Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
13 November 2018updated 23 Jul 2021 10:32am

Something horrible has happened to poor little Pikachu

He’s undergone a hideous transformation. Oh, and also, he’s a detective. Didn’t you see the deerstalker perched inexplicably on his remarkably flat head?

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Something horrible has happened to everyone’s favourite Pokémon. Cute little cartoon Pikachu has undergone a hideous transformation.

His bulky, hirsute form wobbles as he struggles forward on what suddenly seem pathetically small feet, impeding any possibility for easy movement. His brow is ravaged by the deep furrows produced by a long and cruel life. The blush on his cheeks, now noticeably, perfectly spherical, looks like forcibly applied dye, raising worrying questions about Pokémon-human relations. And long gone are the melodic “Pika pika!” squeaks of yore: now, Pikachu sounds like a thrice-engaged, heavy-drinking, 40-something motorcycle enthusiast who calls everybody “buddy”.

Oh, and also, he’s a detective. Did’t you see the deerstalker perched inexplicably on his remarkably flat head?

Welcome to the disturbing world of Detective Pikachu, a very real film with a very real trailer released this weekend. With Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds, this is the very first live-action film in the Pokémon universe.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Pikachu isn’t the only Pokémon to have received the hyper-detailed 3D treatment: we see a bristly, wide-billed Psyduck, a monstrous, scaly Charizard, a glassy-eyed, tiny-mouthed, and apparently balding Jigglypuff with a hairless face but a long, curly mane. Most disturbing of all is a fleshy, lipless Mr Mime. Tragically missing eyebrows and nose, he has human freckles, and a hint of wispy, downy hair on his head. Are those gloves? Or shoes? Or just his textured body??

Content from our partners
Why ports are the gateway to growth
We are living longer than our predecessors – policy must catch up
Getting Britain building

If you’re seeing this and screaming WHY, I can only offer you some answers. Taking Pokémon and drawing them incredibly realistically has long been a lively arena of fan art: like these ones from London-based artist Josh Dunlop. Clearly, that community has been an inspiration for this film: one of these artists, RJ Palmer, told Kotaku he got a job on Detective Pokémon after producers found his art by googling “realistic Pokémon”. The only thing creepier than the finished producted are the prototype models.

Comparing the … animals? to those in Fantastic Beasts, director Rob Letterman told IGN, “They’re technically, some of the most high-end visual effects in the world. It’s completely photorealistic, like they are alive and in the movie.”

“It’s exactly how I wanted to see the Pokémon portrayed when I was a little kid,” lead human actor Justice Smith said. To which I can only ask: why? Why did you want to see Mr Mime debased this way? Who hurt you?

More questions spring to mind. How did these sad creatures come in to being? It is now clear that they are evolutionary impossibilities. Why have they been subjugated for so long? How do they survive in a gruelling urban environment? For now, these questions remain unanswered. But our voices will be heard.