Pokemon, such as the new creatures emerging in Pokemon Black and White and already being sold as plush toys, do not actually have their origins in a science fiction scenario of evolution gone wild on some strange planet or in an uncertain future on earth. They actually came from the practice of insect collecting!
Satoshi Tajiri, the inventor of the Pokemon Pokemon Xd Gale Of Darkness ROM game, was actually an avid collector of insects as a child. Though not exactly delicate I suppose, boys will be boys and they sometimes would match off mutually aggressive insects. There you have in a nutshell the whole idea behind Pokemon- hunt down and catch specimens, keep them in an enclosed container, and then use them for battle.
But insect collecting and fighting would be a far too prosaic concept for a Nintendo game and Tajiri needed to embellish it. Still, he had an exciting core concept that simply needed the infusion of fantasy. First, the insects became ‘monsters’ and instead of insect collecting boxes they were to kept in the more intriguing and sci fi ‘capsules,’ giving the game its first name: capsule monsters. The attributes of insects- they’re ability to fly, leap, grasp, bite, sting, and even spit all got incorporated into the monsters of the game in a highly imaginative and modified form. In many ways, the powers and abilities of Pokemon have their roots in the strengths, weaknesses, and strange powers of real animals.
Capsules Monsters did not last long as a name; although Nintendo loved the game concept and Pokemon has probably been, with its spinoffs included, the biggest moneymaker for Nintendo ever. The name first changed to Pocket Monsters to give it a more ambitious and dramatic flair, and later became shortened to ‘Pokemon.’ The emphasis on ‘monster’ shifted dramatically and decidedly took on a very ‘cute’ bent from the very beginning. Even the most ferocious of Pokemon do not look very scary and kids of all ages are attracted to them. Although play is dominated by boys, girls can enjoy Pokemon too, and are especially eager to buy Pokemon stuffed toys. Boys will buy stuffed plushies as well, but they are often interested in the Pokemon card game, and are avid collectors of the legendary Pokemon, shiny raikon and shiny equine.
But the cuteness of the Pokemon characters belies they’re ferocious capabilities, all of which are essential Pokemon features in the animation, comics, card game, and especially the video game. Pikachu may look like a cute little baby seal, but with his powerful electrical charge he is one of the most formidable of all Pokemon. Thus, Nintendo has very wisely straddled a market that is rough enough to appeal to big kids (particularly boys), and cute and engaging enough to capture the imagination of smaller children. Given the success of Pokemon spinoffs, one could say that it is perhaps one of the most successful video games ever.