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The Major Arcana and its application to Pokemon Black and White Part I

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by , 3rd February 2012 at 09:47 PM (3879 Views)
Okay so this is my first blog entry...I'm all hopped up on Mucinex and coffee right now, and the discussion in the Placeholder for Kyurem's new forme thread has really got me thinking. I've actually thought a lot about this, I just never knew if it would be interesting to other people.

Spoilers ahead.

So, to begin, tarot cards have 21 cards that are known as the Major Arcana, starting with The Fool (0 or 22) and ending with The World (21). Simply put, the Major Arcana tells the story of The Fool's journey through life. It's one of the major themes of the Persona games, most notably Persona 3 and Persona 4. Most of the characters in these games are associated with a certain arcana. That arcana usually denotes their conflicts in life, and the (silent) protagonist can choose whether or not to help the character resolve this conflict. The character's conflicts may or may not tie in with the main plot of the game (at least in Persona 3). It can also be used to describe the protagonist's "journey" through the general plot of the game.

It's a pretty basic formula, and it can be applied to almost any story that revolves around a protagonist's journey. What better way than to apply this concept to Pokemon Black and White? Especially since B/W has one of the juiciest plots and character developments to date. I'll start off by discussing the major characters of B/W and which arcana can be associated with them. I'll avoid discussing the gym leaders, since their characters aren't fleshed out enough to really represent a specific arcana. I'll also discuss certain events in the game and which arcana can be applied to them. Bear in mind that the story of B/W doesn't necessarily touch on the concepts of all 21 cards, but it does follow the general order of the cards.

Right then, first up, we have the player character...in other words, you! Since you are a silent protagonist, The Fool arcana is definitely best suited for you, since the story is basically your journey through Unova. The silent protagonists in Persona 3 and 4 are also associated with The Fool arcana. This arcana is represented by the number 0; it's empty, yet it holds an endless amount of possibilities. The Fool has just begun his journey, and he is unaware of the precipice he stands before. On the actual card, The Fool is usually depicted with a dog. Pretty appropriate, no? As the player character receives their starter Pokemon and begins their journey, they are blissfully unaware of what lies ahead on the path they walk.

Next, we have Cheren, one of your childhood friends and friendly rivals. I feel that The Magician arcana is most appropriate for him. The Magician is associated with action and taking the initiative, but also immaturity. Cheren knows right from the get-go that he wants to become the Champion of Unova, and he wastes no time on getting started. However, he doesn't see anything past this goal, nor does he have any concrete reasons for becoming Champion. Obviously this is problematic, so much so that Alder points this out to him. The Magician is often lacking in spiritual knowledge, and when reversed, is in danger of becoming intoxicated by power. It is important that The Magician brings a focus to his goal(s), and not gain power simply for the sake of having power. Interestingly enough, The Magician is represented by the number 1, which is the cross-sum (sum of digits) of 10, which represents the Fortune arcana. I won't talk about this certain character yet, but it isn't until this character brings the true dilemma to the table that Cheren begins his transformation from having a single goal without focus to adding complexity and reasoning to his original goal.

Moving on, we have The Priestess arcana, who is incidentally looking back at The Magician and his lack of spiritual knowledge. Bianca, the other childhood friend of yours and another friendly rival, best fits the role of The Priestess. In contrast to Cheren, she begins her journey without any specific goals. Characters associated with The Priestess arcana are usually questioning their place or role in the world. The Priestess arcana symbolizes knowledge and mystery. There's actually a quote from Persona 3 pertaining to the The Priestess arcana that I really enjoy: "The silent voice within one's heart whispers the most profound wisdom." This arcana is all about looking inward and contemplating one's true role in life. Bianca spends most of her journey unsure of her goals, especially after realizing that you and Cheren excel in Pokemon battles while she does not. Not to mention her father, who is vehemently against Bianca leaving on her journey, also factors into Bianca's growing doubts, almost forcing her to come home in Nimbasa City before Elesa's intervention. However, these doubts don't linger for very long, and after your journey has ended, she elects to become Professor Juniper's assistant and focus on completing her Pokedex. I'll admit, her character resolution isn't very dynamic compared to others, but nevertheless it is typical of Priestess characters.

I'm going to shake things up a little and discuss one of the more intriguing characters of Pokemon Black and White. That's right, we're going talk about N now! As you all know, N is the king of Team Plasma, as well as your third rival. He is best represented by The Fortune arcana. As the name implies, The Fortune arcana encompasses fate, destiny, chance, surprises, and sudden changes. It's influence is all-encompassing and omnipresent, and, no matter how much we struggle, we are powerless to stop it. Yes, although he is the catalyst of change in the story, even N is very much a victim of fate. With N's character and The Fortune arcana, there is so much symbolism going on, its insane. What seems like a chance encounter in Accumula Town quickly evolves into the player character's greatest struggle of their journey. The player character is unaware of N's true identity when they first meet, possibly still in the blissfully unaware state of The Fool, until they arrive in Nimbasa City's amusement park. It is there, on the ferris wheel, that N reveals his identity as the king of Team Plasma, as well as his goal to seperate people and Pokemon. When N obtains Zekrom/Reshiram, true to his word, it seems that the player character is now locked in a hopeless struggle against forces they may not be able to match. Once the climax of the story begins at the Pokemon League, the player character resolves to venture into N's Castle alone, risking everything for the chance to crush fate itself. It is this selflessness and bravery that enables the player character to awaken Reshiram/Zekrom. From start to finish, it seems as if the player character and N were destined to clash with one another, with Unova's fate hanging in the balance. That is, of course, until Ghetsis' big bad "Man Behind The Man" reveal. Then it all comes crashing down for N, realizing that he was no more than another pawn in Ghetsis' grand scheme.

Whew! Wow, I could write a whole blog entry just on N. But I'll refrain and wrap things up. After these events, N thanks the player character and departs to a faraway region, where he may indeed begin his own journey of The Fool. It could also be argued that N was a Fool himself, even from the beginning, and his journey mirrored that of the player character. The events that took place at his castle could represent The Death arcana. Not a literal death, but rather a spiritual one, in which one cycle of his life ends and another begins. After departing, his "new" journey could cover the second half of the Major Arcana (Temperance through World), and perhaps if we do see him again, he could possibly have a more balanced, mature personality and overcome his oppressive and stifling childhood.

The concept of The Fortune arcana is perhaps one of the simplest, and yet it has one of the most profound effects on The Fool's journey. N brought change to many of the characters in Black and White. Yes, most notably, Cheren. Remember the cross sum of 10? The Magician often tries to control what The Fortune represents. Recently, I've realized something else about about N and Cheren; they both had goals with no sight of what came afterwards. It's true that N's goal (separate humans and Pokemon so that Pokemon could become perfect) was much more complex and profound than Cheren's goal (become the Champion), but neither of them took into consideration what they would do next. Cheren never thought about what he would do after becoming champion, and N never really mentioned what was in store for him and essentially everyone else after they were separated from Pokemon. You could say that, in a way, they both sought perfection, either for himself (Cheren) or for others (N). And if someone does happen to obtain perfection, there is nothing else after that.

However, it is The Fool, or the player character, that holds the most potential, due to being free of limits and their ability to adapt to different situations. So, essentially, it is the player character that is the catalyst for change in N, freeing him from his fate as a mere pawn who could have possibly been eliminated later on once his role was served. Ghetsis' plans do not pan out simply because the player character was the one person out of his control; the "0" in Ghetsis' equation which renders everything else null and void.

Well this is getting way longer than I expected, so I'll have to make this a two-parter. In the next entry, I'll discuss the player character's journey in general and the various arcana that could be applied to certain events.
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Updated 22nd March 2012 at 08:39 PM by smalllady

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