Q: Even though you were basing the anime on the Pocket Monsters video games, you were still creating an anime-original story, so what kind of character did you think of the protagonist Satoshi as?
Yuyama: The Pocket Monsters anime started airing about a year after the first video games had been released, and Pokémon was already massively popular with children at the time. So in that respect, Satoshi was "the boy who showed up late". The viewers knew way more about Pokémon than he did. Satoshi positioned himself as a very equal-opportunities kind of guy as far as Pokémon and the world they live in goes... I think people normally project themselves onto things or filter their thoughts about them in some way, but Satoshi doesn't. He accepts the Pokémon he encounters for what they are, showing no prejudice or fear, and is able to befriend them quickly. I think this is the main thing that makes him so appealing.
Q: Satoshi's partner Pikachu showed a really strong personality from its very first meeting with Satoshi too, didn't it?
Yuyama: I think of Pikachu as a combination of cuteness, strength and the ability to bring a few laughs (laughs). By the way, I decided from the very get-go that the Pokémon that would become Satoshi's partner would not be one of the three you choose between at the start of the video game, since I figured that might make some of the viewers sad. That's why he ended up with a Pikachu, a desicion I'm really glad I made.
Q: In the video games the protagonist starts off by choosing a Pokémon, then sets off on an adventure, working alongside it. The Pikachu in the anime, however, didn't listen to Satoshi at all. That felt really unique and different.
Yuyama: Indeed, Pokémon aren't always what humans expect them to be like. They're unique individuals that each have their own individual reasons for how they interact with humans. That's the kind of themes, or relationships, the Pokémon anime shows; How someone can eventually get along despite being unable to communicate at all when they first meet. Communication is one of the main themes of the show, and Satoshi's first Pokémon, Pikachu, puts it into practise.
There are so many different kinds of Pokémon in this world, so when we depict them, we try to start by imagining what would happen if these Pokémon actually DID exist in a given place, and what those Pokémon would be doing in that case, then let the story develop from there.
Q: Does this go for more uncommon Pokémon as well, in other words Legendaries and Mythicals?
Yuyama: Yes. No matter which Pokémon we're talking about, we always start by asking ourselves what kind of life it has and how it fits into the world. Some Pokémon are weak, some Pokémon scare people, but they're all individual creatures. When we work out how the Pokémon should act, we try to avoid thinking of them from the point of view of a human, but consider the Pokémon's point of view instead.
Q: As far as Legendary and Mythical Pokémon go, I think it's safe to say that Mew and Mewtwo hold a very special place in the hearts of those viewers who watched the 1997 era of the anime and the movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back". What were you especially conscious of when you depicted them in the anime?
Yuyama: We depicted Mew as a trancendent kind of creature that exists beyond the very human values of right and wrong. Think of how the sea and the mountains can be fun playgrounds for people, but can quickly turn on them as well. That's the kind of entity we wanted to depict Mew as, so whenever it appears in the anime, we make sure it never acts in a way that's particularly convenient for humans, nor do we have it gravitate towards humans too much.
Mewtwo, on the other hand, is a product of detachment from nature. The way it constantly ponders its own existence is very very human, but I think the reason it still chooses to live among Pokémon is because of a need of kinship.
Q: Satoshi and Pikachu have developed a friendship that transcends species. What do you find most important when depicting their relationship?
Yuyama: The fact that they don't rely on words. Ever since the beginning of the anime, I've wanted to get across the sense that they communicate using nothing but gestures and noises as much as I could. At first we actually toyed with the idea of having Pikachu talk just like the Rocket Gang Nyarth does (laughs). However, we talked about how it would be both more realistic and more interesting if they had to communicate non-verbally, so that's the way it ended up. I think it'd be really difficult to find a pair of humans that can understand each other as near perfectly as Satoshi and Pikachu can, but I hope we managed to depict a duo everyone can look up to.
Q: The Rocket Gang, the group that acts as the villains on Satoshi and Pikachu's journey, are quite colorful characters as well, aren't they?
Yuyama: Back when we were initially planning the series, scriptwriter Takeshi Shudo-san suggested that the format should have villains in it, and we got Musashi and Kojiro. Shudo-san was the one that gave them their names too, but not even I know why he picked the ones he did (laughs). I believe we decided to include Nyarth "because it looks cat-like and approachable". This meant the show ended up having a cat-and-mouse type relation between the cat and the mouse, something we didn't actually realize at the time. It was a complete coincidence (laughs).
I like the fact that the Rocket Gang have a childish side to them despite being adult characters. They're adults that take things seriously despite approaching them the way children would, and I think that's what makes them so appealing.
Q: How did the current series, "Mezase Pokémon Master", become a thing?
Yuyama: It started with the idea of tracing Satoshi and Pikachu's journey one more time. When it came to his travelmates, we basically just went "Gotta be Takeshi and Kasumi I guess". It was such a natural desicion I don't really remember exactly how we arrived at it. I like that trio, those two just kind of fit into the group, and it makes Satoshi's 10-year-old-boy-ness very pronounced. We wanted to depict world battling champion Satoshi as temporarily forgetting about everything he's been through on his journey and just living the life of a 10 year old boy again.
Q: The scene in the trailer where Shigeru asks Satoshi about the Pokémon Master title really left an impression too.
Yuyama: We struggled a lot with deciding who should say that line. But when you think about it, Shigeru really is the only one that can confront Satoshi with something. He's the reason the line is what it is.
Q: What do you personally think a "Pokémon Master" is?
Yuyama: I think it might involve accepting Pokémon for what they are, without projecting yourself onto them. When we were in the process of creating Mezase Pokémon Master, I thought of a Pokémon Master as being like a rainbow. It's THERE, but you can't touch it, nor reach it. But despite that, people still move towards rainbows they see in the distant sky. I used a rainbow as the motif of the very last scene of Pocket Monsters the Movie: I Choose You, and even though I hadn't thought of this at the time, that scene always comes to mind whenever I think of the concept of a Pokémon Master now.
Q: There's only 3 episodes left of Mezase Pokémon Master now. What do you want to tell us about the climax?
Yuyama: The climax will involve Satoshi coming to a personal conclusion. I hope we did a good job showing how he did so. Please make sure to catch the remaining episodes.