After 25 years, many first-generation Pokémon are as recognizable to millennials as they are to their children. This is partly thanks to a post-2016 revival inspired by the mobile game “Pokémon Go” and movie “Detective Pikachu.”
But the franchise’s success is about more than clever marketing — it is the result of unique characters universal enough to cross cultures and diverse enough to make catching ’em all a challenge.
Their origins trace back to Pokémon’s creator Tajiri Satoshi, whose childhood love of collecting bugs inspired a game with a strikingly similar premise. Most of the individual designs were the work of illustrator Ken Sugimori.
The two worked together on the magazine Game Freak, eventually growing into the games company behind Pokémon. As the firm’s art director, Sugimori brought his collaborator’s vision to life, complete with individual lines of evolution and fictional genuses, like grass- or dragon-type Pokémon.