Second Interview with Masamitsu Hidaka – Many Interesting Points!

Happy 4th of July! Be careful not to blow off any limbs when you are lighting your fireworks!

This is quite a long interview, and it is jam-packed with a ton (yes, 2000 pounds) of information. It is a followup of my first interview with Mr. Hidaka, the current storyboard artist and previous director of Pokemon. If you use the information here, please be sure to cite this article with a link. A lot of it is rather interesting and only known because of this interview. Please do not copy and paste it on to other websites or forums either, especially since I may need to edit it for clarity.

To discuss this interview, if you have any questions, or if you want something clarified, please feel free to post in this news thread on our forums.

My mom, youngest brother, and I woke up early this morning to head to Los Angeles for the big interview. Mr. Hidaka’s translator called me again to confirm I was coming, and then I met with her and Mr. Hidaka at his hotel by myself (my mom used to work in L.A., so she went to check out her old building with my brother). We sat down, I recorded him, and I took notes. He seemed to enjoy my questions and is a very nice person, and his translator was just as kind. So, I began the interview immediately, since he was going to be escorted in 45 minutes to the convention.

What’s the deal with the GS Ball? As I said “GS Ball,” he shook his head and started to laugh, embarrassed. He stated “You’re very sharp (for us remembering that, I guess)” and began to explain it contained a Gold and Silver monster. I asked him if Celebi was in the Ball (since you use it to summon Celebi in the Japanese games), and at first he paused, as if he shouldn’t say, but then said “Yes.” He explained that the writers were originally going to have a whole story about Celebi in the show with Ash and crew, and he made it sound as if the story was more important than the Ball’s function of getting Ash to move around (in fact, he only briefly mentioned the latter part; he was emphasizing the existence of the story more than anything). But, they decided to save Celebi for the movie instead, which is why that plot hole was just left there. He said the writers didn’t know what to do with the Ball after they made their decision, so they were hoping fans would just forget about it all together when Ash and crew left it with Kurt. My impression of what he was saying was that it was all just poor planning. I asked if we would ever see the GS Ball again, and he said no. I think we can safely say the GS Ball case is closed now.

Next I asked him, “How does Pokemon send America its Japanese episodes to dub?” I’ve always wanted to know this do they e-mail it to them? Do they directly download it from somewhere? He said they always send it through the mail, and that each episode is always on either a DVD or a hard drive. He was surprised I asked this question, but I was just curious.

This next paragraph is rather interesting. I asked him why they dropped Brock like a rock in the Orange Islands, and if they ever intended on his absence being temporary. He started to explain that they like to “switch up” the cast once in a while, and that was their first time doing it. Then I made sort of a “that’s obvious” face, and he started to talk for quite some time to the translator. The translator began to explain that the Japanese crew felt that Brock might be viewed as racist by the American people because of his eyes, and that they were even fearful of it when Pokemon first came to America. I asked if anyone ever complained, and he said no, but it was just that they were worried someone might eventually. So, they brought in a tall, white, Anglo-looking character to replace him, just to be on the safe side. Going back to the first interview with Mr. Hidaka, he had said they had to consider other countries when Pokemon started to go global, so this mentality fits even here, especially with the whole Jynx incident. So then I asked, “Why did you bring him back?” and he responded that “we realized no one really cared about it and liked Brock, so we brought him back.” It appears that if they had not changed their decision, Professor Ivy might have been Brock’s true soul mate.

What about the main cast on the show? Since he had talked about how they like to “switch them up,” I explained to him that many fans want Ash, Misty, and Brock reunited again together. But, he reaffirmed what he said in the previous interview and said it wasn’t going to happen. I asked him what he meant in the previous interview about Pokemon Contests, and he said he just meant that characters like May have come back for a few episodes in Pokemon Contests, so Misty could come back too. He said, however, that Contests don’t appear to be her thing, so if she were to come back, it would probably be to join Ash in a battle or to just meet them somewhere. So then I said, “Why can’t you just ditch Brock, have Ash, have Misty, and then bring in a new boy? That would be switching up things instead of having a new girl.” His following answers made me laugh my head off I had to pick it up off the floor and reattach it. He stated that they like to switch up the girls because it gives the boys some new eye candy every once in a while. He also said girls are more customizable and you can change their outfits, like when they are in their bathing suits (yes, he specifically said that). He also said Ken Sugimori designs a new girl with each generation and that gives them another excuse to switch the girl, though I reminded him that there is also a new boy with each generation too, and it wouldn’t hurt to use them.

How far in advance do you make the episodes and movies? He stated 6 months for the episodes, 1 1.5 months for the voice acting, and 1 year for the movies (which we already knew). He also said in the previous interview that it takes him one week to make a storyboard per each episode, which I forgot to mention.

How do you decide which Pokemon the characters get? What about for evolving them? He said the writers decide and he wasn’t sure what processes they go through, but he said that they will usually evolve something if there is something big coming up. As a side note, he explained the writers were the exact same ones from the beginning of the show and there were very few of them. I also asked why Piplup hasn’t evolved, and he said “probably because it’s cuter that way and its evolution is uglier.” He didn’t make it seem like Piplup would evolve anytime soon, but he didn’t actually say that. I also asked him at this time, since it was sort of related, if Ash would ever see his old Pokemon again, and he said yes. He wouldn’t tell me anything specific, though, which seemed a little weird for him. Maybe it’ll be soon? I should have asked him about released Pokemon like Pidgeot and Butterfree, but I forgot. He probably would have said, “If the writers feel like it.”

What do you think of the Uri Gueller and Kadabra card incident? He didn’t know what I was talking about, so I pointed him to Kadabra on my laptop, and he said “Ahh.” He responded that the case had not been settled and was still going on, and that they were not allowed to use Kadabra on a card until an agreement was reached. He said they “put Kadabra aside for now.” When I asked him if the case would ever be settled, he said “not anytime soon.” So, it doesn’t look like we’ll get Kadabra in card form for quite some time, if ever.

What do you think of 4Kids changing one of the villains in the Raikou special from a boy to a girl? The translator had to confirm with me what I was asking, and then Mr. Hidaka had to confirm with the translator if what I was saying was what she was saying. So then I said, “Do you remember the Raikou special? Do you remember the villains?” I mispronounced Raikou and he corrected me, and then asked if I was talking about the special with the buff villain and the skinny villain. I told him yes, and the skinny one. Then he said “What about him?” So then I said again, “Did you know 4Kids changed him from a boy to a girl?” Then the translator turned to me and asked “Wait, from a girl to a boy or a boy to a girl?” So then I said, “the villain they changed it from a boy to a girl what do you think about that?” Then he finally understood my message, and his eyes widened. He said a rather astonished, “Eh?” I said “Yes, what do you think of that? Do you agree with some of the decisions the dubbing companies make?” He said that while he thought that was extremely weird, Japan wouldn’t get offended by that, since they are sure the dubbing companies have their reasons for doing it. But he emphasized again how weird that was.

The following was a burning question I have had forever, ever since I talked to PUSA at Worlds 2007. Why do the Americans dubbing companies change the background music? Is it because they just feel like it? Is it because they don’t have the rights to use it? Turns out the latter question is partially right. He talked the longest about the music with me, saying that the Americans do not have the rights to all of the Japanese music (especially the lyrical music) and do not have the rights to use it as much as the Japanese use it in the show. I did not think this was because of the Pokemon Company limiting it, so I asked “Who makes it that way?” He cited a company called “JASRAC,” and says they are a group who limits all music in Japan from being distributed outside of the country, anime or not. The Americans simply do not have the rights to use all of the music or in the same quantity as the Japanese, and to use as much as the Japanese show would cost a lot of money, paperwork, and time. I asked him if this is why 4Kids composed the music for the first three movies themselves, and he said “Most likely. It’s much less expensive and troublesome.” He also said they must have come up with some agreement to use the same background music for movies 4 and on. But on the same token, he said the Americans could probably spend a little more money to secure more music.

Next, I showed him the sprite of Arceus. He directly told the translator, “Is that the movie?” Both of us were confused with what he meant, so I directly asked him, “What roll will Arceus have in the 12th movie?” He looked confused again, so I scrolled to Shaymin and said “Shaymin is the star of the 11th movie. Is Arceus the star of the 12th movie?” He just smiled, but I’m really not sure if he knew for sure, and it didn’t seem like a “I am foreshadowing this to you with a smile” smile. It was more like a “Who is Arceus?” He was trying to pronounce it how I was, so I don’t know if he was deliberately trying to throw me off or what. He might not be involved in the movies anymore, so I’m not sure what he knows. I also asked him about Pokemon Platinum, and again he didn’t know what I was talking about.

Now an overall question about the show. Will Ash ever become a Pokemon Master? He laughed and fell back on the couch. He blatantly said that when Ash becomes a Pokemon Master, the show will end. It will be the last episode. Going back to my first interview, I did not mention that he stated the show was cyclical because it could be the audience is constantly replaced (since children get older and leave, and new children come in), so they are allowed to get away with having the same repetitive goal. So, the show would probably continue the same way collect badges, travel through different regions, never age. Will Ash and Pikachu ever be replaced? No. Will they ever age? No. Will there be a 5th generation of Pokemon and will the show keep continuing? He laughed even harder and said of course. Pokemon will continue for many generations to come, and as he made it sound, probably forever.

His escort had been waiting for about 10 minutes and I didn’t want to keep Mr. Hidaka any longer, so I thanked him and his translator once again. I asked his translator if I could possibly have his e-mail address, but since they were in a rush she said she would call me later and discuss that (I told her I would understand if he didn’t want to, but I was just putting it out there in case he would give it to me). I had a fun time interviewing him, and he seemed to have a fun time being interviewed, especially since he scheduled it on his own time with me and in his hotel. It was definitely an awesome experience!