January 2015

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Dogasu's Backpack | Old Updates Archive | January 2015

"The power of science is amazing!"
January 14th, 2015

Dogasu @ 17:48 JST -- Earlier today it was announced that there will be a Pokemon exhibit at the Mirakian, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in the Odaiba area of Tokyo, Japan.  The exhibit will be called Pokemon Laboratory ~ Even You Can Do It!  A New Discovery ~ (ポケモン研究所~キミにもできる!新たな発見~).

Pokemon Laboratory ~ Even You Can Do It!  A New Discovery ~

The exhibit will feature a "Pokemon Laboratory" where visitors will take on various missions to learn about the scientific process.  These missions are divided into various difficulty levels so that customers of all ages will have something to enjoy.  There will also be a section of the exhibit dedicated to how communication between the various Pokemon games has evolved throughout the years.

The exhibit will open from July 8th, 2015 until October 12th, 2015.  The museum is open from 10:00am until 5:00pm and customers are allowed to enter the building up until 4:30pm.  Admission is 1,500 yen for adults and 1,300 yen for children under 18 years old.

January 7th, 2015

Dogasu @ 11:56 JST -- Today I want to talk about something that I've been meaning to bring up on this site for a while:  Yokai Watch.

Yokai Watch

What is Yokai Watch?
Yokai Watch (妖怪ウォッチ) started off as a Nintendo 3DS game back in July 2013.  It's produced by Level-5, the same people behind the Professor Layton, Inazuma Eleven, and Ni no Kuni games.  In the first Yokai Watch game you play as either a boy named Keita or a girl named Fumika who rescues a yokai (supernatural monsters from Japanese folklore) named Whisper.  As a reward, Whisper gives you a Yokai Watch, a device that enables its user to sniff out other yokai hiding around town.  You spend the rest of the game finding these other yokai, helping the humans being terrorized by them, and collecting their yokai coins so you can summon them in battle. 
There are about 245 yokai at the moment.  Kotaku has a pretty good summary of the whole thing here.

Yokai Watch has spawned a popular television series, video game sequels, an insanely popular line of toys, a movie, and more.  But why am I bringing it up here, on a Pocket Monsters site?  Because people are saying that Yokai Watch is the franchise that will finally knock Pocket Monsters off its throne.

Just how popular is it?
It's kind of unbelievable how much Yokai Watch has exploded in its first two years.

Yokai Watch 2 Ganso
Yokai Watch 2 Honke
Yokai Watch 2 Shin'uchi
Yokai Watch 2 Ganso
Yokai Watch 2 Honke
Yokai Watch 2 Shin'uchi

The sequel to 2013's Yokai Watch game pulled a Pocket Monsters and got released in three versions: Ganso (元祖, an old word meaning "original") and Honke (本家, a more modern word meaning "original") were released on July 10th, 2014 while Shin'uchi (真打, "star performer") was released on December 13th, 2014.  The two games released in July sold more than 1.3 million copies in its first week.  Fast forward to December where the official Yokai Watch website announced that all three games have sold a combined 5 million copies.  Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, meanwhile, sold 1.5 million copies in Japan in its first week.  The comparison isn't perfect since Yokai Watch 2 has technically been out for six months while ORAS has only been around for about a month and a half, but still. 

A TV series started airing in January 2014 on TV-Tokyo.  It airs Friday nights at 6:30pm.  Ratings-wise, both Yokai Watch and Pocket Monsters XY are having a back and forth; some weeks Yokai Watch has better ratings, while other weeks Pocket Monsters XY will do better.  It's also worth noting that the Japanese Hulu website has 50 episodes of Yokai Watch up (1-50) but only 25 episodes of Pocket Monsters XY (32-56).

Yokai Watch the Movie The Secret Of Its Birth Nyan

The franchise's first movie, Yokai Watch the Movie The Secret Of Its Birth Nyan, was released on December 20th, 2014.  It made more than 1.6 billion yen in its first two days, giving it the highest grossing opening of a Japanese in nearly fifteen yearsPokémon the Movie XY The Cocoon of Destruction and Diancie, by comparison, took about two months to reach that same figure.  Both movies were released during school holidays - Pokemon during summer vacation and Yokai Watch during winter vacation - so the comparison here is easier to make than the video game one.  Yokai Watch kicked Pokemon's butt.

And then there's the other stuff
It's hard to overstate just how popular Yokai Watch is in Japan.  You can't go to a single store here without seeing some Yokai Watch merchandise, whether it's a Jibanyan figurine at a convenience store or a yokai coin at a toy shop or a Yokai Watch backpack at a department store.  Everywhere you go the show's theme songs - GeraGeraPo no Uta and Yokai Taisou Dai-Ichi - are sung and/or played constantly.  I work at a preschool here in Tokyo and it's very hard to find a child who's not obsessed with Yokai Watch.  Pokemon is still popular, sure, but Yokai Watch is the shiny new kid in town.

We can compare sales data all day, but another way to gauge how popular these franchises are is to look at how they're being used in promotional materials.  If you pay attention to the covers of kids' magazines lately you'll see that Jibanyan, the sorta-kinda Pikachu-type character of the franchise, has taken Pikachu's place in the center.  The implication here is clear: Pikachu doesn't sell magazines anymore.  Jibanyan does.

CoroCoro Comics - September 2014
Coro Coro Comics - October 2014 Coro Coro Comics - November 2014 Coro Coro Comics - December 2014
The covers of the last four months' issues of CoroCoro Comics.

There are other things too.  McDonald's stores in Japan have been selling Pokemon calendars ever year since at least 2010 but this year they decided to go with Yokai Watch calendars instead.  Those calendars, by the way, are on track to receive the Guinness World Record for "Most Calendars Sold In One Year," a title that had, up until this year, been held by Pokemon.  Now 2015 Pokemon calendars do exist elsewhere, but seeing McDonald's give up Pokemon for Yokai Watch is telling.

There's also the World Hobby Fair, a semi-annual event held in Japan where companies show off their latest video games and toys aimed at the elementary school crowd.  Check out how the size and position of Pikachu's placement has changed in just one year.

World Hobby Fair Winter 2014
World Hobby Fair Winter 2015
Left:  2014's banner  Right:  2015's banner
Click on each image to view a larger version

And then there's the Pikachu vs. Jibanyan showdown at this shopping mall in Japan (it's kind of sad, really).  Stores selling out of Yokai Watch merchandise but not Pokemon stuff.  The whole thing with the yokai watches the show's named after being impossible to find.  I could go on and on.

Every time there's a new story about how well Yokai Watch is doing in Japan you're bound to see Japanese commenters talking about the fact that "Pokemon is done."  "Pokemon is yesterday's news."  "I guess a mouse (Pikachu) can't win against a cat (Jibanyan), can it?"  etc.

But why is it so popular?
It's tempting to write Yokai Watch off as just another Pokemon clone.  What makes Yokai Watch different from other monster catching series that have come and gone before?

A lot of what made Pokemon so popular is what's working for Yokai Watch.  There are hundreds of colorful characters with punny names who have outrageous personalities.  They all have various powers, strengths, and weaknesses.  There are cute yokai, scary yokai, and cool yokai.  There's also been a bigger merchandising push with Yokai Watch; in addition to the toys based on the creatures themselves is the titular yokai watch, a real life (toy) watch you can buy.  And then there are the yokai coins.  Hundreds and hundreds of yokai coins.

The Yokai Watch video games also get very good reviews, something that the other "clone" series don't usually get.

There's also the perceived age of the Pokemon franchise.  This article on RocketNews24 looks at the differences between the two franchise and produces what I think is a rather interesting quote:

The Pokémon franchise is so old it started out in black and white, with a pair of video games released in 1996 for the original Game Boy. That means even though it was initially aimed squarely at kids, the fanbase now includes long-time followers in their 20s and 30s.

Adult fans of Pokémon and other ostensible “for kids” series have adult money, with Mom and Dad no longer in a position to impose limits on how much time or cash they can pump into their hobby. This sometimes leads to grownups snatching up all the latest toy models, or hogging arcade machines that, from their small-scale cabinets, are clearly meant for younger gamers. Some have even taken to calling these senior fans otomo, an abbreviated form of okii na tomodachi, meaning “grownup friends” or “big buddies.”

Pokemon is so old that some of the kids who grew up watching it now have kids of their own.  Pokemon isn't the cool, hip thing anymore.  Pokemon's that thing that my mom and dad used to play.

So this means Pokemon's dead, right? All hail our new Yokai Watch overlords?
With all this said, it's a bit early to mourn Pocket Monsters' death. 

For starters, Yokai Watch hasn't left Japan yet, giving Pokemon a huge, huge advantage.  An international release is on the way, but there's no guarantee that it'll do well; Doraemon flopped, after all, and One Piece isn't nearly as popular in the U.S. as it is in Japan.  For all we know Yokai Watch could completely bomb in the West.

Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo

There are other advantages that Pokemon has over Yokai Watch.  There are currently eight Pokemon Center stores across Japan while there are, to my knowledge, zero Yokai Watch stores.  I went to the Pokemon Center that just opened up in Tokyo last month on a Monday and the place was packed.  It's hard to go there, surrounded by what must have been literally hundreds of people (on a school day!) and feel like Pokemon is in any danger whatsoever.  The number of people who lined up to pre-order ORAS was also encouraging.

More importantly than any of this, I think, is the fact that Pokemon has already proven itself time and time again.  It has longevity, something we can't say about Yokai WatchPokemon will still be around five, ten years from now.  But what about Yokai Watch?  Will it be here for the long haul or is it just a flash in a pan?  It's far too early to tell.

So what now?
It's entirely possible for Pokemon and Yokai Watch to co-exist peacefully.  It doesn't necessarily have to be an "us or them" type of thing.  At the same time, however, seeing Yokai Watch break records that Pokemon used to hold does raise some concerns.  Pokemon's absolutely in no danger of ever going away, but it might not be the dominant force it used to be.

I think 2015 will be an interesting year for both franchises.  Yokai Watch had an incredible 2014 and I'm confident that the powers that be are doing everything they can to make 2015 even bigger.  And Pokemon knows this.  I can't imagine Game Freak would dare to let 2015 come and go without releasing a new game, especially if Level-5 plans to release a Yokai Watch 3 at any point this year.  I can also see Pokemon making use of its fans' nostalgia, something Yokai Watch is too young to have in its arsenal.

Competition can be a good thing.  Is Pokemon agile enough to adapt keep up with Yokai Watch?

Discuss this on Facebook | Twitter | BMGf

émon the movie XY 2015
January 3rd, 2015

Dogasu @ 15:55 JST -- Something I neglected to cover last month was news about this year's movie.

Right now the movie is only known as "Pokémon the movie XY 2015" and doesn't have any other subtitle or anything else to go by.  The Pikachu short doesn't have a title either.  The teaser trailer posted on the movie's official website makes it obvious that Hoopa's going to be in it though don't expect it to be officially revealed until mid-February.

What has been announced (or leaked, rather) is a staff list for the movie.  Among the usual credits is something rather shocking: Tomioka Atsuhiro (left) will be writing the script for the movie instead of Sonoda Hideki (right).

Tomioka Atsuhiro Sonoda Hideki

This is important to note because Mr. Sonoda has been the sole person responsible for writing the movies since 2001's Celebi Encounter Through Time.  So why change now?  My guess is because last year's The Cocoon of Destruction and Diancie didn't do that well at the box office, when all is said and done, and this change in staff is an attempt to shake things up a bit and breathe some new life into the movie franchise.  Of course Mr. Yuyama is still directing so there's only so much that Mr. Tomioka will be able to do but we'll hopefully be able to see some signs of his involvement in the movie.

Mr. Sonoda will still be on-board to write the Pikachu short, though, so it's not like he's been kicked completely to the curb.

I've also created a Characters Bios page for the pokemon featured on the official website.




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