science and technology and dissolving old ways (like Martial Arts). Its evident throughout the game, look at Kurt and the apricorns. Again, tradition dying out because of manufactured Pokeballs is another great example.
From here i have ALOT of questions. Mainly regarding Silph Co and the (obvious) funding of Mew project. Blaine and Giovanni's involvement with Silph Co. with the connections to the war. Oak and this idea that the kids are sent on journey's to now refill pokedex and get information on surving pokemon species after the war which possibly links into this '190 pokemon' idea. None of this "In my old age i've only got 3 left" bullshit that is told to 10 years olds……hahahaha!
Silph Co. and its connection to the Pokemon league and this 'shared' government. Is it just the economic power of Silph ??
Anyway you get the idea. There's a great deal more that can be investigated, and i'm sure a great deal more ties. To me this makes sense and i want to start asking the questions….
In short. Silph Co is the big bad Shinra and Johto got Starbucked by the economic super power wanting to make more profits……
P.S Its 2.30am, i'm high and i know this reads like balls but hopefully getting my points across to stimulate further discussion and investigation.
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