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In the Red and Blue game version of Pokemon, the 3 starters are Squirtle, Charmander and Bulbasaur.

As the anime is based on the game, it would be logical that the main Pokemon (the one with Ash since the beginning) is one of those three starters.

Is there any specific reason why any of those three Pokemon weren't chosen to be the mascot? Why and how was Pikachu chosen by the producers over all the 150 other Pokemon?

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Ash did have the choice of choosing from the starter trio. But he wasn't able to, since he arrived late. The starter trio had been chosen by other trainers and Professor Oak gave Ash a Pikachu.

This plot was shaped in a clever manner to bring Pikachu up as Pokemon that will represent the Pokemon series.

Like you've mentioned, the game versions give Pikachu a minor role but it was enough to gain popularity among the players. An interview with the creator of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri, states so:

TIME: Pikachu is sort of marginal in the game. But it's now the best-known character. How'd that happen?

Tajiri: When they did the anime, they wanted a specific character to focus on. Pikachu was relatively popular compared with the others and potentially both boys and girls would like it. They heard a lot of opinions about this. It wasn't my idea.

The youngsters who had played the Pokemon games were attracted to Pikachu. The reasons to why Pikachu, out of all the other Pokemon, could be because of its characteristics. Ikue Otani (voice of Pikachu) responded in a similar way when asked the same question:

Why do you think Pikachu is so popular with young people?

IO:I think it’s like being the owner of a pet dog; you’re always wondering what your dog is thinking, but you also believe that you understand your dog better than anyone else could ever hope to understand it. You can tell its thoughts just by looking at its face or how it is behaving. Whether it’s hungry, happy or sad. That’s exactly how Satoshi and Pikachu communicate. Because Pikachu can’t say anything other than its name, the audience has to think about what the “Pikachu” noises mean and learn to understand the character. Ultimately, I think kids feel like they are Pikachu’s owner.

The reason Pikachu was chosen to be the mascot, was because of its popularity. It was a brilliant marketing scheme, by taking advantage of the popularity of Pikachu from the games, and incorporating it into the anime and merchandise, sales had soared. The dynamic yet cute relationship between Ash and Pikachu was also another factor to bring up the sales.

TIME: How does that translate to the U.S.?

Tajiri: It's interesting, because in Japan, everybody goes for Pikachu. In the U.S., the characters Ash [Satoshi in Japan] and Pikachu are grouped together. American kids seem to like that. In America there are more products sold with Ash and Pikachu together, not just Pikachu alone. I think Americans actually understand the concept of Pokémon better than the Japanese. The Japanese focus on Pikachu, but what I think is important is the human aspect--you need Ash.

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Why was Pikachu chosen to be the main Pokemon of the anime?

Pikachu is among the most recognizable Pokémon, largely because a Pikachu is a central character in the Pokémon anime series. Pikachu is widely considered the most popular Pokémon, is regarded as the official mascot of the Pokémon franchise, and has become an icon of Japanese culture in recent years.

According to Pikachu's entry in wikipedia which stated:

Pikachu

Initially both Pikachu and the Pokémon Clefairy were chosen to be lead characters for the franchise merchandising, with the latter as the primary mascot to make the early comic book series more "engaging". However, with the production of the animated series, Pikachu was chosen as the primary mascot, in an attempt to appeal to female viewers and their mothers, and under the belief that the creature presented the image of a recognizable intimate pet for children. Its color was also a deciding factor, as yellow is a primary color and easier for children to recognize from a distance, and with consideration to the fact the only other competing yellow mascot at the time was Winnie-the-Pooh. Though Tajiri acknowledged that the character was relatively popular with both boys and girls, the idea of Pikachu as the mascot was not his own, and stated he felt the human aspect of the series was overlooked by Japanese children who embraced Pikachu by itself more readily

In The Anime

In the first episode, Ash receives his Pikachu from Professor Oak as his starting Pokémon. New trainers are given a starting Pokémon; in Ash's homeland of Kanto this is often Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur, but Ash overslept and got Pikachu instead.

In other Pokémon media

Pikachu is one of the main Pokémon used in many of the Pokémon manga series. In Pokémon Adventures, main characters Red and Yellow both train Pikachu, which create an egg that Gold hatches into a Pichu. Other series, including Magical Pokémon Journey and Getto Da Ze also feature Pikachu while other manga series, such as Electric Tale of Pikachu, and Ash & Pikachu, feature the most well known Pikachu belonging to Ketchum in the anime series

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