It is, quite literally, impossible to avoid Pokémon at the moment. The Japanese media franchise has again exploded in popularity with the release of Pokémon Go – a new augmented reality game where players can capture, battle, and train Pokémon who appear throughout the real world. Pokémon Go has brought on waves of nostalgia for those who grew up with the games, cards, toys, TV show, and more, but also Nintendo-owned property to an entirely new audience. With Pokémon Go currently dominating the news, social media, and real life, here are 10 fascinating facts that you may not have known about the Pokemon franchise.
10. It Uses The Cat And Mouse Setup
Cat vs. mouse is a classic cartoon trope, which is also used in Pokémon. Pikachu is known to be based on a mouse, while Meowth, one of the antagonists in the anime is, of course, based on a cat. Furthermore, the pair also have inverted Pokedex numbers – Pikachu is 25 while Meowth is 52. However, Meowth is not based on your typical cat but rather the legendary Maneki-Neko. Maneki-Neko is a cat of Japanese folklore deemed to be lucky; having supposedly saved a samurai from being struck by lightning. Much like Maneki-Neko, Meowth is depicted with one paw raised and with a Koban (ancient Japanese coin) on its head. Despite supposedly being lucky, Meowth was incredibly unlucky in the anime, which could be purposefully ironic.
9. Pokémon Go Has Received Plenty Of Criticism Despite Its Overwhelmingly Positive Reception
Generally speaking, Pokémon Go has been heavily praised by many. The game is getting a positive reception for encouraging players to go outside and explore the world instead of staying inside, with many claming that it will have a very positive impact on those that suffer from social anxiety and depression; plus, the active nature of the game is good for your physical well-being. However, Pokémon Go has also caught some heat since its release and this largely stems from the game using controversial locations. This includes the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the U.S Holocaust museum, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
There have also been incidents of trespassing, inattentive driving, and accidents due to players not being aware of their surroundings. Despite this, the game has also helped to catch criminals, report crimes in progress, and many businesses have profited from more people congregating near their premises.
8. Pokémon Is Not A Japanese Word
Many people assume that Pokémon is a Japanese word or just a fictional word much like all of the creatures, but this isn’t actually the case. The title of the astronomically successful media franchise actually comes from the Romanized contraction of two English words – pocket and monsters (or Poketto Monsuta). Pocket Monsters were manga comics that first appeared in 1996 and ran for 13 volumes. The term Pokémon refers to not only the title of the franchise, but also the 722 known fictional species (as of the sixth generation titles). Not only this, but it is identical in both the singular and the plural form. For example, you would say both “one Pokémon” and “many Pokémon,” which also applies for the individual species – “one Pikachu” and “many Pikachu.”
7. Rhydon Was The First Pokémon Created
If you had to bet, most would say that Pikachu was the first Pokémon ever created due to it being the mascot and face of the franchise, or perhaps Bulbasaur, who is listed #1 in the Pokedex. Some veterans might claim Arceus, who is “The Original One” and said to have created the Pokémon universe. None of these were the first designed, however, and instead it is Rhydon – the 112th Pokémon registered in the Pokedex. From the early designs of Capsule Monsters (what would eventually become Pokémon), a creature very close to the final design of Rhydon appears several times and one of the designers from the first generation of titles confirmed that Rhydon was, in fact, the first created. This also explains why Rhydon statues appear throughout the game, including when you walk into the gym in Pokémon Red/Blue.
6. Ash Sees The Legendary Ho-Oh In The First Episode Of The Anime
In the very first episode of the animated series back in 1997, Ash is struggling to control Pikachu who keeps shocking him, but is then taken back and inspired when he sees a majestic, mysterious, and unidentifiable Pokémon flying high in the sky alongside a rainbow. His Pokedex cannot identify it and explains that many Pokémon remain undiscovered. When he tries to explain his sighting to other characters, they dismiss what he has seen. Years later, this creature would be revealed to be the Generation II legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh. This shows great foreshadowing from the creators and adds to the aura surrounding Ho-Oh. Ho-Oh has also shown up at other significant moments in Ash’s life, including when he parts ways with Brock and Misty and when he is released from possession by the King of Pokelantis’ spirit.
5. It Is The Second-Most Successful Video Game Franchise In The World
Pokémon is now 20 years old, but is perhaps more popular right now than it has ever been thanks to the release of the revolutionary Pokémon Go. Beginning as a pair of video games for the original Game Boy (remember those?), it quickly evolved into trading cards, an animated TV show, many different films, comic books, toys and more video games. As of May 2016 (prior to the release of Pokémon Go), the media franchise had grossed a staggered $46.2 billion USD. It is deemed to be the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise ever, with Nintendo’s legendary Mario franchise in first. The entire Mario franchise of games has sold more than 500 million copies around the world. Both Mario and Pikachu are deemed to be important cultural figures and the face of gaming.
4. The Creator Was Mentored By The Greatest Games Developer Of All Time
With Pokémon as the second-most successful video game-based franchise ever, it seems fitting that the man who created it was mentored by the creator of the most successful franchise in gaming. Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiiri ran a fanzine in the early 80s titled Game Freak, but after seeing the Game Boy in 1990 he its potential and began work on a game. He also founded a studio, using the title of his fanzine (Game Freak still develops the Pokémon titles to this day.)
Despite interest from Nintendo, the project stalled numerous times. This was when the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto stepped in and mentored Tajiiri. For those that don’t know, Miyamoto is responsible for creating a few little known titles that include Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda. Under his guidance (he also has a developmental style which closely matches), Tajiiri spent six years developing Pokémon Red and Green (available exclusively in Japan) and the rest is history.
3. The Inspiration Came From A Popular Japanese Hobby
The idea for Pokémon comes from a favorite pastime of creator Satoshi Tajiiri and many Japanese children – insect collecting. As children, many Japanese people collect all kinds of bugs and creepy-crawlies, and trade them with their friends. Tajiiri clearly saw potential here (plus a way for those to play who did not like picking up creepy insects), and he used as inspiration to create an astonishingly successful media franchise.
He has previously stated that he wanted to become an entomologist (one who studies insects) as a child and how this childhood fixation proved to be inspirational – hunting and capturing beasts before pitting them against one another and performing trades. With Pokémon Go things have almost come full circle, introducing the real world element once again (but replacing scary looking insects with much friendlier characters).
2. Mew Was Not Supposed To Appear In The Original Game
With the arrival of the Pokémon Red and Blue games, players became aware of 150 species of Pokémon. However, rumors of a mysterious 151st began to surface despite the fact that this was repeatedly denied by Nintendo. In an issue of Nintendo Power, one of the developers of the game revealed there was a 151st Pokémon called Mew, who was not supposed to be in the game. The character was removed, but after the debugging stage, one developer noticed that there was enough space to fit Mew in and consequently did so. Nintendo were not informed so that the game’s release wouldn’t be delayed.
Included as a prank and not intended to be accessible, this decision backfired when a glitch enabled some users to obtain Mew early on. The rumor surrounding Mew only heightened interest in the game and fueled even more sales, which certainly contributed to the original success of the franchise.
1. Pokémon Is Responsible For Triggering The Worst Documented Case of Simultaneous Epilepsy
Not a Guinness World Record that it holds too proudly, but a Guinness World Record nonetheless. In December 1997, the infamous “Cyber Soldier Porygon” Pokémon episode was broadcast in Japan but would never be broadcast around the world. In a scene where Pikachu uses a Thunderbolt attack to stop vaccine missiles, a huge explosion occurs with flashing red and blue lights. The use of “paka paka” and “flash” animation techniques made this an incredibly intense scene, which resulted in roughly 750 audience members experiencing epileptic seizures (plus many more experiencing headaches, blurred vision, and nausea). 685 were hospitalized, with the phenomenon later called the “Pokémon Shock.” The show went on a four month hiatus and has since been parodied heavily, with references on The Simpsons and South Park being most notable. If you do dare watch this online (and it is out there), you have been warned!