Illustration: Pokémon (Nintendo)

One question has always haunted me during my years playing Pokémon. If people eat meat in the Pokémon universe, and there are no other animals that players see or interact with but Pokémon, what are they eating? Series director Junichi Masuda says not even he knows.

Masuda has worked on every single Pokémon game at Game Freak, so when I recently went to a press event to ask him about Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, I saw my chance to finally get an answer to my burning question.

When I started playing Pokémon games as a child, it didn’t even cross my mind that people would eat Pokémon, but some inconsistencies in the anime piqued my interest. In early installments of the anime which began in 1997, you’d see Ash and his friends eat meat. Sometimes they’d have a big leg of ambiguous animal meat, other times a hamburger. My coworker Cecilia D’Anastasio sent me this image of Brock and Ash daydreaming about Magikarp Sashimi today, and while I cannot confirm which episode this came from, it’s sometimes referenced as proof that people do in fact eat Pokémon. I also think it’s just horrifying to look at. Don’t do this to Magikarp!

Screenshot: Pokémon (OLM, Inc.)

As the show went on, though, these references to meat eating and real world animals diminished, probably because the creators realized they’d disturbed enough children like me. In Pokémon fandom, the anime, especially the early installments, are not strictly considered canon. Even if Ash eats a Pokéburger, that might not mean they eat Pokébabs in Alola.

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The games are more ambiguous about whether or not Pok√©mon are okay to eat. There are instances of people consuming Pok√©mon by-products in the Pok√©mon games. When the Pok√©mon Miltank was introduced in Pok√©mon Gold and Silver, its Pok√©dex entry reads, ‚ÄúIt is widely known that drinking Miltank milk when you‚Äôre young helps you grow up to be strong and healthy.‚ÄĚ In many games, Pok√©mon poachers also cut off the tails of Slowpokes and sell them, as they‚Äôre apparently considered a delicacy. Cutting off Slowpoke tails to sell them was what Team Skull was getting up to in Pok√©mon Sun and Moon. Even more confusingly, Pok√©mon are often described in the Pok√©dex in relation to animals we‚Äôre familiar with. Pikachu, for instance, is the described as similar to a mouse, even though you‚Äôll never see a mouse in a Pok√©mon game. But do people actually eat Pok√©mon like you and I would eat a steak?

When I asked Masuda what kind of meat people in the Pok√©mon universe eat, he laughed and said, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm actually curious about that as well.‚ÄĚ If someone with such a fundamental role in shaping the Pok√©mon world doesn‚Äôt know, maybe we never will. Or maybe Masuda is trying to shield Pok√©mon fans about a harsh truth about the survival of the fittest.