Pokémon's Burning Questions
Pokémon just got a huge influx of new fans thanks to the release of Pokémon Go, which is a great excuse to share this feature from November 2012 where we asked Takao Unno and Junichi Masuda (who have each served as director, producer, composer, and programmer on assorted Pokémon titles) all our burning questions about the series. To be honest, it will likely confuse new fans more than help them, but it's one of our favorite interviews we're excited to have an excuse to share it again.
What’s really going in inside of a Pokéball? Can humans eat Rare Candy? Is everyone in the world of Pokémon a vegetarian? We asked Pokémon Black and White 2’s director and producer all the questions you’ve always wanted the answers to.
Takao Unno has been with Gamefreak for a decade. Typically, he serves as art director, but for Black and White 2, he is the overall director. Junichi Masuda (pictured below) has been with Gamefreak since the company’s inception, and he is the producer on Black and White 2.
What exactly happens inside of a Pokéball? Is there a home in there? Is there food in there? And can humans go in a Pokéball?
Masuda: It sure would be interesting if Pokéballs existed in real life, and we haven’t imagined that. But, in terms of what’s inside of the Pokéball, it’s a space that’s incredibly comfortable for Pokémon. So comfortable, that they want to enter the Pokéball without any sort of outside encouragement. What’s actually in there is something we would like for people to sort of imagine on their own. In terms of whether humans can enter the Pokéball or not, it’s called a Pokéball, so probably not. I think it’s just for Pokémon.
There is a rumor that in the original Pokémon games, versions Red and Blue, that the Pokémon Ditto was a failed attempt at cloning a Mew. I was wondering if you could speak to this, to whether or not it’s true.
Masuda: That’s the first time I have ever hear that rumor actually.
Is that your only answer?
Masuda: In terms of how Pokémon are designed, they are each their own unique living being. The unique thing about Ditto is that it’s a Pokémon that can change forms, but each Pokémon we create with its own unique element, so we just make sure that they are all individual life forms of their own.
Is everyone in the world of Pokémon a vegetarian? Do people eat Pokémon? When they are eating steak are they eating a Tauros?
Masuda: There’s a lot of fruits and vegetables in the world of Pokémon. There is also a variety of snacks and various candies and whatnot that come from the different regions. The Pokémon world is much more technologically advanced than the world of our own, so perhaps there is probably a lot of different food that we can’t even think of.
One example of that is there is even a Rare candy which is an actual snack or piece of candy that can make you stronger, raise your level. There are all kinds of strange food that really doesn’t exist in our universe.
It’s funny you bring up Rare Candy, because my next question is, can humans eat Rare Candy, and what happens if they do?
Masuda: You probably could eat a rare candy as a human, but it might not taste very good. It might be kind of like, an example of our world, a human eating dog food. It’s edible, but it probably doesn’t taste very good. You might hurt your stomach by doing so.
What happens when a gym leader runs out of badges to give away? Are they fired?
Unno: The gym leaders, they’re primarily there because they have a strong desire to help trainers grow and really identify the good trainers. They only give badges to trainers who they have recognized as being strong of heart and a strong battler as well. So, they definitely don’t quit when they run out of badges if they were to run out of badges. The only time they would quit or stop being a gym leader is when perhaps their ideals change or they want to do something else in life.
And if a gym leader were able to actually give out so many badges to so many great trainers that they ran out of them, they would probably be overjoyed by that fact, that there were so many great trainers that came to challenge them.
We know the names of the regions in all the different games. We know the geography of the regions kind of mirror Japan and the United States. Our question is, does Pokémon take place on an alternate Earth, or is it in the future, or in the past, or is it an alternate present?
Masuda: We actually don’t think of the world of Pokémon as Earth. If we were to do that, we would kind of be limited by what we could do. By thinking about how physical objects work on Earth and how various elements work on Earth, we would kind of be limited to that if we though of it as Earth. We think of it as a place that is really similar to Earth, but is a different planet of its own with people in it who may be similar to people on Earth, but they have different values so they care about different things.
It’s the type of place, the Pokémon world, where problems we face on Earth just wouldn’t happen. There wouldn’t be global warming, water shortages, or anything like that. It’s a world where the people in it really want to work together with each other. Their value system is such where they would prefer to work together and eliminate these problems rather than feud.
Read on to find out how the TV show really fits with the video games, and what happens to trainers who live on the wrong side of the world.
So, there isn’t war in the world of Pokémon where armies of Pokémon are fighting for the ideals of their leaders?
Masuda: Long ago, there may have been wars. Actually, if you look at one of the movies featuring the character Lucario, there are maybe some hints about the past of the Pokémon world.
Speaking of the movies and consequently the TV show, do the cartoons and the movies and the video games overlap? Is that all one Pokémon world, or are they two separate universes?
Masuda: basically it’s the same place. Looking at it as a parallel world, or in some select spots being a parallel world might be more accurate.
Are there worker Pokémon in the world of Pokémon? Are there swaths of Pikachus powering a city?
Masuda: Pokémon as creatures, are much closer to – they’re not like how our pets are on Earth – they’re much closer to humans than they are to like a cat or a dog pet that we would keep on Earth. Because there is such a closer relationship between humans and Pokémon, most people in the Pokémon world probably wouldn’t want to use Pokémon in such a manner as making them work to do something. But, there are some people with bad ideals, or bad people in the Pokémon world who might try to do something like that.
In the same way humans in our world are a type of animal, are humans in the Pokémon world a form of Pokémon?
Masuda: Humans are definitely separate from Pokémon. The way you think about it is different than how we think about animals in relation to humans on Earth. For example, on Earth we have mammals and reptiles all these different categories. In the world of Pokémon, they are all Pokémon. We don’t really categorize them in exactly that way. It’s kind of a different way of looking at it. So yeah, humans are definitely separate from Pokémon. For example, humans can’t learn four different moves like a Pokémon can.
How do Pokémon Centers work? Are they applying bandages and traditional medicine, or is it more like recharging a battery?
Masuda: The kind of expression of how the recovery aspect works is a little bit different in the games and the animated series. In the games you go to the Pokémon centers and your Pokémon are instantly recovered, instantly healed. In terms of the games at least, there is some kind of amazing device, amazing machine that instantly recovers Pokémon, and I wish I could use that machine myself right now.
Unno: There are more traditional styles of recovery, like the potions and whatnot, various recovery items that exist in the game as well. There are definitely a variety of recovery methods in the Pokémon world.
Don’t trainers who start their adventure in a town far away from the player’s home town have a difficult time starting because of the high level Pokémon and trainers in the area?
Masuda: If it were me, I would think about moving somewhere else, definitely.
In the original Super Smash Bros., one of the Pokéballs releases a Goldeen that flops around and does nothing. Was that a mistake? Shouldn’t it have been a Magikarp?
Masuda: The director of the original Smash Bros. game, Sakurai-san, when first developing that game he came in and talked to us about which Pokémon to include. Thinking of it that way, we don’t think there was any mistake about which Pokémon were included. As to why it behaved in that way, you’d have to ask Sakura-son.
For more on Pokémon with Masuda and Unno, check out our original interview.