Is Pikachu A Mouse? (Answered)
Pikachu's design is based on which real life animal? Here's what you need to know.
“What animal is Pikachu based on in real life?” is a question that most of us have wondered upon seeing the cute little electric Pokemon. Pikachu is one of the most popular Pokemon from the series and has been in video games since Pokemon Red and Blue (1996). It’s been a major character with presence in multiple games, the anime series, and even had a live-action film Detective Pikachu that’s all about the adorable rodent.
Since a lot of Pokemon characters are inspired by real animals, it raises the question – is Pikachu a mouse? On Wikipedia, it is called a yellow, mouse-like creature, and on Pokemon.com/Pokedex, it’s mentioned under the category of Mouse. But is it more of a mouse, a hamster, a rabbit, or a cross between all of these animals? The answer will shock you (sorry).
Is Pikachu a Mouse?
Ken Sugimori who is an art director of Game Freak, and Atsuko Nishida who illustrated Pikachu for Pokemon Red and Green talked about the Pikachu’s origin in 2018. The company’s guidelines for the character said that the Pokemon had to be cute, use electrical powers, and had to have the option to evolve twice.
Apart from this brief, the artist had freedom and so, Atsuko Nishida revealed that the real-life animal inspiration for Pikachu was not a mouse, but a squirrel. This was mainly because Nishida was obsessed with squirrels at that time, which inspired the puffed-up electric cheeks. After all, squirrels, as we know it, store food in their cheeks.
This information was shared in this interview in Japanese. It’s worth noting that the current version of Pikachu cannot evolve twice; it can only evolve to Raichu.
Fun Fact: Raichu was initially intended to evolve into Gorochu. There are several reasons it got scrapped, mainly because Pikachu was supposed to evolve only once. Another issue for Gorochu being scrapped is there wasn't enough space on the Gameboy Cartridge to add it.
Why is it named Pikachu?
It was revealed by series producer Satoshi Tajiri that the word Pikachu has been derived from a combination of two Japanese onomatopoeia – ピカピカ (pikapika) which is a sparkling sound perfect for an electrical Pokemon, and チューチュー (chūchū) which is the sound of a mouse. This, most likely, ended up creating the sentiment in the minds of Pokemon fans that Pikachu is indeed a mouse.
Going even further back to the origins, it’s revealed that the original design of Pikachu was based on a Daifuku which is a Japanese sweet treat. It was shaped like a vertically long Daikfuku with ears growing out of it. As per the interview, once the Daifuku-like monster was completed, Nishida gave it the name Pikachu.
She said, “I didn’t give it too much thought while naming it, but since it had an electric attribute, I added the word “pika” to indicate electricity. ‘Chu’ wasn’t meant to be a mouse, but I wonder what the reason was…Anyway, the name Pikachu came first, and from there, it became a mouse. I was drawn to the name and became a mouse. I’m sure it was the company president (Satoshi Tajiri) who decided on the idea of an “electric mouse.”
It’s also important to note that there’s no onomatopoeia for a squirrel’s sound in Japanese. According to the wiki page of Atsuko Nishida, Pikachu was later changed to a mouse by Satoshi Tajiri which explains why Pokedex has it under the Mouse category.
So, is Pikachu a mouse? In a nutshell, the original design is based on a squirrel but then it was changed to a mouse as indicated by the Pokedex data.