Saitama Prefectural Police foil underhanded method to catch ‘em all.

In the Pokémon anime, Ash/Satoshi’s desire to catch ‘em all is presented as an admirable, noble aspiration, and the same goes for the similarly oriented quest of the player characters in the Pokémon video games. But the series has always shown that not every Pocket Monster collector is so virtuous, and that’s something that holds true in real life as well.

Earlier this year, Japan’s Akagi Nyugyo, makers of the beloved Garigari-kun popsicle line, launched a cross promotion with Pokémon Coco, the latest anime movie in the franchise (to be subtitled Secrets of the Jungle in its upcoming English-version release). Not only was the new flavor of Garigari-kun, golden pineapple, a Pikachu-like bright yellow, the box was decorated with images of the franchise mascot and Zarude, the simian Mythical Pokémon who plays a key role in the movie. Best of all, once you finished munching on your popsicle and checked the stick, if there was a special mark on it, you could mail it to Akagi Nyugyo to receive an exclusive limited-edition Zarude card for the Pokémon collectible trading card game.

▼ The Garigari-kun Zarude card

Sometime in early November, Akagi Nyugyo received a winning stick in the mail which had been sent from Akita Prefecture. Then it got another, and then another. Before long, the company had received 25 winning sticks, mailed one at a time, all of which they believed were from the same person. A single Pokémon/popsicle fan being that lucky seemed suspicious, so Akagi Nyugyo (which is headquartered in Saitama Prefecture) asked the Saitama Prefectural Police for advice, and in the course of the investigation they were able to determine that the sticks were fakes.

▼ A legitimate atari-bo/winning stick from the Pokémon promotion. Since the stick itself is the same size, shape and material as a non-winning stick, making a counterfeit is simply a matter of replicating the Poké Ball mark and text.

Investigators have now traced the 25 fakes to a 43-year-old office worker living in the town of Kazuno, Akita Prefecture, and have placed him under arrest for attempted fraud. Akagi Nyugyo has also released a statement to sincerely apologize to its customers, distributors, and “all members of society” for the situation, despite not being at fault in any way (but then again, Akagi Nyugyo is a very polite company).

While 25 Zarudes would make for a formidable deck, it’s more likely the man was planning to offer the cards for sale online, where even just the winning sticks from the Pokémon/Garigari-kun promotion have sold for as much as 50,000 yen (US$483). Speaking of which, Akagi Nyugyo’s statement also cautions against buying winning sticks on the Internet, as there’s a chance they may be counterfeits as well.

Considering the man in Akita was arrested, it’s likely he was producing his fakes himself, not just unwittingly using counterfeits he’d purchased in good faith. However, the cards’ high potential resale value may not add to the legal severity of his crime, since Akagi Nyugyo was giving them away at no extra cost to people who’d purchased the popsicles. As such, the punishment he faces if convicted may not be especially heavy, so those thirsting for harsher justice may have to console themselves with the thought that he might have had some severe brain freezes while eating enough Garigari-kun to get the 25 non-winning sticks he used as the raw materials for his scheme.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun via Livedoor News via Otakomu, Asashi Shimbun, Akagi Nyugyo
Top image: Akagi Nyugyo
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