The Gyarados article you were waiting for.
Allow me to quote Suzanne Hader in her definition of what a Bildungsroman is, because her site came up third in my Google search for “Bildungsroman” and therefore she’s credible.
A Bildungsroman is, most generally, the story of a single individual’s growth and development within the context of a defined social order. The growth process, at its roots a quest story, has been described as both “an apprenticeship to life” and a “search for meaningful existence within society.”
In my attempts to explain Magikarp’s evolution into Gyarados, and where it fits in the Bildungsroman (and eventually, Supra-Bildungsroman) genre, I will use the most canon version of the story available, taken from the events of the game Pokemon Red (©Nintendo, 1998). I will follow the three core tenets of the Bildungsroman and explain how Gyarados’s story fits with each. Finally, I will describe its ascendance into the Supra-Bildungsroman genre, inside the Pokemon Red canon.
1. To spur the hero or heroine on to their journey, some form of loss or discontent must jar them at an early stage away from the home or family setting.
In this case, the loss of freedom is what forces Magikarp away from its home setting. Once a friendly fish in the waters near Mt. Moon, Magikarp was tricked away from its home by an Old Rod, only to be pawned off for a mere 500 PokeYen. Forced into the titular hero’s — Red’s — quest for the championship of Pokemon’s Roman-style gladiatorial battles, Magikarp is locked into a series of battles that offer two choices: fight or die.
2. The process of maturity is long, arduous, and gradual, consisting of repeated clashes between the protagonist’s needs and desires and the views and judgments enforced by an unbending social order.
To the two aforementioned choices, Magikarp chooses neither. Its “fighting style” is a mockery of the evils it is forced into abetting. The Splash attack which Magikarp uses can do no damage to its Pokemon opponents. It’s not that Magikarp is the weakest Pokemon; it just refuses to be the strongest and reflects its pacifism through its moveset.
During Red’s quest for the championship, Magikarp refuses to use any attack other than Splash, which Red takes as a challenge to his authority. Red decides to torment Magikarp by having it fight in every battle, only to withdraw it and force Magikarp to watch as its co-slaves brutally murder their opponents. But with every battle, Magikarp gains experience. And its Splash becomes more and more honed.
Soon, Magikarp evolves.
3. Eventually, the spirit and values of the social order become manifest in the protagonist, who is then accommodated into society. The novel ends with an assessment by the protagonist of himself/herself and his/her new place in that society.
In Magikarp’s evolution into Gyarados, it becomes the very embodiment of Pokemon’s bloody battles. The curses that its now-dead “opponents” yelled at the sky as they drew their last breath are manifested in Gyarados’s Dragon Rage.
The harsh reality is that in a world as sick and twisted as this, mortal enemies become one’s closest friends. Gyarados remembered each of the individuals it was forced to watch die at the hands of its “comrades”; at the hands of Red. And it vowed to never forget.
But Gyarados breaks the stale formula of the Bildungsroman after this point. In reality, Gyarados’s story is that of the Supra-Bildungsroman, whereby:
4. The protagonist, after having manifested society’s values, realizes the terrible mistake he/she has made. Through sheer determination, the protagonist breaks through the shackles of conformity and creates an entirely new society, learning from the mistakes of the old one.
With its newfound power, Gyarados decided to rebuild civilization. Turning on its master, Gyarados ripped Red in half with its powerful Bite. Red’s dismembered corpse left entrails smeared on the side of Biker Road — a sign of things to come for the society which birthed the enraged Dragon God standing in its path. Gyarados was ready to get its Splash on.
Over the course of three Pokeyears, Gyarados unleashed a rebellion that caused the rivers to run red and the mountains to tremble. Enlisting the help of its free Pokebretheren (the most notable of which were Jigglypuff, the Siren of Death; Mewtwo, the Betrayed God; and Mr. Mime, the Pedophile-Priest), Gyarados campaigned in an attempt to free its kin.
tl;dr: Retarded fucking fanfiction. People fucking die. Pokemon fucking die. All of Kanto fucking burns and then Gyarados fucking dies. There, I spoiled it for you. It was some bloody fucking shit.
~1 Month Later~
The charred remains of Kanto spread beneath Giovanni’s gaze. Everything had turned to ash in the wake of Gyarados’s rebellion — Pokemon and human alike. Was this the equality Gyarados was looking for?
There was much potential in the Kanto region; it could be rebuilt. Silph Co. already had investors lined up. But Giovanni had seen the problems that powerful, rare Pokemon in the hands of children could create. He knew the only way to save Kanto from its fate would be to bear their responsibility himself. But Giovanni was only one man.
“Daddy, I want to go to the Pokemoon. I heard there are Clefairy there!” Red laughed, as he got ready to launch the bottle rocket.
“Oh, Red, you’re going to be such a faggot when you grow up,” responded Giovanni, ruffling his son’s hair.
The rocket he and Red had launched together was firmly set in his mind. Giovanni wanted to cry, but tears would do no good. He was just one man, true. But if he were part of an organization…