“Gotta catch ‘em all, Pokémon.”
Pokémon was, without a doubt, one of the most successful franchises of the 1990s, and it still enthralls the masses to this day. With the most recent intense craze being the 2016 mobile game, Pokémon Go.
Created in 1995 by Satoshi Tajiri, it centered on creatures called Pokémon (or Pocket Monsters in Japanese) that humans known as Pokémon Trainers would catch and hold inside a Poké Ball, and then they'd train them to battle each other for sport. The franchise was handled by a Japanese consortium of three companies: Nintendo, Creatures, and Game Freak. While all three shared the copyright, it was only Nintendo who owned the trademark.
Pokémon made its debut on the original Game Boy a year later in Japan as a pair of video games (Pokémon Red and Green) developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo. The games then made their merry way to the U.S. two years later as Pokémon Red and Blue.
The franchise became so popular over the years that it spawned (alongside more video games) a slew of merchandise including trading card games, animated series, movies, comic books, mangas, as well as a plethora of toys and plushies. A live-action movie starring Ryan Reynolds titled Detective Pikachu is even in the works.
In America, Pokémon’s fame really grew thanks to the 1998 English-dubbed version of the Japanese animé series, which boasted one of the catchiest theme songs ever: “I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them is my real test; to train them is my cause.” Here you go. You're welcome.
The series introduced us to 10-year-old Ash Ketchum,whose goal is to become the world’s greatest Pokémon Master (by catching all 150 Pokémon), and to his iconic electric mouse Pokémon, Pikachu. Viewers would follow their adventures as Ash catches more Pokémon and makes human and Pokémon friends, all the while being pursued by the nefarious Team Rocket trio of inept villains Jessie, James, and Meowth.
There’s so much to cover about Pokémon that SYFY WIRE is taking a deep dive into what made the franchise and especially the animé series so popular to this day. So we invite you to check out our Pokémon retrospective above, then let us know what you think in the comments!
Additional material by Nathalie Caron.