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The Pokemon Character That Fans Think Deserved Better

"Pokémon" often has fun switching between two tones. On one hand, it's this adorable fantasy adventure where Ash Ketchum and Pikachu gleefully zap the tragically incompetent Team Rocket. On the other, the series is a breeding ground for dark realities — like when a human dies, their soul becomes a Ghost type for some snot-nosed kid to catch in a Pokéball (apropos of nothing, be kind to Yamasks, they've been through enough). Whether it's the games or the anime, the movies or the manga, "Pokémon" loves to keep fans on their toes. One of the more somber — living — stories in the franchise can be found in "Pokemon Sun and Moon" and its correlating media. 

Serving as a minor antagonistic force in Alola is Team Skull, a group of street thug caricatures collectively cosplaying as Eminem. From time to time, they roll up to serve bland insults and offer low level trainer battles. Basically, they're target practice for Ash and his friends. Maybe if they had solid leadership, they could step up their game. However, that would require the writers to be a bit kinder to someone than they seem to be interested in being. 

Who's that? That's Guzma, friends. Yes, that's his real name, and it's not the only way the poor guy gets the short end of the stick in life. 

Did Guzma deserve better than he got?

In a subreddit dedicated to the animated series, u/3OWtheBall posted, "Can we make #Guzmadidnothingwrong a thing?" Along with the blurb, they attached an image, which featured a side-by-side comparison between Guzma and Faba. Line for line, it points out certain hypocrisies that ultimately add up to Guzma being portrayed as a villain and Faba being portrayed as comic relief. Since diving into Faba's story is a bit outside of this article's scope, just know that he's a minor antagonist who gets away with a lot more shenanigans than he probably should have. Being upset by that is entirely fair. For Guzma's part, well, let's look at the bullet points, shall we?

First, the Redditor suggests that Guzma helps young trainers by never holding back. Which is just ... a wild take, really. Sure, maybe a brutal loss can inspire the loser to work harder, but it can just as equally crush a spirit. Plus, Guzma never fought for anyone but himself, ever. That being said, fighting hard is not inherently bad, either, it's just what he does. The other claim made by u/3OWtheBall is perhaps more convincing, saying that Guzma is a fair fighter. He never cheats during the Pokemon League and, during his final fight with Ash Ketchum, he even makes some important self-discoveries which he's shown to apply to his actions moving forward.

Their original conclusion, that Guzma is innocent, dances on the border between massive stretch and outright fabrication. The guy is an active agent in shaping his own life and chose to be a jerk, so yeah, he's culpable. Now, there's another facet to his story in which he might have been shortchanged, and for that, we have to look at the games.

A tragic backstory

The "Pokémon" games enjoy a healthy dose of environmental storytelling, which means that, aside from directly explaining something to a player, they also have tidbits of information sprinkled into the world for the wary eye to decipher. A caveat for this method of exposition, however, is that it can sometimes be difficult to achieve a confident truth from a few scraps of detail. In Guzma's case, the clues seem to have multiple possible solutions. None of them are good. It is possible that Guzma suffers from a life-long debilitating case of anger issues. It's also possible that he was abused by his father.

Before we continue, it's important to note that, while the anime and the games follow different stories, the gaps in each version of Guzma's arc align pretty well with each other. In brief, he ran away from home at a young age, spent some time with Hala and Professor Kukui (mentor figures), then ran away again to form Team Skull. In the games, players can find his parent's home, where a shelf of second-place trophies can be found (in the anime, these trophies are in his hideout), along with a golf bag full of notably broken and bent clubs. Depending on perception, these either suggest an angry, erratic child, or an angry, abusive father.

There's more — like how Guzma vocally and physically self-harms when he loses a match (i.e. berates himself, or hits his head, in both mediums), and a bit of vaguely worded dialogue from his dad (in the game), which has been interpreted by some to be proof of violence. Fans, like Esserise on Bulbagarden, suggest it's more likely to be Guzma's anger than his father's, but there's no denying that the poor guy could use a break.