Posted: December 21, 2020 | Updated: April 25, 2021

Catfish Comedy: Sunday’s Yamamoto Whiscash

This is part 2/3 in a series on the official event Pokémon inspired by the star-studded cast of Japanese variety TV show “Pokémon Sunday” and the occasional improbable heroics of spotlight Pokémon. Part one, detailing Shokotan Tropius and essential programme background, can be found here; part three, on Golgo Octillery, is found here.

So! Sunday’s event Pokémon goodness didn’t end with the Shokosaur. At first glance, the remarkably unremarkable catfish king may seem like an unlikely contender for the limelight. Which, in some way, is precisely why it could upstage everyone else. Confused? As you might expect, there is a story to be told.

Sunday Special #2: Yamamoto Whiscash, March 21 – April 9, 2007

The whisker king’s origin story is embedded in a Pokémon Sunday hosts-versus-guests arena battle. The date is February 11 2007, episode #122. Male comedian Hiroshi Yamamoto, cosplaying as an innocent flower girl, takes on his challenger (a Japanese schoolboy) in a singles 3-on-3 Diamond & Pearl straight Pokémon fight. As he is wont to do, Yamamoto leads with Torterra. It attacks first and takes a solid chunk of health of out of the foe, a Dialga. Nonplussed, Dialga retaliates to secure a swift OHKO. Already, the situation seems bleak for the red-dress, blonde wig, floral pink headband wearing Yamamoto.

Yamamoto delights in his makeover; Dialga bites the dust. Stills from: Pokémon Sunday #122, via pocketmonsters.net

Out comes Whiscash. Defying all statistical probability, it tanks the enemy Dialga’s Spacial Rend (?) affording it the unexpected opportunity to strike back with Earthquake to score an improbable KO. Viewers at home are astonished at this turn of events. Whiscash receives a standing ovation from the Pokémon Sunday cast. Instantly, a star is born. And it is here, in this heroic feat of supreme defiance that Yamamoto’s Whiscash cements its reputation as not merely a disposable footsoldier, but a veritable King of Whiskers worthy of our collective worship. Whiscash: conqueror of the gods. (That it got swept hopelessly by Palkia the turn after bothered no-one.)

We can only speculate whether Sunday and GameFreak immediately resolved to present Japanese Pokéfans with a commemorative replica of Yamamoto’s Whiscash. Certainly, online Pokémon messageboards were soon filled with a considerable amount of meme-ish reverence and animated discussion of Whiscash’s remarkable accomplishment [LINK]. It was clear that faithful fans could be expected to turn out in droves and flock to PokéCenters to collect their very own legendary Whiscash, if given the chance. As it was, however, Whiscash’s breakout performance coincided with the distribution window for Shokotan Tropius, and as such, any designs to immortalise the deity-besting catfish had to be deferred until Shokosaur-mania had passed and the rightful attention of the nation could be lavished on Pokémon Sunday’s first true combat hero.

Some weeks later, Pokémon Sunday aired a surprise comedy skit involving Sunday’s resident junior comedy trio “Robert” (スロジェクト) and GameFreak’s Junichi Masuda. In it, the comedians made their appearance at GameFreak Towers.1 The episode is #127, broadcast March 18 2007. This wasn’t the first time that “Robert” journeyed to GameFreak. They were there, too, for Sunday’s New Year’s Eve … Continue reading Clad in identical red, green and yellow overalls as if pulled from the set of a Mario & Luigi live-action movie, the trio met a slightly apprehensive-looking Masuda in a nondescript meeting room. On a table positioned centrally in the room was laid out a miscellany of objects for Robert to clown around with.

The premise was – I think – to play a show-and-tell prankster game with Masuda as the judge. At stake was the right to pick a Pokémon for special distribution: whichever of the three comedians extracted the heartiest laughter from the franchise head honcho got to make the call. In pocketmonster.net episode screenshots, Robert can be seen making mischief with a variety of objects. Baba (in green) applied toothpicks to his lower jaw in a convincing imitation of Dracula. Akiyama (in yellow) got no further than some tomfoolery with a beach hat and an umbrella. Yamamoto (in red) can be seen intently examining a baseball bat, before being elected the victim of forced epilation by packing tape. Masuda can be seen cracking up wholeheartedly at Robert’s antics, before declaring the now leghairless Yamamoto the (un)fortunate winner.

Clockwise, from top-left: (1) Baba does his best vampire impression; (2) Yamamoto is readied for epilation; (3) Masuda cracks up at the result; (4) Yamamoto celebrates his triumph. Stills from: Pokémon Sunday #127, via pocketmonsters.net

Harking back to its stellar performance from some weeks prior, Yamamoto nominated his godlike Whiscash for distribution without much hesitation.2Blogger “netapoke”, too, was explicit about this causality, writing: “The reason for the distribution is that he (Yamamoto) defeated Dialga … on February 11, 2007, with a … Continue reading And so Whiscash’s distribution – dubbed “Pokémon Sunday Urgent Project #2” – was announced to begin at short order, on March 21, just three days from the broadcast.3ポケモン☆サンデー緊急企画第2弾! For a full range of screenshots from this episode, check out pocketmonsters.net here.

The Whiscash distribution is announced. Still from: Pokémon Sunday #127, via pocketmonsters.net

Indications are that, in contrast to Shokotan Tropius, PokéCenters made available Yamamoto Whiscash exclusively through local wireless connection. Blogger “torogamer” described how at PC Nagoya, Whiscash data was delivered directly “on the radio waves” by an “installed transmitter”. And blogger “tzk” at PC Yokohama recorded enthusiastically how “unlike the last time”, he got his Whiscash “without lining up at all!” While contemporary sources make it clear that PC Tokyo, for instance, had plenty of employees on assistance duty to help youngsters and unitiated parents navigate the pitfalls of Mystery Gift (see below), all staffers seem to have done just that – to aid, guide and thus make customers self-sufficient, and not perform manual slot-2 event injection. (Teach a man how to fish…!) And while I’m mindful that absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence, I cannot find any mention of a slot-2 backup distribution method for Whiscash in the numerous contemporary personal blogs reporting on this Sunday Special. And that includes the ever-dependable Pikachuftt, torogamer, and inside-games.

PC Nagoya temporary distribution booth. Image credit: tantan_1229

Alongside this total switch to a wireless distribution method, some stores took precautions to keep their floorspace from being overrun by hordes of Whiscash-seekers. At PC Nagoya, a temporary distribution and assistance booth was set up outside.4Torogamer and one “Tantan_1229” both report this; the latter at: https://blog.goo.ne.jp/tantan_1229/e/1b7f3f56d9e35f3011f5f812c98e329e Apparently this was customary whenever a special event was expected to attract larger-than-normal crowds. It proved to be far from an unnecessary intervention: even though torogamer visited the PokéCenter on a weekday, he found the place “overcrowded” and swarming with children looking to obtain a Whiscash of their own, some of whom were too young to read the Kanji on the WiFi instructional posters and thus politely quizzed Toro in honorifics about the download process. Isn’t that sweet? Did I mention Sunday had a big audience? I believe I did.

Whiscash-seekers are redirected to the “special rooftop venue” (屋上特設会場). Image credit: Pikachuftt

Easily the coolest crowd control solution was adopted by PC Tokyo, which decamped to the rooftop of the nearby Nihonbashi Takashimaya department store for the occasion and redirected visitors to receive Whiscash wirelessly there. How cool is that?!5Shokotan Tropius had been available at the cramped PC Tokyo itself a few blocks down the road, filling the place to capacity with tremendous queues snaking down the streets as a result. This non-traditional setting certainly appealed to blogger mjamberry, who couldn’t hide their amazement that the place to get Whiscash was truly a roof terrace with views of the surrounding cityscape, not some sweaty corner of an overcrowded PokéCenter.6Writing: “入口に「やまもとのナマズンプレゼント」会場は屋上・・・「屋上?!」” As an added bonus, night-time visitors got to enjoy the spectacular lights of the rooftop garden which were “beautiful in the evening”.7Words of “epris613”, at: https://blog.goo.ne.jp/epris613/e/6644a0177d95d8b62fd587ed70ecdd9e These night-sky environs can only have enhanced the sensation of obtaining something very special – the sole downside being that it was the month of March, and therefore cold and damp!

Roof garden entrance – decorative lighting can be seen through the pane (left); an out-of-focus tree sparkles for Whiscash (right). Image credit: souryuu1974 and epris613

Surveying the Takashimaya rooftop scene, blogger “montan” described a “distribution corner” for Whiscash populated by “three staff members who seemed to had come from the Pokemon Center.” A Whiscash wireless download guide was displayed prominently; additionally, staff went around actively instructing those who still struggled with the required steps. So long as you brought a Nintendo DS and the Pokémon software, “freescenario” assured his weblog’s readership, one could be certain that staff guided you through the obtain process from the beginning.

Whiscash wireless download instructional poster. Image credit: Pikachuftt

Which was a good thing, for much like during Shokotan Tropius, many adults unfamiliar with Pokémon gameplay flocked to distribution spots to collect a Sunday Special on behalf of their children. Some found the redemption process surprisingly straightforward, to the point of worrying whether they’d made the correct inputs.8Source is “freescenario”: “むしろ簡単すぎるが故、カードの配布がちゃんともらえているか心配していた親御さんもいました。” Some technophobes remained clueless and delegated the download to PokéCenter employees – observed “danedane” at the improvised open-air PC Tokyo: “The businessman next to me didn’t know at all and left it to the staff. This person must not be a player.”9”隣のビジネスマンは全くわからず、スタッフまかせであった。この人はプレイヤーではないに違いない。” Montan similarly espied numerous office workers at the Nihonbashi rooftop to collect catfish around during the after-work rush on a weekday evening, many of whom queued for additional assistance. One “haneumahassamu” (catchy handle) found the rooftop packed with parents and children at an undescribed daytime hour; blogger “epris613”, too, summarised the customer base as an even mixture of adults and children. The composition of Whiscash clients was thus altogether comparable to Tropius, and it’s clear that the PC Tokyo at least learned from the Shokosaur queueing fiasco, with the nearby department store roof garden proving to be a far better – not to mention scenic – location where lines could be reduced to a minimum, and when they did form, hindered no-one. The proof of this was very much in the pudding – said epris613: “After receiving the Whiscash, everyone is smiling.” Perhaps to address persistent capacity issues, PC Tokyo relocated from Nihonbashi to a brand-new store in Hamamatsucho in July 2007, putting an end to rooftop escapades.10Freescenario reports that Festa MagBuzz, too, had been available from the sky terrace back in January 2007.

It’s interesting how after the January 2007 nationwide (re)release of Festa Magmar & Electabuzz (see here), the expectation of wondercard-sharing with friends had evidently taken hold. This in-built mechanic allowed one player to act as a direct peer-to-peer event Pokémon redistribution point for up to 40 more recipients, thus effectively extending an event’s availability window infinitely into the future and reducing geographical restraints for local distributions. Couldn’t make it to a PokéCenter because of other commitments, or because it was simply too far away from your home? Not a problem. Provided a buddy went, you could claim the event through him / her as the intermediary. It was a fantastic, playing field-levelling second-chance system… Except this wondercard-specific function was never to be enabled again after MagBuzz – players just didn’t know it yet. Blogger “freescenario”, for instance, felt compelled to remind his readers to absolutely being their personal copies of Diamond & Pearl to the venue, for “as with Tropius … your friends can’t share the [Whiscash] card.”11 Full quote is: … Continue reading Yeah.

Look forward to a personal message from Yamamoto! Still from: Pokémon Sunday #127, via pocketmonsters.net

Much like the other Sunday Specials, the back of the Whiscash wondercard contained a fun blurb. Composed by Yamamoto himself, it had none of Shokotan’s trademark random goofiness, but rather earnestly encouraged players to raise the Whiscash as their own, make memories of competitive battle and thus continue its story.12In full: … Continue reading Whiscash certainly came equipped for this purpose: with Aqua Tail / Zen Headbutt / Giga Impact / Earthquake – the latter of which it has used so effectively on television – it packed a punch right out of the box. A held Rindo Berry was a thoughtful touch, softening as it does Grass-type attacks to which the catfish is quadruple weak.

The original Yamamoto Whiscash would continue to feature regularly on Pokémon Sunday throughout 2007. As the new year dawned, Whiscash saw less and less action before ultimately being traded away to the lovely Takushi Tanaka (田中卓志) of comedy duo Ungirls (アンガールズ) when she appeared on Sunday as a special guest in 2008. In return for his legendary trooper, Yamamoto received a Meditite. As far we know, decorated veteran Whiscash continues to enjoy retirement with Tanaka.13Source for information about Whiscash’s fate is “pokemonhaishin”, at: https://www.pokemonhaishin.com/entry/2020/04/04/234333

Footnotes

Footnotes
1  The episode is #127, broadcast March 18 2007. This wasn’t the first time that “Robert” journeyed to GameFreak. They were there, too, for Sunday’s New Year’s Eve Special aired December 31 2006, but I couldn’t tell you what for, because the pocketmonsters.net screenshots we rely on in lieu of a synopsis are broken. See: https://www.pocketmonsters.net/episodes/viewep/810/Titles
2 Blogger “netapoke”, too, was explicit about this causality, writing: “The reason for the distribution is that he (Yamamoto) defeated Dialga … on February 11, 2007, with a Whiscash.” In Japanese: “配布理由は2007年2月11日に襲来’したディアパル使いのディアルガをナマズンで撃破したことから。ちなみにバトル自体は次に出てきたパルキアに無惨に敗北”. At: https://w.atwiki.jp/netapoke/pages/147.amp
3 ポケモン☆サンデー緊急企画第2弾!
4 Torogamer and one “Tantan_1229” both report this; the latter at: https://blog.goo.ne.jp/tantan_1229/e/1b7f3f56d9e35f3011f5f812c98e329e
5 Shokotan Tropius had been available at the cramped PC Tokyo itself a few blocks down the road, filling the place to capacity with tremendous queues snaking down the streets as a result.
6 Writing: “入口に「やまもとのナマズンプレゼント」会場は屋上・・・「屋上?!」”
7 Words of “epris613”, at: https://blog.goo.ne.jp/epris613/e/6644a0177d95d8b62fd587ed70ecdd9e
8 Source is “freescenario”: “むしろ簡単すぎるが故、カードの配布がちゃんともらえているか心配していた親御さんもいました。”
9 ”隣のビジネスマンは全くわからず、スタッフまかせであった。この人はプレイヤーではないに違いない。”
10 Freescenario reports that Festa MagBuzz, too, had been available from the sky terrace back in January 2007.
11  Full quote is: “なお、トロピウスのとき同様、カードのおすそ分けはできません。友達からカードを分けてもらえませんので、最低でもソフトは忘れないようにしましょう。”
12 In full: 「みんなのために がんばって てにいれた ナマズンだよ。きみだけの ナマズンを そだててみよう。ナマズン なめんなよ! やまもと たいいん」
13 Source for information about Whiscash’s fate is “pokemonhaishin”, at: https://www.pokemonhaishin.com/entry/2020/04/04/234333