You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t recognize Pikachu. The electric mouse has burrowed his way into our collective unconscious. See a chipper, yellow creature with rosy cheeks, brown stripes and black accents and it’s the first thing that springs to mind. Pikachu!
But what many don’t realize is that the iconic mascot has evolved. I’m not saying we’ll be facing a Raichu infestation, though. Rather, the creature has gone from standard mascot to a Pikachu for every season. Cosplay Pikachu is the next big sensation for the series.
In-game, Cosplay Pikachu made her first appearance in Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby. She is given to the player as a gift after participating in a Pokemon Contest Spectacular and can has the Pikachu Belle, Libre, Ph.D, Pop Star and Rock Star personas. Each has a different special move associated with it and its costume, allowing the electric type to use moves like Draining Kiss (fairy), Electric Terrain (electric), Flying Press (fighting), Icicle Crash (ice) and Meteor Mash (steel). In terms of practicality, it isn’t as effective as a regular Pikachu. The character can’t evolve or use Eviolite, but it is extra adorable.
Cosplay Pikachu has gone on to appear in other forms of media since its game debut, though as a general Pikachu in cosplay instead of the one established in the Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby canon. Earlier this year, it appeared in the Pokemon Adventures: Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire manga, which is understandable. However, the group of five cosplayers appearing in the Pokemon XY anime was a little more unexpected. (But naturally, absolutely welcome!)
One has to wonder if the success of Cosplay Pikachu is why there has been a sudden proliferation of Pikachus in cosplay in real life. As of late, Pikachus in the most adorable attire have been appearing regularly at Pokemon Centers. Costumed characters aren’t exactly unorthodox, with many Pokemon Centers offering the plush in themed clothing over the years, the sudden regularity and expanded lineup is a more recent development.
The Charizard Pikachu is perhaps the most famous of these special plush. Created for the December 2014 reopening of the Tokyo Pokemon Center as the Tokyo Mega Pokemon Center, the result is a Pokemon wearing a Mega Charizard X or Y cowl, complete with wings and flaming tail. It sold out quickly, and led to additional cosplay Pikachu variants like the Magikarp and Gyrados Pikachus created for the opening of the Hiroshima Pokemon Center. Now it’s quite common to see the character wearing the skin of his brethren, with Zubat, Gengar, Duskull and Mismagius Pikachus appearing in the October Halloween Parade lineup. There was even a lottery at Japanese stores to attempt to get Pikachu plushes in Charizard, Eevee or Ekans-inspired sleeping bags.
Even the more standard cosplays are taking off, especially given the announcement this past March. It was then that the Pokemon Centers announced a line of Monthly Pikachu, starting with what is commonly referred to as Businessman or Intern Pikachu. Each month this year, a different limited edition plush is available, with Children’s Day, raincoat, festival, sailor, chef and artist-costumed critters released so far.
This is, of course, in addition to the plush Cosplay Pikachu toys released through the Pokemon Center thus far.
It certainly seems like there’s no limit to Pikachu’s fame now, especially given the latest Pokken Tournament announcement. In addition to the standard version of the character, Pikachu Libre will be part of the cast. It’s actually the luchador version of the character that debuted in Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby too, showing the critter has some legs.
I suppose we can always look at it this way. The only thing better than a standard Pikachu is a Cosplay Pikachu, and there won’t be any shortage of them any time soon.