Pikachu’s gobsmacked expression is almost universally relatable. Given the longevity of the Pokemon series, it’s not a huge surprise that Pikachu has been the star of many memes. But if you’ve ever wondered about the origins of the now-viral Shocked Pikachu meme (or Surprised Pikachu meme, if you prefer), we’ve got you covered.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Where did the Surprised Pikachu meme come from?
The Surprised Pikachu/Shocked Pikachu meme came from the original Pokemon anime, which first aired in 1997. The cartoon was a hit, as it followed Ash Ketchum on his journey to become the best there ever was.
The image of Pikachu, however, was taken during an earlier season of the show. During the episode, according to ScreenRant, Ash and his partner, Misty, are trying to catch Bulbasaur. At first, our two heroes don’t have much luck, though, and Bulbasaur easily fights them back. Our titular characters were shocked by this turn of events. And Pikachu—visible in the bottom right corner of the screen—is seen making the face from the meme. Within the context of the episode, of course, he’s meant to be experiencing genuine shock.
When did the meme become popular?
Though its origins date back to the ’90s, Shocked Pikachu didn’t make its appearance on the internet until 2018. According to Know Your Meme, a Tumblr user, named Angela, is the brainchild behind the meme.
Angela said that her love for Pokemon gave birth to Shocked Pikachu. In an interview, Angela said that she rewatched the original Pokemon and noticed that the character “looked a bit… off.” She then started screen-grabbing scenes of Pikachu and other Pokemon that confirmed that suspicion. The Pikachu picture, she said, was posted as a reaction to a joke about purposefully bending an object that you knew would break if you bent it. Her post—with the added picture—went viral, and the rest is history.
How the Surprised Pikachu meme grew beyond Tumblr
The meme is everywhere nowadays; one TikTok user even got a tattoo of it. According to Know Your Meme, Surprised Pikachu has been spotted on social media platforms like Facebook, X—formerly known as Twitter—Reddit, and TikTok.
@mercydeantattoo Surprise!!! #pikachu #pokemon #pokemongo #surprisedpikachu #tattoo #tattooartist #tattoolover #tattooideas #tattootiktok #fyp #fypシ #fy ♬ Pokémon Theme – Pokemon
In 2019, the Surprised Pikachu meme was so popular that it reached the point of suspension. In March of that year, an X user reported that posting the meme could get users suspended for gore.
According to GAMERANT, another X user was allegedly suspended earlier this year for posting the same photo.
How do people use the Surprised Pikachu meme?
The meme is most commonly used to express the feeling of being amazed or surprised at something that should have otherwise been obvious. Here are some more recent examples:
Me: pushes phone under a pillow as I fall asleep— Surprised Pikachu (@SurprisedPika) November 11, 2018
Me: wakes up the next morning to dead phone
Manager: shitty to their employees— Surprised Pikachu (@SurprisedPika) November 12, 2018
Me: eats a bunch of food for Thanksgiving— Surprised Pikachu (@SurprisedPika) November 22, 2018
Me: gets a stomach ache
Other examples can be found here. But, as you can see from the posts above, Surprised Pikachu is a versatile meme used to convey both harsh realities and inevitable consequences.
Regardless, Pikachu’s expression is universally relatable—which is likely part of the reason it went viral to begin with.
The Shocked Pikachu meme is a testament to the internet’s power in all things viral or business branding. Nonetheless, it probably isn’t going away anytime soon—so it doesn’t hurt to know its origins and how to use it properly.