Twitter user’s search for the mystery person behind the gift leads them to the original background artist 20 years later.

If you’re out on the streets of Japan and you come across a lost item, handing it over to police at the nearest koban (police box) is always the right thing to do. That’s what Twitter user Chagashi (@tyag53) and their family did around 20 years ago, when they found a wallet while out on a trip together, and it ended up rewarding them in ways they could never have imagined.

While the family didn’t expect anything in return for their good deed, according to Japan’s “Lost Goods Law”, owners are obliged to reward the finder with 5-20 percent of the value of the found item. Not everyone knows about this obligation, and it’s not something that’s expected, so Chagashi’s family were surprised when they received two presents from the wallet’s mystery owner.

▼ The gifts received were two cels from the Pokémon anime series.

After doing some research online, Chagashi discovered that the cels appear to come from Fly Me to the Moon, the 211th episode of the series, as indicated by the number 211 in the top left-hand corner.

That places these scenes in the second episode in Pokémon: Master Quest, the fifth season of Pokémon, which was first broadcast in Japan on 16 August 2001 and in the U.S. on 21 September 2002.

When Chagashi’s family received the cels, they would’ve been part of the most recent series, making them extremely valuable. That value has only increased over time, as cels of Misty and Togepi on their own, without any background art, have been known to sell overseas for more than 155,000 yen (US$1,310).

▼ These cels, however, feature not only Misty and Togepi, but their pal Brock and series stars Ash and Pikachu.

▼ And there’s also Team Rocket trio JessieJames and Meowth

With so many famous characters on these cels, all appearing from the waist-up, and with background art included for each one, these would fetch a high price at auction. For a Pokémon fan like Chagashi, though, money isn’t a consideration — these items have become prized family possessions.

▼ This piece comes with not one but three cels above the background art.

▼ This one includes Jessie’s open mouth on a separate layer, suggesting it was used to animate her as she spoke.

Chagashi has grown up appreciating the hand-drawn images, saying they’ve long admired the skill and technique involved in producing them, right down to the greenery on the trees in the background scenery.

When Chagashi shared the images of the cels on Twitter, along with the story of how they received them, they also asked the tantalising question: “Who was it…that dropped their wallet?”

Chagashi says all they’ve been able to find out about the person who sent the cels to them was that they were involved in the anime in some way. However, through the power of Twitter, Katsumi Takao, one of the artists who painted background scenery for the Pokémon anime series during the early 2000s and for subsequent movies as well, appeared on Chagashi’s thread, saying:

“How nostalgic! My niece informed me about this.
At that time, I was in charge of the background art. As far as I can tell, I touched this one up and checked it.
Cels with background art could only be passed around people in very senior positions so it’s likely that the person [who gave it to you] was in a senior position.
Please take good care of it. I also have some left at home.”

This was an unexpected development that led to a warm and lengthy exchange between Takao and Chagashi, who is also an artist, although their specialisation is in graffiti-style paintings.

▼ Takao (right, below) is always keen to help artists, as he often uploads drawing tutorials on his YouTube channel.

Their conversation went something like this:


“The person who drew the background!
Thank you for the very valuable information regarding those who were involved at that time. 
I looked at how you used the blue colour in the background and in the greenery and also the cliff rocks, and thought it was very beautiful. I even smelled the painting materials…Thank you for making such a wonderful work.”


“Thank you. The painting materials used at that time were Nikka poster colours. 
Tomorrow, I’ll meet the director, Mr Yuyama, regarding another matter, so I’ll ask about the wallet. Lol”

Kunihiko Yuyama has been in the director’s chair for the Pokémon franchise since 1997.


“I thought it smelt like the paint I used at art college! But it was poster colours. It’s really beautiful. Thank you for asking about the wallet. I think it was about 20 to 21 years ago…”


“Yes, it was around 21 years ago, wasn’t it!
I started working from Episode 2, but I remember it well.
I was wondering how many years ago this was, so I’ll ask about it for you.”

Several hours after posting the above message, Takao posted an update.


“I couldn’t chat at the meeting, so I asked Yuyama about the cels by e-mail, but he said it wasn’t him.
It might be someone at Shopro. A Shopro producer who looked after the Pokémon movies retired last year so I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. However, if I get a chance to talk to him at a cast party, I’ll ask him about it.”

Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, or ShoPro as they’re commonly known, produces and markets Pokémon anime, movies and merchandise.

Takao went on to say:

“Given what life is like these days, it might take some time [to talk to him]. There’s one other person it might’ve been, a director during the early days of Pokémon, but he died in his early 60s last week so I can no longer ask him about it.”

At this point, Takao seemed just as curious as Chagashi to find out who the mystery person behind the gift was. Chagashi thanked him profusely for his time, while also asking about the process by which staff were able to procure cels, especially ones like these, with background scenery, that were hard to find.

Takao replied:

“Actually, I used to throw away a lot of cels and backgrounds. Sometimes I’d get a box of cels to divide amongst staff, but only ever a few.”

He went on to say:

“A very long time ago, when the president of a company I previously worked at was drawing black-and-white backgrounds for Astro Boy, the cel was wiped clean after it was photographed and then used again a few times before being burned. He used to laugh about how well the cels burned.
It seems that things aren’t as well controlled as they used to be.”

Heading back to the topic of Chagashi’s cels, Takao said:

Pokémon cels like the ones you have are valuable because you couldn’t receive them unless you were a senior employee of the company.”

With that, the mystery of the owner of the lost wallet remains unsolved…for now. It’s heartening to know that Pokémon insider Takao is still on the case, though, and the story brought a ray of sunshine to anime fans, who left comments like:

“Wow — I envy you for having Pokémon cels!”
“This is really an amazing story!”
“It’s a gift from the heavens!”
“I’m an animator, but even I can’t get cels of our work!”
“These two pieces contain all the main characters so I think it would have to be a director, a producer, or someone high up in the production process.”
“This thank-you gift is definitely worth more than 5-20 percent of anything they could’ve had in their wallet!”

The gift of not one but two original Pokémon artworks with multiple cels is an incredibly kind gesture that shows just how happy the owner must’ve been to be reunited with their lost wallet, which, for many creatives, can be their “lifeline”.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see if Chagashi and Takao are able to follow the clues and solve the mystery, maybe with a little help from Pokémon fans along the way. So feel free to spread the word and if you or someone you know has any leads for this adventure, be sure to let us know!

Source: Twitter/@tyag53 via Hachima Kikou
Top Image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Twitter/@tyag53 (1, 2)

● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!