Original Pokémon Artwork Rediscovered Decades Later

The Pokémon series has been around for a long time, maintaining its popularity with general audiences for decades. Many fans of the Pokémon series have grown up trying to catch them all across multiple generations of the games and iterations of the franchise. But did you know we never saw the original Pokémon watercolor artwork from Ken Sugimori as it was intended to be seen? The way you’ve known how Pokémon looked back in the 90s may have been very different than you remember.

Luckily for fans of the Pokémon world, YouTuber and archivist Lewtwo has a thread of recently unearthed original Pokémon artwork from the late 90s. When Pokémon was released in the West for North America, the original artwork that was used for any kind of advertising of the series was scanned and came out discolored from its original look. The scans that most people saw were often washed out of their original color and not fully accurate to the Ken Sugimori source material.

While posting on Twitter, Lewtwo shared images that were provided to him by software developer Christopher Wells, also known as ExcaliburZero. The artwork in its original form comes from a Japanese guide and includes the original 251 Pokémon from the Gen 1 and Gen 2, which covers Pokémon Red, Blue, Gold, and Silver.

Speaking with Kotaku for an interview, Lewtwo spoke about why these new scans are so significant to preserving the legacy of the Pokémon series. “You can literally see all of Sugimori’s imperfections with the tools he used, right down to the way the watercolor bleeds in and around the line art, to the point we’re convinced that this is the closest we will ever get in being able to scan the original piece… The scans of this artwork were remarkably poor, and every source we found appeared to have largely stretched or misshapen art, which stemmed from the sources themselves, and not even from poor scan quality…”

The biggest reason why the poor scans of the Pokémon artwork circulated around in the West for so long was because it was used for various advertisements and extra media. Everything from magazine ads to posters, and other marketing material during the late 90s when Pokémon was so incredibly popular among young audiences. Many who grew up during then have always had their view of what classic Pokémon generations looked like, and now this gives them a chance to revisit that era and see it all in a new way they never saw before.

With the massive amounts of images sent to Lewtwo, he’s taken on the long process of scanning all images of the 251 Pokemon and uploading them to an asset archive. At the same time, Lewtwo is working in collaboration with places like Bulbapedia to upload better versions of the artwork to their website, restoring the original pieces for everyone to see. Accomplishing this is going to take a long time, which Lewtwo predicts may take months to get through. While there was some concern among Pokémon fans that the artwork we’ve seen originally for years will be erased, Lewtwo ensured everyone that won’t be happening.

“We understand the backlash—that people have an affinity for the way the artwork has always looked to them, but our priority has always been preserving how this art is supposed to look as much as possible… I never grew up with these guides so I can’t really relate, but the inaccurate versions will always exist on Bulbapedia’s file history for those that want them there… We’re all trying to do the best we can, and we appreciate all of the nice, patient comments so far. It means the world to us to see people excitedly asking what their favorite classic Pokémon was supposed to look like with this level of care and attention.”

Are you a big fan of the Pokémon series and grew up with the first few generations of games? Will you be checking out all the new versions of the Ken Sugimori artwork that is being shared online? Post a comment down below and share your thoughts about everything!

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