It's Pikachu power!

It's Pikachu power!

Our furry yellow friend is as popular as ever, and still attracts the most devoted fans

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Pucky Cheung is a huge Pikachu fan.
Pucky Cheung is a huge Pikachu fan.
Photo: Jonathan Wong/SCMP

Ask any Japanese person which animation character represents their country and you won't be surprised to hear them reply: Pikachu!

The star of Pokémon was recently chosen as the mascot of Japan's football team at this summer's World Cup.

A cute yellow creature with red cheeks, Pikachu strikes enemies with thunder shocks. But it is also important in Japanese culture; Pokémon is one of Japan's longest-running animation series, having been created in 1996.

While Pikachu remains popular in Japan and elsewhere around the world, it is no longer the star in Hong Kong it once was.

But Pucky Cheung Chung-hang, a founder of the Hong Kong Pocket Monster Alliance, is not ready to give up on his favourite cartoon character yet.

"I started watching Pokémon on TV in 1998 when I was in Form Five. Then I started to learn about the Pokémon league, which is an international card game tournament," he says.

Cheung's alliance hopes to encourage more people to play the card game on a regular basis, but it is proving a challenge.

"There used to be a toy shop in Hung Hom which was the official Pokémon card distributor in Hong Kong, but it was closed in 2005," says Cheung.

"The Pokémon league in the United States lets us run tournaments as long as we have a venue. We have tried hosting tournaments at schools and universities, but these were not long-term solutions."

Cheung was still able to send players from Hong Kong to the Pokémon World Championship in the United States, held twice in San Diego and twice in Hawaii between 2009 and 2012.

"Those were my best times. I went to the championship as a translator and was able to meet the top card players from around the world. It was an eye opener. I saw grandfathers attending with their grandsons. They weren't just there for moral support, they were hardcore players," he says.

One of the highlights of attending the championships for Cheung was the chance to collect limited edition Pikachu dolls. "Every year there is a doll made just for the championship, which is given to participants," he says. "They are not for sale to the general public. I have collected more than 1,000 pieces of Pikachu memorabilia since 1998, including dolls, cards, mugs and costumes."

Despite being a presence at the championships for several years, Hong Kong players were not invited to the 2013 championship in Vancouver, Canada. "I think it is a business decision. There are not enough players in Hong Kong to support it," Cheung says.

It was a huge disappointment for Cheung, who couldn't meet up with his fellow Pokémon fans. But his friends around the world have not forgotten him.

"I thought I would miss out on the Pikachu doll from 2013. But my friends made sure that wouldn't happen. They mailed the doll to my home. It was the best gift of my life."

Pikachu will always be Cheung's favourite, despite the Pokémon world creating hundreds of new creatures in recent years.

"Pikachu inspires me. He gets beaten up badly by enemies but he never backs down. Pikachu taught me that as long as I don't give up, I will be successful one day."

Check out Cheung's Pikachu collectibles at the toy carnival at Discovery Park, Tsuen Wan, until April 27

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
It's Pikachu power!

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