National / Media | Japan Pulse

Live-action Pokemon trailer reaffirms Pikachu's enduring popularity

by Tom Hanaway

Staff Writer

Ever since the original release of the “Pokemon” games for the Nintendo Game Boy back in 1996, the series’ central character — the electric, yellow rodent Pikachu — has found a permanent place in the world’s pop-culture zeitgeist. Pikachu has since shown up everywhere, including on countless pieces of merchandise, an annual parade in Yokohama and even in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

If you think Pikachu’s best days are behind him, you might want to head to your nearest Pokemon Center and revive yourself. Last week saw a shocking amount of Pikachu love on the internet that moviegoers, gamers and foodies will enjoy.

The long-awaited “Detective Pikachu” trailer dropped on Nov. 12 and took social media by storm. The preview, which accumulated more than 20 million views in around 24 hours, will finally let Pikachu speak his mind, as he is voiced by none other than “Deadpool” actor Ryan Reynolds.

(Yes, technically Pikachu did speak briefly during a hallucination sequence in the “Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You!” of 2017 but let’s not talk about that.)

The movie won’t be animated but will instead feature CGI Pokemon with fur and scales living in modern day, a style that both delighted and horrified some people online. IGN posted a video titled “Are Detective Pikachu’s live-action Pokemon cool or creepy?” while the BBC published an article titled “‘Gross’ furry Pokemon divides fans.”

Twitter user @yuragi_oO, meanwhile, tweeted “The ‘Detective Pikachu’ movie is too scary. Kids will cry if they watch this.”

One of the people behind the film’s controversial art direction is artist RJ Palmer, whose “realistic Pokemon” drawings have been blowing up on Twitter, Tumblr and DeviantArt for years. Thanks to his popular drawings that turned Pokemon from kawaii (cute) to kowai (scary), Palmer was contracted to work on the movie and redesign some of the most iconic Pocket Monsters.

People have been posting memes and artwork about the trailer since it was released, including a tweet that received more than 100,000 likes and features the evolution of Pikachu from a crude, pixelated outline to a 3D monster with realistic fur.

Before the movie trailer was shared online, however, the Pikachu hype train was already in full speed due to the Nov. 16 release of the newest “Pokemon” games for Nintendo Switch. Titled “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” and “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!” the latest entries will let players relive the original 1996 debut games in this 3D remake. (Not surprisingly, the “Pikachu” version of the game seems to be selling better on Amazon Japan.)

To help market the game, Nintendo is taking a “real” Pikachu and Eevee on a tour in the United States, from California all the way to New York, letting visitors try out the game and even take a picture with their favorite Pocket Monster. One Twitter user posted photos of the event, noting that the long drive was “worth it when my daughter got to see Eevee & Pikachu.”

If you would rather eat Pikachu than hug him, you’re in luck (if not a little weird). Mister Donut is now selling Pikachu- and Pokeball-shaped donuts as a marketing tie-in with the new games.

Your results may vary, however. One Twitter user posted a photo of a rather deformed-looking Pikachu donut with lopsided eyes and an odd mouth that received more than 80,000 likes on the site.

Others followed suit with their own photos of subpar sweets, forcing Mister Donut to suspend the Pokemon offerings temporarily and go back to the drawing board until it can nail down the perfect Pikachu recipe.

If that doesn’t satisfy your Pikachu cravings, a pop-up Pikachu & Eevee cafe is also traveling around Sapporo, Fukuoka, Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, offering such treats as Pikachu curry, lattes and more.

No matter where you are in Japan, it looks like people just can’t get their fill of Pikachu.