When challenged with the task of writing about a celebrity from my field of study, my problem was not of coming up with a suitable subject, but trying to decide which Pokemon-related celebrity was best to write about. So I’m going to talk briefly about two different, yet all equally brilliant examples of Pokemon celebrity.
Let’s start at the beginning with the father of the franchise. Satoshi Tajiri (Japanese: 田尻 智), is the creator of Pokémon, responsible for the initial concepts which would lead to the “metaseries” as it exists today (Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, 2014). Currently the CEO of Game Freak, Tajiri first came up with the concept for Pokémon in 1990. He worked on the original games for almost six years (Larimer, 1999). Since then, the Pokemon phenomenon has taken the world by storm, with IGN naming Tajiri one of the top 100 game creators of all time, mainly for his ability to turn Pokémon into a “worldwide phenomenon” (Ign.com, 2010). His success with the Pokemon games has made him an icon both in Japanese and gaming cultures. Tajiri has acted as executive producer, game designer or director for almost all of the released Pokemon games for Nintendo consoles (Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, 2014).
Perhaps even more famous than the creator of the franchise, is Pikachu; the electric mouse critter, which for those of you who are unaware, is a species of Pokemon from the media franchise (Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, 2014). Celebrities organise our emotional investment, which is exactly what Pikachu does. He features across the collection of video games, anime, manga, books, trading cards, and other media created by Satoshi Tajiri, and has held a special place in my heart and Pokemon team since childhood. Even though he is quite weak in comparison with other Pokemon in the games, the character has become a mascot for the franchise. Pikachu has made multiple appearances in various promotional events and merchandise. He was ranked as the second best person of the year by Time in 1999 and most recently Pikachu was chosen as one of the mascots for the Japanese side in the 2014 FIFA World Cup (Borboa, 2014).
While we owe the franchises existence to Tajiri, I think that the celebrity that is Pikachu has been far more prevalent an ambassador for the franchise because he stimulates a greater emotional response. Pikachu has certainly held a special place in my heart. I remember desperately asking my parents to buy me one for my sixth birthday, because I wanted a small fuzzy best friend like Ash had. It was much easier for me as a child to identify with a cute character and the allure of a fuzzy pet monster than it would have been for me to identify with a Japanese game designer. There must me something to be said about this emotional response that Pikachu and the rest of the Pokemon generate. Thousands of people from across generations engage with the Pokemon celebrity in the form of art, forums merchandise and games to this day. While the Tajiri’s genius and success as a game developer can be appreciated by adults, the concept is a little difficult for young audiences to grasp. Pikachu’s fuzzy body, red cheeks and, pun intended, electric personality resonate with both children and adults, either evoking a sense of wonder and imagination in children, or a sense of nostalgia or engagement with popular culture in adults.
Borboa, S. (2014). Pikachu Named Japan’s Official Mascot In Brazil 2014 World Cup. [online] Soccerly. Available at: http://soccerly.com/article/salvadorborboa/pikachu-named-japans-official-mascot-in-brazil-2014-world-cup [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].
Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, (2014). Pikachu (Pokémon) – Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pikachu [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].
Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, (2014). Satoshi Tajiri – Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Satoshi_Tajiri [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].
Ign.com, (2010). IGN – 69. Satoshi Tajiri. [online] Available at: http://www.ign.com/top/game-creators/69.html [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].
Larimer, T. (1999). TIMEasia.com | Pokémon: The Ultimate Game Freak – Page 1 | 11/22/99. [online] Web.archive.org. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20110629022758/http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/99/1122/pokemon6.fullinterview1.html [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].
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