When most people hear the word Pokemon, Pikachu instantly comes up in their head. But how did Pikachu become the face of the Pokemon brand?
Game Informer asked Game Freak developers Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Ohmori the reason behind Pikachu’s popularity. Masuda answered, “Probably thanks to Pikachu being in the anime and being Ash’s partner.”
It wasn’t Game Freak’s original intention to make Pikachu the face of Pokemon. Production company OLM Inc, the makers of the original Pokemon anime, made the suggestion to heavily feature Pikachu in the anime since it was really popular with kids as a hard-to-find Pokemon in Pokemon Red and Blue.
Another idea that came from OLM Inc was the idea of Pokemon speaking their own names in the anime. Game Freak was rather hesitant about it at first, until they heard Pikachu’s voice actress, Ikue Ōtani, repeating its name “over and over again in a really cute way”. “We weren’t really sure about it, but it worked out,” Masuda says.
While Game Freak originally came up with the idea of Team Rocket in the games, Jesse and James were conceived by OLM Inc for the anime.
Looking back, making Pikachu the mascot of the Pokemon brand is a gamble that has paid off, cause no one could probably resist the sight of hundreds of Pikachu adorably dancing on the street.