Twenty-five years after its appearance, Pokémon continues to seduce young and old: an incident involving video games and cartoons featuring adorable Japanese monsters shows no signs of fatigue.
The year 2020, which has been marked by an epidemic and which has boosted demand for video games worldwide, has also been the most attractive for Pokémon Go, a smartphone adaptation available since 2016.
“The characters themselves are so cute, and the mechanics of the various games are so well executed that (the event, editor’s note) is timeless,” said Japanese pop culture writer Brian Ashikatan interviewed by AFP.
29-year-old Dan Ryan, who works in finance in London, has been a fan since childhood, and does not hesitate to demonstrate his passion, which sometimes leads him to make himself into Pikachu, the famous yellow Pokemon is.
“My colleagues know that every Thursday I disappear to play Pokemon cards,” he says.
He considers “spending too much” to acquire rare cards, prices of which have gone up since the beginning of the epidemic, one of them recently sold online for over 400,000 euros.
Inspired by a passion for stinging Japanese children and collecting insects, Pokémon first appeared in 1996 as a video game for Game Boy.
Its theory is simple: “catch them all”, as recalled by the French song of the cartoon launched shortly after, using “Poké Balls”.
These are the best of “Pocket Monsters” (a contraction of Pokemon “Pocket Monsters”), already rich with hundreds of creatures, inspired by animals or mythology.
According to the Nintendo-owned Pokemon company, the declining phenomenon in the adaptation of countless items, animals and film has allowed sales of more than 368 million video games and 30 billion cards.
– “Pica-Pica” –
Etsuko Nishida, who attracted the character of the electric mouse Pikachu, said she was inspired by a Japanese pastry made with glutinous rice, and her colleagues seduced her to make the character even more captivating.
“I thought it would be nice if he had electric buildup in his cheeks. At the time, I was fascinated by the squirrel, which shops the food” in this way, he told a Japanese newspaper.
The attraction of Pikachu’s limited vocabulary based on the syllable of his name, such as “pika-pika” (“sparkling”) in Japanese, also contributes to the mass adoption of the character by fans.
For Jason Bainbridge, a professor at the University of Canberra who has written extensively on Pokemon, the game’s close-minded imagination and its many characters are key to its success.
Pokémon have not completely escaped controversy, for example, with an episode of the cartoon due to epileptic seizures in Japan in the 1990s.
The magician Uri Geller, who has long accused Nintendo of spun Pokémon with a spoon and misusing her image with a Japanese name, recently dropped from the allegations.
– Road games –
The 25th anniversary celebration has largely ended due to the epidemic, but a virtual concert featuring longtime fan rapper Post Malone is scheduled to take place on Saturday.
If it continues to adapt to the times, the event could easily last 25 more years, according to Bainbridge.
The Pokémon Go mobile game, which introduced geolocation and augmented reality mechanisms, “really revived the franchise: we all knew Pokémon, but suddenly we all wanted to play it again,” he explains.
Despite various accidents caused by reckless players, Pokémon hunters are still in abundance on the streets, especially in Tokyo.
“It really feels like catching them for real, it’s a change from the other games,” said 22-year-old Akihabara in the geek neighborhood, passing the phone in hand.
At a special event last week, “I played from morning to night, I must have caught 400 or 500 Pokémon,” he says. “I have used all my Poké Balls.”