A Closer Look at the Satoshi Tajiri Biographical Manga

On May 17th, 2018, Game Freak designer James Turner (the creator of Pokémon like Vanillite, Golurk, and Poipole) tweeted pictures of a few excerpts from the then-recently published manga about Satoshi Tajiri’s life and the creation of Game Freak. Interestingly enough, despite claims from the developers that most of the documentation about the first two Pokémon games either never existed or was lost to time, one of the panels in this manga contains a look at an internal poll during development.
Our curiosity piqued, the Helix Chamber team – made up of translators, coders, people who know random trivia about the franchise, nerds, magnification wizards, you name it – gathered together, obtained a copy of the manga, scanned everything, and were able to unearth quite a lot of information.

At first glance, this is a chart with a few things that aren’t found in the first Pokémon games (B), and a bunch of mysterious, warped monsters peering out from a skewed grid in the bottom panel (A).
Along with the Pokémon charts, there’s also a table with votes and a results sheet (B). All three of these documents were made for one of the several popularity polls (人気投票) that Game Freak held periodically in order to rate their Pokémon designs and help decide which monsters would be in the final game.

The first poll was reportedly held in October of 1992, when the crew surprisingly voted Exeggutor in as their favorite. However, the second place shown in the manga ( 1 – Exeggutor, 2 – Chansey, 3 – Clefairy) doesn’t match with the first poll records, which reported Slowbro in second place. These were mentioned in the book by Akihito Tomisawa about the history of Game Freak:
“ゲームフリーク ―遊びの世界標準を塗り替えるクリエイティブ集団”, published by Media Factory, page 106-7. This poll was also mentioned by Morimoto’s ingame character in Pokémon Sun and Moon. (The first poll account is pretty interesting, and we’ll report it below…).
This leads us to hypothesize that the Tajiri manga poll was not the first one held; instead, the poll was held either in the last months of 1992 or in 1993.

THE POPULARITY POLLS

On the left side of panel B, we can see a page titled “Popularity Poll Results Announcement” (人気投票結果発表);  this piece of paper covering up the grid is the internal poll results, listing the winners and the number of votes that each one got. We’ve also been able to guess the top 31 by cross-referencing the material, albeit restoring the exact 11-20 order is not possible, unfortunately.

Even on the surface level, this manga is a revealing look inside the development of Game Freak’s hit franchise.

Pokémon Charts and the Missingno.

Here’s what we’ve got out of the four panels used for the internal poll, complete with a thorough restoration of panel A. Please note that in the actual manga, these images are super small and warped, We’re talking less than 5cm for every table.(A full hi-res raw restoration of the tables is available for download here )

Now, some people might recognize the numbers on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sheet matching the Internal ID order, which is the order in which Pokémon are organized within Red and Green’s programming. Unlike Generation II onwards, the Pokémon are not listed in Pokédex order. The first sheet follows the cry data order instead – more on that later.
Some Pokémon are marked with triangles and circles, which are commonly used in Japan for ranking, with best-to-worst being: ◎ ◯ △ × , where the double circle is perfect, and the triangle means that it needs improvement.
As a side note, in the final RG games, there are several sprites which don’t look like they were made directly by any individual credited artist. Instead, they look rather hastily scaled down. There is some evidence supporting that they did this within the poll; someone thought to re-proportion Pokémon who had received an evolution later in development. These sprites in the final games were already pretty blatantly rescaled, even before the evidence was solid enough. Some others were at least re-polished or re-drawn from scratch, like Venonat and Krabby. We also have evidence that a couple of bigger sprites were reworked into their respective evolutions (Doduo, Krabby).

POKÉMON ANALYSIS

Bios for everything here! Deleted or massively changed Pokémon are highlighted in blue. Once again, the Internal index order so you can follow along and the unused cries so you can listen along.

Block 1 doesn’t follow or even use index numbers. Instead, Pokémon are marked with a circled number that differs from the order in which they were programmed. These numbers instead match up with a different data list in the game, that being the cry data index. Each cry base (or melody) has a different hex value in the code. For example, Nidoran’s is 0x00 (decimal 0), Spearow’s is 0x10 (decimal 16), and Rhydon’s is 0x11 (decimal 17).
Note that the decimal values are exactly one less than the numbers with which these Pokémon were marked on the sheet. Blastoise, Pinsir and Tangela are way off, since they are marked with 35-37 instead of the expected 19-21.

The meaning of this is yet to be determined, but we suspect that it has to do either with their cries originally having a different hex value or some sort of Pokémon index number reordering later on. More insights about that in our new Game Informer documents analysis.

Open image in new tab to get the full resolution scan. Pokémon labelled with letters can’t reasonably be assigned an ID.

37 モンジャラ
MONJARA
TANGELA
CIRCLED
Tangela is largely the same as the final, but it’s 18 slots off from the expected 19 in the cry index order. Tangela is circled, so it won a place on the poll between 11 and 20.
36? ?イロ?
??IRO??
PINSIR
CIRCLED.
Only able to be identified via its foot and raised arm, Pinsir could have a different name than the final “Kairos” (It could possibly be “Yairos” , but the text is too distorted to be read clearly). We believe Tangela-Pinsir-Blastoise formed a block that was moved around quite a bit in the early stages. It won a place on the poll between 11 and 20.
A ??? This Pokémon is entirely cut off and could literally be anything.
35 カラバジオ
CARAVAGGIO
BLASTOISE
NOT RANKED.
Named Caravaggio like in Capsule Monsters
 (Possibly a TMNT joke by Sugimori, as James
Turner also confirmed to be possible), Blastoise also appears nearly identical and several slots removed from its current place in the cry index order, like Tangela.
Its sprite seems to be identical to the final one.
23? ストライク
STRIKE
SCYTHER
NOT RANKED.
Scyther is identical in name and appearance, unfortunately, its number isn’t readable, should be 23 according to the Cry list.
B オ?
O?
CROSSED.
An unused Pokémon; no sprites match up with it, and it’s crossed off with an X. “O” might just stand for “Osu” (Male) Implying there was also a known female version on the chart, or even just being the only letter that survived the print. Check out our Lost Pokémon page for more.
29 ゴースト
GHOST
GASTLY
NOT RANKED.
It’s a bit difficult to make out, but Gastly does have a mouth here. Has Haunter’s Japanese name, ゴースト
“Ghost” , while surprisingly in the 1990 Capsule Monsters pitch it used to be called  ゴース “Ghos”, which ended up being its final Japanese name.
8? GENGAR
NOT RANKED.
Identical to the final. The number is too blurry, but it should be 8, going off of the cry list.
1? ニドラン♂
NIDORAN M
NIDORAN M
NOT RANKED.
Its sprite is bigger than the final one, but very similar to the Capumon sprite sheet, with the addition of spikier ears. The design was later scaled down when Nidorino was created.  The image is very blurry, so the actual text is unclear, but the name looks more like “Hadoran“. This conflicts with the fact that Nidoran’s name had already been mentioned in Capsule Monsters, albeit not specifically linked to this sprite.
7 ビリリダマ
BIRIRIDAMA
VOLTORB
CIRCLED.
Its proto sprite is also bigger than the final and similar to the Capumon one. It placed #21 in the popularity poll. Let’s put its eyes in terrible Photoshops of new Pokémon to celebrate! The sprite was scaled down when an evolution was planned, just like many other Pokémon in this list.
C ギャオーン /  ギャース
GYAOON /  GYARTH
NOT RANKED.
Gyaoon is interesting. Its name is the onomatopoeia for Godzilla’s roar, and it has elements that later would be incorporated into strong, kaiju-like Pokémon such as Tyranitar, Charizard, and even Feraligatr. Although sporting a fairly different design, it can be identified with No.1 on the Capumon sprite sheet mainly because of its open mouth and pose. It might even share some pixels in the head/mouth region with its former sprite. In the poll, they scratched out the ース” (a)su ” in its name, which means its name was Gyaasu or “Gyarth” at some point. It was likely cut for not being very distinct, although it lives on through the Pokémon that inherited its design elements. Its number is too blurry to identify or even guess, and it’s not featured in the final cry list. The new Game Informer document might have revealed its original placement to be 16, thus revealing its cry. Check out our Lost Pokémon page for more.
6? ベトベター
BETOBETAA
GRIMER
CIRCLED.
Grimer finally got its trademark goofy mouth since the Capsule Monsters version; its sprite is bigger than the final. Because it was circled, and its name isn’t on the visible part of the poll results, it was probably ranked somewhere between 11 and 20.
17 オムオム
OMUOMU
SPEAROW
CROSSED.
The name seems to be a joke about omelettes. Its design was drastically changed from its sturdy Pidgeot-like beginnings in the Capumon sprite sheet. This sprite was scaled down when Fearow was created. Interestingly, its slot is crossed off with an X and several lines, so it may have been considered for reworking or being thrown out. Check out our Lost Pokémon page for more.
18 ガガース
GAGARS
RHYDON
NOT RANKED.
This same sprite of Rhydon without its drill-horn was seen in the 1990 Capumon image. Apart from the horn, it looks similar to its final sprite. The print does suggest, however, that the shading was changed a little for the final.
13 ベロリンガ
BERORINGA
LICKITUNG
CIRCLED.
Its sprite is very similar to the final, but still shows some remnants of the original Capumon sprite‘s shading on the tail. Despite its usual nightmarish appearance, it placed 22 in the poll.

Block 2

This block had to be heavily reconstructed, as it is about 2cm tall and tilted in the manga. Some sprites were deliberately brightened by the manga editors, leaving just a faded trail of dots. We were able to line up some of the final sprites with the dots, but not all of them had perfect matches. The editors also removed the various ranking marks, although we were able to restore some of the circled Pokémon, we won’t mark any as “Not ranked” since definitive evidence is missing. These Pokémon are mostly in order, with some slots flipped by one place.

38 GRAVELER
Graveler was most likely swapped with Kadabra. The sprite is too dark to see properly, but the shape and the arms are distinctly those of Graveler.
39 ユンゲラー
YUNGELLER
KADABRA
CIRCLED.
The only indication that it was on here is that the name was voted for and the comment mentioned a spoon. Probably
stayed similar design-wise, as some of the remaining pixels suggest. Ranked #25 in the poll.
40 ラッキー
LUCKY
CHANSEY
TOP 3.
Won 2nd place on the poll. Its sprite seems to be identical to the final, with the possible exceptions of the egg pouch’s shading as well as the arms’ shape.
41 MACHOKE
Seems to be the same pose.
42 バリリーナ
BARIRIINA
MR. MIME?
CIRCLED.
This may be Mr. Mime, but the sprite doesn’t match the dots completely. There’s a “Baririina” on the poll which would imply a ballerina… so maybe Mr. Mime (バリヤード/Barrierd) had a different career choice at this point in development. That name is also the exact same as its baby evolution in the Gold and Silver prototypes. Its looks may have been slightly different; there’s something quite different going on in the upper body area (shoulders, horns, hands), but it would be difficult, if not impossible, to define its appearance any further. Ranked 11-20 in the poll. Check out our Lost Pokémon page for more.
43 サワムラー
SAWAMULAR
HITMONLEE
CIRCLED.
It’s mentioned in the voting, and would seem to fit here. Ranked #4 in the poll.
44 エビワラー
EBIWALAR?
HITMONCHAN
The sprite is mostly the same, but the boxing gloves don’t have forced perspective like in the final, where the left boxing glove juts forward. If they had kept it like this, it probably would have prevented… certain
unfortunate comparisons.
45 ARBOK
This was quite a mystery initially , but the faded dots line up perfectly with Arbok’s final sprite.
46 ファンガス
FUNGUS
PARASECT
CIRCLED.
Mentioned in the votes with a comment that it looked like a hermit crab… it’s most likely Parasect, given its name and description. ranked 11-20 in the poll.
47 ダッキー
DUCKY
PSYDUCK
CIRCLED.
Named “Ducky ” in the votes. Design stayed the same and was instantly recognizable, even when missing about 80% of
its picture. Ranked either 5 or 10 in the poll.
48 スリーパー
SLEEPER
DROWZEE
CIRCLED.
Another miraculous reconstruction from dots. スリーパー Sleeper (Hypno’s name) appears in the votes, so we assume that this is a similar case to that of Gastly and Haunter. Ranked 26 in the poll.
49 ??? If something were to be here, following the index list, it would be Golem.
50? MAGMAR
Same sprite as the final, but one space off from where it should be. It may be connected to the name “Buu”, but the name is too long on the panel itself – a short name like ブー would be off-center. It’s also possible that it was named “Buubaa”. like in the final. This leaves the true identity of “Buu” up in the air.
51? ??? No idea. Unfortunately, someone’s hand covers it up completely in the manga.
52? ELECTABUZZ
Somehow, the 5 minuscule inkblots managed to line up perfectly with dark spots on Electabuzz’s final sprite. It would be off by one slot like Magmar was. He might also be
the mysterious Buu – as in Elebuu. Whoever Buu was, it ranked 28 in the poll.
53? Totally missing or misplaced

Block 3

Block 3 is the most bountiful of the four we have. Several early designs, names, and cut Pokémon are on this one, and it was the first to be posted online in May 2018. Of note here are several sprites that are marked with the triangle △ – none of those Pokémon are in the final game (since it meant “needs improvement”) except for Seel, whose design was overhauled significantly.

54 コイル
COIL
MAGNETON
CIRCLED.
Mostly the same sprite as the final, but again it has Magnemite’s name (Coil, instead of Rarecoil). Ranked 23 in the poll.
55 ドガース
DOGAASU
KOFFING
NOT RANKED?
Identical to its final sprite. Koffing wasn’t even scaled down when it got an evolution .
56 ディアー
DEER
△ NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
Deer was not long for this world, unfortunately.
Elements may have gone into several Pokémon later though, some even surviving through decades of separation. Its final design and name might have changed if it had made it to the 190 cut. Seemingly, there’s already a fix proposed for one of its antlers on this sheet.
57 マンキー
MANKY
MANKEY
CIRCLED.
The sprite was scaled down for the final. Mankey was ranked either 5, 10 or between 11 and 20.
58 パウワウ
PAUWAU
SEEL
△ NEEDS IMPROVEMENT but CIRCLED.
Oh boy, where to begin…? Seel went through quite the makeover in the final game. It appears to be more of a realistic seal, especially resembling a leopard seal, with several spots all over the top of its back. Then it reaches the head and just goes off the rails: very similar to Slakoth, with Chia Pet or Smoochum hair with some serious wall-eye going on. Possibly had a dark Shellder-like face with tusks and a big, human-like nose. We actually kinda like this version of Seel better, it looks more like something that would only know how to Headbutt other creatures at the start. Ranked between 11-20 in the chart but was marked as improvable. Check out our Lost Pokémon page for more.
59 ディグダ
DIGUDA
DIGLETT
◎ PERFECT and CIRCLED.
The last place winner of the top 31 and has a circle mark next to it. I guess somebody really liked it. Morimoto, you’re not fooling anybody.
60 ??? Slot 60 is Tauros in the final game, and we see no reason why it wouldn’t be Tauros here, considering how accurate this has been to the index order. Also of note: Mankey, Diglett, and Tauros were designed by Shigeki Morimoto. For Tauros, another one of Morimoto’s creations, being close by would also make sense.
61 ???コ / ロ
???KO/RO
△ NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
It’s very hard to make out, the last character in this Pokémon’s name, but it may be Ro or Ko. A hulking bipedal elephant, it was likely cut for being too similar to the already numerous Kaiju Pokémon. Damn shame if you ask us. While restoring the sprite, we noticed that it may have had 2 pairs of tusks. It seems possible that its design went on to influence Donphan in Generation II, possibly already in Gen I if it had made it to the 190 cut.
62  クロッキー
CROCKY
△ NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
A bug-eyed, hunchbacked, bipedal crocodile with wild
hair that says “Marty! We gotta go to 2015!”. We hope it returns someday. Its final design and name might’ve changed if it had made it to the 190 cut. A sharp double pointed scale has been physically drawn onto its sprite.
63 ??? Covered up in both shots, sadly. We’ll likely never know what this was until a Game Freak employee accidentally posts a picture of this chart while showing off napkins or something.
64 ?クパーン
?KUPAAN
FARFETCH’D
NOT RANKED?
Mostly the same, except for the name (カモネギ Kamonegi in the final). We tried for hours to decipher what this name could have been or meant to no avail, could be Kekupaan or Okupaan going by the handwriting on other Pokémon.
65 コンパン
KONPAN
VENONAT
◎ PERFECT
A much bigger sprite.
66 ??? Most likely Dragonite. Shame that we can’t see this earlier sprite, could it have looked different?
67 カクタス
CACTUS
CIRCLED.
A weird cactus creature with sharp needles protruding in every direction, a tail, and what may be eyes or eyebrows on the bottom sphere. This Pokémon’s cry actually survived in the final game, sounding very similar to other spiky Pokémon and even Togepi’s in Gold and Silver (which, before this manga was published, had led to some interesting theories.) You can hear what Cactus would have sounded like here (Hex 43 , Dec. 67). The “rattle” seemingly attached to its tail is actually an illusion given by the smaller sphere on its head and its thorns. Ranked 24 in the poll, Its final design and name might’ve changed if it had made it to the 190 cut.
68 ジャッグ
JAGG
NOT RANKED.
Resembling something like a goblin shark with big eyes
and incredibly sharp teeth, Jagg was designed in a style that seems fairly alien to Pokémon. We wouldn’t have a shark Pokémon for years after it was cut – and never one so ferocious as this. Its final design and name might’ve changed if it had made it to the 190 cut. It may have inspired Ikari and Manbo1 in the Gold and Silver prototypes. Its name might be a pun on “jagged” and  shark “シャーク”.
69 Totally missing or misplaced

Block 4

The final block has one very strange oddity at the end of it, that being a numberless Kangaskhan at the end of a row that’s filled with MissingNo. in the final game. It may be that Kangaskhan didn’t fit on another sheet and they moved it to an empty row here. Other than that, it follows the index order very closely like Block 3, but has one weird swap like in Block 2. The editors also removed the various ranking marks, we were able to restore some of the circled Pokémon but we won’t mark any as “Not ranked” since definitive evidence is missing.

70 ニョロモ
NYOROMO
POLIWAG
CIRCLED.
This may be Poliwag, considering that Doduo is in Poliwag’s slot, and Poliwag seems to have made the poll list. We used the older sprite that was posted to Game Freak’s website years ago for accuracy to the times, we have little reference to its proportions, but it looks bigger than the final. Ranked 8 in the poll.
71 ??トリ/???ド
??TORI/??DO
DODUO
A comparatively massive sprite that was reworked into Dodrio’s RG front sprite (main body and left foot, perhaps even the original backsprite survives in Dodrio’s final one). it appears to have a single-feather version of Dodrio’s tail, and curved beaks. Looks a little bit more
menacing, you can kinda make out some fierce eyes on the visible head. Its name is also different, while the first part is cut off, it seems to end in -tori or -do.
72 ルージュラ
ROUGELA?
JYNX
CIRCLED
For better or for worse (it’s for worse), it’s Jynx in her pre-makeover design. Same name, same sprite, the same design that required edits to the Virtual Console version of Yellow.
73 ??? By process of elimination and index order, it’s pretty obvious that Moltres would be here.
74 フリーザー
FREEZER
ARTICUNO
CIRCLED.
Same as in the final, and you can even make out a little of its name, “Freezer”. Ranked 11-20 in the final poll.
75 サンダー
THUNDER
ZAPDOS
CIRCLED.
Same as Articuno, but you can make out its entire name, “Thunder”. Ranked either 10 or between 11-20 in the final poll.
76 メタモン
METAMON
DITTO
CIRCLED.
We had thought Ditto would be here regardless, but a
vote on the poll specifically wrote out the number next to its name. Thank you for making our job easier, Morimoto! Might have ranked either 7 or between 11-20 in the poll.
77 MEOWTH
Pretty different design from what you can make out. Shorter ears that are fully black, what may be a headband holding on its coin, and it’s still holding one paw up like it tends to do.
78 ?? クラブ
???CRAB
KRABBY
A much larger Krabby sprite than in the final, that was reworked into Kingler’s. Sadly, the name is a little too blurry to make out, but it may be called “Onikurabu” (Onicrab).
79 ??? All that’s left of this one is some cry data. A short, static-y noise using Rattata’s cry-type.
80 ??? Nothing is left of this one
81  バルンダ (A)
BARUNDA (A)
CIRCLED.
An orb that looks a lot like a certain character from Kirby Star Allies. This one has been our personal fixation for a long time. It has a cry that survived in the final which is very similar to Poliwhirl and Ditto’s, so I really wanted to find out what this thing’s name was, but it’s just too blurry. This didn’t really stop us, though. Ranked 29 in the poll. Its final design and name might’ve changed if it had made it to the 190 cut, more so because it looks like they had two designs to choose from. if you’re interested to know how we matched the name with that design, be sure to read our identification process below.

There’s one name on the poll itself that we can sort of match up with what’s written there, the Pokémon named Barunda(A). The name itself is a pun on balloon and someone voted for it while commenting that they wondered if it was “fuwafuwa

Barunda Identification and Top 31 Restoration

What’s notable is that Pokémon named in the voting documents are also circled in the sprite chart. As thus, we can assume that all circled Pokémon are present in the table and the results sheet, albeit some of their names are obscured. The circles were mostly edited out by the mangaka in the zoomed out picture, but we can still see traces of them around some of the designs.

taking both versions of the sprite sheet into consideration, we can see that the following Pokémon were circled: Magneton, Mankey, Seel, Diglett, Cactus, Tangela, Pinsir, Scyther, Voltorb, Grimer, Lickitung, Psyduck, Jynx, Articuno, Zapdos, the mysterious orb in question, and probably others which are obscured.

We can safely assume that all of the aforementioned Pokémon were voted for, and their names are present in the voting table and the results sheet.
Pokémon whose names appear on the voting documents, but are heavily obscured or nowhere to be seen on the sprite chart, are as follows: Exeggutor, Chansey, Clefairy, Kadabra, “Sleeper” (Drowzee), “Maiko” (Nidoking), “Buu” (Magmar), Poliwag, Hitmonlee, Slowbro, Cubone, “Fungus” (Parasect), Ditto, Baririna (probably connected to Mr. Mime), Exeggcute (its name is mostly obscured but it’s the only one that has “ma” as a final kana). There’s one mysterious name, Barunda(A), in the results sheet.

Adding both of the above sets together, not counting the mysterious name and the orb Pokémon, gets us the total number of 30 Pokémon. There were a total of 31 Pokémon voted for in the popularity contest, so we’re left with a name and a design that don’t fit anywhere else – therefore it’s safe to assume that the round Pokémon was in fact named Barunda.
To strengthen the argument that the orb and Barunda are the same monster, we point out the following:
⦁ Barunda seems to be a pun on balloons, and the orb Pokémon does look like one;

  •  The name of the monster, however blurry, seems to be partly legible. The kana for “ba” バ and “n” ン seem to be in exact spots where they would be if the name was truly “Barunda”;
  • The comment under the name “Barunda” on the voting table refers to it as “ふわふわ” fuwafuwa – an onomatopoeia for floating and referring specifically to balloons. The same onomatopoeia was a basis for Drifloon’s Japanese name, Fuwante.
  • An Ultra Q. Kaiju named “Barunga” and classified as the “Balloon Kaiju” might’ve served as an inspiration for its name.

THE FIRST POPULARITY POLL (October 1992)

“Looking at the November 1992 Game Freak internal bulletin, we can see that the first popularity vote was held in October that year.  The top 3 favourite Pokémon were chosen from the about 80 monsters created at the time.
We’ll report the surprising result here. “Pocket monster” popularity vote result announcement!
As a result of voting by all participants, the most popular monsters are the following:
1st place, Exeggutor
2nd place, Slowbro
3rd place, Clefairy
following, Grimer, Exeggcute, Cubone, Nidoran (female), Ivysaur … … etc.
Judging by the results, it seems that popularity has concentrated on cute monsters such as Clefairy, Cubone etc —-. By this time, although Pikachu and Meowth were not yet there, it can be said that it is a very surprising result, I do not know why Exeggutor won first place. (…) After that, the same popularity vote was repeated several times.”

SOURCES, NOTES AND MEDIA