Strange Happenings are Afoot
Pokémon Black and White has hit worldwide, and everyone's getting back into the monster-catching phenomenon. To celebrate the release of the newest Pokémon, here's some interesting history and factoids about the long-running video-game series.
Pokémon Has Been Accused of Racism, Nazism, and Satanism
A phenomenon as big as Pokémon always generates some controversy. The particularly famous ones are always unforgettable. In the first batch of games, people called out Jynx as a racist stereotype of black people, although the Pokémon is actually a reference to Japanese "ganguro" fashion. Even weirder, fundamentalist Christian groups linked Pokémon to Satanism based on the series' use of evolution, along with gambling and pagan worship.
Pokémon's Also Been Accused of Promoting Cockfighting, Which Black and White's Story Actually References
Unlike Team Rocket, the new Team Plasma is more complex, wanting to "liberate" Pokémon from being used as slaves and servants by their trainers and gym leaders. (Of course, they still steal Pokemon and use them in battles, so it's kind of a pot-kettle-black thing.) The plot is actually a partial reference to animal-rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that have made direct comparisons between Pokémon and cockfighting. (Image courtesy of Penny Arcade.)
A Pokémon Comic Was 'Too Sexy' for America
Japanese magazine CoroCoro Comic released an official Pokémon manga series called "Dengeki Pikachu" in 1997. When it was published in America a couple years later as "The Electric Tale of Pikacku", the single-issue copies apparently missed a few rounds at the editing table, as the comics featured several series characters (like gym leader Misty) drawn with huge breasts and deep cleavage -- something that was a trademark of the artist, hentai specialist Toshihiro Ono. VIZ Media eventually caught on and released edited versions of the comic series, although the unedited scans still float around the Internet.
It's Also a Card Game
Pokémon's trading-card game are almost as old as the video games, with a deep community that rivals that of Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh. Over 15 billion cards have been produced since the game started with its first official decks back in 1996, and new expansions are typically paired up with each new video game. A video-game version of the trading-card game even appeared for the Game Boy Color, if you can wrap your head around that.
Black and White are the First Pair of "Color" Pokémon Games Since Red, Green/Blue, and Yellow
According to Game Freak Founders Junichi Masuda and Ken Sugimori, they intended the Pokémon Black and White versions as a fresh start for the series. That even extends to the naming of the "core" titles in the Pokémon franchise, as everything after the first generation of games was stylized after a precious mineral. This is probably a good thing, since "Pokémon Palladium" and "Pokémon Iridium" don't really roll off the tongue.
Count 'Em Up: There Are Now 649 Pokémon
We feel very old remembering that there were originally only 150 Pokémon. Since then, that number has more than quadrupled, with the games continuing to add more species and more evolutions. Pokémon Black and White alone make up a whopping 156 new additions to the Pokédex, and collecting them all means that you'd better have a lot of free time and an extra DS.
The Pokémon TV Show Is in Its 14th Season
Another thing that hasn't changed about the franchise is the TV show -- it's still on air around the world in over 70 different countries. At its current weekly episode count of 685 shows, Pokémon has officially run more episodes than The Simpsons and Monday Night Football despite being on the air for only 13 years. At its current rate, the Pokémon TV show could even overtake Saturday Night Live pretty soon.
And as you'd expect, not much has changed with the TV show over the last 13 years -- Ash Ketchum still hasn't caught 'em all, he's still not a Pokémon Master, and his Pikachu somehow manages to lose fights even though it's probably at level 100 by now.
Pokémon World Championship Is an Annual Event
Each year, the Pokémon Company hosts a video-game championship tournament and a trading-card game tournament, which usually sees competitors from all over the world. Some countries even have teams that try to dominate the ranks in their own specific brackets, like Team Japan's notoriously skilled crop of Pokémon athletes. Of course, the weirdest looking players are usually the creepy 40-year-old men who compete in the "senior" division, which is usually full of twentysomethings.
A Ton of "Hacked" Pokémon Games Are on the Internet
Since the original Red, Blue, and Green, fans of the Pokémon franchise have distributed their own hacked version of the games online in the form of ROMs, often creating new worlds and new Pokémon from the preexisting game data. Some of them are terrible, while others are incredibly polished, like Pokémon Brown, Pokémon ShinyGold (a Game Boy Advance version of Pokémon Gold), and "Moemon", a hack that changes all the Pokémon into cute little anime girls, for those of you who like that sort of thing (we're not casting judgment...).
Thousands of "Adult" Pokémon Fanfics Trash Up the Internet (No, Seriously)
For those who don't know, fan fiction is a writing practice where followers of a series (it can be a game, a TV show or movie, or something in print) write their own stories based on the canon world and characters. Some of this stuff can range from masterful alternate universe novels to creepy erotic short stories that should never see the light of day. Even a kid-friendly series like Pokémon aren't immune to the weirder side of this, as FanFiction.net alone hosts over 3,300 mature-rated Pokémon stories.
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