Image: Oliver Barsby

The weird world of Pokémon merchandise

It was recently revealed that the Miramu hotel chain has a series of Pokémon-themed rooms in some of its buildings. It’s fun and a strange surprise, but it’s far from the weirdest place that Pokémon has appeared. The history of Pokémon merchandise is large, hugely varied, and at times, really bizarre. Here’s a look at some of the highs and lows.

Much of the Pokémon brand, the most valuable entertainment franchise ever, is made up of merchandise (to the tune of $67 billion). Indeed, the games and the TV series don’t contribute that much to a near $100 billion value. Toys and trading cards make up a sizeable chunk, and there’s surprising value in assorted sticker albums (I have a full Gold and Silver Pokédex Panini album, as my granddad ordered all the missing ones for me). 

Magazines and assorted books also contribute a lot, and the Pokémon manga books are big earners for Nintendo. In many ways, this is of little surprise. Pokémon is a phenomenon, and its world of the near 1000 Pokémon species lend themselves perfectly to mass merchandising.

When I was a kid, I had tons of Pokémon toys. I was very young when the first series of the anime came out, and when the world fell in love with Red and Blue. This meant that when it came to Christmas, the shops were full of Pokémon goodies.

If you can think of a product, it’s probably been Pikachu-ised

I had small figures, maybe an inch or two high, of some of the original 151 Pokémon – I believe you could get all of them, but we didn’t have that kind of money. Years later, we went to Greece, and they were flogging cheap knock-off Pokémon figures. I excitedly bought a bunch but, on reflection, some of them were terrifying. I wound up with a giant Lugia though, which was brilliant and could roar.

The Pokémon brand has never been shy to slap a Pikachu onto anything and everything. Books, toys, lamps, pillows and bedsheets, watches, furniture, piggy banks, clothes, sweets, golf bags, even a plane – if you can think of a product, it’s probably been Pikachu-ised.

It’s not just the Electric mouse, though, and there’s a lot of love shared among the first generation. Mewtwo, Charizard, Jigglypuff, Clefairy, the starter trio, and even Magikarp have their fair share of merchandise. One of my favourites is a Magikarp taiyaki press, shaping a traditional Japanese dessert into everyone’s favourite useless fish, although I also really like the Snorlax bean bag chair. It’s giant and, as it doesn’t move, it’s about the only thing to reflect its Pokémon accurately.

Not every Pokémon product is particularly good, however, and there’s a lot of rubbish that is either cheaply made or just not good.

You’ll be able to find a Pokémon product for literally every occasion and desire

There were some reversible plushies, intended to mimic the appeal of a cute Pokémon emerging for a Pokéball by turning it inside out. But it didn’t quite work, resulting in a lumpy Pokéball and a misshapen Pokémon that often fell the wrong side of cute and nightmarish.

The Pokémon name was applied to Nanoblocks, a building material that came and went in a summer – the cube look wasn’t too flattering for many of the Pokémon featured. I also have a Pokéball toy with a trigger mechanism inside – the idea was that, when it hit a Pokémon toy, it would close the ball, replicating a capture. In practice, getting it to do was near impossible, and it would snap off your fingers if you tried.

If you want to go truly weird, you need to look at fan-made merchandise – a trawl through the fan-made Pokémon stuff on eBay reveals some terrifying stuff. Did you ever think that knives or bongs needed the Pokémon branding? Well, you can buy them online. If you’re struggling in the cold, there’s even a charming Pokéball-themed penis sock. 

There’s a horrifying cake-topper, fashioned like a baby in a Pikachu outfit, and I honestly can’t even imagine the audience for it. If you subscribe to the theory that Dugtrio’s underground body is made of three muscular men, you can buy an unsettling sculpture of that. That’s as far into adult territory as I’ll go, but rest assured, you can find some pretty odd stuff.

Honestly, I’ve barely even scratched the surface of Pokémon merchandise – you’ll be able to find a product for literally every occasion and desire. Have a look if you’re a fan, but this is one time where I’d steer clear of trying to get ‘em all – your sanity and your wallet will thank me later.

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