Arguably the most well-known Pokémon in the universe, Pikachu is the iconic mascot that made the Japanese pocket monster franchise world famous. Ever since its introduction in 1996, the 25th Pokémon on the Pokédex has gained fans worldwide and has become a part of pop culture in a major way, not to mention how it helped launched video games, trading cards, anime series, movies, and put Nintendo back on the map after a shaky few years.
Now, two decades later, Pikachu is more popular than ever before with the debut of Pokémon Go. As fans old and new race around the world trying to catch their favorite Pokémon, all of the Pokémon featured in the game will no doubt be competing with Pikachu for control of Pokémon trainers’ hearts.
But whether you think you know Pikachu or you’re just getting started with the little yellow electricity rat, we’ve compiled a list so you can become the foremost Pikachu expert in the world. So put down Pokémon Go for a minute and find out 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Pikachu.
15. Pikachu Wasn’t Meant To Be the Pokémon Mascot
Ask anyone to tell you the first thing that comes to their mind when they think about Pokémon and they will undoubtedly say “Pikachu.” There’s no single Pokémon more internationally famous than Pikachu, and even those who have never held a Pokémon card, played a Pokémon game, or seen an episode of Pokémon in their life will have some familiarity with Pikachu. It’s undeniable that Pikachu is an undeniable success story of the Pokémon franchise, but it wasn’t always going to be that way.
Originally – when the Pokémon franchise was still in the planning stages – Clefairy was chosen by executives to be the lead character for the marketing of the franchise. It was thought that Clefairy would be engaging and would draw people in, but once the animated series began production it was quickly understood that a yellow central character would be the best for the brand. The thinking went that yellow was easy for children to see from a distance, and there would be little competition as Winnie the Pooh was the only yellow mascot at the time.
14. Pikachu Can Be Used as a Starter in Pokémon Go
Although in the original Pokémon games only Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle could be used as starters, in the new smash hit Pokémon Go there is a way to beat the system and get Pikachu from the get go. It speaks volumes for Pikachu’s legacy and popularity that so many people were unaccepting of their original starter options that they discovered this cheat, and from there it spread online like wild fire and became of the most exciting discoveries of the game.
To get Pikachu as your starter in Pokémon Go all that is required of you is repeatedly running away from the options presented to you at the beginning of the game. Once you have neglected your three starting options long enough – a total of four times to be precise – Pikachu will spawn in front of you and from there he’s yours for the taking, and you’re ready to go off on your Pokémon adventure as the envy of the entire Pokémon training world.
13. Ash’s Pikachu Was Named Jean-Luc in the Manga
Pokemon is a worldwide phenomenon that originated in Japan, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its Western influences. Just the idea of a small yellow rat that can store and dispense lightning is a crazy one, and it’s something that somehow caught on and made us all feel more cultured for understanding. When making the jump from Japan to everywhere else, Pikachu’s name wasn’t changed to Greg the Rat or anything ridiculous like that, it was just left the way it was and we all understood it; Pikachu was Pikachu. But was he really?
As it turns out, when Pikachu was first introduced his name was actually Jean Luc Pikachu. First mentioned by Ash but then quickly abandoned in any other iteration of the Pokémon franchise, Jean Luc Pikachu appeases fans that thought the ultra-Japanese Pokémon needed to be more French, or perhaps they’re setting up a Star Trek, but it really appeases no one else. It’s a confusing bit of Pokémon trivia that is never given much thought, but it’s one that we should all bring up on occasion just to keep things interesting.
12. Female Pikachu Have a Notch in Their Tails
The one thing that many beginner Pokémon fans don’t understand right away is that Pikachu isn’t just the name of one singular Pikachu, it’s also the plural for an entire Pokémon species. And within that species are – of course – female and male Pikachu, each roaming around with their own distinctive personality. So how do we differentiate the two genders? Well, it’s relatively simple; at least in some cases.
Although Pikachu never had an established gender difference at the onset of the franchise, in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl gender differences were introduced to the Pokémon universe, thus making identification easier; should that be of concern to anyone for whatever reason. Since then, female Pikachu were seen with notches or indents at the end of their tails, and males weren’t. But don’t worry, this isn’t some type of Avatar-esque sex adventure whereby Pikachus everywhere are fitting their tails together. At least, we don’t think it is.
11. No One Can Agree If Ash’s Pikachu Is a Boy or Girl
Despite the previously mentioned gender differences between Pikachu, the one thing that not even the biggest Pikachu expert knows is whether or not the world’s most famous Pikachu – Ash’s Pikachu – is actually a boy or a girl. Speculation on this front has run wild since the character’s introduction, but the fact remains that Pikachu’s creators have intentionally kept the answer vague so that Pikachu could appeal to people of both genders.
While you may assume that you could just look at Pikachu’s tail for its gender reveal, Ash’s Pikachu was introduced in the anime before gender differences were established throughout the franchise. One argument for Pikachu being a female is that in an episode of Pokemon Black and White a female Pokémon used attract on Pikachu, but nothing happened. However, another argument is made for Pikachu being a male in that characters often refer to it as a “he.” All we know for sure is that everyone has an opinion on Pikachu’s gender, and no one has been proven 100% correct.
10. Pikachu Actually Translates into English
For those of you that think Pikachu is just a cool name for a brightly colored electricity rodent, think again. “Pika” is a Japanese word for electricity crackling, and “chu” is how the Japanese describe the sound of mice. Put the two together and you have a name that spread across a generation and actually ended up inspiring some parents to name their children Pikachu; or more accurately, Electricity-Crackling-Mice.
According to Pokémon developer Junichi Masuda, Pikachu wasn’t an easy name to come up with, and creators wanted to develop something that would be a hit to both Japanese and American audiences. Eventually, after much back and forth, Pikachu was chosen, and it eventually led into the sounds that the Pokémon is famous for making. “Pika, pika chu” became a catch phrase for Pikachu and the character’s name quickly spread around the world as something that fit perfectly; despite many not knowing that it actually had a meaning behind it aside from simply sounding cool.
9. Ash Was Once Transformed Into a Pikachu
One of the more interesting facts in Pokémon canon is that, yes, it’s apparently possible for humans to turn into Pokémon. Although it’s not something you’ll see every day, it’s the type of Pokémon fact that makes long-time fans scratch their heads and say “huh.” A shining example of this is when in the episode Hocus Pokémon Ash found himself on the receiving end of a spell that would enable him to think like a Pokémon. Of course, the spell backfires and ends up turning Ash into a Pikachu complete with his own eyes, voice, hair, and infamous hat.
This Ash-Pikachu hybrid ended up being called Ashachu – because why not – and is still remembered fondly by fans. And while the transformation was temporary and ended up getting reversed by the next episode, it opens up a lot of possibilities for future transformations of humans into Pokémon. In the meantime, all we can do is set our desktop wallpapers to a photo of Ashachu and remember the good old days.
8. Pikachu Was Designed by GameFreak Artist Atsuko Nishida
While Nintendo gets nearly all of the credit for Pokémon, the franchise was actually developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo in 1996. And although the whole Game Freak team is credited with the ideas and concepts that make Pokémon a runaway hit, one artist in particular – Atsuko Nishida – is credited with the design for Pikachu; something that she worked on along with other species of Pokémon throughout the Pokémon films and trading card series.
Finalized by Ken Sugimori – a man who is often looked at as the creator of all Pokémon designs – and conceived of by the Game Freak character development team, Pikachu is 1 foot 4 inches tall and is modeled after a mouse. Being the first ever Electric Pokémon, Pikachu is a pioneer in the world of Pokémon; something that he often doesn’t get credit for as everyone is distracted by his cute exterior and unassuming personality.
7. Pikachu Has Been on 95 different Pokémon Cards
Ever since Pikachu made his debut in the base set of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, he has been featured on card after card with increasing rarity and value. Always a basic Pokémon – and therefore a part of every beginner Pokémon player’s cards – Pikachu debuted as a character with 40 HP and transitioned from there depending on what card he was on. From Lt. Surge’s Pikachu, to Surfing Pikachu, to Japanese exclusive Pikachu, the famous Pokémon has had so many variations over the years that 95 cards with Pikachu currently exist in the wild.
One Pikachu in particular however is often considered the rarest and most valuable Pokémon card that there is. Released in 1998, the “Holy Grail of Pokemon” is the Pikachu Illustrator Card, and only six are known to exist. Recently, one of them sold on eBay in mint condition for $100,000, which proves that Pokémon isn’t just fun; it’s big business.
6. Pikachu Has an Obsession with Ketchup
You can tell just how important Pokémon is to the world by the level of nonsense trivia that accompanies it. For example, why would a game that requires you to catch, train, and battle with various pocket monsters require a working knowledge of what condiment is their favorite? Well, you wouldn’t, but nonetheless it’s a known fact that Pikachu is obsessed with ketchup. Not only has it been shown in the animated series at various times, but there are entire threads in online message boards and whole memes dedicated to Pikachu and his love for ketchup.
Perhaps his ketchup love comes from his love of all red foods – as the only foods that he’s ever shown eating aside from ketchup are apples and red berries. Or perhaps ketchup reminds him of Ash’s last name, which is Ketchum. Or maybe Pikachu’s creators just thought that it would be funny to see a little yellow lightning rat get overly excited by every five year old’s favorite hot dog topping. Whichever way you look at it, it’s just nice that we get to know something about Pikachu’s private life off the battlefield.
5. There is a Protein Named After Pikachu
When you hit the pop culture stratosphere, you start to get things named after you. Newly discovered elements, animals, or in Pikachu’s case, human proteins. Pikachurin is a protein found in humans that is used for transmitting electrical impulses from the human eyes to the brain. The protein was discovered by a group of Japanese scientists, not to mention that it deals in electrical impulses; it was a given that it would be named after the famous Pokémon, and the rest is history.
It’s a cool fact to be sure, and most hearing that there’s a protein called Pikachurin would say “aww, that’s so cute.” However, the protein becomes less cute when you consider that it plays an integral role in congenital muscular dystrophies. Therefore, we’d think that finding out you have such a horrible condition wouldn’t be any better once you thought that the doctors were joking around considering that the word “Pikachu” was thrown in with your diagnosis.
4. Pikachu Was On a Special Niue Dollar Coin
Pikachu – not content with a protein named after him – kept on making waves in the world until eventually the tiny Pacific island nation of Niue took notice. Despite only having a total land area of 100 square miles and a population of 1190, the nation of Niue were such big fans of Pikachu that they decided to put him on a one dollar coin.
Released as a commemorative coin in 2001 along with Meowth, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander, the Pikachu coin featured a picture of Pikachu on one side and the country’s coat of arms on the other. Also available in $10 silver coins, the entire set of Pokémon coins can currently be found on eBay for over $1300. While the Pikachu coin may not store up energy or be useful in a Pokémon battle, there’s something cool about owning a Pokémon collectible that isn’t just a trading card.
3. Ash’s Pikachu is Voiced by Ikue Ohtani
Ikue Otani is known in the anime world as a famous voice actress, having voiced Chopper in One Piece and Konohamaru Sarutobi in Naruto. But perhaps her most widely heard role is that of Ash’s Pikachu in the Pokémon series; a role that she’s been working hard at since 1997. And if you’re wondering what exactly Otani does voicing a character that doesn’t speak, just ask Otani herself, who claims that she is often teased for having such an easy job.
Otani has said in the past that although many think she only has to say “pika pika,” she actually gets scripts every episode that are vague and mostly say “pikachu.” Because of this, Otani says that she needs to come up with a plan for her performance; otherwise nothing will be conveyed to the audience. Otani goes on to say that she insists on recording new material for every bit of Pikachu dialogue across all of Pikachu’s appearances. This way, she says that no matter what she’s instructed to say, she gives every single word her all.
2. Topeka, Kansas Was Renamed ToPikachu
Topkea, Kansas either really loves Pokémon, or it just wanted to take advantage of its unique name and capitalize on the Pokémon craze back in 1998. That’s why Mayor Joan Wagnon decided to rename the city ToPikachu for a day, most likely confusing all of its residents except the few that were excited for Pokémon’s brand new debut in the United States.
And while we’re unsure what this actually accomplished in terms of Topeka tourism or worldwide recognition, many fans of Pokémon still think of ToPikachu when they hear Topeka. And although the capital of Kansas never ended up being a haven for Pokémon fans more than any other city in the world, apparently Topeka got a kick out of changing their name and decided to do it again in 2010. This time, they changed their name to Google, Kansas for a whole month in a bid to get Google to install their fiber-optic internet in the town.
1. Pikachu Recharges with Electricity When it Sleeps
Most people – even the most casual of Pokémon fans – know that Pikachu’s primary power is electricity. The red circles on Pikachu cheeks – while being incredibly cute – are primarily used as pouches for storing electricity, at which point electric shocks can be sent out to damage opposing Pokémon. Pikachu can also use their shocking powers to zap a foreign object that they come across as a means to inspect it. But that’s for battle; so what about Pikachu’s energy powers in his off-time?
According to Pokémon canon, Pikachu can use electric shocks to recharge their fellow Pikachu if they are in need. They also are known for charging up their electricity storage when they sleep, which is something that every smartphone user wishes could happen with their phone as easily as it happens with Pikachu. Upon waking up, Pikachu are often seen discharging excess electricity, just like yawns, while they stumble around and get ready for the day.
Which of these facts were you most surprised to learn about Pikachu? Did we leave anything out about everyone’s favorite electric Pokémon? Let us know in the comments!