For nearly twenty years now, we have been welcomed into the world of Pokémon by the trusty Professor of each region. They are usually the first thing you see upon starting a New Game, and are the ones who escort you into the Hall of Fame upon beating the Pokémon League.
That being said, what do we really know about the Professors? They give fire breathing dragons to ten year old children and send them out to travel the world unsupervised. They hog all the good items like the Shiny Charm, and they yell at you when you try and ride your bike indoors. Intelligence does not equal wisdom, and being able to tell the difference between a Silcoon and a Cascoon doesn’t necessarily make them good at making decisions.
We are here today to peel away the lab coat and find out what the real deal is with these so-called academics of the Pokémon world. From the bizarre source of their name to the dirty pictures drawn by Japanese admirers of Pokémon GO, here are the 15 Things You Never Knew About The Professors Of The Pokémon World.
15. There Is An Impostor Professor Oak
The Pokémon Trading Card Game has managed to stay popular over its near twenty year history. It has even managed to stay close to the mechanics of the game, seamlessly introducing concepts such as Abilities and Mega Evolution.
With the lore of the games and anime still being developed in the early days of the card game, the makers were allowed some free reign to come up with original concepts. One of these was the “Dark” Pokémon introduced in the Team Rocket expansion (who had nothing to do with Dark type Pokémon, as they hadn’t been invented yet).
One original concept that showed up in the card game was the idea of an “Impostor Professor Oak”. Impostor Oak looked like the original, except with spiked up hair and a wicked grin on his face. He appeared across three different cards and had a reverse effect to what the original Professor Oak card did. Instead of you discarding and drawing seven cards, your opponent would have to do so, if an Impostor Oak was played.
14. You Can Only Battle Professor Sycamore
It is hinted that several of the Professors were trainers before they took up Pokémon research. Agatha outright confirms that Professor Oak battled her when they were young (which is confirmed in the Pokemon Adventure manga). Professor Rowan mentions that he had been inside the Hall of Fame a long time ago and Professor Sycamore once challenged the Tower of Mastery in his youth, in order to learn the secrets of Mega Evolution.
With the Professors having access to numerous Pokémon, it is unusual that we rarely see them battle. If you don’t count the dummied out battle against Professor Oak in Pokémon Red & Blue (which, due to its absence in Pokémon Fire Red & Leaf Green, you probably shouldn’t), the only Professor who battles the player is Sycamore.
The first time you battle Professor Sycamore, he uses level 10 versions of the three Kanto starters (Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle.) When you defeat him, he gives you one of the three starters along with the Mega Evolution stone for their final form. If you battle him again later in the game, he has a team of fully evolved Kanto starters.
13. Professor Elm Has No True In-Game Sprite
All of the Professors play an important role in their games. From welcoming you to the Pokémon world and giving you your Pokédex. They also let you choose your starter first, allowing your rival to pick a Pokémon with a type advantage.
There is one Professor who gets less screen-time than the rest – Professor Elm, who got pushed to the sidelines in his own games.
In Pokémon Gold & Silver, Professor Elm is the signature Professor of the Johto region, or at least, he’s supposed to be. The intro for the game is done once again by Professor Oak (who did the intro in Pokémon Red & Blue), which means that Elm has no in-game sprites. With Elm not doing the intro, the “how to catch a Pokémon” tutorial or actually battling the player, we only know what he looks like from his tiny overworld sprite and artwork from outside of the game. Professor Oak is even more famous than Elm in Johto, as he hosts his own radio show.
12. Only One Of The Professors Is Actually A Professor
The English translation of Pokémon has introduced a fair amount of weirdness into the series, from changing rice balls to donuts, to altering the old guy who teaches you how to catch Pokémon in the first games. In the English version of Pokémon Red & Blue, he is tired and needs coffee – in the original Japanese version, he is passed out drunk.
What may be the biggest change for the International versions concerns the Pokémon Professors. This right here is their biggest lie – none of the Professors from the mainstream games actually hold the title of Professor – they are Doctors. From Oak, to Juniper, to Kukui, every one of them is referred to by the title of Doctor, not Professor. In Japan, Professor Oak is called Dr. Okido.
There is one exception to this and it comes from the spin-off games. In the Pokémon Ranger series, the player is given their Ranger technology from Professor Hastings. Of all of the Professors in the series, he is the only one to actually hold the title of Professor in the Japanese version of the game.
11. Professor Sycamore Left You A Bizarre Message In Couriway Town
Like many big franchises, Pokémon has a lot of crazy fan theories. From the fate of your rival’s Raticate, to the many Creepypasta horrors of Lavender Town – the series is a breeding ground for speculation and rumour.
It took a long time for the creators of Pokémon to take advantage of this aspect of the fandom, but when they did, they threw out some amazing mysteries for their audience to investigate. In the 6th generation of games, the developers introduced things like the Ghost Girl of Lumiose City and the bizarre secret message left by Professor Sycamore.
Once you defeat Professor Sycamore in battle during your visit to Couriway Town, he says that there is a message hidden somewhere within the area for you to find. If you search the seats on the train platform, you will find this odd inscription.
“To the person reading this: What are you like now? Did you become who you wanted to be? For starters, what was the person you wanted to become even like? I don’t know, but it would be wonderful if you can boast that you’re living each day to the fullest. To future Sycamore. From the Sycamore dreaming of the future.”
10. Professor Oak Has A Secret Identity
According to numerous sources throughout the franchise, Professor Oak was once a great Pokémon trainer before turning to research. Agatha of the Kanto Elite Four specifically mentions how “tough and handsome” he once was, suggesting a rivalry between the two.
In the Pokémon Adventures manga series, a girl named Green steals a Squirtle from Professor Oak’s lab. While initially starting out as a scam artist, Green eventually becomes a worthy Pokémon trainer, making her way into the Pokémon League tournament. While Green breezes through the early rounds, she eventually meets her match against the mysterious Dr. O.
Dr. O wins their battle, and it is revealed that he is Professor Oak. He had decided to pull a Master Roshi, and entered the tournament to test Green’s worth as a trainer. Once Green confesses her crime, Oak recognises her as a great trainer and officially bestows his Squirtle onto her.
9. Professor Kukui Can Take A Hit
Nintendo have been feeding audiences a steady drip of information about the upcoming Pokémon Sun & Moon. This has proven to be a very smart business strategy, as each new announcement seems to bring about a new round of excitement to the Internet. From the lonely Pokémon Mimikyu becoming a social media sensation, to the new forms of classic Pokémon like Ninetails and Exeggutor making news headlines on gaming websites.
One major promise of Pokémon Sun & Moon is that it will be unlike any other game in the series, with concepts like the Gym Leaders being replaced with the Island Challenge. One thing that has not changed, however, is the presence of a Pokémon Professor. In the new Alola region, this task falls to Professor Kukui.
While all of the Pokémon Professors share the same title, some of them have different research fields that they are dedicated to. Professor Elm was devoted to Pokémon Eggs, while Sycamore was researching Mega Evolution. With Professor Kukui, his research is on Pokémon moves. So how does he learn more about them? According to Nintendo, he allows himself to be hit by Pokémon attacks. Moves like Hyper Beam, Earthquake, Sacred Fire, Judgement… he will take them all on.
8. Professor Birch’s Many Admirers
Usually in the Pokémon games, you are given your starter Pokémon inside the Professor’s lab at the start of your adventure. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire decided to do things a bit differently. At the start of the game, you witness Professor Birch being chased by a wild Pokémon. You have to grab your starter Pokémon from Birch’s bag in order to save him.
In Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, once you have defeated the Elite Four and Champion Steven, the credits will roll and the game will save. If you load the game, you will be back at home. If you try leaving the town, then you will see Professor Birch being pursued by a wild Pokémon. This time his bag will have the three Johto starters for you to choose from.
If you complete the Delta Episode, Professor Birch will once more be chased outside his house. This time, his bag contains the three Unova starters.
If you beat the Elite Four/Steven a second time, you will see Professor Birch being chased around… by his wife. You will get a choice of the Sinnoh starters from his bag, but he won’t need saving this time.
7. Professor Rowan Does Not Conform
Due to working in a laboratory environment, most of the Pokémon Professors wear lab coats. This outfit is more of a status symbol than safety precaution. The coat isn’t likely to offer much protection when handling creatures that can hit you with molten lava or the literal wrath of god.
While this choice of outfit is worn throughout the series by the Professors and their assistants, one Professor chooses to buck the trend. Professor Rowan never wears a lab coat throughout his appearances in the games. Every time we see Professor Rowan’s in the 4th generation of games, he is either wearing a brown overcoat or a fancy shirt/waistcoat combo.
Professor Rowan’s lack of conformity is odd compared to how some of the other Professors dress. Professor Kukui of Pokémon Sun & Moon wears a lab coat over… nothing, he is shirtless (which, combined with his abs, explains his large female fanbase). Even Professor Ivy of the anime wears a labcoat over her one piece, which makes even less sense as wearing a coat would make swimming extremely difficult.
6. Professor Juniper’s Evolution Knowledge
As more and more Pokémon games are developed, new methods of evolving Pokémon have appeared. Nosepass, for example, can only evolve into Probopass by levelling up in certain areas. If you want a Tyrogue to evolve into a Hitmontop, then it needs to have equal Attack and Defence stats when it hits level 20.
The 5th generation of Pokémon games introduced a device known as the Xtransceiver, which was a combination cellphone and wristwatch. The Xtransceiver allowed you to receive messages from other characters in game, this took the form of a video phone style messaging service, where you would see the faces of everyone involved in the conversation (including your own.)
One of the people you could call with the Xtransceiver was Professor Juniper. What most players didn’t realise was that calling Juniper actually had hidden benefits. If you called her while a Pokémon with an unusual evolution requirement was in your party (such as Clamperl or Combee), then Juniper would tell you how to how to evolve that Pokémon.
5. Professor Oak <3 Delia Ketchum
Due to being one of the biggest animated series during the rise of the Internet, Pokémon has one of the biggest shipping communities online. For those not familiar with the term, shipping refers to the concept of imagining two fictional characters together in a romantic relationship, even if there is nothing in the text to support it.
One of these “ships” is called Eldershipping, and it refers to the idea that Professor Oak and Ash’s mother, Delia, are in a relationship. While the original Japanese version of the anime has little evidence to support this, the English dub added clues that outright confirm it.
In the episode “Showdown at the Oak Corral”, Team Rocket members Butch and Cassidy break into Professor Oak’s lab in order to steal his Pokémon. Throughout the episode, Oak is trying to come up with a rhyme for a poem he is writing. The end of episode narration states that it is a love poem, and that Delia thinks it’s for her (as does Bulbasaur, for some reason). This was a total invention of the dub, and Professor Oak isn’t writing any poems in the original Japanese version of the episode.
4. The Female Professor Broke The Naming Scheme
In the mainstream Pokémon games, all of the Professors sharing a naming scheme. Each of them is named after a kind of tree. This is something that has rarely appeared in other mediums, likely due to not wanting to take up all the good tree names for when they hit Pokémon Lime Green & Orangey Brown in about 20 years.
All of the Professors pre-Pokémon Black & White actually shared another aspect to their names. The Oak, Elm, Birch and Rowan are all a type of “deciduous” tree. The term deciduous literally means “falling off”, and refers to the tree’s leaves falling off during Autumn and regrowing during the Spring.
This naming scheme was broken with Professor Juniper, the first female Professor in the mainstream games. The Juniper is a “coniferous” tree, or “evergreen” tree. As the name implies, evergreen trees do not lose their foliage over the course of the year.
Professor Sycamore from Pokémon X & Y is also named after a deciduous tree. With the introduction of Professor Kukui in Pokémon Sun & Moon, the naming scheme is broken completely, as he is a male Professor named after an evergreen tree.
3. Professor Willow Is Big In Japan
Due to Pokémon being a property that comes from a Japanese company, it should come as no surprise that the vast majority of Pokémon games were released in Japan first. What may be surprising is that the massively successful Pokémon GO came out in Europe and America first. When Japan finally got the game, it ended up being just as popular (and broken, but that’s besides the point).
One thing that Japanese gamers are protective over is properties that originated in Japan. Then again, the terrible CD-I Nintendo games may prove that their fears are warranted. This has actually resulted in some interesting cases were Japanese developers took extra criticism due to a Western developer making a better game in the series than they did. As was the case of Metroid: Other M being seen as even more disappointing because it followed the excellent American-developed Metroid Prime series.
Despite this perceived xenophobic attitude, Japanese fans have a bizarre fixation with Professor Willow of Pokémon GO. Even though Willow only has one in-game illustration, he has has a massive fanbase on Twitter, with Japanese fans sharing lovingly drawn pictures of him engaging in homoerotic acts that get tens of thousands of retweets.
2. The Mysteries Of Professor Ivy
Along with the seven mainstream Pokémon Professors, there are numerous others that have only appeared in the anime and the spinoff games. Professor Hastings has appeared in numerous Pokémon Ranger games, for example. In the Pokémon anime, there are even more Professors, such as Professor Westwood of the Seafoam Islands. The most important of all of these is Professor Ivy, who, despite only showing up on a few occasions, has managed to be the source of two of the biggest mysteries in the series.
Professor Ivy was introduced as the discoverer of the mysterious GS Ball, a Pokéball that could not be opened. Ash was sent to the Orange Islands specifically to retrieve the GS Ball from Professor Ivy. He eventually dropped the GS Ball off with Kurt in Azalea Town in Johto. It wasn’t revealed until 2008 that the GS Ball originally contained a Celebi.
The second mystery concerns Brock. He left Ash & Misty to work alongside Professor Ivy. When he returned to Ash’s side, he refused to ever discuss why he left Professor Ivy’s care. The exact nature of what happened between Brock and Ivy has never been disclosed on the show or in outside materials.
1. Professor Oak Finally Got Whats Coming To Him
One phrase is burnt into the minds of everyone who has played the Pokémon games.
“Oak’s words echoed… There’s a time and place for everything, but not now.”
Every time you tried to ride your bike indoors, Professor Oak would suddenly become Professor Xavier and telepathically warn you from miles away that you’re not allowed to do that. While there are a lot of outdoor areas for you to ride your bike around, it would have been super convenient in places like the Team Rocket base if you could move around quicker.
In Pokémon: The Movie 2000: The Power of One, gamers all across the world finally got to see Professor Oak get his comeuppance. During the early scenes of the movie, Pokémon all over the world are running wild due to the battle taking place between the three legendary birds. Professor Oak decides to ride his bike over to Delia Ketchum’s house, when suddenly, a pack of wild Diglett’s steal his bike out from under him, leaving him hanging on Delia’s fence like the jerk he is. There is a time and place for everything, indeed.