In the West, when someone says Pokémon, you think about your favorite Pocket Monster, the cartoons, or the games themselves. The same goes for Japan, but there's something else that comes to mind. Make that, someone else.
Singer, model, and person-on-television Shoko Nakagawa has been involved with each consecutive Pokémon feature film since 2007's Pokémon: the Rise of Darkrai. She is the queen of Pokémon.
Nakagawa's popularity exploded in 2006, and she was able to cash in on her Akihabara fan base for mainstream celebrity, going on to appear on variety programs and in shampoo ads. Not bad for someone who only a year earlier was appearing at sparsely attended Ninety-Nine Nights press events in Japan.
Of course, regular Pokémon voice talent, such as Ikue Ohtani, appear in every single Pokémon flick and TV episode. They don't appear as hosts on programs like Pokémon Sunday and the show that followed it Pokémon Smash! Nakagawa does. On these programs, she talks about Pocket Monsters, the anime and the games.
She voiced the character Maki in that film. She appeared in the following year's Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior as a computer voice. But it was Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life that pushed Nakagawa front and center: she not only sang the theme song "Kokoro no Antenna", but she also voiced new Pokémon, Notch-Ear Pichu (that same year, she also sang the closing them on the television anime). In 2010, Pokémon Zoroark: Master of Illusions, Nakagawa voiced a purple-haired girl named "Proof", and this year, she has two roles in the upcoming Pokémon: Best Wishes! movies.
At a recent press event in Tokyo, Nakagawa recalled seeing Pokémon The First Movie
Mewtwo Strikes Back in 1998, and how the movie impacted her. "It moved me to tears," she said. "Even as an adult I haven't changed, and I get excited about each new Pokémon video game, anime, and movie."
Game Freak and Nintendo release a new Pokémon anime every year during summer vacation, and have, like clockwork, since 1998. The movies do gangbusters, and they are something each generation of kids look forward to. Even as some, like Nakagawa, become not only become adults, but collaborators.
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(Top photo: Game Freak)
Wish the recording quality was better.
Yes, I know this isn't Pokémon. But so what?