The Death Rumours That Plague Pokémon

During the 1960s, rumours circulated that Beatle Paul McCartney was dead. He wasn't, and even today, is still very much alive. These days, it's not just rock stars who are plagued with death rumours, but oddly, those connected to Pokémon.

Over the weekend, a rumour surfaced that Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokémon died during the March 11 earthquake in Japan. The rumour started on Twitter, which is quickly becoming the internet's equivalent for junior high school in regards to how quickly rumours start and spread.

Of course, Tajiri did not die, and the tacky rumour was quickly refuted by Nintendo, who told Kotaku it was "false", adding that "everyone at the Pokemon Company and Gamefreak is fine."

This wasn't the first person of late connected to Pokémon whose demise was rumoured online. Last summer, Pikachu voice-actress Ikue Otani was rumoured to have passed away - something quickly proven false when her talent agency told us that Otani was "healthy" and "fine".

A quick search of mainstream Japanese media tends to show these rumours are bunk. While Otani or Tajiri are not household names in Japan by any stretch, their untimely demise would most certainly merit national news coverage on either the country's Japanese or English newspapers.

But why those connected to Pokémon? Pokémon itself, is prime urban legend fodder - whether it be the creepy (and totally fake) Pokémon Black or the banned (and totally real) seizure-inducing Pokémon cartoon episode.

One reason could be related to the pop cultural importance of Pocket Monsters. Everyone knows Pokémon — even those who have never played it or seen the anime. Thus, it'll get more traction than other games or cartoons. Also, because those working on Pokémon are somewhat famous, but not superstars, there is an air of believability to the rumours, helping them spread via things like Twitter. These rumours, however, are like the countless entertainment rumours of the 1970s and 1980s - ones that, however, were often far seedier.

Just because it happened to Pokémon and in Japan, doesn't make it real. Remember, Paul isn't dead - not by a damn sight.

Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome - game related and beyond.


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