Surprised Pikachu, alternatively known as Shocked Pikachu, represents a screen-captured image of the renowned Pokémon character, Pikachu, with its mouth wide open, symbolizing surprise or shock. This image became a sensation on various social media platforms in the autumn of 2018. The picture was typically accompanied by captions where a predictable result to a situation nevertheless evokes surprise, which made it a popular reaction image.
Origin: The particular image of Surprised Pikachu originates from “Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village,” the 10th episode of the first season of the Pokémon anime. The image was first used as a reaction meme by a Tumblr user named popokko on September 26th, 2018. The post featured the Surprised Pikachu image coupled with a relatable scenario, earning it more than 223,000 notes and marking the birth of the meme (shown below).
Popularity and Spread: The initial Tumblr post soon began circulating on various other online platforms. On September 30th, it appeared on the subreddit /r/MemeEconomy, amassing 880 points. The meme reached Facebook on October 2nd on the Meme Extreme page, where it got over 3,900 likes and reactions and 4,000 shares. As October advanced, the image was coupled with an increasing number of captions, with its popularity spiking on platforms like /r/me_irl. The format also made appearances on other subreddits and websites, with a post on the Game of Thrones subreddit /r/freefolk gaining over 20,000 points. A tweet featuring the meme garnered over 42,000 points on /r/me_irl.
Controversy – March 2019 Twitter Suspensions: On March 16th, 2019, a peculiar incident occurred when Twitter user @0xKruzr reported that tweeting a Surprised Pikachu image led to an on-site suspension due to accusations of posting “gratuitous gore.” This situation was corroborated by several other users who also reported that tweeting the original Surprised Pikachu image resulted in on-site suspensions. However, two days later, on March 18th, the same users reported that the posting of the image no longer led to a suspension.
On March 19th, Redditor Psherman01 sought explanations for these auto-locks on the /r/OutOfTheLoop subreddit, which generated over 700 upvotes within a day. While the exact reason for Surprised Pikachu being labeled as “gratuitous gore” wasn’t definitively determined, it was speculated that it could have been due to the image being reported en masse.