10th Anniversary of Pokemon in Japan
posted on by George Phillips
In April, 1997, Pokemon premiered in Japan. Next month marks the 10 year anniversary since its broadcast premiere, and Rica Matsumoto has been performing the role of Satoshi the entire time.
Speaking to Yomiuri Shinbun, she said, "It's been 10 years, hasn't it? But, it doesn't feel it's been that long. It's like Satoshi and I are doing this together. From the beginning, I wanted to perform, and I knew I wanted to do work that let others have fun."
Beginning in her late teens, and under the guidance of her father, the chairman of a stage troupe, she began working in theatrical productions. As she continued to work in stage productions, she became ill with tuberculosis. It took a long time to recover, and in that time, friends and colleagues suggested other ways she could perform, such as voice acting. She auditioned for a 1988 TV series called Osomatsu-kun, and thus started her voice acting career. In the late 90s, she saw an audition for the role of Satoshi, which was only described as "A young boy's voice, that is also a singer."
"Satoshi is always coming up with funny things to say, such as 'Pajama wa jama' (Pajamas are a menace!), as well as lots of gags. It's what attracted me to the type of character."
When the Pokemon broadcast began, the games increased the show's popularity. Initial ratings on TV Tokyo were 10.2%, but increased to 18.6% by November, the highest-rated show on the network at the time. The first Japanese Pokemon theme song, "Mezase Pokemon Master!" ("Arise, Pokemon Master!") sold over 1.8 million CDs. But then, a disaster occurred -- in December 1997, Pokemon rose to international attention when bright flashes during "Electric Soldier Porygon" caused epileptic seizures in hundreds of children. During a 4-month nationwide suspension of the show, there were sporadic gatherings of fans, some of whom sang the theme song.
"The children's eyes were shining. Everyone sang the theme song. They wanted the show to start broadcasting again; it was a thought from the heart."
Pokemon returned to television the following April and has been airing ever since. The third Pokemon series, "Diamond/Pearl" began airing last September. In North America, Europe and beyond, more than 68 countries are airing Pokemon or its sequel series. Beyond the TV screen, the 10th Pokemon movie is also set to premiere in Japan this year. To commemorate the 10th anniversary, a series of events are planned. On March 29th, a one-hour special will air on TV Tokyo. The following week, April 5th will feature a 2-hour special.
Matsumoto finished by saying, "Knowing that children are happy about Pokemon makes me glad. To everyone who likes Pokemon, I hope you continue to enjoy it!"
Source: Yomiuri Online (Japanese)