Pokemon Day is February 27th. The date marks the day the first Pokemon video game was launched in Japan in 1996. At least you have that fact nailed down now. Good luck on the rest, because there is no such thing as a Pokemon expert. Every now and then when a new movie or game comes out, new generations get hip to this franchise and decide that since it’s so huge, they have to check it out. The next thing they experience is overwhelming shock and awe as the biggest archive panic in all of fandom hits them.
Pokemon is just so HUGE that to even begin to get into Pokemon first requires you to sit down and boggle at how flippin’ HUGE it is. At a total estimated revenue of $95 billion, it is the highest-grossing media franchise of all time. If you mashed together Nintendo’s Mario ($36 billion) with the Marvel Cinematic Universe ($35 billion), you would still be $24 billion short of Pokemon, compounded with the mental image of Mario stomping on the Green Goblin’s head. It’s far bigger in Asia than it is in the West, which is mostly true of any Asian-originating franchise.
Explain Pokemon Fast!
Please, just sum it up in one paragraph?
That’s actually pretty easy. There is this universe of monsters who can be captured and made portable (Poke-Mon = “pocket monster”). The monsters can be trained to fight other monsters in a sporting contest, usually occurring in a gym. All these monsters have elemental or themed powers special to their species, making them good in one match-up but poor in another. But first, you need a Pokeball to capture them, and you need a Pokedex to house them. There’s 890 Pokemons with Google sponsoring a contest this year to vote on your favorite one (now closed as of this publication).
OK, but what IS a Pokemon?
It’s a kind of creature which fights through moves, powered by its energy, which is synonymous with mana. As it trains and masters more moves, it can eventually evolve. Most Pokemon have an animal-like intellect about at the level of a cat or dog, but some can evolve to be sentient. Pokemon can take many shapes from cute, cuddly rodents to fierce, fire-breathing dragons. Their powers encompass most of the standard fantasy elemental magic aspects (fire, ice, lightning, wind, etc.) in various measures. More powerful Pokemon are capable of combining several elements in their moves.
By the way, Pikachu is a Pokemon who is arguably the franchise mascot. Various Pokemons do get the spotlight by virtue of fan popularity, as measured in a ton of Internet memes. There are also occasionally villain Pokemon, like the overpowered Mewtwo, created by mad science and bent on taking over the world.
There are human characters too?
Yes, but they’re almost incidental. Ash is a boy who collects and battles Pokemon, seeking to collect all Pokemon and win ultimate tournaments to become the Pokemon Master. Misty is a girl who does the same. Brock is a faithful companion of the first two. Gary is another Pokemon trainer who’s a jerk and frequent rival to Ash and Misty. Professor Oak is a scientist who studies Pokemon and acts as a mentor to new trainers. Team Rocket are some bad guys who interfere in Pokemon for their own ends.
From this, you can expect that all humans in the show relate in some way to the sport of Pokemon. There’s teams and rival teams and elite teams and teams within teams. Any given work within the franchise may not have any of these original characters, but the other humans will just be drop-in replacements. However, Ash is the most prominent human in the franchise, usually pictured with Pikachu.
This all sounds so familiar…
It’s a well-worn practice of Japanese franchising. Some of you might recall Tamagotchis, a digital pocket pet popular in the 1990s and 2000s. Then there’s Digimon, a similar (rip off?) franchise. Compare also Yu-Gi-Oh, a collectible trading card game which is like Japan’s answer to Magic: The Gathering. It has a companion anime / manga franchise starring kids who do Guess What for a hobby?
That seemed easier than I thought it would be.
Yes it is, and the premise’s simplicity is one reason why the franchise is so prolific. Using just what we’ve covered so far, most people could sit down and write a Pokemon installment for a game, anime, manga, or movie, and have it be about as authentic as any other random installment.
The Whole (Estimated) Franchise:
Prolific? So what all games and movies and whatnot are there?
Hooooooo boy howdy! You hear that beeping sound? That’s the dumptruck backing in.
(*if we’re counting these right)
- 31* games and spin-offs for Nintendo devices from the Game Boy to the Switch
- The trading card game
- 18 Nintendo console games and spin-offs from the N64 to the Wii (the franchise never showed up on the NES / SNES, though fan-made backports exist)
- Pokemon Mini, a stand-alone handheld game
- Pokemon Go, the recent popular Android game, plus 3 games for mobile devices
Pokemon Go became its own media uproar, helping recenter the franchise in popular Western culture just when it would have faded. Some controversy happened over the augmented reality nature of the game, which caused more than a few trespassing incidents.
There’s much more, of course. You can play simulations of the card game in a web browser for instance, even from the official source. There’s a bazillion Flash games out there, most of them not remotely official. Being a Nintendo property, Pikachu is also playable in Super Smash Brothers.
- 14 manga titles, although most of these are single-issue one-shots or short series drawn by one of the card game’s artists
- A trifling 6 anime series, with the main Pokemon anime running about 1100 episodes so far
- 23 theatrical animated films and counting, starting with Pokémon: The First Movie in 1998
- The live-action 2019 film Pokemon Detective Pikachu
- 17 straight-to-video films and counting
- Pokemon Live, the stage show
- It’s a White Tomorrow, Team Rocket!, a radio dramatization
- Pokémon: The Birth of Mewtwo, ANOTHER radio drama
- Endless, infinite, multitudinous fan works
Again, these go on forever in the form of TV specials, YouTube videos, fanfiction, cosplays, and everything. IMDB lists 220 entries for the keyword Pokemon.
There was a previous attempt at a Pokemon theme park:
Listen, that’s a whole other complete blog post. Obviously, anything you can slap a Pikachu on has been made and sold. We’re talking about Japanese marketing here, after all. There’s a line of “Pokemoan” sex toys out there (link NSFW).
We will pick the next film / game release or other event and throw together some merchandise picks, which will NOT include Pokemoans, but we know it will include some amiibo, which Nintendo probably invented just to have a new medium for Pokemon stuff.
Is That All You’ve Got?
And now, we will just shovel more random Pokemon stuff at you until the end of the post…
Bulbapedia is the main fandom wiki, and one of the oldest fandom wikis on the web.
YouTube has The Official Pokemon channel.
Remember the trading card game? It has its own separate culture.
Cracked has a post on the ways the games have changed over the years.
A fan-made parody of a movie trailer:
Can you even count how many Weird-Al parodies there are of the simplistic, minimalist theme song?
Performing your own mad science experiments in fusing hybrid Pokemon? There’s a browser app for that.
There is a Twitch channel which allows spectators to interact with a Pokemon game via chat commands.
We can’t find the end of this post! We are trapped blogging it forever! Send help please!