Pokémon X And Y Art Directors On The Risk Of Stereotyping Real Countries

By Sato . October 25, 2013 . 9:50am

For the sixth generation of Pokémon, Game Freak decided to base the games’ region on Europe—mainly France. However, while Pokémon X and Y’s Kalos region is inspired by France, simply throwing in an Eiffel Tower and baguettes wasn’t going to cut it. Art directors Ken Sugimori and Takao Unno shared their design process in this week’s Famitsu magazine.


Famitsu started out by asking Ken Sugimori how he feels now that Pokémon X and Y are finally out.


“Honestly, ‘it’s finally been released,’ are my true feelings,” replies Sugimori. “The reason being, this time the Pokémon were made using 3D models, so we had to finish their designs earlier on, and the design team actually finished towards the end of 2012.”


“It actually still feels like I’m in a dream,” Unno adds. “Just last year, while directing Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, I was also participating in the production of Pokémon X and Y.


Unno, who was in charge of Pokémon X and Y as the games’ 3D art director, was responsible for working on the field maps and Pokémon graphics, which he believes went quite smoothly, considering he transitioned from working on the previous games to start on the next generation of Pokémon.


Switching from one title to another this way might sound hectic, especially when you take the generation leap and transition from 2D to 3D into consideration; however, it was thanks to director Junichi Masuda’s orders that kept Unno and Sugimori on their toes, as he gave specific orders when it came to designing the new Pokémon.


“This time, since the stage was set in Europe, he told us to not go with what we had in mind, but that he wanted us to thoroughly check our material prior to designing things,” says Sugimori. “In order to properly bring out their local atmosphere, we actually went to France.”


“Once the stage is set, it’s much easier to come up with designs for Pokémon,” Unno elaborates. “For example, in Europe, rabbits are often seen on the hills and fields, so we had the image of a rabbit to create Bunnelby. Actually, if you go to the nature-filled countryside, there were many rabbit holes right next to the roads.”


Famitsu continues by asking if Bunnelby was created only because the games are set in Europe.


“Well, if you end up being too picky about the local atmosphere, there’s always the risk of possibly having ideas and their representations be too close to each other,” says Sugimori. “For this reason, while respecting the local atmosphere, we balanced things out to not let them be too one-sided, as we designed them.”


While Pokémon X and Y were modeled after a European influence, Game Freak had to take other precautions before going forward as well.


“Not only for Europe, but whenever we use other countries as a model, we make sure that it’s not a stereotypical or humorous representation, similar to how foreigners can misunderstand Japan,” says Sugimori. “Of course, there are some parts we daringly made funny, and fooled around in some parts, but in the end we did thorough research, and from there we decided on which direction to take.”

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  • Tbh this is the first time I’ve ever thought about Pokemon stereotyping countries ( I’m aware each game is based on one or apart of Japan), well this an America (black & white series). Over all they did a great job. I kinda wish Black and white/ B & W 2 were made in 3D.

  • samsneeze

    Aside from most all of the black people in Black and White being street dancers with dreads, I guess they did alright? To be honest, it shows more in the character designs than it does in dialogue. I can guess that can be considered okay. Oh, but Unova did have a fat guy in a cowboy hat. So there’s that o guess. I don’t know. It’s not that the stereotypes bother, me. Really, it’s the lack of full commitment one way or the other.

    • They also had black swimmers, football and basketball players, two gym leaders plus an elite four member. X & Y had more blacks who are mix of everything.

      • Barrylocke89

        Dancers and athletes?

        Still, it’s good that the team is considering this sort of thing when they’re creating their games in different regions, especially when you consider that there’s people in those regions that likely play Pokemon. It’s something that you don’t always see companies do with works that feature other locales, and can lead to some really unfortunate results.

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          We’ve had black swimmers since hoenn.

          well they’re not black tho.

    • miju

      Actually, Clay is supposed to be a Japanese man who moved to America penniless and got lucky striking it rich mining (the California gold rush). Using that as a base, if you were to design a guy like that, what would he look like? Miner -> old west -> cowboy outfit. Also rich -> fat.

      So his design as a fat guy in a cowboy hat is actually justified.

      • Suicunesol

        Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’re fat. A lot of destitute people are very, very fat. He’s just been eating too many Vanilluxes.

        • miju

          If it were up to me, I wouldn’t say he was fat. Just well fed. Besides, he was a nice change of pace from skinny or fit dudes (the Striaton waiters, Burgh, and Brycen, Drayden).

  • Goomy made me wonder if the psuedo-legendaries are supposed to be delicacies.

    • Hunts Rattata

      I could really go for some Gible fin soup…

  • Interesting. That’s a sentiment that you don’t typically see Japanese developers openly express. I wonder what got them thinking about this.

    • J_Joestar
      • Flamboyant Ass Nigga


        • Joshua Lewis

          I still want to know why they changed her…to purple

          • Double Cross

            Because that was apparently the only way to change her design without having to completely replace it. She now looks -less- like a racist black caricature – but obviously not different enough because I’m constantly seeing Nicki Minaj comparisons.

      • Minos

        Funny fact:

        That is a Ganguro, not a Black.

        So, Jinx is actually a, terrible, Japanese fashion pokemon.

        • J_Joestar

          It is also often considered to be based on a Viking Princess,

          The fact is that the original design didn’t take into consideration that it also bears a strong resemblance to black-face make-up which offended a number of people which is why Jynx went from having black skin to a dark purple instead.

        • Yeah, but that’s not the original Jinx. The original Jinx looked like Mr. Popo from DBZ.

        • Double Cross

          …Did you seriously just say ‘a Black’?


  • MrTyrant

    Am I the only one who thought in how Pokemon would be based in our regions? soccer players everywhere (a Gym leader too based on Messi)

  • ronin4life

    I don’t know… I felt it was a giant stereotype…

    Everyone is either judging me, begging for tips, or judging me when I don’t tip enough.

    • AuraGuyChris

      Those Battle Chateau’s people are as stereotypical to rich snobs it’s not even funny. No matter how I dress, I picked my clothes from a trash can. THESE JEANS WERE HALF A MILLION POKE DOLLARS!

      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        thats why you beat the hell out of them and take there money

        • The Dio face in your avatar made that evil comment 200% funnier.

      • Suicunesol

        It wouldn’t be as fun to beat them if they weren’t rich snobs. :P

      • JNT

        Only half million? what a pleb!

  • Reiswindy

    Now this has me wondering how a new Pokemon game would turn out if it were made based off South America.

  • AuraGuyChris

    Okay, you made everything look fresh.
    But making the Kalosians have one-dimensional personalities doesn’t help much on your case. Tierno dances! That’s all you need to know about him!
    I wished they had that BW story quality back to make me care about the people that bug me a lot…but clearly, they made this gen geared towards competitive people more than story appreciators.

    • JustThisOne

      Ahh, I somewhat agree with this. I don’t think Pokemon has ever really gotten me to care for the characters, even in BW. N was interesting, sure, but I didn’t really care about him. It would be nice if Pokemon had meaningful character development.

      • ShawnOtakuSomething


        • JustThisOne

          Touching, sure, but he’s not a dynamic character, which is what I think what AuraGuyChris was talking about.

          Almost all of the characters that even get any developement are point A to B. Sorry for spoilers, in case anyone else is reading this. Here are some examples:

          Silver: Why aren’t my pokemon strong – everything needs to be strong. -> Wow, I guess I should care about my Pokemon.

          Cheren: Winning is strength. -> Well, I guess winning isn’t everything.

          Bianca/Shauna: I’m not very strong. -> I’m not very strong, and that’s okay.

          AZ: This world took away my pokemon. -> I guess this world isn’t so bad. Oh look, my pokemon!

          Of course, I’m generalizing. But there never has been any true depth to any of the character development. They’re mostly learning obvious morals.

          But I’m not going to harp on them too much, because this is supposed to be a game for kids. I’m just saying the games could afford to have more character development.

          • ShawnOtakuSomething

            Aimed at Kids* I really want at lest one pokemon game aimed at older fans with a more complex story and choices

          • JustThisOne

            Maybe. With that last article about the demographic mostly being college kids, there’s a chance that they could aim for an older market next time.

            Maybe more cross over games, haha. :> I don’t know if they’d want to risk a mainline game.

          • ShawnOtakuSomething

            yes Crazy Cross overs like Pokemon and Disgaea or Monster hunter

          • Virevolte

            Those on Gamecube (Colosseum) were aimed at an older public, but they really didn’t sold well.

        • AuraGuyChris

          Big deal. He shows up a whopping three times in the whole game being an exposition giant for a dark plot that’s shoved to your face for half an hour at best.
          N? He shows up several times, imparting so many opinions he has about his (mis)guided ideals/truths until he’s told in his face he’s a freak by his dad.

          • ShawnOtakuSomething

            I meant to say AZ story was forced Emma is better then N and AZ when it comes to sadness

        • It’ll be interesting if N and AZ would meet someday.

          • ShawnOtakuSomething

            AZ: I’m 3000 years old and lost someone close to my heart and did some bad things.

            N: I was mind raped by my Father

            AZ: Hey……What does N mean?

            N:Natural Harmonia Gropius and you?

            AZ: I forgot, I lost my self 2000 years ago. All I remember is the name AZ.

            N: Absolute Zero.

            AZ: hmm? that can’t be right.

            N: Absolutely Zero Fucks was giving when you made that Dooms day We.

            AZ: wait until Z

        • jugss

          Sorry but I did not like Az and his story.Wtf the ending was cringed worthy for me.I was like that was it? I would have like it if Az just died. I like Lysandre more than him.BW ending was really good compared to that hobo.

          • ShawnOtakuSomething

            They didnt dive deeply in to AZ story at all and the ending fight with him felt forced and way too easy, it would have been better if they had a post game quest to get to know him alot more and his back story. BW 1 and 2 was more story driven and XY seems to be a step back :/. I liked Lysandre story as well.

      • Why is everyone talking about N as an example…Unova’s best character development came from Bianca and Cheren.

        • komiko12

          True. They even had this great track playing at emotional moments.


          Even the gym leaders have some development when you use Memory Link in BW2

        • JustThisOne

          *shrug* I ended up talking about everyone else in a later post. I agree with that, too, though. N isn’t the one with the most development, but I’d say his development was the most central to the game though.

    • NimbusStev

      I agree. This game improved upon the past ones in just about every way besides the characters. BW took the storytelling in the series to new heights and this just felt like a step backwards in that regard.

    • Sardorim

      Well near the end of the journey Tierno decides to battle you as he figured out that he didn’t know his “friend” well enough because he was too concerned about dancing.

      Though most of the side cast suffered because Serena/Calem and Shauna took up all the screen time. Especially Shauna.

      Still a very big improvement over past games though.

    • Rita Tong

      Mystery dungeon anyone?

      Especially the later ones. The story goes all sorts of places in those (in a good way too). Granted, without a stronger story those games probably wouldn’t have held out as well, all things considered.

  • Shippoyasha

    Sometimes I wish the stereotype of happy and bubbly foreigners in Japanese entertainment was a bit more true in the real world..

    That said, it shouldn’t be too hard to make it less stereotypical when a game features an entire citizenry with a bunch of different personalities.

  • Good on them. That’s a rather conscientious route to take, and it’s cool they did so much research.

  • Instead of complaining, we should just be glad that Gamefreak even decided to base Pokemon regions on countries other than Japan. They’re under no obligation to since these games are of Japanese origin and they can include or disclude whatever they like.

    • Tom_Phoenix

      Ugh…..while they may not be obligated to take inspiration from non-Japanese countries, if they want to ensure Pokémon’s continued success (particularly worldwide), they pretty much have no choice but to do so. If they had just kept taking inspiration from Japanese regions, the games would have (eventually) become boring and stale.

      I’d even argue that France wasn’t necessarily the best choice, given that it’s not that different from Japan. Admittedly, though, they probably wanted to pick something relatively similar for their first game based on a non-Japanese country. But for the next game, they should be a bit bolder and pick something more exotic, like Brazil or Australia.

      • Suicunesol

        I want India! We need a Ganesha legendary Pokemon.

        (That might be a bit *too* exotic.)

        • ShawnOtakuSomething

          dude that would be AWESOME!!!

      • Brandon Stark

        actually, the Gen V games were based on USA.

        • Tom_Phoenix

          Yeah, I’m aware of that. Still, it doesn’t change my point that it wasn’t a good idea for Game Freak to just stick to Japan.

      • Belphybear

        Going through the Pokemon equivalent of the Outback sounds fun.

    • AuraGuyChris

      They subtly worship Japan-based Pokémon, though, because Mega Evolutions stop right before entering Gen 5; where there are American-based Pokémon.

      • Or that could be because Gen V is the second newest gen now and they wanted to bring back some attention to the older Pokemon, who some kids today might be unfamiliar with.

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    well…look who I found

    • Creepy but sexy?

      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        I think people like the idea that the hex maniacs remind them of Kuroki Tomoko,

        • Creepy cute and sexy.

        • komiko12

          Some say Tharja though.

          • ShawnOtakuSomething

            that too

          • komiko12

            BTW, It seems that the Furisode girls are also being noticed liked the Hex Maniac.

          • ShawnOtakuSomething

            Tony Stark: “I say…is it too much to ask for both?”

    • Punny Fuzz

      I don’t get it.

    • Renaldi Saputra


      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        the protagonist of No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular! (“Watamote”)

        • Renaldi Saputra

          yeah I know her, but.. this girl looks so creepy with twisted eyes

          • Ever saw the one at the Lumiose dojo’s second floor?

          • Renaldi Saputra


          • ShawnOtakuSomething

            yes ><

  • Deidara19

    This makes me wonder what country/continent the next game will be based off of….Africa? South America (i.e. Brazil)? or maybe the Carribean? hmmm

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      the Outback, Mate

      • British_Otaku

        ǝʇɐW ‘ʞɔɐqʇnO ǝɥʇ

        • ShawnOtakuSomething

          lol oh you

  • Damarius Wingfield

    I’ll make everybody’s day simpler, QUIT COMPARING FANTASY TO REALITY! SHEESH!

  • TurtleOmlette

    They should base the next game on Australia and make all the new pokemon Poison or Fire type.

    • DanteMasamune

      I’m not Australian so I don’t get that reference/joke….I understand the fire part.

      • Everything in Australia will kill you.

        I think that’s the joke.

    • It’ll also introduce a koala. (Not sure if Psyduck counts as a platypus though.) Then again, Kalos introduced the pandas.

  • 3PointDecoupage

    Well it explains why half of Kalos is nothing but cafes.

  • XY feels like Paris Syndrome version of pokemon, they could be helped with some more post game contents

  • Blick Winkel

    “…there are some parts we daringly made funny, and fooled around in some parts”

    I played the game in Japanese, and laughed when I faced an “Ojou-sama” trainer whose only dialog was “Ohohoh” and “Tohohohoh…”
    I guess that’s one of those parts.

  • Pichu0102

    Well, all I know is this Pokemon game feels like someone painted over a rather dark world with a coat of happiness paint, but some of it still leaks through.
    That might just be a trick of my imagination, but it does feel like I’m looking at something that is terribly off.

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