Hidden Gems: Pocket Monsters the Manga

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Have you ever wanted to see a Clefairy light a fart off of a Charmander’s tail to complete an act of destructive arson?
What if that same Clefairy successfully distracted a meditating martial arts master by showing him girly magazines?image8 (1)
Well rookie mangaka Kosaku Anakubo has had you covered since before the Pokemon anime had even begun.
Anakubo, his daughter, and his cat who makes frequent appearances in his manga.

Anakubo, his daughter, and his cat who makes frequent appearances in his manga.

Let’s lay down some background, the year is 1996. In February a set of two almost identical video games were released by Nintendo and indie developers GameFreak that would forever change the face of gaming. Two months later in April, the games have been selling like hot cakes (do hot cakes really sell so well?) and the forces that be have decided that the time has come: a manga tie in, merchandising, the whole nine yards. For Kosaku Anakubo, who had not written or illustrated any groundbreaking or highly popular manga previously, this was the big moment. April’s second volume of CoroCoro, a weekly manga magazine that was highly popular among young boys in Japan, would feature the first issue of his soon to be breakout hit: Pocket Monsters, titled simply after the video games from which it was based.
Little did Anakubo know, this manga would be his bread and butter for twenty years and counting, though it would see very little international success. Pocket Monsters, still running in CoroCoro magazine today, was only translated three times: in Indonesia, Taiwan, and briefly in English for the manga market in Singapore, none of which translated more than a handful of volumes. There was a fairly simple reason why so few international publishers were willing to take a chance on the manga, despite the overwhelming success of nearly everything that bore the Pokemon name: the manga was incredibly vulgar.
Pocket Monsters as a manga has all of the elements that make a solid fit in the shounen genre: action, humor, and a plot line that can continue unhindered until the end of time. However, like the early manga of Akira Toriyama, Pocket Monsters relies heavily on potty humor and one particular foul-mouthed character; in the case of Pocket Monsters this is Red’s starter Pokemon: Pippi, or Clefairy (that’s right, you heard me: STARTER POKEMON CLEFAIRY, and for the sake of all of our sanity I will be using US Pokemon names from here on out). Since this manga was released months before the Pokemon anime went into development, the idea that Pokemon could only speak their own names had not become popular canon yet (a concept that was of course never mentioned in the course of the video games), therefore the majority of the Pokemon featured in the manga speak human languages.
To illustrate the premise of the manga, it’s probably time for us to do a character breakdown:


For starters we have Red, the titular character of the video game Pokemon Red, a young child who is starting on his Pokemon Journey for the first time and is ready to receive a starter from Doctor Okido (that’s Professor Oak for the unitiated to the Japanese version), per the plot of the video game. On his way to Okido’s laboratory, Red is attacked by a group of wild Pokemon and by happenstance rescued by a clumsy wild Clefairy.

Clefairy begins as a wild Pokemon, but after wandering into Doctor Okido’s laboratory during Red’s selection process, finds himself selected as Red’s starter Pokemon, over the traditional choices of Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle. This Clefairy, who of course speaks Japanese, has the personality of a somewhat perverted old man, a common characterization in Japanese Manga.
Despite the fact that Pikachu‘s popularity had not yet been cemented into the psyche of the entire world, the character makes an early appearance in this manga. Pikachu’s appearance is often attributed to the decision to make Pikachu Ash’s starter Pokemon in the anime, the cute yellow rodent saw a fan following early on in part due to this particular manga. Red and Clefairy steal Pikachu from Takeshi (or Brock), the first Gym Leader’s collection after a tough and ridiculous battle against his Onyx.
Beyond the common changes to the Pokemon anime canon and common mythos that I have already addressed, there are more fun tidbits in the first few issues due to the fact that what was to become canon in Pokemon had not been fully addressed and Anakubo was essentially given free reign with the series. There are scenes of Pokemon entirely of Anakubo’s own design, as well as misdrawn Pokemon like a three-eyed Persian.
In one of the most popular parts of the manga, early on in the second issue, Red and Clefairy come across and are taunted by a wild Mewtwo who is hanging out just north of Masaru (Pallet) Town for literally no reason (clearly Anakubo has not taken time to study the journals on Cinnabar Island). Later on, after the canon had settled, these inconsistencies with are not particularly addressed, they simply fade out of use in the manga. Despite all of this the manga often had special edition issues to coincide with Pokemon Theatrical releases, including the first movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back.
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Pocket Monsters the Manga (as it is frequently called to differentiate between this particular manga and the entire franchise) has run non-stop in CoroCoro magazine since its initial inception in April 1996. It has seen multiple incarnations to continue with the theme of the video games, thirteen volumes were released of the original series, followed by six volumes of Pocket Monsters Ruby-Sapphire, five volumes of Pocket Monsters DP (try bringing that title up in polite conversation), two volumes of Pocket Monsters HGSS, four volumes of Pocket Monsters BW, and four volumes so far in the currently running series Pocket Monsters XY. This extensive run makes Pocket Monsters the longest running Pokemon manga based on start date, and since it is still going strong in the hearts of Japanese fans it looks like it is not about to give up that title any time soon.
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It’s unlikely that this manga will ever be officially adapted for Western Audiences, which means that it will always live in that twilight category of hidden gems, but for fans willing to give it a shot in raw Japanese it can usually readily be found courtesy of second hand manga resellers, and the current series Pokemon XY can be purchased from Kinokuniya Bookstores both online and at their nine US Stores.

Who’s that Pokemon!?

Could this manga be as vulgar as I have already described and shown? Oh, I assure you that it is all that vulgar and more. However, as vulgar as it is, Pocket Monsters the Manga is equally hilarious. To finish off, lets take a look at some of the best visual gags of the early volumes of the series:

Kosaku Anakubo, you keep doing what you’re doing, shine on you crazy diamond.

Don’t forget to stay tuned to Ace of Geeks all week for your bonkers Pokemon fix! The celebration isn’t coming to a close until the fat genetically-spliced Clefairy-Mewtwo sings!


Luke Farr
Excessively hoarding tumblrs, Luke Farr, sometimes called Horatio, lives in a twilight world of overcaffeination, Star Wars, Japanese Professional Wrestling, and Pokemon. Curator of the world's largest Mewtwo collection, and owner of more than two pairs of pants, Luke is more of an adult cat than an adult human being. You can find Luke reposting complete trash at any of the following tumblrs: StargaySG1, Reliquary-150, ItsaMeMulder, HoratioLikesToys, MayorofTattooine, FuckYeahEventHorizon, DanshokuDieno, or MoreLikeCoelacan.

2 thoughts on “Hidden Gems: Pocket Monsters the Manga

    • The older issues are out of print in Japan, however the manga is still being published in Coro Coro magazines and the books from XY are typically still available at book stores that carry current Japanese Language books. Otherwise they occasionally show up on websites like eBay or Rakuten. Hope that helps!

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