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Pokémon is a media franchise spawned from a role-playing video game series developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo beginning in 1996. The title is a portmanteau formed by combining the Japanese words “Poketto Monsutā” (ポケットモンスター), “Pocket Monsters” in English. The games and other media surrounding it revolve around the capturing different types of these creatures, the titular Pokémon, and using them in battle. Outside of the original games, Pokémon has been used in anime, manga, trading cards, toys, films and books among other things. Online, Pokémon has a large fan community, spawning fan art, fiction and memetic content.
The Pokémon franchise began with a video game created by designer Satoshi Tajiri, who was inspired by his childhood insect collecting hobby. The first Pokémon video games were released on February 27th, 1996 in Japan for the Nintendo Gameboy titled Pocket Monsters Red and Pocket Monsters Green. The game proved to be radically popular and a third Japanese edition known as, Blue Version, was released on October 15th, 1996. Blue Version was repackaged and translated for international release as Red and Blue, reaching the United States on September 30th, 1998. Pokémon Yellow was later developed specifically for the Game Boy Color the next year, in order to take advantage of the handheld’s improved graphics to make the game appear closer to the anime.
Outside of hand-held games, Pokémon has appeared in console games for Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii and Wii U. There also have been several spin-off games from the standard RPG, including turn-based navigation game Pokémon Mystery Dungeon and action RPG Pokémon Ranger. As of October 2013, there have been six generations of Pokémon released for various Nintendo platforms.
Nintendo carefully translates the names of the various Pokémon creatures to retain nuances that reflect the different languages in which the game is translated. Each Pokémon’s name is meant to represent their properties, for example, Charizard has the word “char” in its name to indicate it is a Fire type. The characters’ names have become so well known by Pokémon players that a study conducted in Britain in 2002 found that children were able to identify Pokémon creatures better than local wildlife.
As of October 2013, there are 721 known species of Pokémon. Probably the most well known of these is Pikachu, an Electric type creature drawn to look like a mouse, who is regarded as the mascot of the franchise.
On January 10th, 2007, eleven years after its initial release, British news site The Independent listed Pokémon as the 2nd best selling game franchise of all time after the Mario_ franchise. According to a Nintendo press release, the game series had sold over 200 million units by May 28th, 2010. Pokémon has also appeared in many real life places: Between 2005 and 2006 a traveling Pokémon theme park was open in Japan and Taiwan, Nippon Airways has ten jets painted with Pokémon designs, and the Nintendo World shop in New York City has an entire floor dedicated to Pokémon, including an area where people can play together and receive special items. Additionally, various television shows and movies including South Park_, The Simpsons, Austin Powers: Goldmember and Robot Chicken have parodied or mentioned Pokémon.
Official Pokémon online presence is limited. Their official Twitter page has over 30,000 followers as of January 2013. While the official Facebook fan page for the franchise only has 1.5 million likes, a static interest page for the Pokémon anime has over 3 million.
Due to its wide fanbase, Pokémon has numerous fansites dedicated to it. Some of the most popular include Serebii, a news, information and forum site; Smogon University, with articles and calculators on how to improve one’s competitive battling skills; Bulbapedia, a wiki-style information site with more than 21,900 articles; Marriland, which hosts news and guides; PokéBeach, which contains information specifically for the Pokémon trading card game, and is known to leak information about upcoming games; and a dedicated image board on 4chan, /vp/.
As of September 2012, there are more than 4,500 submissions in the Pokémon category on Fanfiction.net, with more than 2500 of those crossovers into other fandoms. The stories cover a range of subgenres in fanfiction, including Badfic examples like Pokémon: Attack of Mewtwo, and creepypasta stories such as the Lavender Town Syndrome, Pokémon Creepy Black and Pokémon Lost Silver among others.
Pokémon also has a variety of shippers, people who favor relationships between certain characters, within it. One of the first Pokémon ships created was between the characters Jessie and James (shown below, left), which became known as Rocketshipping. This term was coined on the Team Rocket Headquarters forum as early as 2007. Later, the theorized relationship between main characters Ash and Misty (shown below, right) was given the name Pokéshipping. Bulbagarden keeps a list of coined terms for hundreds of ships within the franchise, between people, Pokémon or both.
Pokémon has spawned a huge number of memes, some of which are among the most well-known memes on the Internet. It would be impossible to list every single Pokémon-related meme, but the major ones are included here.
I Herd U Liek Mudkips
“I Herd U Liek Mudkips” is a catchphrase associated with the water-type Pokémon Mudkip. It was first used on deviantArt as early as February 2005 as a way to invite users of the site to join a Pokémon fan art community called MudKipClub. It later was incorporated into a copypasta story that was shared on 4chan, where the phrase evolved into use as a way for 4chan users to identify themselves outside of the imageboard.
Smugleaf was the name given to the grass-type Pokémon Snivy before the 5th Generation English names were revealed. Snivy, along with Oshawott (who was dubbed “Wotter”) and Tepig (who was dubbed “Pignite”) were the three starter Pokémon in Black and White, released in North America in March 2011. Due to its snide facial expression, Smugleaf became associated with trolling, similar to “U Mad?” and “Problem?”.
Fuck Yeah Seaking
Fuck Yeah Seaking is a photoshop meme which superimposes water-type Pokémon Seaking into pictures of natural disasters or horrific scenes, implying that the creature caused the destruction. Though it has been criticized as a largely forced meme, it eventually gained a solid fanbase and spawned a number of rhyming derivatives.
Slowpoke is a Water/Psychic-type Pokémon, often used as a reaction image to a post containing old or oversaturated information. It can also be seen as an advice animal-style image macro series with captions that often start out “Hey guys, did you hear…” followed by old news.
A Wild X Appears!
“A Wild X Appears!” (shown below, right) is a snowclone used to indicate the unexpected arrival of a character or object. While inspired by the game, this particular phrasal template was never actually used in the game. In the original 1998 release of Pokémon Red and Blue, “Wild X appeared!” was used to announce chance encounters. In later games, it was changed to “A wild X appeared!” One specific derivative of this phrase is “A wild Snorlax appears!” (shown below, left), typically used with pictures of overweight people or animals
Fake Pokémon Battles
Fake Pokémon Battles are a series of video and GIF animations parodying the cutscene sequence of a Pokémon battle. The parodies typically involve substituting Pokémon characters with custom sprites of non-Pokémon characters, such as celebrities or politicians, and altering the in-game messages to fit the battle into context.
It’s Super Effective!
“It’s Super Effective!” is a catchphrase taken from a phrase that appears during in-game battles when a skill results in additional damage. Outside of the context of the game, the phrase is used to denote an action that works exceptionally well.
Professor Oak is a recurring character who is well known for his knowledge about the creatures and is widely considered to be the best Pokémon expert in his field. Online, he is the subject of an image macro series which is used to point out the various illogical details about the video game’s world and the alleged mean behaviour of the character.
Gary Oak is based on the rival character from the first two games. Throughout the series, he is always one step ahead of the player, appearing at the most inopportune moments to point out the player’s shortcomings. On 4chan’s /vp/ (Pokémon), Gary is also used to spam threads that are considered pointless or that break the rules. This act of spamming pictures of Gary is called “Garybombing.”
Ash Pedreiro, also known as “Dat Ash”, is an advice animal image macro featuring an alternate universe artwork of Pokémon trainer Ash Catchum and lewd puns that are derived from the character names of Pokémon creatures. The nickname “Ash Pedreiro” originated from the Brazilian web, “pedreiro” being a Brazilian-Portugese slang term for construction workers who would often throw cheesy pick-up lines to strangers on the street.
Brock Obama is a fictional hybrid character which combines the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama and Brock, one of the main trainer characters from the anime series Pokémon. The character is usually manifested in the form of photoshopped images with Brock’s head or face superimposed onto portrait images of Obama or President Obama’s face placed onto pictures of Brock.
Tentaquil is a Fakémon that originated from a /vp/ thread on 4chan. The name Tentaquil seems to come from the combination of the already existing Pokémon Tentacool / Tentacruel and Cyndaquil, although its appearance is more similar in design to Politoed. A ROM hack of the game Pokémon FireRed Version called Pokémon: Tentaquil Edition was created in which Tentaquil was the starter Pokémon. Shortly after this was released, a hack of Pokémon Emerald Version featured Tentaquil as well.
Longchu (also named Pikaman) was inspired by a hacking method where people could change movesets of the characters in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl. When the movement set of Ganondorf is transferred to Pikachu, the result creates a Pikachu with long limbs.
MissingNo. is a Pokémon species found in the video games Pokémon Red and Blue. An abbreviation for “Missing Number”, these Pokémon are used as error handlers by game developer Game Freak. There are five forms of the glitch character, which only appears when the game attempts to access data for a nonexistent Pokémon species.
Diglett Underground is a series of parody images showing what is underneath the ground-type Pokémon Diglett, whose entire body is never shown throughout the series. The parodies will interpret what exactly is happening underneath the part of Diglett that is shown.
“Top Percentage” originates from Pokémon Gold Version and Pokémon Silver Version, released in North America in 2000. After meeting a Non-Playable Character (NPC) named Youngster Joey, he may contact the player at random through a personal phone device in the game known as the Pokégear. During one of these calls, he will say “Remember my super cool Rattata? My Rattata is different from regular Rattata. It’s like my Rattata is in the top percentage of Rattata.” Online, the phrase has turned into a trolling technique, often used to mock someone who is considered the best at something.
Poképarents are advice animal-style image macros where each Pokémon represents a different role in the family. These roles were designated by posters of 4chan’s /r9k/ (ROBOT 9000) image board in 2009 after a series of images featuring a Blastoise depicted as a “cool” dad were posted.
Poképuns are an image macro series illustrating various puns and wordplay based on the character names. Images were posted online as early as January 2009 on deviantArt with a Raichu imposed into the phrase “I’m not gonna Raichu a love song,” as a play on “write you.”
Pokemans is the LOLspeak interpretation of Pokémon. It is commonly associated with the catchphrase “My Pokemans, let me show you them.” or “Let me show you my Pokemans,” first used in a LOLcat image in 2007.
Spirit Pokémon is a series of multi-pane comics that began on Tumblr in 2010 featuring a Pokémon trainer who finds himself or herself in some sort of predicament and conjures up a “spirit Pokémon” for help. Oftentimes, the summoned Pokémon brings comical relief rather than resolutions to the problem in hand.
Fakemon are non-canonical Pokémon character sprites and artwork created by fans of the franchise. Since Pokémon sprites are relatively small in size, modification of canonical Pokémon can be easily done. The techniques can range from simple re-colorings, “splicing” new sprites by combining parts of older sprites, or creating new ones altogether from scratch.
Pokégods refers to a copypasta inspired by the in-game bug that allowed a player to encounter the Pokémon Mew. The copypasta led readers to believe there were other “Pokégods” available to be found. It became a common trolling practice to fool people into performing impossible tasks so they could encounter another one of these creatures. As later games were released, new versions of the copypasta spread, asserting the legendary Pokémon Arceus created the others.
Espurr is a Pokémon which was released in the sixth generation of games, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. The Psychic-type cat Pokémon drew attention due to its large, beady eyes. The eyes have been considered creepy and reminiscent of an emotionally-scarred war veteran.
“Hoenn Confirmed” is a phrase used to sarcastically imply that the games Pokémon Ruby, Pokémon Sapphire, and/or Pokémon Emerald, which all take place in the Hoenn region, will be remade. The belief originally stemmed from the fact that the Generation I and II games were remade in Generations III and IV respectively, so many believed that the Hoenn region games, which were Generation III, would be given remakes in Generation V. People began looking for miniscule details in the Generation V games that could be evidence for a remake, like Half-Life 3 Confirmed.
Pokemon Abs Guy
On January 7th, 2014, Tumblr blogger butt-berry created the blog Handstand Abs Guy to showcase a series of photoshopped GIFs in which characters from popular anime and cartoon series are shown molesting the muscular torso of a man in a handstand position against a wall, including numerous instances of Pokémon characters interacting with his chiseled abs in suggestive manners.
Throughout the month, Butt-berry continued to update the blog with GIFs featuring various characters from Pokémon, as well as Spongebob Squarepants and Adventure Time, which drew positive feedback from Tumblr’s fandom community. Almost every post garnered in the range of a few thousand notes to more than 36,000 notes.
Search queries for “pokemon” have remained somewhat consistent over the years with increases in volume during spring and summer months, and dips during winter months. Some of these increases coincide with the release of new games.
The Independent – How Eidos plans to stay ahead of the video game market