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Image via Pokémon on YouTube


When Pokémon anime premiered in the west, viewers were treated to the iconic sounds of the now-iconic theme song, which could probably be sung, in full, by most English-speaking millennials. The song was so iconic that it has been used in promotion for modern games and was even featured in the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu live-action film.


Japan, on the other hand, had its own theme song “Mezase Pokémon Masuta (Aim to be a Pokémon Master)” sung by the voice actor for Satoshi (Ash’s Japanese name, named after Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri), Rica Matsumoto. Much like the English theme, the Japanese theme song is iconic enough that everyone from that generation can hum the tune and likely brings the song up at karaoke after a few drinks have been had. 


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Earlier this week Matsumoto appeared on the Hakken! Girigiri no Giri “real-life documentary” variety show where she spoke about the early days of her career, including the start of the Pokémon anime. When asked about the royalty payment for the single, which according to the show had sold around 2 million copies, Matsumoto exclaimed that she didn’t actually have a royalty contract for the single, only a flat 100,000 yen payment (US$810 in 1997 conversion rates) for singing the song.


In a mirror image of events across the Pacific, a similar situation happened to Jason Paige, the singer of the iconic western Pokémon anime theme song, which eventually saw Paige sue multiple companies and settle out of court for around US$100,000.


Matsumoto, who continues to play Satoshi in the Pokémon anime 25 years later, went on to say that she’s doing fine for herself with the continuing anime voice work she is given along with dubbing live-action films and narration work. 


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It’s not uncommon for theme song artists, especially those who also voice characters in the series, to only be paid upfront for anime songs and not collect royalties for the songs. In August 2021, “Gurenge” composer Kayoko Kusano spoke about how much they earned from the popular Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba opening theme, specifically about how much was made from karaoke plays. While Kusano earned money from plays at karaoke parlors across Japan, songstress LiSA made nothing from those plays.


Source: Sponichi 


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Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.