It’s like Pikachu used some super effective time travel powers.

Pikachu is one of the most popular characters in Japanese entertainment media, and he didn’t have a long, arduous climb to the top. Right from the start of the Pokémon franchise, the Electric-type was met with universal cries of “Kawaii!”, and he’s becomes so ubiquitous that it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t everywhere in Japan.

Maybe that’s why he doesn’t look at all out of place in these images of “Pikachu in Tokyo in the 1920s” that were recently posted by Japanese Twitter user Apura (@_ai_drawing)…but wait, the first Pokémon video games, which started the franchise, were released in 1996. So how did Apura manage to get images of the franchise mascot hanging out in 1920 Japan?

With image-generating A.I. apps Stable Diffusion and Dream Studio.

The results are surprisingly convincing. Sure, the Pikachu in the images may not look exactly like the one we have in the real world today. As art trends change over time, though, continually popular characters have their designs periodically updated. Looking at the Pikachus in Apura’s images, it’s not hard to imagine that they could have been Pikachu’s starting point, and that a hundred years’ worth of incremental revisions is what led to Pikachu’s current look.

Even some of the images where the A.I. Pikachu looks distinctly off-model have an air of pseudo-authenticity about them, almost like they’re snapshots from an era where the Pokémon Company was still a fledgling media company, and didn’t yet have the strict standards for how its characters were represented in merchandising and marketing that it does today, sort of like if you look at some of the initial costumes for Mickey Mouse from when Disneyland first opened in California back in the 1950s.

Alternatively, a few look like they might be Pikachu knockoffs, flying under the radar in the years before the Pokémon franchise was big enough to make monitoring for and going after infringements on its intellectual property rights a priority.

▼ And there’s this one, which looks like the world’s most adorable kaiju.

Really, the only clear giveaways that these aren’t actual photographs are the warped, unintelligible text on the signs and the nightmarish faces on some of the people. All in all, though, it’s an amazing example of the rapid progress image-generating A.I. is making, or maybe proof that the time travel-empowered Celebi Pokémon are real.

Source: Twitter/@_ai_drawing via IT Media
Top image: Twitter/@_ai_drawing
Insert images: Twitter/@_ai_drawing (1, 2)
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