Pokémon of the Year: Greninja takes top honors thanks to a legendary backstory

Move over Pikachu, Greninja has won Google's poll for Pokémon of the Year because he is so dang popular in Japan.

The results of Google's Pokémon of the Year poll are in and the top monster might surprise a lot of Poké Fans out there. But this choice makes sense when you consider its popularity and cultural significance in Japan, the country with some of Pokémon's most avid fans where a legit legend helped inspire the Pokémon.

In anticipation of Pokémon Day on February 27, Google and the Pokémon Company held a poll throughout February allowing fans to vote for their favorite among all 896 Pokémon. The Pokemon Company claims "millions" voted. The winner was announced Thursday morning, and it's Greninja, the final evolution of the Kalos starter Froakie.

Greninja in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'.


Other obviously popular Pokémon like Charizard and Lucario made the list, but there were also a few surprises like Mimikyu and Umbreon. Here are the top 10 Pokémon according to Google's poll:

  1. Greninja
  2. Lucario
  3. Mimikyu
  4. Charizard
  5. Umbreon
  6. Sylveon
  7. Garchomp
  8. Rayquaza
  9. Gardevoir
  10. Gengar

Greninja could still be considered a dark horse winner here. It's a recent Pokémon, first appearing in 2013's Pokémon X and Y for Nintendo 3DS.

That being said, Greninja has become immensely popular since its debut. This ranking shows that he may now even surpass the likes of Eevee and Pikachu.

Greninja winning this poll isn't even an isolated incident either, at least in Japan. His popularity in Japan traces back to a spring 2016 poll held in Japan where Greninja came out as the number one pick from 562,386 participants. Later that year, the demo of Pokémon Sun and Moon for 3DS had players control a special Greninja, cementing his popularity in the games as well.

Part of the reason behind his popularity could have something to do with the incredibly cool inspiration behind his design.

Greninja's inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate probably helped get him elected Pokémon of the Year, but his coolest connections are to The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya. This myth follows a ninja that transforms into a giant toad, so Greninja was designed as a blend between the two. The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya is a popular piece of Japanese folklore that has been adapted many times over into different iterations, in some cases featuring a ninja riding a giant amphibian. There's even a character named Jiraiya in the manga and anime Naruto who's called "Toad Sage."

The ongoing popularity of Jiraiya helps boost Greninja's popularity even more as one of the few Pokémon based on myths.

Even though my favorite Pokémon are Jirachi and Swampert, I'm still okay with the results of this poll.

Looking back, the two polls with Greninja as the winner have some interesting similarities: 2016's top 10 list also included Sylveon, Rayquaza, and Charizard in the Top 10. New Pokémon like Mimikyu have gained traction since then. Opening the poll up to the whole world also had a noticeable impact on the results, as Lucario became a top contender. Greninja still managed to the top spot.

Unfortunately, Greninja actually can't be used in Pokémon Sword and Shield as it is not in that game's National Dex just yet. Still, you can transfer it from Pokémon X and Y to Pokémon Bank and then to Pokémon Home on iOS, Android, or Nintendo Switch.

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