What’s behind the pika-poor showing for the face of the franchise, and also a disappointing finish for Eevee?

February 27 was when the original Pokémon Red and Green Game Boy games went on sale back in 1996, and so the date is now known as Pokémon Day. For 2020, though, the day of celebration included a poll to choose the Pokémon of the Year.

From February 6 to 14, fans were allowed to vote online once per day through their Google account, and the results were revealed on Pokémon Day, with a video showing the top 10. So let’s all settle in and watch the inevitable countdown to Pikachu’s landslide victory

…or maybe not.

When the 6,608,215 votes were tallied, the Pokémon of the Year, with 140,599 votes, is ninja frog Greninja! Not only was Pikachu not at the top of the list, he didn’t even make the top 10, with his 48,060 votes only good enough for 19th overall. The face of the franchise didn’t even finish first among Generation I/Kanto species, where his fourth-place position comes after Bulbasaur, Gengar, and king of Kanto Charizard.

Also surprisingly low in the rankings: Eevee, who finished 20th overall.

▼ Oh, hey, Pikachu and Eevee. Almost didn’t notice you two way down there.

Following Greninja in the overall top 10 rankings are:
2. Lucario (102,259 votes)
3. Mimikyu (99,779 votes)
4. Charizard (93,968 votes)
5. Umbreon (67,062 votes)
6. Sylveon (66,029 votes)
7. Garchomp (61,877 votes)
8. Rayquaza (60,939 votes)
9. Gardevoir (60,596 votes)
10. Gengar (60,214 votes)

A closer look at the top 10 may give a hint as to why Pikachu, ostensibly the most-loved and best-known Pokémon, finished as low as he did. The poll’s highest rankings include several Pokémon with advanced combat capabilities, by nature of being at the end of their evolution chains or their Legendry Pokémon status.

There’s always been a bit of a paradox, though, when it comes to Pikachu’s power level in the Pokémon video and card games. He needs to be strong enough to be a viable choice to use in battles, because of his broad popularity, but he can’t be too powerful, because then he’d have to be a rare species and would lose his familiar status that makes him a good mascot. So while Pikachu often gets to play the hero in the Pokémon anime, he’s far less likely to have saved a video/card gamer’s hide, whereas several of the Pokémon of the Year poll’s top 10 are easily capable of turning the tide of battle all by themselves. If the voters were primarily fans of the Pokémon games, as opposed to the anime, it would explain why cuteness didn’t carry the day for Pikachu.

▼ Not that Greninja doesn’t’ get to do some pretty cool stuff in the anime too, though.

There’s a similar situation with Eevee, who’s been pushed as a secondary mascot for the franchise for quite some time now. An added wrinkle, though, is that Eevee has by far the highest number of possible evolutions of any Pokémon, with two of them (Umbreon and Sylveon) in the top 6.

▼ There was an entire tree of Eevee evolution plushies at last year’s Pikachu Outbreak event in Yokohama.

With so many Eevee candidates to choose from, fans of the family likely had their votes diluted. If you combined the votes for Eevee, Umbreon, and Sylveon, plus fellow Eevee evolutions Espeon, Jolteon, and Vaporeon (who finished out of the top 30 overal), they’d come to 236,856 votes, far more than Greninja’s 140,559. Pikachu, meanwhile, would get a smaller boost by combining his total with the votes for evolution-tree relatives Raichu and Pichu, with the aggregate being 74,951 votes, which would have moved him into sixth overall if Eevee’s evolved form votes were also lumped together with the base species.

But the system is what it is, and with Greningja having also won the Pokémon General Election held four years ago, it looks like he’s firmly established his dynasty.

Sources: YouTube/ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル, Pokémon official website
Top image: YouTube/ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル
Insert images: YouTube/ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル, Pokémon official website, SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s sad to see Abra (a.k.a. “Casey” in the Japanese versions) not in the top 30.