| The history of the Pokemon media franchise
spans over a decade from when work began officially on the
first game to now, and has roots even older. It started simply
enough as a hobby of Satoshi Tajiri, who as a child had a
fondness for catching insects and tadpoles near his home
in suburban Tokyo. Over time, Tajiri decided to put his idea
of catching creatures into practice because it would give
children the same thrill as he had.
With the help of Ken Sugimori and other friends,
Tajiri formed Game Freak and much later the design studio known
as Creatures. In 1975, the precursor to Pokemon was serialized
in manga form as Capsule Monsters. However, the manga was unsuccessful
and was discontinued. In 1991, Tajiri discovered the Game Boy and
the Game Boy Link Cable gave him the image of insects traveling
along the wire. After several failed attempts at pitching Capsule
Monsters to Nintendo, Tajiri's new friend Shigeru Miyamoto pitched
it to the company, and Nintendo began to fund the project, spending
six years developing the games that would become a worldwide sensation.
The original artwork for the games was drawn by Tajiri's friend,
the artist Ken Sugimori. Before the first Pokemon games
were released in Japan in 1996, sprites of Pikachu, Mew, Meowth,
Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle appeared in Game Freak's Game
Boy Camera in 1995. Around this time, Nintendo decided to change
the name "Capsule Monsters" to "Pocket Monsters."
Taking over Japan
The first Pokemon games, Pokemon Red and Green
Versions, came to the Nintendo Game Boy system in Japan on February
27th, 1996, which was the fulfillment of Satoshi Tajiri's dream
and allowed people of all ages to catch, train and trade 151
creatures and become a Pokemon Master. Due to high sales,
Pokemon Red and Green were swiftly followed up with Pokemon
Blue, which had improved graphics and sounds.
After the games, a Pokemon Trading Card Game was developed
by Media Factory with its own set of rules. The first set of
cards was released on October 20th, 1996, containing 102 cards,
and became very popular.
The popularity of the franchise also led to an anime series
based on the games, premiering in Japan on April 1st, 1997. The
main character was a young Pokemon Trainer named Satoshi
(after Satoshi Tajiri, later dubbed in English to Ash Ketchum),
based on Red. Another character introduced in the first episode
was Satoshi's rival, Shigeru (after Shigeru Miyamoto, later dubbed
in English to Gary Oak), based on Blue.
The franchise also won
many manga interpretations, the first being Pocket Monsters.
The more famous manga in the western world, however, is Pokemon
Special, the first volume of which was first published in Japan
on August 8th, 1997.
Shogakukan published the first volume of Pokemon Wonderland,
a magazine with the latest information on the franchise, on August
On April 25th, 1998, the first Pokemon Center store was
opened in Tokyo, specializing in Pokemon merchandise.
Along the way, The Pokemon Company began its operations.
Many such stores were opened in later years, and today there
are six different stores across Japan, as well as one in New
Conquering the world
North America received Pokemon Red and Blue Versions,
as well as the anime, in September 1998 (the anime on the 7th
and the games on the 30th), and soon everywhere else began to
play the games on the Game Boy under the slogan Gotta Catch 'em
All!. The Trading Card Game was also introduced to North America
on January 9th, 1999 by Wizards of the Coast.
Meanwhile in Japan in 1998, a new
spin-off game, Pokemon Stadium, was released for Nintendo
64. This game featured only 42 Pokemon of the full 151.
The game wasn't very successful, though.
The anime, on the other hand, pushed the franchise to new heights.
On July 18th, 1998, Pokemon the First Movie debuted in
Japanese theaters, featuring the rare Mew and Mewtwo. In the
United States, where it was released on November 10th, 1999,
the movie even briefly held the record for highest-grossing opening
for an animated film.
Plans soon started for a game based on the popular anime and
Pokemon Yellow Version was released September 12th, 1998
in Japan, October 25th, 1999 in North America and Europe. Pokemon
Yellow allowed trainers to take on the role of Ash and travel
through Kanto with anime-style graphics for each Pokemon
and a Pikachu by their side, following the anime's course of
Expanding to spin-offs
On December 18th, 1998 a Game Boy game based on the TCG was released,
later arriving in North America on April 10th, 2000. It was
followed, only in Japan, a year later by a sequel titled Pokemon
Card GB 2.
The anime, as well as Pokemon Yellow, marked Pikachu
as one of (if not the) most popular and recognized creatures
in Pokemon history. This led to a small spin-off game
called Hey You, Pikachu!, which was released in Japan on December
12th, 1998, and in North America on November 6th, 2000. This
was a virtual-pet game, utilizing the Nintendo 64's Voice Recognition
Unit to let one interact verbally with Pikachu.
When the anime finished following the games story with Ash's
defeat in the Pokemon League in January 1999, it started
a filler season in a new region called the Orange Archipelago,
introducing the new main character of Tracey Sketchit. During
this season's time, a second movie, Pokemon the Movie
2000, was produced. It was first in Japanese theaters on July
17th, 1999, and in North American theaters on July 21st, 2000.
A non-traditional spin-off game for Nintendo 64, Pokemon
Snap, was released in Japan on March 21st, 1999, inviting the
player (in the role of Todd Snap, a character previously introduced
in the anime) to a Pokemon photographing mission in a
place called Pokemon Island. This game made its way to
North America on July 27th, 1999.
On April 14th, 1999, a spin-off pinball game for the Game Boy
Color was released, called Pokemon Pinball. This game
took all the mechanics of regular pinball, with some Pokemon
aspects added in. Its North American release was on June 28th,
A sequel to the Pokemon Stadium was also eventually released
in Japan on April 30th, 1999, and became a success. This game
reached North America on February 29th, 2000, and became known
there as the original Pokemon Stadium. The twist in the
Stadium series from the main series was that it featured the
Pokemon in 3D.
In September 2000, the anime-based
puzzle game Pokemon Puzzle League was released for Nintendo
64. This game was the only Pokemon game to be made specifically
for western audiences and not be released in Japan.
However, this was not the only American-made original Pokemon
material. From 2000 to 2002, an anime-based musical called Pokemon
Live! was shown on stages around the world. The most memorable
plot point in the musical was the revelation that Ash's father
is Giovanni. The musical isn't considered canon, but it sparked
endless theories among fans.
Winds of new beginnings
Almost since the very beginning, it was known that 151 was not
the end of things. Ho-Oh was seen as early as the first episode
of the anime, Togepi was owned by a main character, and others
like Marill, Snubbull and Donphan were seen in the first movie.
Later, when the second generation of Pokemon was drawing
nearer, others like Lugia, Slowking and Elekid made their way
to the second movie.
On November 21st, 1999, Nintendo of Japan released Pokemon
Gold and Silver Versions for the then-new Game Boy Color. This
time, trainers were invited to the land of Johto, where 100 more
Pokemon were waiting to be captured.
The new games enhanced the Pokemon gaming experience
by adding many new features, the most famous of which probably
being genders for most Pokemon, which allowed for breeding.
Also, time came into play, which allowed for differing events
in the day, night, and morning, and days of the week. Another
important addition was the happiness system. Trainers could also
return to Kanto and face the Gym Leaders that existed in the
original games. Pokemon Gold and Silver made its way to
North America on October 11th, 2000.
The anime followed, of course, and Ash and his friends also
arrived at Johto in an episode that aired in Japan on October
14th, 1999 and in the US on October 14th, 2000. Pokemon
3: The Movie was then released to theaters on July 8th, 2000
in Japan and on April 6th, 2001 in North America, featuring the
A sequel to Pokemon Puzzle League was released on September
21st, 2000 for Game Boy Color, this time in Japan, titled Pokemon
Puzzle Challenge. It made its way to North America on December
On December 14th, 2000, a sequel
to the Stadium series was released in Japan called Pokemon
Stadium 2, bringing the Generation II Pokemon into full
3D for the first time. This game reached North America on March
Like Pokemon Yellow, a third version was made in Japan
called Pokemon Crystal Version and was released December
14th, 2000 in Japan and July 21st, 2001 in North America. Pokemon
Crystal had several changes made. Suicune was the title character
and the focus of the plot. This was also the first portable Pokemon
game that featured animations for every Pokemon. Trainers
in Japan received an added bonus of receiving the Pokemon
known as Celebi through a wireless link, and also being able
to trade wirelessly using a cellphone and the Mobile Adapter.
Trainers were, for the first time, allowed to choose their character's
Anime and manga in GS
On December 30th, 2000, the first feature-length special of the
Pokemon anime was released in Japan as a sequel to Mewtwo
Strikes Back, titled Mewtwo Returns. It was later released
on DVD in the United States on December 5th, 2001.
Another movie, Pokemon 4Ever, debuted in theaters in
Japan on July 7th, 2001, and in North America on October 25th,
2002. It featured two legendary Pokemon prominent in Pokemon
Crystal: Celebi and Suicune.
The Pokemon Special manga finally caught up to the second
generation on August 8th, 2001, when Volume 8 was published in
Japan, starting a new chapter.
Raikou, The only member of the Legendary Beasts yet to be featured
in an anime movie, recieved its own made-for-TV special, The
Legend of Thunder!, on December 30th, 2001. This special didn't
feature Ash and his friends, but rather new characters based
on the player characters of the second generation.
On July 13th, 2002, the fifth and last movie of the original
series, Pokemon Heroes, was released in Japanese theaters.
Distributed on limited release by Miramax, it opened in select
American theaters on May 16th, 2003.
Advancing to a new age
The first KecleonIn July 2001 an episode of the anime aired in
Japan featuring a Pokemon never previously seen - Kecleon.
Soon, Kecleon and others like Wynaut, Azurill, Wailmer, Duskull,
Volbeat, Latias and Latios showed up in theaters in the fourth
and fifth Pokemon movies. Through them, it became known
that the next generation of Pokemon was just around the
Indeed, a major overhaul of the game series occurred when Pokemon
arrived on the Game Boy Advance on November 21st, 2002 when Pokemon
Ruby and Sapphire Versions were released in Japan. Trainers found
themselves in the southern land called Hoenn where 135 new Pokemon
were waiting to be discovered. The games reached North America
on March 18th 2003 and had many new features, the most prominent
ones being Pokemon Contests, double battles, Pokemon
abilities and natures for each Pokemon, along with the
reform of EVs and DVs. Also new in these versions were the more
detailed weather conditions and the new villains: Team Magma
and Team Aqua. Due to the overhaul in the system, however, this
generation was not compatible with earlier generations.
The anime started a new series, Advanced Generation, which started
in Japan on the same day as the release of the games, and reached
North America almost a year later. A lot was changed in this
series, including the introduction of a new main character, May,
based on her game counterpart. Two new movies were produced during
the time in Hoenn: Jirachi: Wish Maker (which was released on
July 19th, 2003 in Japan and on June 1st, 2004 on video and DVD
in North America) and Destiny Deoxys (which was released on July
17th, 2004 in Japan and on January 22nd, 2005 on North American
Around the same time of the Advanced Generation series, a show
called Weekly Pokemon Broadcasting Station began to air
weekly in Japan, focusing not on Ash, but on other characters
of the anime, such as Misty, Brock, Tracey, Gary, Ritchie, Casey
and Sakura. The English dubbed version, Pokemon Chronicles,
first aired in the United Kingdom in May 2005, finally dubbing
The Legend of Thunder! special to English along the way, three
and a half years after its original Japanese airing.
Nintendo transferred the Trading Card Game license from Wizards
of the Coast to itself in 2003, and released its first set on
January 31st, introducing new game mechanics and a new card design.
This set was released in North America on June 18th, 2003.
To solve the problem of limited Pokemon storage in the
continuously growing Pokemon world, Pokemon Box
Ruby & Sapphire was released May 30th 2003 in Japan, July
11th 2004 in North America, allowing trainers to store up to
1,500 Pokemon from their Generation III games.
A small spin-off game named Pokemon Channel for GameCube
was released in Japan on July 13th, 2003, about a TV-broadcasting
network that airs a variety of Pokemon programs, with
the player as test audience. This game also included a unique
anime episode, Pichu Bros. in Party Panic, and it reached North
America on December 1st, 2003.
On July 28th, 2003, Volume 15 of the Pokemon Special
manga was first published, starting another chapter for the manga,
following the third generation story.
A sequel to Pokemon Pinball met the third generation
in Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire for Game Boy Advance
on August 1st, 2003 in Japan and on August 23rd, 2003 in North
The 3D version of Generation III came in the form of Pokemon
Colosseum on November 21st, 2003 in Japan and March 22nd, 2004
in North America on the Nintendo GameCube. Unlike the Pokemon
Stadium series, this game also featured an RPG taking place in
the desolate region of Orre. The main new addition to the Pokemon
universe in this game was Shadow Pokemon.
Back to Kanto and onward to the Battle Frontier
On January 29th, 2004, two
new games were released in Japan: Pokemon FireRed and
LeafGreen Versions. They arrived in North America on September
9th, 2004, and were remakes of Pokemon Red and Blue,
only in Generation III standards, wireless connection and with
an added region - the Sevii Islands.
Not finished with the Hoenn story, Game Freak developed a third
version to go with Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, called
Pokemon Emerald Version. This game was released in Japan
on September 16th, 2004, and in North America on May 1st, 2005.
Emerald features the same wireless connection as in FireRed
and LeafGreen, as well as a return to Hoenn with many new features,
including the Hoenn Battle Frontier, re-battling Gym Leaders,
changes in plot and animations for all Pokemon, like
in Pokemon Crystal.
The anime caught up with both the Generation I remakes and Emerald
by having the group travel back to Kanto and face the Kanto Battle
Frontier there. During this season's time two more movies were
produced: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (premiering in Japan
on July 16th, 2005) and Pokemon Ranger and the Temple
of the Sea (debuting in Japanese cinemas on July 15th, 2006).
Original new concepts
A spin-off racing game called Pokemon Dash was released
in Japan on December 2nd, 2004 and in North America on March
14th, 2005. It was the first of many Pokemon games to
come made for Nintendo DS.
On August 4th, 2005, trainers were invited back to Orre in Pokemon
XD: Gale of Darkness, a sequel to Pokemon Colosseum taking
place about five years later. This game found its way to North
America on October 3rd, 2005.
A spin-off puzzle game, Pokemon Trozei!, was released
on October 20th, 2005 in Japan and on March 6th, 2006 in North
America. The game had a story mode, which followed Lucy Fleetfoot
as she attempted to take down the Phobos Battalion.
A new concept saw light on November
17th, 2005, with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - a pair of games,
one for Game Boy Advance and one for Nintendo DS - in which the
player is turned into a Pokemon at the beginning of the
game. The games, that were released in North America on September
18th, 2006, have received adaptations in the anime episode Pokemon
Mystery Dungeon: Team Go-Getters out of the Gate! and the manga
series Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Ginji's Rescue Team.
Another new twist on Pokemon came in the spin-off Nintendo
DS game Pokemon Ranger on March 23rd, 2006. This time,
players didn't play regular Pokemon Trainers, but Pokemon
Rangers traveling the land of Fiore with a device called the
Capture Styler instead of Poké Balls. It was released
in the North America on October 30th, 2006. The game was also
promoted in the anime through the appearance of Pokemon
Rangers in the main series, a special episode and the ninth movie.
Ten years of Pokemon
2006 was marked officially as Pokemon's tenth anniversary,
and was celebrated as such in many ways, such as Journey Across
America. Among other things, an English CD was released titled
Pokemon X - 10 Years of Pokemon.
On April 29th, 2006, a special episode of the anime called The
Mastermind of Mirage Pokemon was broadcast in the United
States. This was the first episode to use Pokemon USA's
new voice actors, causing big controversy among the Pokemon
fan community. The special was eventually broadcast in Japan
as streaming video from the TV Tokyo Anitele web site from October
13th to October 31st, 2006.
In fall 2006, another section of the Pokemon franchise
was created in the form of the Pokemon Trading Figure
Game in Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia, made by Kaiyodo.
The figures reached North America and Japan in 2007.
Diamond and Pearl
Just like with Kecleon in Generation
III, the public learned of Generation IV through a new Pokemon
- Munchlax - in May 2004. Munchlax was soon featured in Pokemon
Dash, as well as the seventh movie and later the main anime. Others
such as Lucario, Bonsly, Mime Jr. and Weavile then made their way
to the eighth movie, and Mantyke, Buizel and Chatot appeared in
the ninth, which featured Manaphy - a new legendary Pokemon
that even became obtainable in Pokemon Ranger.
Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Versions were eventually released
for Nintendo DS in Japan on September 28th, 2006, and in North
America on April 22nd, 2007. Along with 107 new Pokemon
in the new huge land of Sinnoh, these games offered an actual 3D
rendering of the overworld, the return of the time system, gender
differences between Pokemon, a split between physical and
special moves, and Pokemon Super Contests.
The anime Diamond & Pearl series started in Japan and in
the US in synchronization with the release of the games. Like
the previous series, it introduced a new female character, Dawn,
based on her game counterpart.
The three movies of this series, while so far being only halfway
through, form a continuous trilogy. The first part of the trilogy,
The Rise of Darkrai, premiered on July 14th, 2007 in Japanese
theaters, and on February 24th, 2008 in North American televisions.
The second part premiered in Japan on July 19th, 2008.
On December 14th, 2006,
two weeks after the launch of Nintendo's Wii console, Generation
IV Pokemon turned 3D in the form of Pokemon Battle
Revolution. It was released in the United States on June 25th,
The paired sequels for Pokemon Mystery Dungeon for Nintendo
DS were released in Japan on September 13th, 2007 and in North
America on April 20th, 2008. Just like before, an anime adaptation
was also produced.
Pokemon Rangers were also brought into the fourth generation
in a sequel called Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, set
in the new land of Almia. It was released in Japan on March 20th,
2008, and is expected in the North American market on November
10th, 2008. An anime special was also produced, and aired on
the same day as the Japanese release.
Box in Generation III, a storage game titled My Pokemon
Ranch was released on March 25th, 2008 in Japan and on June 9th,
2008 in North America, featuring the character of Hayley.
The third version of Generation IV, Pokemon Platinum
Version, was released on September 13th, 2008 in Japan, bringing
new Pokemon forms into the ring for Giratina, Shaymin,
The future of Pokemon
Pokemon Platinum BoxThe history of the Pokemon
media franchise already spans long over a decade, and is rich
with four generations, many main series games, spin-off games,
a Trading Card Game, three series of anime complete with 11
movies, endless manga, a musical and plenty of music, but it
is far from over.
North America and the world are still waiting for games already
released in Japan, such as Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of
Almia and Pokemon Platinum. In addition to it, many
fans hope that, like Generation III brought about remakes for
the incompatible Generation I games, remakes for the Generation
II story will be released.
The third and last part of the Diamond & Pearl series movie
trilogy has already been confirmed, but little is known about
And of course, many believe that Generation V is inevitable,
and that the Pokemon world will continue to grow with
it. Only time will tell whether this is true.
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