Probably the most famous Manga cartoon in the world, Pokemon began life as the brainchild of Satoshi Tajiri, a Japanese game designer who used to catch insects and tadpoles as a boy.
He started a computer game studio called Game Freak and, remembering his childhood hobby, he set about developing Pokemon (which means Pocket Monsters in Japanese) in his spare time, although originally it was called Capsule Monsters. He pitched it to Nintendo several times, though incredibly, in light of it’s enormous success now, they turned it down.
He tinkered with it continuously and tried again, this time getting a friend of his, Shigero Miyamoto to pitch it, which was a good move as he managed to get the approval needed from the gaming giant. He then spent five years finishing the first game, a painful process for him that very nearly bankrupted Game Freak.
He lost almost all of his staff as he couldn’t afford to pay them and worked on doing most of the coding himself.
Finally, the first Pokemon games were released for the Nintendo Game Boy at the end of February in 1996, Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green. After some clever marketing of a hidden Pokemon in the games, the first Legendary Pokemon, Mew; sales picked up and Pokemon Blue was released shortly thereafter which fixed a few issues in the game as well.
With interest among Japanese youth steadily increasing, Pokemon Trading Cards were brought out in October of the same year, and an Anime series in April of 1997. It was this cartoon that, when exported to the West around 1999 and re-dubbed in English, gave the franchise a huge new market and quickly became very popular in England and America.
Personally, I was unaware of all these developments until 2004, at the very height of the first wave of Pokemon popularity, when my six year-old son began collecting the trading cards.
They were a couple of pounds for eight of them, I recall, and he would swap them with his friends at school. He would tell me about the different monsters and their powers, how some were more rare than others and therefore more valuable.
I noticed that some of the cards weren’t monsters, there were several that had the same design on them headed Energy cards, some called Trainer cards and others that seemed to be different kinds of Item cards. Realising that there was a game that could be played with them, I did a bit of research and bought a starter deck of sixty cards. There was a set of rules included in the box which were quite simple and I taught my kid to play.