N, the mysterious and largely silent antagonist of Pokèmon Black and White, is an oddity. He approaches the player after the player encounters Team Plasma and hears of their plans to ‘liberate’ Pokèmon from their trainers and states that Pokèmon speak to him. He says that the can understand Pokemon, and goes on to battle the player. N believes that Pokèmon and people are not meant to be together, and that people only hurt Pokèmon. He dreams of a world where Pokèmon and people live separately, and he intends to make that dream a reality.
N is a childish idealist. Manipulated by Ghetsis from birth, he has only seen Pokèmon that have suffered from human contact, nursing them to health and taking them as friends and companions. He believes that people are harmful to Pokèmon. He is unable to fathom a world where Pokèmon and people can live together in harmony, and believes himself to be the champion of Pokèmon, separating them from people so they can achieve a potential he claims to see in them. He refuses to accept a middle ground between sides of a conflict, stating that when he has achieved his goal, “black and white will be clearly distinct”. Faced with examples of Pokèmon and people working together in harmony, he is eventually forced to conclude that his ideals may be flawed. In great inner turmoil, he challenges the player to a final battle involving the legendary Zekrom and Reshiram to decide who is right. When defeated, N concedes to the player. He says that the player’s victory proves that the player’s conviction is far stronger. He is confused that Reshiram and Zekrom decided to side with two very different individuals and comes to the conclusion that the world changes and grows not because of people who reject others’ ideas, but because of people who accept them.
N is a very solid character. He begins the game believing with certainty that the world is flawed and that only he can save it. Over time he begins to doubt and grow. He learns from his experiences until eventually he challenges the player in a moment of confusion and crisis, hoping to affirm his own beliefs. He is a genuinely confused young man, longing to make sense of relationships in a world that he does not understand. Because Ghetsis allowed him to come into contact only with Pokèmon that had been abused when he was a child, he only understands the world as a painful place. Because of his upbringing, it is remarkable that N did not cause more damage in the world. Ghetsis raised him from a child to become a horrifying sociopath, wanting to sever connections between people and their Pokèmon companions for his own selfish motives. I do not doubt that being raised in such a manner left him terribly psychologically disturbed. Ghetsis manipulated him on purpose like an abusive parent, not caring how much damage he was doing to the poor boy’s psyche. I believe that throughout the game, on some level, N realizes that his perception of the world is inaccurate and that he wants to believe that Pokèmon and people can live together in peace. It is why he makes friends with Pokèmon and is able to accept their companionship. However, because he did not view positive relationships between other humans and Pokèmon as a child, he does not know how to form real positive relationships himself, nor is he able to identify positive relationships where they occur.
It is fitting that to N, the voice of reason does not come from a person, but from a Pokèmon: one of the player’s Pokèmon tells him that it is happy to work with the player. N would not believe a human if he was told that their Pokèmon were their friends because he believes that he can understand what Pokèmon are saying and other people cannot. This belief seems to be valid as he converses with the player’s Pokèmon several times in the game, claiming that the player’s lead Pokèmon tells him where the player is from. However, he could have easily learned this information from Cheren or Bianca. I believe that he may not actually be able to understand Pokèmon at all in the way that he claims. I believe that he reads Pokèmon’s emotions by observing their faces and understanding them with his own sense of empathy. He then projects what he believes the Pokèmon to be saying as something that he is hearing from the Pokèmon itself. While not quite schizophrenic, N is almost certainly mentally unstable, and I believe that the voices he hears from Pokèmon are all in his head. Over time, perhaps, he will heal psychologically and understand Pokèmon, humans, and their relationships for what they are, but perhaps he is doomed to confusion and wonder forever as he floats through the clouds astride Reshiram or Zekrom, depending on the player’s game version. I think that by forsaking humanity in order to travel with Reshiram/Zekrom to better understand the world, he is doing himself more harm than good. I think that he will continue to be unable to understand relationships between humans and Pokèmon until he actually experiences relationships between all sorts of people and their Pokèmon and can see the effect the two can have on one another.
What do you think, readers? Is N doomed to live the rest of his life in exile from a world he cannot possibly understand? Is there hope for him?