Every entertainment franchise has a mascot. Everyone is well aware of Pokemon’s fluffy yellow mouse: Pikachu. The electric Pokemon has been the face of the franchise since Pokemon Yellow’s release in 1998. But that wasn’t always the plan, as another Pokemon was designed to be the mascot before Pikachu.
Game Freak developed Pokemon—then called Pocket Monsters—and in 1996 Nintendo published the game. Pikachu’s design was created to appear like a lightning monster concept. Its lightning bolt shaped tail, yellow fur, Pika-like appearance and red round cheeks characterize Pikachu.
Pikachu has since become a world renowned phenomenon. The cute mouse has appeared on various TV shows, aside from its own, and has appeared on airplanes, in magazines, and has swept the globe with its popularity.
However, there are quite a few facts that most people don’t know about Pikachu. That’s why we’re giving you 15 electrifying facts you didn’t know about him. These facts might be a surprise for some of you, so let us know which one “shocks” you the most.
15 Pikachu Can Learn Fly and Surf
It may sound awkward, but you can teach Pikachu how to fly and surf. Pikachu is the only non-Flying Pokemon that can learn fly.
There’s only one way to teach these techniques to Pikachu in Heart Gold and Soul Silver. In 2009, Pokemon Heart Gold & Soul Silver released individual variations of Pikachu. The two are Surfing Pikachu and Flying Pikachu. The special Pikachu can be taught these techniques through Pokewalking and the Yellow Forest.
Turn on your Pokewalker and place your DS in your pocket. Keep walking and gaining the points so that you’ll be able to access the Yellow Forest. Once you do that, you’re able to go into the Yellow Forest and find the special Pikachu, flying or surfing, which you can teach fly and surf.
14 Pikachu Could Buy You Coffee
Niue is an island country and sovereign state associated with New Zealand. They use two different currencies: the New Zealand dollar and the Niue Dollar. These Niue dollar coins are issued for collector purposes and feature many pop culture icons like Star Wars and Disney characters.
In 2001, Niue’s government issued Pokemon coins as official currencies. One of the dollars was a Pikachu $1 coin.
The dollars came faced with five different Pokemon: Meowth, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Pikachu. The most famous of the coins was the Pikachu one. The official currency could be used to purchase goods or kept to collect.
Some of the coins are worth up to $3,300 and sought out by collectors.
13 Pikachu Couldn’t Learn Thunderbolt Until Pokemon Yellow
Pikachu’s signature technique is in one of Ash’s phrases: “Pikachu, use Thunderbolt!” Along with Thundershock, Thunder, and Thunder Wave, Thunderbolt is one of Pikachu’s impressive moves and one that it learns at a certain level. This wasn’t always the case.
Players of Pokemon Green/Blue/Red know that originally Pikachu wasn’t able to learn Thunderbolt on its own. The only method of Pikachu learning Thunderbolt was by using TM24, but if you got that, maybe you'd want to use it on another electric type or Clefairy.
Pikachu became a recognized icon after the release of Pokemon Yellow and the Pokemon anime series in 1998. Beginning in Yellow, Pikachu was able to learn Thunderbolt at level 26 and it’s remained a learnable technique ever since. Now you can use that TM on a Pokemon who can’t naturally learn it.
12 Why the Name Pikachu?
The name Pikachu is famous now, but what about before? How would Nintendo come up with such a confusing name? There’s a story behind Pikachu’s name and why they called the yellow mouse ‘Pikachu.’ It’s not a parody on Peekaboo, nor did it come from the Pika rodent.
Series producer Satoshi Tajiri said it himself; the name derives from a combination of two Japanese sounds. The first being Pika, a sound an electric frazzle makes in Japan, and Chu, a sound described as a mouse noise. The name was especially hard to make because it had to appeal to English and Japanese audiences.
The name Pikachu rolls off the tongue and although it seems like a cross between the Pika rodent and a sneeze, it’s got a particular background that boggled the heads of developers.
11 Pikachu Wasn’t The Original Mascot
When one thinks of Pokemon, their mind instantly jumps to Pikachu. The Electric-type Pokemon made an impressive mark on the franchise and, ultimately, Nintendo chose Pikachu as Pokemon's mascot. However, a little-known fact is that Pikachu wasn’t the only choice to be mascot.
Initially, Clefairy was set to be the star of the show. Plans then moved to make both Pikachu and Clefairy a mascot duo. Pikachu, however, made the early comic book series more “engaging.”
Once the anime premiered in 1998, Pikachu looked more impressive than Clefairy and had more broad appeal, as Pikachu was more appealing to female and male viewers. Not just that, but since the colors yellow and red are primary colors, producers figured it’d be easier for children to recognize Pikachu from afar.
10 There's a Protein Named After Pikachu
Imagine pouring a yellow and red colored protein into a shaker bottle to add a “spark” to your workout. Unfortunately, there’s not a protein shake named after Pikachu. However, there’s a recently discovered natural protein named after Pikachu.
The Department of Developmental Biology at the Osaka Bioscience Institute found the Pikachurin protein in 2008. The retinal protein carries the crucial role of optical transmission. The Pikachurin transfers visual information from the retina to the brain through the central nervous system.
Photoreceptors, within the eye, deliver signals to the basal ganglia in the brain. Translation to English: the eyes carry messages to the brain through the assistance of the Pikachurin. The Pikachurin is the reason for the speedy delivery to the brain.
Thus, the Pikachurin was named after Pikachu for its ability to deliver quick visual messages to the brain.
9 Pikachu Is A Starter In Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go came out of nowhere. The game dropped randomly on July 6th for those in the US, Australia, and New Zealand and trickled out to the rest of the world after. It hit worldwide popularity, jacking Nintendo’s profits and share prices up.
Like the original Pokemon Red/Blue/Green versions, Pokemon Go gave you the option of only three starters, Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. However, there was a method of getting Pikachu that gamers quickly figured out.
The professor will prompt you to capture one of the three starters. Even if you continue to walk away from them, these Pokemon will be your only choice. If you keep walking, eventually Pikachu will appear as a fourth option. Everyone’s favorite yellow guy was programmed to be a starter through this method only.
8 Female Pikachu Have Different Tails
For the longest time, Pokemon games characterized gender by the male (♂) or female sign (♀) on the screen. Nidoran (male) and Nidoran (female) were the only Pokemon with notable differences between genders, as one is pink and the other is light blue. They then evolved to separately named Pokemon: Nidoking and Nidoqueen.
Beginning in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, Pokemon gained distinct physical differences to add visual variations to the creature. Pikachu received its own in its tail, as Female Pikachu have dents in their tails which gave them a heart-shaped appearance.
This pattern trickled down to the anime series. Now it’s easy to tell the differences between male and female Pikachu. Ash’s Pikachu isn’t the only Pikachu, so this important detail will certainly make guessing easier for viewers.
7 Pikachu Is Ash’s Only Electric Type Pokemon
Electric-type Pokemon are powerful creatures. Redditor Comm_Nagrom performed a study on 1046 Redditors and their most and least favorite Pokemon types. While Pikachu’s electrifying electric-type didn’t top the favorite type chart, it ranked as voters’ ‘third most favorite’ type.
A little-known fact is Pikachu is Ash’s only Electric-type Pokemon.
Out of the 50 other Electric-type Pokemon, Ash only opted to get Pikachu. It's hard to believe due to the variety of other Pokemon in the Electric category. After 20 seasons, Ash hasn’t even caught an Electabuzz or Magnemite.
Red, Ash’s Pokemon Adventures counterpart, also has a Pikachu as his only Electric-type. So much for catching them all.
6 Ash’s Pikachu is More Powerful Than Average
Ash’s Pikachu has some unique characteristics. It has an awkward love for Ketchup, but it’s also had some attributes that Pikachu doesn't have in the games. Ash’s Pikachu has proved itself to be more powerful several times in the anime. It even defeated a Raichu in the first handful of episodes.
Ash’s Pikachu, however, beat one legendary Pokemon and tied with another.
While the above is not impossible in the game, it’s not easy. Ash’s Pikachu used Volt Tackle to take down Battle Frontier chief Brandon’s Regice. Later, in the Sinnoh League Victors championships, Pikachu tied with trainer Tobias’ Latios by epically charging his way through Latias’ Luster Purge with Volt Tackle. After hitting Latios with Iron Tail, both Pokemon fainted.
The Pikachu in Pokemon Yellow is also considerably stronger than most.
5 Pikachu is Japan’s Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is incredibly popular. After his release in 1928, he is one of the most famous cartoon characters ever created. Mickey was also the first cartoon character to receive a star on the Walk of Fame. However, Mickey isn’t the only famous mouse in the world.
Pikachu is like Japan’s Mickey Mouse. Not only in Japan, but even in America, Pikachu rivals Mickey. Pikachu has had a balloon at the Macy’s Day Parade since 2001, with variations almost every year. In Time magazine, he was named second best person of the year in 1999.
In Japan, Pikachu is an even bigger icon. People are hired to go to public places like shopping malls and amusement parks dressed as Pikachu to entertain kids. That sounds like the best job ever.
4 Ash’s Pikachu Has A Name In The Manga
In the anime, we meet other Pikachu with names, like Sparky. However, Ash’s red-cheeked companion didn’t have an official name in the anime. It was likely to save the signature phrase “I choose you, Pikachu” from being something like “I choose you, Kanye!” But, Pikachu does receive a name in the manga.
In the second chapter of The Electric Tale of Pikachu, Ash and Misty are venturing along after Ash received the Pewter Gym badge. Misty asks Ash if he’s named his Pokemon and Ash happily responds with an introduction of Pikachu as “Jean-Luc Pikachu.” Pikachu seemed to recognize the name.
Pokemon knows how to toss in pop culture references, as Pikachu appeared in the panel with the Star Trek symbol on its chest. Maybe at one point, Pikachu was secretly Captain of the USS Enterprise.
3 Pikachu’s Voice Actress is Ikue Otani
Both anime and cartoons feature a small number of voice actors. Unlike top flight films, the animation space is more tight knit. Anime voice actor stars like Vic Mignogna (Edward Elric) and Junko Takeuchi (Naruto Uzumaki) have voiced handfuls of characters. Pikachu’s voice actress, Ikue Otani, is no different.
Ikue Otani has a knack for anime voices, including doing Tony Tony Chopper of One Piece and Konahamaru of Naruto. Ikue Otani voices not only Japanese Pikachu, but she voices the English Pikachu as well. Acting in both countries is a rarity in most cases.
Save for a few episodes here and there, Otani has voiced Pikachu for all of its appearances.
2 References in Pop Culture
With Pikachu’s popularity, it’s not a surprise that the electric mouse has received numerous pop culture call outs. Not only has he been in the Macy’s Day Parade and Time magazine, but he's also been mentioned and referenced in various TV Shows.
The TV show Top Gear once mentioned Pikachu, as he was compared to the Tato Nano Indian vehicle. On the show Heroes, one of the characters, Hiro Nakamura, was given the nickname Pikachu by another character to his dismay. Pikachu has also appeared on The Simpsons numerous times.
A spoof version of Pikachu, Ling Ling, is one of the main characters on Drawn Together. Wrap this all together with the fact that he’s appeared on an airplane and you’ve got a fictional star famous than many real ones.
1 Topeka Was Named ToPikachu For a Day
Pikachu is incredibly popular in Japan, the US, and worldwide, but the electric rat is the center of a town in the US: Topeka, Kansas.
Topeka served as the launch point for Pokemon when it came to the US in August 1998. In celebration and support of the franchise, the city named itself ToPikachu for a day. Pokemon Red and Blue were promoted heavily in the city. Slug Bugs were decorated to look like Pikachu and toured the U.S. to promote the games.
Although they did this in 1998, Topeka still heavily supports Pokemon and Pikachu. The Visit Topeka website features a Pokemon Go page that lists popular attractions with Pokestops.