Pikachu

Pikachu[c] is a species of Pokémon, fictional creatures that appear in an assortment of media of the Pokémon franchise by The Pokémon Company. Pikachu is a yellow mouse-like Pokémon with powerful electrical abilities. Pikachu is the best-known species of Pokémon, largely due to its appearance in the anime series as the starter Pokémon of the protagonist, Ash Ketchum. Pikachu is a major character of the Pokémon franchise as well as its mascot, and has become an icon of Japanese pop culture in recent years, as well as one of the major mascots for Nintendo.

Pikachu
Pokémon character
Pokémon Pikachu art.png
Pikachu, as depicted in promotional artwork for Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen
First appearance
Designed by
Portrayed by
Voiced by
In-universe information
Species
Gender♂ Male / ♀ Female
Fighting styleElectric type
OriginKanto (Generation I)

Pikachu's design was conceived by Atsuko Nishida and finalized by Ken Sugimori.[1] Pikachu first appeared in Pokémon Red and Green in Japan, and later in the first internationally released Pokémon video games, Pokémon Red and Blue, for the Game Boy.

In most vocalized appearances, including the anime and certain video games, it is primarily voiced by Ikue Ōtani. Pikachu also appeared in the primary cast of the live-action animated film Pokémon Detective Pikachu, performed in CGI and voiced by Ryan Reynolds, as well as in every installment of the Super Smash Bros. series, including Katy Perry's music video Electric.

Concept and design

 
Pikachu as depicted in promotional artwork for Pokémon Red and Blue, its first appearance

Developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo, the Pokémon series began in Japan in 1996, and features several species of creatures called "Pokémon" that players, called "trainers", are encouraged to capture, train, and use to battle other players' Pokémon or interact with the game's world.[5] Pikachu was one of several different Pokémon designs conceived by Game Freak's character development team. Artist Atsuko Nishida is credited as the main person behind Pikachu's design,[6][7] which was later finalized by artist Ken Sugimori.[8][9] According to series producer Satoshi Tajiri, the name is derived from a combination of two Japanese onomatopoeia: ピカピカ (pikapika), a sparkling sound, and チュウチュウ (chūchū), a sound a mouse makes.[10] Despite its name's origins, however, Nishida based Pikachu's generation 1 design, especially its cheeks, on squirrels.[11] Developer Junichi Masuda noted Pikachu's name as one of the most difficult to create, due to an effort to make it appealing to both Japanese and American audiences.[12]

Standing 40 centimetres (1 ft 4 in) tall, Pikachu was the first "Electric-type" Pokémon created, their design intended to revolve around the concept of electricity.[13] They appear as Pika-like[14] creatures that have short, yellow fur with brown markings covering their backs and parts of their lightning bolt-shaped tails. They have black-tipped, pointed ears and red circular pouches on their cheeks, which can spark with electricity.[15] In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, gender differences were introduced; a female Pikachu now has an indent at the end of its tail, giving it a heart-shaped appearance. They attack primarily by projecting electricity from their bodies at their targets.[16] Within the context of the franchise, a Pikachu can transform, or "evolve," into a Raichu when exposed to a "Thunder Stone."[17] In later titles, an evolutionary predecessor was introduced named "Pichu", which evolves into a Pikachu after establishing a close friendship with its trainer.[18]

Initially, both Pikachu and the Pokémon Clefairy were chosen to be lead characters for the franchise merchandising, with the latter as the primary mascot to make the early comic book series more "engaging". However, with the production of the animated series, Pikachu was chosen as the primary mascot, in an attempt to appeal to female viewers and their mothers, and because it was believed that Pikachu presented the image of a recognizable intimate pet to children. Its color was also a deciding factor, as yellow is a primary color and easier for children to recognize from a distance, and with consideration to the fact that the only other competing yellow mascot at the time was Winnie-the-Pooh.[19] Though Tajiri acknowledged that the character was relatively popular with both boys and girls, the idea of Pikachu as the mascot was not his own, with the company responsible for the production of the animated series OLM, Inc. giving the suggestion to utilize Pikachu's potential to Game Freak, and stated he felt the human aspect of the series was overlooked by Japanese children who embraced Pikachu by itself more readily.[20][21] Pikachu was originally going to have a second evolution called Gorochu, which was intended to be the evolved form of Raichu.[22][23]

Pikachu's design has evolved from its once-pudgy body to having a slimmer waist, straighter spine, and more defined face and neck; Sugimori has stated these design changes originated in the anime, making Pikachu easier to animate, and were adopted to the games for consistency.[24] "Fat Pikachu" was revisited in Pokémon Sword and Shield, where Pikachu received a Gigantamax Form resembling its original design.[25][26][27] With the Gigantamax Form, Pikachu gains access to the G-Max Move G-Max Volt Crash, which paralyzes all opponents.[28]

Appearances

In video games

In the video games, Pikachu is a Pokémon which has appeared in all of the Pokémon games, except Pokémon Black and White, without having to trade.[29] As Pikachu's notoriety in popular culture grew, far outpacing its rather limited role in the original games, Game Freak began to give it more and more powers in future games. The game Pokémon Yellow features a Pikachu as the only available Starter Pokémon. Based on the Pikachu from the Pokémon anime, it refuses to stay in its Poké Ball, and instead follows the main character around on screen. The trainer can speak to it and it displays different reactions depending on how it is treated.[30] Pokémon Yellow followed the anime series closely, with Pikachu as a central character.[31] Pokémon Let's Go, which is based heavily on Yellow, has Pikachu as a starter in one of its two versions, with the latter version using Eevee instead.[32] This starter Pikachu has access to several secret techniques and exclusive moves.[33][34]

In Pokémon Emerald, Pikachu and its evolutionary family gained Volt Tackle as a signature move, learned by the Pichu hatched from an Egg made by a Pikachu or Raichu holding a Light Ball.[35] It can also be learned by Pikachu directly through events and tutors. An event from April 1 to May 5, 2010, allowed players of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver to access a route on the Pokéwalker which solely contained Pikachu which knew attacks that they were not normally compatible with, Surf and Fly.[36] Both of these attacks can be used outside battles as travel aids. Seven "Cap" forms of Pikachu, wearing caps belonging to Ash Ketchum across different seasons, were released across Pokémon Sun and Moon as well as their Ultra versions.[37] These games also released two Z-Crystals exclusive to Pikachu: Pikanium Z, which upgrades Volt Tackle into Catastropika, and Pikashunium Z,[38] which upgrades Thunderbolt into 10,000,000 Volt Thunderbolt when held by a Cap form of Pikachu.[39] Gigantamax Pikachu has access to the unique G-Max Move Volt Crash, which deals damage and paralyzes all opponents on the field.[25]

Aside from the main series, Pikachu stars in Hey You, Pikachu! for the Nintendo 64. The player interacts with Pikachu through a microphone, issuing commands to play various mini-games and act out situations.[40] The game Pokémon Channel follows a similar premise of interacting with the Pikachu, though without the microphone.[41] Pikachu appear in almost all levels of Pokémon Snap and its sequel New Pokémon Snap, where the player takes pictures of Pokémon for a score.[42] A Pikachu is one of the sixteen starters and ten partners in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series.[43] PokéPark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure and its sequel PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond,[44] features a Pikachu as the main protagonist.[45] Pikachu has also appeared in all five Super Smash Bros. games as a playable character.[46] It appears as a playable fighter in Pokkén Tournament, along with "Pikachu Libre", based on "Cosplay Pikachu" from Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.[47][48] It has also appeared in Pokémon Rumble World,[49] Pokémon Go,[50] and also puzzle games such as Pokémon Shuffle, Pokémon Battle Trozei, Pokémon Picross[51] Pokémon Café Mix,[52] and Pokémon Legends: Arceus.[53] Detective Pikachu features a talking Pikachu who becomes a detective and helps to solve mysteries,[54] while Pikachu also appears in a multiplayer online battle arena game Pokémon UNITE.[55]

In anime

 
Ash receiving his Pikachu in the first episode of the Pokémon anime, Pokémon, I Choose You!

The Pokémon anime series and films feature the adventures of Ash Ketchum and his Pikachu, traveling through the various regions of the Pokémon universe. They are accompanied by a group of alternating friends, including Misty, Brock, Tracey, May, Max, Dawn, Iris, Cilan, Bonnie, Serena, Clemont, Lillie, Kiawe, Mallow, Lana, Sophocles, and Goh.

In the first episode, Ash Ketchum, a young boy from Pallet Town, turns 10 years old and is ready to acquire his first Pokémon. Hopeful to become a Pokémon Master, the night before he receives his starter Pokémon (either Squirtle, Charmander or Bulbasaur) he has a dream where he is catching a Pokémon and actually, while sleeping, physically breaks his alarm clock (designed like a Poke Ball). Ash quickly runs to Professor Oak's lab, where he finds out all the starter Pokémon have been given away. Professor Oak tells Ash there is one more Pokémon, a male Pikachu. At first, Pikachu largely ignores Ash's requests, shocking him frequently and refusing to be confined to the conventional method of Pokémon transportation, a Poké Ball. However, Ash puts himself in danger to defend Pikachu from a flock of wild Spearow,[56] then rushes the electric mouse to a Pokémon Center. Through these demonstrations of respect and unconditional commitment to Pokémon, Pikachu warms up to Ash, and their friendship is formed. However, he still refuses to go into his Poké Ball. Soon after, Pikachu shows great power that sets him apart from other Pokémon, and other Pikachu, which causes Team Rocket to constantly attempt to capture him in order to win favor from their boss, Giovanni.[57] Only once had Ash almost released Pikachu, and that was in the episode "Pikachu's Goodbye", because Ash thought Pikachu would be happier living in a colony of wild Pikachu, but Pikachu chose him instead.[58] During one of the episode of Pocket Monster when Pikachu was arrested, Kotaku mocked and stated that it might be the first time Ash's Pikachu has been arrested in the anime.[59]

Other wild and trained Pikachu appear throughout the series, often interacting with Ash and his Pikachu. The most notable among these is Ritchie's Pikachu, Sparky (レオン, Reon, Leon).[60] Like most other Pokémon, Pikachu communicates only by saying syllables of his own name. He is voiced by Ikue Ōtani in all versions of the anime. In Pokémon Live!, the musical stage show adapted from the anime, Pikachu was played by Jennifer Risser.[61]

In film

In the 2019 film Pokémon Detective Pikachu, a detective Pikachu is voiced by Ryan Reynolds and Ōtani.[62][63] Pikachu is featured in a 2021 Katy Perry music video, Electric.[64]

In other Pokémon media

Pikachu is one of the main Pokémon used in many of the Pokémon manga series. In Pokémon Adventures, main characters Red and Yellow both train Pikachu, which create an egg that Gold hatches into a Pichu. Other series, including Magical Pokémon Journey and Getto Da Ze also feature Pikachu while other manga series, such as Electric Tale of Pikachu,[65] and Ash & Pikachu, feature the most well known Pikachu belonging to Ketchum in the anime series.[65]

Reception

Promotion

 
A Toyota Ist customized to resemble Pikachu
 
The ANA Boeing 747-400 airplane painted with Pikachu and other Pokémon (visible: Clefairy, Togepi, Mewtwo, and Snorlax)

As the mascot of the franchise, Pikachu has made multiple appearances in various promotional events and merchandise. In 1998, then Topeka, Kansas Mayor Joan Wagnon renamed the town "Topikachu" for a day,[66] and a "got milk?" advertisement featured Pikachu on April 25, 2000.[67] Pikachu is also always been a popular character amongst Pokémon card collectors, along side with Charizard. Rare Pikachu card sells for over $200,000 after bidding war,[68] while the 1998 Japanese promo card illustrator Pikachu psa 7 nrmt was sold $375,000.[69] A Pikachu balloon has been featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade since 2001.[70] The original balloon was flown for the last time publicly at the Pokémon: Tenth Anniversary "Party of the Decade" on August 8, 2006, in Bryant Park in New York City,[71][72][73][74] and a new Pikachu balloon that chases a Poké Ball and has light-up cheeks debuted at the 2006 parade.[75] In the 2014 parade, a new Pikachu balloon was wearing a green scarf and holding a smaller Pikachu snowman.[76] In 2020, somehow during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a giant Pikachu balloon was floated on Manhattan's skyscrapers.[77] Pikachu and ten other Pokémon were chosen as Japan's mascots in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.[78] In August 2017, The Pokémon Company had partnered with Snap Inc. to bring Pikachu to the social media app, Snapchat.[79] In December 2020, a 15-minute long ASMR video of Pikachu by The Pokémon Company was released.[80] An image of Pikachu has been featured on the ANA Boeing 747-400 (JA8962),[81] including JAM Corporation as inflatable air.[82] In 2021, the first Pokémon Jet (Boeing 747-400D) of Pikachu and other Pokémon was also covered.[83] Pikachu has been made into several different toy and plush forms, as well as other items. These items include a Tomy takara Tomy Pikachu,[84] Moods figure,[85] bonzai figures,[86] fishing lures,[87] gaming setups,[88] necklace,[89] a Pikachu hat,[90] Alcremie milk-styled drinks,[91] McDonald's desserts,[92] a mashup Pikachu and Xenomorph figure,[93] electric shock,[94] and a Centipede plush has been also made.[95]

Collectible cards featuring Pikachu have appeared since the initial Pokémon Trading Card Game released in October 1996, including limited edition promotional cards. One of these collectible cards was "Pikachu Illustrator", limited to about 20-40 printed in 1998, and was auctioned off for about $55,000 in 2016.[96] For the franchise's 25th anniversary, The Pokémon Company announced special trading cards in 2021, each featuring 25 Pikachu drawn by 25 artists.[97] The character has also been used in promotional merchandising at fast-food chains such as McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King.[98][99][100][101]

During the first episode of the 11th season of Top Gear, presenter Richard Hammond compared an image of the Tata Nano to one of Pikachu, stating, "they've saved money on the styling 'cause they've just based it on this."[102] In the episode "Dual" of the third season of Heroes, Hiro Nakamura is nicknamed "Pikachu" by Daphne Millbrook, much to his chagrin. He is called this again by Tracy Strauss, after which he excuses himself before punching her in the face.[103] The Chilean independent politician Giovanna Grandón famously went to many protests during the 2019 protests dressed in an inflatable Pikachu suit.[104] During the July 2021 climate protest, Group of Seven, dressed as Pikachus, demonstrated on Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth.[105]

Pikachu has appeared several of times on The Simpsons. In the 2002 episode "Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade", Bart Simpson has a hallucination while taking a test in class and envisages his classmates as various television characters, one of which is Pikachu.[106] Maggie Simpson appeared as a Pikachu in a couch gag during the opening sequence of the 2003 episode "'Tis the Fifteenth Season".[107] The couch gag was used a second time for the 2004 episode "Fraudcast News".[108] In the 2010 episode "Postcards from the Wedge", Bart is distracted from his homework by an episode of Pokémon. After watching Ash Ketchum talk to his Pikachu, he muses how the show has managed to stay fresh over the years.[109]

Biology

In 2008, a ligand believed to provide better visual acuity was discovered by the Osaka Bioscience Institute Foundation [ja] and named "Pikachurin", in reference to the nimbleness of Pikachu.[110] The name was inspired due to Pikachu's "lightning-fast moves and shocking electric effects".[111]

Critical response

Pikachu has been well received by reviewers; it was ranked as the "second best person of the year" by Time in 1999, who called it "the most beloved animated character since Hello Kitty". The magazine noted Pikachu as the "public face of a phenomenon that has spread from Nintendo's fastest selling video game to a trading-card empire", citing the franchise's profits for the year as "the reason for the ranking", behind singer Ricky Martin but ahead of author J.K. Rowling.[112]

The character was ranked eighth in a 2000 Animax poll of favorite anime characters.[113] In 2002, Ash's Pikachu received 15th place in TV Guide's 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time.[114] GameSpot featured it in their article "All Time Greatest Game Hero".[115] In 2003, Forbes ranked Pikachu as the "eighth top-earning fictional character of the year" with an income of $825 million.[116] In 2004, the character dropped two spots to tenth on the list, taking in $825 million for a second straight year.[117] In a 2008 Oricon poll, Pikachu was voted as the fourth most popular video game character in Japan, tying with Solid Snake.[118] The character has been regarded as the Japanese answer to Mickey Mouse[119] and as being part of a movement of "cute capitalism".[81] Pikachu was listed 8th in IGN's "Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time."[120] Manga artist Hiro Mashima referred to Pikachu as "the greatest mascot character of all time!" when talking about adding these types of characters to series.[121] Nintendo Power listed Pikachu as their ninth favourite hero, noting that while it was one of the first Pokémon, it still remained "popular to this day".[122] Authors Tracey West and Katherine Noll called Pikachu the best Electric-type Pokémon and the best Pokémon overall. They added that if a person were to go around and ask Pokémon players who their favourite Pokémon was, they would "almost always" choose Pikachu. They also called Pikachu "brave and loyal".[123] In 2011, readers of Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition voted Pikachu as the 20th-top video game character of all time.[124] Zack Zwiezen of Kotaku described Pikachu as a popular and cute character that overshadows an entire show or franchise, and further thanked the character for saving all of us from horrible timeline.[125] Kevin Slackie of Paste listed Pikachu as second of the best Pokémon.[126] Dale Bishir of IGN described Pikachu as the most important Pokémon that impacted the franchise's history, and further stated that "Its irresistible cuteness, merchandising power, army of clones in every generation... if your mom calls every Pokémon 'Pikachu', then you know in your heart that it is the most important Pokémon of all time."[127] In 2019, Mitsuhiro Arita said that Pikachu and Charizard were "fan favourites" in Pokémon's design on the trading cards.[128] Lauren Rouse of Kotaku listed Pikachu as the best animal companions that are the real MVPs of video games, stating that "Pikachu symbolises one of the best animal-human friendships in pop culture history and it makes a damn good Pokémon to have in your roster."[129] Steven Bogos of The Escapist listed Pikachu as third of their favorite Pokémon, describing it as the "one of the cutest little monsters of all".[130] Time Magazine named Pikachu as one of the twelve most influential video game characters of all time, lauding its appearance as the "most recognizable and beloved sidekick in pop culture."[131] HobbyConsolas also included Pikachu on their "30 best heroes of the last 30 years."[132] In 2021, Chris Morgan for Yardbarker described Pikachu as one of "the most memorable characters from old school Nintendo games".[133]

Conversely, Pikachu was ranked first in AskMen's top 10 of the most irritating 1990s cartoon characters.[134] Similarly, in a poll conducted by IGN, it was voted as the 48th best Pokémon, with the staff commenting "despite being the most recognized Pokémon in the world... Pikachu ranks surprisingly low on our top 100".[135] Kotaku writer Patricia Hernandez criticized Pikachu's over-representation in Pokémon-related media, saying: "it's hard not to be barraged by Pikachu's constant presence if you're a Pokémon fan, and it sucks."[136]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ episode 67
  2. ^ episode 78
  3. ^ Japanese: ピカチュウ, Hepburn: Pikachū, pronounced [pikatɕɯː], English: /ˈpkə/

References

Citations

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Further reading

External links