Their authenticity is debatable, but their cuteness is unquestionable.

When you stop and think about it, the official English slogan for the Pokémon franchise is kind of a mean-spirited tease. Honestly, how are we supposed to “catch ‘em all” when every couple years the Pokémon Company puts out a new game with a new set of Pocket Monsters to catch?

Of course, the flipside is that fans don’t really want their Pokédexes to be permanently filled anyway. As soon as they’ve captured and evolved every species in one game, they start dreaming about the next generation, which brings us to a trio of illustration sets that have been flying around the Internet this week, rumored to be the concept art for the three starter Pokémon for the next game in the series.

The half-monkey half-koala Grass-type, Fire-type bunny with flaming ears and early crowd favorite Water-type platypus all feature genuine Pokémon-caliber cuteness (although the platypus is pretty much just a platypus with no distinctly fantasy elements beyond its blue coloring). But before you go spending too much mental energy weighing the speculative pros and cons of picking each as your starter, there are a few things to bear in mind.

First, while there’s plenty of Japanese-text notations on the drawings, it’s unorthodox in the way it splits the duties of hiragana, katakana, and kanji, the three categories of Japanese written characters. While this could be the result of a native Japanese designer simply switching up writing styles to be playful (or maybe spare himself a hand cramp by choosing whatever takes the fewest strokes to write), it could also be a sign that whoever drew the illustrations isn’t Japanese, which would be kind of a red flag since up until now the Pokémon Company has always used Japanese designers.

Second, it’s worth remembering that with so many fans around the world chomping at the bit for the next mainline Pokémon game, the temptation for fan artists to try to pass off their own drawings as official concept art can become irresistibly high, and these illustrations could very well be high-quality impostors, like what happened in the heady days leading up to the Sailor Moon reboot.

But to those still holding out hope that these are authentic, there are rumors that a brand-new Pokémon game is on its way to Nintendo’s Switch in the not-too-distant future, and given how aggressive Nintendo was in putting out new Zelda and Mario games for the system in its first year, it may very well be keeping its foot on the accelerator and already finalizing designs for the next Pokémon game in order to get it in players’ hands as soon as possible.

And hey, even if these loveable designs aren’t actually part of the official next generation of Pocket Monsters, you can look forward to perhaps playing with them in the next Pokémon fan game, at least until Nintendo inevitably gets it taken down.

Source: Resetera via Otakomu
Featured image: Twitter/@Arashi_Dyan