Nintendo is celebrating Pokemon's 20th anniversary this year by re-releasing the original games, hosting giveaways and much, much more. The home of Mario wants fans to remember all things Pokemon and look forward to another 20 years of "gotta catch em' all."
However, we're pretty sure Nintendo doesn't want anybody to remember this super creepy Pokemon ad that ran in 1998. The ad, of course, is American and is for the original Pokemon Red and Blue, the first games in the franchise.
In the ad, a bus driver who very obviously has some mental issues and might not actually be a real bus driver, is seen luring Pikachu onto a bus filled with other pokemon. When Pikachu responds by saying "Pikachu" in the character's signature, high-pitched voice, the bus driver responds with, "Yeah, whatever."
The driver then stops the bus and tells all the pokemon on board that he'll be "right back." Barely able to hide the excitement on his face, he rushes out of the bus and to a nearby button. He presses it, activating a trash compactor that then crushes the bus full of innocent pokemon. The man rushes to what was once the bus to find that it has been turned into a Gameboy, filled with all of the pokemon that, moments before, were very clearly in distress in their final moments on Earth. The man is overjoyed. Finally, it seems, he caught them all.
It's clear that the way we view Pokemon has changed dramatically in the two decades since that ad. Whereas now, Nintendo promotes pokemon as friends to be found, this ad shows that the idea of "capturing" them took precedence in the early years of the franchise, especially when it came to America. Notice how the ad attempts to downplay Pikachu's cuteness, or how it very clearly treats the pokemon not as animals or companions, but prizes to be obtained by any means necessary — even if that means tricking them onto a bus destined for crush-town.
Of course, an ad like this wouldn't fly today. Now that the American public "gets" Pokemon, there is no need to hide the cuteness of the pokemon themselves or focus solely on the capturing aspect of the series. Not only that, but fans (and maybe even PETA) would be in an uproar over an ad like this, were it released in 2016. Sure, the pokemon don't actually die when they are crushed on the bus (instead, they are tricked and then smashed into a tiny Gameboy), but just the idea of tricking innocents onto a bus and enslaving them (via crushing them) is more than a little unsettling, no matter how you look at it.
If you want to see how far Pokemon has come, check out the 20th anniversary ad that played during the Super Bowl. Thankfully, it does not include a creepy bus driver in any way, shape or form.