For more than 20 years, Pokemon fans have circulated low-quality scans of the original watercolor illustrations of the 251 monsters from the first two generations by renowned series artist Ken Sugimori. These scans were often rubbed out and while they had a retro feel to them, they were not exact to the original art. Now, thanks to the efforts of online archivists, fans can finally get a much better look at Sugimori’s original pieces, and the difference is huge.
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Archivist and YouTuber left handed posted a thread On twitter about the scans, which were provided by the software developer Christopher “Excalibur Zero” Wells. These parts are from Japan only. Pokémon Gold and Silver Pokédex strategy guide, while the ones that have been circulating online are from the official pokemon red and Blue and Gold and Silver guides that were sold in the West in the late 90s.
Unlike the original parts and Japanese guidebook pictures, the western scans came out faded, distorted, and lacking in detail in those books. Despite their quality, they were shipped and became well known within the Pokemon community. Looking at the examples that Lewtwo has already posted, such as Diglett and Bullsit is clear how many of the deep colors in the original scans appearing in the Western materials were lost.
Why are the new scans of Ken Sugimori’s art significant?
speaking to my city, Lewtwo says that the original parts took so long to appear because the prevalence of original scans had distorted the fans’ frame of reference for what these parts were “supposed” to look like. This changed when the original Gen I and II games ported over to Virtual Console, which included HQ digital uploads of artwork from some of the older Pokémon. Lewtwo points to some, like Eevee and its evolutions like some of the most accurate scans.
“You can literally see all of Sugimori’s imperfections with the tools he used, right down to the way the watercolor fades in and around the line drawing, to the point where we’re convinced this is the closest we’ll ever get to being able to scan. the original piece,” says Lewtwo.
When pokemon blue came out, developer Game Freak did new artwork for each monster, but Lewtwo says the art most Western fans know for that game was “incredibly high contrast” compared to the original. Red and Green games, so the characters like Idem they look almost colorless, even though the Pokemon itself is a deep shade of pink. The distortion extends to the line work and general shape of some Pokemon, which Lewtwo says was “effectively destroying any intended subtlety” in the watercolor pieces. But it was all the community had to work with for a long time.
“Scans of this artwork were noticeably poor, and all sources we found appeared to have largely stretched or misshapen artthat it came from the sources themselves, and not even from poor scan quality,” says Lewtwo.
Even though it took so long, Lewtwo says that the Pokémon Gold and Silver Pokédex book is not particularly rare or even expensive. He was even considering buying it himself for $20 online from a Japanese seller, which he says would be “a steal” at that price for access to original art.
How was the low quality? Pokemon scans circulate for that long?
The funny thing about the whole situation is how the poor quality scans became so embedded in the Pokemon community. Lewtwo says it’s likely because they appeared in various official articles. Pokemon media and merchandise in the West, all starting with your guides.
“In addition to having artwork that literally warped when stretched (in addition to color changes), clearly little care was taken to preserve the original look, so much so that the Super Game Boy screenshots in the guide also use inaccurate colors, such as if they were flat changes across the board,” says Lewtwo.
Now, Lewtwo is scanning everything 251 Pokemon as they were originally meant to be viewed and uploaded to your own Asset Archive, as well as working with sites like Pokemon wiki Bulbapedia to restore the original parts. He estimates that it will be a process of months. However, some fans have taken issue with this, claiming that the original scans will become “lost media” if sources like Bulbapedia switch to these new scans.
Lewtwo responded to this in a long tweet, noting that resources like Bulbapedia already allow you to see previous iterations of assets you have on file, so they won’t be deleted from history. Some were also quick to question that these were more accurate scans, but Lewtwo says he cross-checked these scans against official art such as Game Freak’s own assets and art seen in the trading card game to ensure their quality.
“We understand the backlash – that people have an affinity for the way artwork has always appeared to them, but our priority has always been to preserve the way this art is supposed to look as much as possible,” he says. Lewtwo. “I never grew up with these guides, so I can’t really relate, but the inaccurate versions will always exist in the Bulbapedia file history for those who want them there. That said, while we understand why this feels weird and why there are definitely interpretations up for debate, it’s incredibly disheartening to read entire threads of ‘fuck you’ tweets with some really rude and heated responses. We’ve already spent months conserving without expecting anything in return, but some of the responses have gone too far and are generally misinformed. We are all trying to do the best we can, and we appreciate all the nice and patient feedback so far. It means a lot to us to see people excitedly asking what their favorite classic Pokémon was supposed to look like with this level of care and attention.”
Despite the pushback, Lewtwo says that much of the community has supported him and given him the drive to ensure that the best quality versions of these parts are preserved for use by the Pokemon community.
“This might take a few months, especially if I’m the only one working on it, but we’ve already had some buzz around this particular project on our Discord, which is where we come together to find out a lot of great stuff. things and help each other to preserve the content as well as possible.”