Pocket Monster Pokémon
The Pokemon television series, which began in 1997 after the exploding popularity of the Pokemon video games released the year prior, follows the adventures of a young boy named Ash Ketchum as he adventures through a world populated not by animals as we know them but rather by sentient, super powerful creatures called “Pokemon.” His goal? To capture and train as many of them as possible so that he can use these animals in “battles” against the captured animals of other trainers in gladiator-like arenas.
The show walks along an odd tightrope in which the main character and his companions do not “enslave” animals as is suggested by the description of this alternate reality, but rather develop their own friendships with the creatures. More than once Ash parts ways with a pokemon he had previously “captured” because the animal would prefer to leave for one reason or another. He is depicted more as a coach of a team training for these battles than a slave-driver forcing his will upon them. They do come across many trainers who do enslave pokemon, often times this ends in a battle to liberate them. Still, though, the world is an odd one… in which Humans have somehow asserted dominance over intelligent creatures (while incapable of speaking English they do fully understand human communication and have their own forms of language) with unimaginable powers (some calling down lightning from the sky, others having the ability to shoot flames or directed beams of energy at a whim) so fully that we use these animals for entertainment purposes. The humans seem so estranged from the evolutionary laws of this other world that to me, even as a child rushing home after school to see what trouble Ask would get into today, it never seemed quite right.