Pokémon Story

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Dogasu's Backpack | Features | Pokémon Story

Pokémon Story

In December 2000, Japanese publisher Nikkei BP released the book Pokémon Story (ポケモンストーリー) in Japan. This hefty 543 page beast of a book goes through the early history of the franchise, from the formation of Game Freak through Pocket Monsters Red & Green's development, the franchise becoming a national sensation, and Pokémon's break into a worldwide phenomenon. Pokémon Story was put together from interviews with various people related to the franchise conducted by author Kenji Hatakeyama, with an early portion of the book stating that just the interview transcripts alone come in at over 800 pages. Masakazu Kubo, one of the producers of the animated series, also contributes.

Below is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the book that includes chapter titles, brief descriptions, and links to translations I've done over the years (where applicable).

Prologue | Game Start |
Chapter One "Birth" | Game Creators | Nintendo | Producers | Production |
Chapter Two "Pokémon's Big Break"  | The Game's Released | "CoroCoro Comics" | PCG ~ Pokémon Card Game | Presentations | Animation | Pokémon's Big Break |
Chapter Three "America" | San Francisco | Radio City Music Hall | Seattle |
Chapter Four "Pokémon World" | Pokémon 2001 | Satoshi Tajiri's World ~ Long Interview |
Game Cleared

Prologue: Game Start (ゲームスタート)

Prologue, Pages 6 - 12
The authors of Pokémon Story explain what it is they hope to accomplish with their book.

Chapter 1-1: Game Creators (ゲームクリエイター)

First Meetings (最初の出会い), Pages 14 - 16
Tajiri goes to Nintendo to pitch his idea for a new game he calls Capsule Monsters.

The Bug Boy of Machida (町田の昆虫少年), Pages 16 - 19
Meet Satoshi Tajiri, a boy who grew up in the city of Machida, Tokyo. The parts of his neighborhood where he used to enjoy observing bugs and other small animals start to fall victim to urbanization.

From Bug Catcher to Arcade Disrupter (虫とりから"ゲームセンターあらし" へ), Pages 19 - 23)
At the age of thirteen Tajiri played a game of Space Invaders that changed his life forever. Before long Tajiri found himself spending every spare moment he had at the arcade, earning himself a reputation as an “arcade disrupter.”

The Game Creator Boy (少年ゲームクリエイター), Pages 23 - 27
Tajiri quickly goes from being a boy who loves playing video games to studying what it is exactly that makes them tick. A victory at a local video game idea contest gives him confidence to continue on his path.

The High School Editor-in-Chief of "Game Freak" 「ゲームフリーク」高校生編集長), Pages 27 - 34
Now in high school, Tajiri starts self-publishing a video game walkthrough magazine he calls Game Freak. The magazine helps him meet artist Ken Sugimori, and before long the two friends decide to leave the magazine business behind to focus on making their own video games.

Joining up with Namco and Game Freak's First Hit (ナムコと組んで、ヒット第1号), Pages 35 - 40
After three years in development Quinty goes on sale and becomes a moderate success. Game Freak officially becomes a full-fledged company.

Coming Across the Game Boy for the First Time (ゲームボーイとの出会い), Pages 41 - 43
Tajiri is enthralled  by the possibilities of the new Game Boy hardware and its communication cable. The idea of using the cable to trade monsters between players in an RPG setting leads to the development of the Capsule Monsters concept.

Chapter 1-2: Nintendo (任天堂)

Getting Started with Hanafuda (花札からの出発), Pages 44 - 47)
In 1889 Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo Karuta, a company based out of Kyoto that would become famous for its high quality hanafuda playing cards.

Entering the World of Entertainment (エンタテインメント企業へ), Pages 47 - 58
After World War II, Nintendo shifts its focus toward electronics after enjoying success with products like their Love Tester and Light Gun. President Yamauchi gains inspiration from America and its blossoming home video game market.

The Family Computer (ファミリーコンピュータ), Pages 58 - 68
After releasing hits like the TV Game 9 and Game and Watch, Nintendo begins work on the cartridge based Family Computer, or “Famicom” for short. With the help of hit makers like Shigeru Miyamoto the system goes on to be an unparalleled success that helped define the Japanese video game market.

The Nintendo Way (任天堂方式), Pages 69 - 72
In the 1980s the United States of America experienced a great video game crash due to the market being poisoned with too many low quality games. To avoid a similar outcome for themselves Nintendo of Japan sets up an approval system to incentivize creators to focus on quality over quantity.

Game Boy (ゲームボーイ), Pages 72 - 74
Gumpei Yokoi develops the Game Boy as a follow-up to the Game and Watch series. The inexpensive portable Famicom becomes a big hit that eventually attracts the attention of Satoshi Tajiri.

Chapter 1-3: Producers (プロデューサー)

The Two Producers (2人のプロデューサー), Pages 75 - 78
In 1990, Satoshi Tajiri presents his Capsule Monsters idea to Nintendo’s Takashi Yamauchi and Ape Inc.’s Tsunekazu Ishihara. Nintendo is so impressed with the concept it agrees to fund development right away.

Tsunekazu Ishihara (石原恒和), Pages 78 - 88
Tsunekazu Ishihara works at advertising agencies and TV productions while holding onto a love for computer graphics. Satoshi Tajiri and Shigesato Itoi write articles for his video game encyclopedia Video Game Complete Works.

The Network of People Who Gave Birth to Pokémon (ポケモンを産んだ人脈️), Pages 89 - 99
Nintendo works hard to prevent a repeat of the U.S.’ video game crash by tightly controlling its release calendars. Ishihara is brought to Nintendo via Ape Inc., and it’s through these connections he begins working with Satoshi Tajiri on the Pokémon project.

From "Capsule" to "Pocket" (「カプセル」から「ポケット」へ), Pages 99 - 101
Game Freak learns they wont be able to copyright the name “Capsule Monsters,” leaving them scrambling to look for a new name for the project. Swapping out the monsters’ capsules with Tron-like balls leads the team toward the game’s eventual final name.

Pokémon Goes Into Development (ポケモン開発のスタート), Pages 102 - 104
Nintendo signs a contract with Ape Inc., who then signs a contract with Game Freak to begin development. Pocket Monsters misses its initial 1991 deadline, and then the one after that, and the one after that…

Chapter 1-4: Production (プロダクション)

Intro, Page 105
Satoshi tells his father about the game he’s working on and how confident he is that it’ll do well.

How a Tadpole Became Nyoromo (オタマジャクシがニョロモになる), Pages 105 - 112
Satoshi Tajiri and his staff draw upon their childhood experiences to come up with the game’s titular monster characters. Game Freak’s inexperience with making RPGs and inability to find a way to incentivize trading causes development to drag on and on.

Game Freak's First Big Hit (初めての大ヒット), Pages 112 - 117
Game Freak gets assigned to work on the Famicom game Yoshi’s Egg, providing the company with a wealth of valuable experience. Programmers and other staff begin to leave Game Freak one after the other.

Development Drags On (進まない開発), Pages 117 - 126
Development on Pokémon continues to drag on, with some months going by without any progress being made at all. Game Freak develops a number of games for the Super Famicom and Mega Drive in the meantime.

The Birth of Creatures (クリーチャーズの誕生), Page 126 - 131
Tsunekazu Ishihara leaves Ape, Inc. to start up his own game development company Creatures Inc. In the autumn of 1994 Satoshi Tajiri orders everyone at Game Freak to pour all their energy into getting Pocket Monsters out the door.

Chapter 1-5: Post-Production (ポストプロダクション)

Intro, Pages 132 - 133
Four years after development of Pocket Monsters began Satoshi Tajiri finally has a concrete idea of what his company's game should be.

Pouring Everything From His Childhood into the Game (少年時代のすべてをゲームに), Pages 133 - 138
Tajiri wonders how to use Pocket Monsters to help express his love of video games. Ishihara reflects on what made Pocket Monsters unique from other RPGs of the time.

The Pain of Childbirth (産みの苦しみ), Pages 139 - 158
Pocket Monsters enters its long and arduous debugging stage. Last minute changes like increasing the SRAM size and splitting the game off into a “Red” and “Green” version delays the game even further but Pocket Monsters finally goes on sale in February 1996.

Chapter 2-1: The Game's Released (リリース)

The Game with Low Expectations (期待されなかったソフト), Pages 160 - 166
Pocket Monsters Red & Green go on sale with little fanfare and a somewhat unorthodox TV commercial. Ishihara butts heads with Yamauchi over Nintendo’s small production orders.

The Game Boy Brought Back to Life (よみがえるゲームボーイ), Pages 166 - 172
The Game Boy was already on its way out when Pocket Monsters went on sale, prompting fears that Game Freak’s game was coming out too late. The unexpected success of the 1995 Game Boy version of Mario’s Picross and development of the Game Boy Pocket help put those fears to rest.

The Media's Indifference Toward Pokémon (メディアも無関心だったポケモン), Pages 172 - 175
Nintendo's primary focus is on its new Nintendo 64 hardware that it was also releasing in 1996. The media largely ignores Pokémon in favor of the upcoming next generation console wars.

Chapter 2-2: "CoroCoro Comics" (『コロコロコミック』)

Intro, Pages 176 - 177
While the rest of the media was ignoring Pocket Monsters the popular kids’ magazine CoroCoro Comics Special prints the first chapter of Kosaku Anakubo’s Pocket Monsters manga.

Pokémon Becomes a Comic (ポケモン、マンガになる), Pages 177 - 182
Masakazu Kubo goes to school to become an educator but ends up working in publishing instead. CoroCoro Comics establishes itself as a hit maker for kids.

The Man Behind the Mini 4WD Craze (ミニ四駆ブームの仕掛け人), Pages 182 - 190
Kubo witnesses the rise and fall of the first Mini 4WD toy cars craze. He’s put in charge of a Mini 4WD resurgence a few years later and leads the multi-media franchise to success.

The Mythical Pokémon "Mew" (幻のポケモン 『ミュウ』), Pages 191 - 202
Kubo quickly sees the potential in Pocket Monsters and commissions a manga to coincide with the game’s release. Rumors of a mythical 151st Pokémon catches everyone off guard.

The Makings of a Hit (ヒットの仕掛け), Pages 203 - 208
Nintendo decides to welcome the attention Mew’s giving them by allowing CoroCoro Comics to distribute the Pokémon to its readers. The sheer volume of requests from fans confirms that Pokémon is indeed a huge hit.

Pokémon Blue Version (ポケモン青バージョン), Pages 208 - 223
Nintendo passes the sales and distribution of Pocket Monsters Blue off to Shogakukan. Customers’ unprecedented demand for the reversioned game pushes Shogakukan’s logistics systems to their limits.

Chapter 2-3: PCG ~ Pokémon Card Game (PCG~ポケモンカードゲーム)

The Card Game with Low Expectations (期待されなかったカードゲーム), Pages 224 - 233
Creatures creates The Pokémon Card Game, a new merchandising opportunity that combines the strategy of the video games’ battles with the collectivity of a trading card series. The game goes on sale in October 1996 but has trouble finding its way to store shelves.

Cultivating Sales Channels (販路の開拓), Pages 233 - 241
Creatures’ search for a distributor willing to sell their card game leads them to a small company called Media Factory. CoroCoro Comics gains the exclusive rights to cover the game and gives away a pair of cards to over 1.8 million readers about a week before the cards hit store shelves.

CoroCoro Hobby Plaza (コロコロホビープラザ), Pages 241 - 243
CoroCoro Comics partners with the supermarket chain Ito Yokado to create pop up shops called CoroCoro Hobby Plazas. The supermarket counts on CoroCoro’s brand recognition to help sell the Pokémon Card Game.

Pokémon's Parallel World (ポケモンのパラレルワールド), Pages 244 - 249
The Pokémon Card Game is an immediate hit that allows players to experience the world of Pokémon outside the confines of the Game Boy’s monochromatic screen. Pokémon works to establish its own distribution network.

Chapter 2-4: Presentations (プレゼンテーション)

The Proposal (企画書), Pages 250 - 256
In September 1996 Masakazu Kubo submits a plan to Nintendo that introduces the idea of turning Pokémon into an animated series. The casual conversational style of the plan catches everyone off guard.

Pushback to Making the Cartoon (アニメ化への抵抗), Pages 256 - 262
Concerns are raised about what would happen to the franchise as a whole if an animated Pokémon series were to fail. Kubo works to find a way to avoid the mistakes he observed with the first Mini 4WD animated series.

A New Way of Making Animation (新しいアニメ制作のシステム), Pages 263 - 278
Kubo devises a new way to produce animation that makes the production teams and sponsors one and the same, making it easier to plan cross promotions. The shows Oha Suta and Bakusou Kyodai Lets & Go!! allow Kubo to prove his new system works.

The Cartoon's Greenlit (アニメ化決定), Pages 278 - 288
Shogakukan presents their ideas to Nintendo but the company’s slow response has everyone worried. On September 26th, 1996 the go-ahead is finally given to turn Pokémon into an animated series.

Chapter 2-5: Animation (アニメーション)

The Goal of the Cartoon (アニメ化の狙い), Pages 289 - 298
The search for sponsors for the Pocket Monsters animated series begins. Shogakukan decides it’s time to tie up a few loose ends when it comes to its various licensing agreements.

Licensing Business (ライセンス・ビジネス), Pages 299 - 305
Six sponsors are gathered to fund production of the Pocket Monsters animated series. Shogakukan is put in charge of handling the licenses off all things Pokémon.

Pokémon's Rights Holders (ポケモンの権利者), Pages 305 - 308
The original copyrights to Pokémon remain with Nintendo, Creatures, and Game Freak. ShoPro, TV-Tokyo, and JR East get added to the mix whenever the animation’s involved.

The Cartoon Goes Into Production (アニメ化の始動), Pages 308 - 322
Shogakukan requests a company called OLM to handle the actual production of the Pokémon animated series. Producer Chouji Yoshikawa and director Kunihiko Yuyama give their thoughts on the Pocket Monsters Red & Green video games.

"This Can't Fail" (「負けちゃいかん」), Pages 323 - 330
The staff at OLM vote as to whether or not to let the Pokémon talk in their new show. The goal of creating something  that surpasses the video games is made easier thanks to an unorthodox funding scheme and generous staffing.

Pikachu (ピカチュウ), Pages 330 - 338
The video game team gives OLM the freedom to do what they think is best as long as they don’t shatter the world created by Game Freak. Important details like Satoshi’s starter, his traveling companions, and the Time Bokan-like trio of villains are finalized.

Preview Screening (試写会), Pages 338 - 354
The animated Pocket Monsters series starts to take shape. A preview screening of the first episode in March 1997 is met with a standing ovation.

Chapter 2-6: Pokémon's Big Break (ブレイク)

Intro, Pages 355 - 356
The animated Pocket Monsters series is a huge success that brings in incredible viewership ratings week after week.

Children fall ill - The Incident Occurs (子どもたちが倒れるー事故発生), Pages 357 - 367
On December 16th, 1997 hundreds of children around Japan collapse from seizures and other maladies after the airing of the episode “Cyber Soldier Porygon.” The Japanese news media reacts.

Hiatus (放送休止), Pages 367 - 378
The Pocket Monsters animated series is pulled from the air while various groups work to investigate both the root cause and the steps needed to prevent a reoccurrence. Various people involved with Pokémon recount how they first heard about the incident.

Wrapping Up the Incident (事故の決着), Pages 378 - 391
The investigation concludes and Pocket Monsters returns to the air in April 1998. The continuing high sales of merchandise and the success of the first movie prove that Pokémon is not just another passing fad.

Copyright Meetings (版権会議), Pages 391 - 395
To deal with the sudden influx of merchandising requests Ishihara begins to hold weekly copyright meetings to carefully review each potential Pokémon product one by one.

Chapter 3-1: San Francisco (サンフランシスコ)

Intro, Pages 398 - 399
A three man team of Takashi Kawaguchi, Tsunekazu Ishihara, and Masakazu Kubo travel to the U.S. to participate in a series of lectures on the successes of Pokémon.

The Pokémon Lecture Tour (ポケモン講演ツアー), Pages 400 - 402
The team arrives in San Francisco and meet with Viz Communications president Seiji Horibuchi.

Nintendo of America's Gamble (NOAの賭け), Pages 402 - 415
Nintendo of America doesn't have high hopes for an English release of Pocket Monsters. The desire to make sure the franchise is a success overseas drives Nintendo to further consolidate its various licenses.

Snoopy and Pokémon (スヌーピーとポケモン), Pages 415 - 419
The end of Charles Schulz's Peanuts newspaper comic strip provides an opening that Viz hopes to fill with Pokémon. Figuring out what the contents of a "Pokémon comic strip" should be proves more challenging than expected.

The Pokémon Lectures (ポケモン講演会), Pages 419 - 425
The first of three Pokémon lectures takes place in San Francisco. Audiences are provided insight into the localization process, a sneak peek of an upcoming Pokémon movie, and an overall look at how Pokémon found success in America.

Chapter 3-2: Radio City Music Hall (ラジオシティ・ミュージックホール)

Intro, Page 426
The sheer size of the United States means a lot of money and careful planning is required to make anything a success there.

Kids' WB! (WBキッズチャンネル), Pages 427 - 435
The task of actually producing an English language version of the Pocket Monsters cartoon is given to 4Kids, who works tirelessly with the Summit Media Group to sell the show to local syndication markets. In September 1998 the Pokémon animated series and video games are released in the U.S.

The New York Lecture Wrap Up Parties (NY講演の打ち上げ), Pages 435 - 441
The last few Pokémon lectures are conducted in New York City. At the wrap-up party the Pokémon team reflects on the incredible year they just had.

Pokémon On Stage (ポケモン・オンステージ), Pages 442 - 450
Radio City Music Hall pitches a plan to bring Pokémon to the stage using a combination of actors and state-of-the-art animatronics. The Pokémon team accepts and Pokémon Live enters production.

Chapter 3-3: Seattle (シアトル)

The New York Toy Fair (NYトイショー), Pages 451 - 456
America’s number two toy maker Hasbro is granted the license to sell Pokémon products. In the space of a year the company sees sales of its Pokémon products outsell even its Star Wars lines.

Hasbro (ハズブロ), Pages 456 - 462
Hasbro presents its plans for the year 2000, a year that includes the North American releases of the second Pokémon movie and the Gold and Silver video games. The discovery that Hasbro had been selling a product without Japan's approval angers Nintendo of America.

Nintendo of America (NOA), Pages 463 - 468
The Pokémon team heads to Seattle to attend meetings at Nintendo of America. After a meeting with Seattle Mariners’ CEO Howard Lincoln the team finally heads back to Japan.

Chapter 4-1: Pokémon 2001 (ポケモン2001)

Pokémon and Business (ポケモンとビジネス), Pages 470 - 476
Various creatives weigh in on what makes character based businesses work. Pokémon’s ability to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with giants like Mickey Mouse and Snoopy is also examined.

The Future of the Pokémon Generation (ポケモン時代の明日), Pages 477 - 483
Nintendo’s reveal of the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo Game Cube at Space World 2000 gets people excited about the future. As Pokémon continues to break records it seems as though the franchise as a whole still has some legs.

Chapter 4-2: Satoshi Tajiri's World ~ Long Interview (田尻智ワールド~ロングインタビュー)

This section of the book features Satoshi Tajiri giving his own opinions about a lot of the topics discussed in this book.

1 The Idea for Pokémon (ポケモンの着想), Pages 484 - 488
Satoshi Tajiri reflects on the initial Pocket Monsters pitch.

2 Game Boy (ゲー ムボーイ), Pages 489 - 494
The desire to see what makes the Space Invaders arcade game tick sparks an interest in game development for a young Satoshi Tajiri.

3 The Secret Character (隠れキャラ), Pages 494 - 498
The urban legends surrounding games like Space Invaders and Xevious plant the seed for the Mythical Pokémon Mew.

4 Pokémon's Development (ポケモンの開発), Pages 498 - 504
Satoshi Tajiri reflects on the memory issues that cropped up during development as well as the decision to make both a Red and Green version of the game.

5 The TV Incident (テレビ事故), Pages 504 - 507
A translation of this portion of the interview can be found here
Satoshi Tajiri gives his thoughts about what went wrong with Pocket Monsters Episode 038 “Cyber Soldier Porygon.”

6 America (アメリカ), Pages 507 - 510
Satoshi Tajiri discusses the worldwide appeal of older video games where language barriers were not as much of an issue, concluding that fun games are fun no matter where in the world you’re from.

7 About the In-Game Kanto Region (カントー地方について), Pages 510 - 514
Satoshi Tajiri uses his personal experiences in places like Machida City and the seven Izu islands to come to the conclusion that basing the in-game Kanto region to the real world Kanto region is the best way to make the games come alive.

8 Game Leader (ゲームの王道), Pages 514 - 517
Satoshi Tajiri reflects on Pokémon being a leader in the monster catching genre and how its predecessors and successors help enrich gaming and a whole.

Game Cleared (ゲームクリア―ド)

Special Thanks, Pages 519 - 531
Authors Kenji Hatakeyama and Masakazu Kubo list out their special thanks and acknowledgements.

Pocket Monsters Timeline 1998 ~ 2000 (ポケットモンスター関連略年表 1998 ~ 2000), Pages 532-537
A timeline of events in the history of Pokémon.

Complete List of all 251 Pokémon (ポケットモンスター251種全リスト), Pages 538 - 541
A list of all the Pokémon that had been released up to this point.

"Pokémon Story" Works Cited / Special Thanks (『ポケモン・ストーリー』 参考文献・強力), Page 542
A bibliography of books, websites, and other materials used in the making of this book.

About the Book

Pokémon Story

Written by:  Kenji Hatakeyama and Masakazu Kubo
Published by:  Nikkei BP-sha (日経BP社)
Language:  Japanese
Page Count:  543
First Printing:  December 10th, 2000
MSRP:  1,400 yen (not including tax)
ISBN-10:  4822241998
ISBN-13: 978-4822241995

How was Pocket Monsters brought into this world? How was it able to evolve from the games into the world of comics, animation, and the movies? And why was it able to succeed in capturing the hearts of children all over the world? In this, the first business story book of its kind, one of the producers himself tells us by talking directly to the people who were there! Also includes an original interview with the creator of Pokémon himself, Mr. Satoshi Tajiri.



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