Culture

‘Detective Pikachu’ has unleashed a storm of Pikachu knockoffs in China

May 15, 2019

Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a hit in China. The live-action movie starring Ryan Reynolds as the voice of a furry Pikachu has scored more than $48 million in the Chinese box office so far, according to box office tracker Ent Group.

With the success has come a flood of Pikachu knockoff toys from sellers who are more than eager to cash in on the Pokémon’s iconic image.

Internet users in China have been unearthing the worst Pikachu merch they can find and publishing them on Weibo, China’s Twitter, under the hashtag “Which factory made this Pikachu?”

Many of the products are available on the shopping website Taobao, where turnaround for merchandise is surprisingly quick.

(Read more: I bought fake Twitter followers on China’s Amazon)

Taobao vendors can pounce on trends almost instantly and churn out products in response to the latest TV show or movie.

(Taobao is operated by Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, of which Goldthread is a part.)

Pikachu is the latest victim. Some of the knockoffs, though, look more like they came out of a Tim Burton movie than the Pokémon world.

Tired dinosaur Pikachu. The caption reads, "Chinese version."
Tired dinosaur Pikachu. The caption reads, "Chinese version." / Photo: Weibo via Abacus

Tired dinosaur Pikachu isn’t even the worst version out there. Some manufacturers seem to have missed the concept of the character completely.

One toy maker decided to switch Pikachu’s red cheeks with its eyes.

Red-eyed Pikachus.
Red-eyed Pikachus. / Photo: Weibo via Abacus

“My God, why would you make lovely Pikachu look like this?,” wrote one distressed Weibo user.

Other Chinese factories opted to use Pikachu’s likeness in daily household objects.

One cup has a straw hole right on Pikachu’s head, so it looks like you’re slurping Pikachu’s brains right through the straw.

The middle Pikachu is a picture frame that lets you swap out Pikachu's face for yours.
The middle Pikachu is a picture frame that lets you swap out Pikachu's face for yours. / Photo: Weibo via Abacus

China already has a reputation for knockoffs, but online shopping has taken it to an extreme.

(Read more: Chinese kids are paying people to compliment them)

Impulse buying means many manufacturers are quick to respond to the latest trends with knockoff products.

When a Chinese Peppa Pig trailer featuring a Peppa Pig air blower went viral in January, it only took a week for air-blower sellers on Taobao to make a replica.

An air blower painted to look like the popular cartoon character Peppa Pig.
An air blower painted to look like the popular cartoon character Peppa Pig. / Photo: Alibaba Pictures

During that period, prices for air blowers on the site quadrupled.

Knockoff Pikachus are yet another sign of Chinese manufacturers’ savvy.

Adapted from an article first published in Abacus.

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