The Magikarp of Love

If Heracross, Milotic, and the rest of the “staff selects” captured the imagination of the dyed-in-the-wool Daisuki community, the February 2007 GTS Magikarp Valentine’s event attracted the attention of Pokémon fans nationwide. Organised by the Daisuki Club, but open to anyone with a copy of Diamond / Pearl and access to a WiFi connection, “Go! Happy Carry Magikarp!”1 was designed to get players exchanging festive, bracing messages with one another, using Magikarp as the middle-fish.

The Pokémon propaganda machinery was mobilised in full to promote the event. A cheery, colourful article appeared on the main page of Pokémon.jp website. Yahoo Kids, too, got a full-sized ad some 10 days before the Karp took flight. And Shoko Nakawaga’s hugely popular weekly morning show Pokémon Sunday, watched by hundreds of thousands of children all around Japan, promoted the initiative live on national television. It couldn’t get much bigger than that!

The Yahoo Kids promotional page!

Stills from: Pokémon Sunday (ポケモン☆サンデー), February 4 2007, via pocketmonsters.net

Here’s how it worked. The Club’s instructions invited players to compose a blurb on in-game Mail, affix it to their Magikarp (“Koiking”, in Japanese) of choice, then deposit it for trade on the GTS. Or, if participants felt adventurous, to search for another Magikarp and initiate an exchange. On February 14 and 15, Daisuki Club staff would join the fray, promising to send out over 200 Magikarp of their own, bearing special notices. And the kicker: any such official ‘Karp would contain keywords enterable on a special section of the Daisuki website, making the lucky player eligible to win a “nice present”!

Simple, right? Yet the response was overwhelming. Enthusiastic fans blogged about the event in advance, showcasing the number of Magikarp they had caught, and messages they had prepared to send out. Dedicated threads went live on BBS forums and ran through thousands of messages.2 Even blogs in neighbouring Korea wrote favourably about the scheme.

When Valentine’s Day arrived, Magikarp staged a veritable GTS coup. Player participation was so high, in fact, that the GTS, uh, suffered “congestion”, to invoke the euphemistic terminology of one blogger, creaking under the strain and blue-screening players, dropping connections, and kicking people out with failed trades. This despite it being a midweekly event, with many presumably tied up at work or in school.3 Players, however, seemed to take this in their stride. It certainly didn’t stop one participant from hunting a Daisuki special Karp using three software copies, spending all day before finally succeeding.4 Another blogger was equally intent on hooking an official ClubKarp, but found only a redistributed one seemingly stripped of its original mail.5 By way of enduring testimony to the event’s popularity: today’s web is still home to many aging personal blogs that devote ample space to Valentine Magikarp and highlight the delightful, funny or somewhat questionable Karp-borne messages received.6

It’s interesting. One would think excitement ran high over the chance to win special prizes. But these weren’t known in advance. Instead, the event seemed to tap into something more fundamental. Many of the enthused participants fit the slightly older demographic of high school seniors, college students and working adults. I think that’s no coincidence. These were all players who had grown up with Gameboys and their brightly-coloured link cables required to even trade Pokémon locally. And now, thanks to that technological trading marvel, the GTS, nationwide connectivity had become a reality. Magikarp Valentine was the first event to truly explore the possibilities of global WiFi, and it must’ve felt revolutionary. Reading old blogs such as this one, the sense of whimsical novelty is palpable, as Pokémon veterans jumped at the chance to connect directly with fellow Pokémon enthusiasts. Daisuki was a kid’s fanclub, but this event appealed to all ages.

Image credit: gongonbe

When the “nice gift” was finally unveiled on February 16, it turned out to be a Magikarp-themed… Lanyard? Wrist strap? I’m not sure. And is that a little Karp-shaped bell on the end? I really can’t tell from these pictures, courtesy of a contented winner. (They hooked a RuiRui♥ Koiking.) Either way, the gift is rather… Plain. A slightly more commemorative object would’ve been nice, say a figurine of a leaping Magikarp ferrying Heart Mail in its mouth, or whatever an artist’s impression of the event would look like. Anything involving Magikarp, Heart Mail, and the GTS, really! The official prizewinner certificate packed in with the lanyardbellstrap would look pretty good in a glass frame, though.

The mystery grand prize, thankfully, was satisfyingly jaw-dropping. …Are you sitting down for this? It was a three-day, all expenses-paid Pokémon Special Tour! Between March 25-27 2007, six lucky individuals were taken to visit Pokémon Center Tokyo and Pokémon Company HQ, and – to top it off – received the opportunity to interview all of Mr. Masuda, Sugimori, Morimoto and Ishihara, the combined head honchos of the franchise!7 Wow! Now that’s a prize! (I would’ve given my left kidney for this.) As it was, elementary schoolers received priority for the grand prize, and candidates were selected sometime in early March. If anyone knows whether the lucky winners’ “interviews” got published somewhere, do tell.

Pokémon Special Reporter Tour! Six Winners!

While Magikarp Valentine is by now long in the past and mostly forgotten, one tangible remnant of the competition remains today: the messengers themselves. Through wondrous channels, eight (out of 200) special Magikarp have been preserved for posterity. Thanks, Ahiru!

So let’s talk about these. What was so unique about these Daisuki Magikarp, anyway? It can’t have been the moveset – they only knew Splash. You probably guessed it by now: each and every one of them bore the names of Daisuki staff! Not their birth names, obviously, but professional handles rendered as OTNs: Ryuuta, RuiRui♥, Norii♪, Uttsu and Nana. Participants wouldn’t have known this at the time, for the Daisuki Club purposely held back the Koiking specifics, likely to prevent the mimic hacking that had plagued the December / January Heracross, Cherubi and Milotic “mini” Daisuki distributions.8 Once the event was done and dusted, Pokémon.jp published an elegant two-part Karp-identification diagram:

Isn’t that beautiful? I’ll walk you through it. The top-left figure tells us that each Daisuki Magikarp’s unique Trainer Name corresponded to a unique Trainer ID (ID No., or TID) and specific nature (third column).

Transcribed into English:
Uttsu – 01256 – Relaxed
Nana – 07076 – Lonely
Ryuuta – 12226 – Modest
RuiRui♥ – 02226 – Rash
Norii♪ – 03126 – Hardy

This is intriguing, for it confirms that each and every of Uttsu’s 40 Magikarp was Relaxed, each of Nana’s Magikarp was Lonely, and so on. Event Pokémon natures are usually randomised, but not this time. Is that because the Karps’ natures reflect a real-world kernel of truth? Was Nana truly somewhat of a loner, and Uttsu famously laid-back?

As for the TIDs: they’re a touch odd. Event Pokémon TIDs ordinarily mirror the month, day, and year of their distribution. Take Shōko Nakagawa’s “Shokotan” [しょこたん] Tropius, for example: it was available via local WiFi starting February 2 2007, and therefore has a TID of 02027. Yet no such logic applies to the Daisuki Magikarp. The event spanned February 14 and 15, and the Magikarp Pokémon data suggests they were generated right before trade on the GTS, but by design, none have TID 0214X or 0215X. Instead the first four digits range widely. Could they point to the chosen five’s birthdays? Or were they simply picked at random? And surely the TIDs’ common denominator – the final digit “6” – ought to have been “7” for 2007.9

From the top-right image, we can see the rightful Koiking met location is “Daisuki Club”, as opposed to the six mini-Suke, which (we believe) were hatched in or around Solaceon Town. The sample Karp’s nature (Hardy) suggests OTN Norii♪ was used to generate the image, and its met date is off by two weeks. Looks like the distribution was primed with time to spare! The diagram also tells us Koiking is supposed to be holding Mail.10

Here’s where it gets truly interesting. Two hundred Magikarp, two hundred prize-winning staff messages, all in a fixed template on Heart Mail. Take this one, attached to Nana Magikarp, which we think is authentic, though the Pokémon mentioned in the Mail just happen to be the three preceding mini-Suke distributions, Nana Milotic’s collateral (Buneary), plus a stray Wooper. A preserved Uttsu mail, on the other hand, is satisfyingly random. The Daisuki Club wouldn’t have been so silly to give all 40 specimens of each OTN identical Mail, right?

Nice to meet you!
I love 「Wooper」!

I love 「Buneary」!
I also love 「Milotic」!

「Heracross」ーーー!!!
「Cherubi」ーーーー!!!!

Nice to meet you!
I love 「Machoke」!

I love 「Raichu」!
I also love 「Staravia」!

「Kricketot」ーーー!!!
「Gyarados」ーーーー!!!!

A final Pokemon.jp diagram instructed lucky players to kindly enter the whited-out words on the Daisuki Club website.11 Without exception, these variables were Pokémon names, and they served as gateways to the gifts. How ingenious! I do hope the Club had some kind of brute-force protection in place.

The available evidence suggests that Nana and colleagues each put together 40 Heart Mail as an ordinary participant might do it: by manually drafting every message on their personal copies of Diamond & Pearl. Pokémon holding mail cannot be stored in the in-game PC; as such, the Karp were likely assembled and traded away in batches of five. The DP easychat system made writing Mails a fairly speedy process, so it wouldn’t have taken an excessive amount of time to prepare 20 Magikarp/day. A database of winning keyword combinations had likely been pre-compiled so staff knew what Pokémon names to input. I do wonder how they guarded against human error, though.

As for the Koiking themselves: these were probably generated through a distribution cart, ROM, or device of some kind. The Daisuki Club was – as the name implies – primarily an official Fan Club; any preparatory programming was likely handled by GameFreak or Pokémon HQ. As we touched on before, unique OTN/TID suggest each Magikarp was produced by its own wondercard. The nature-lock identifies it as Mystery Gift (Static); the surviving Karps’ PIDs seem to confirm it.

Right. That concludes the mumbo-jumbo section of this article. I don’t know that Nana, Uttsu, RuiRui, or any of the old guard work at the Daisuki Club any longer. Judging from today’s (slimmed down!) Daisuki website, the torch has been passed to another generation. But, no matter where they are now, they’ll forever be immortalised in a Valentine’s Event that, for two brief days in February 2007, succeeded in getting all of Pokémon-loving Japan excited about some Magikarp. And that’s quite a feat.

(How did GameFreak get America excited about a bunch of Psyduck? Read about it here, in Part III of this GTS series.)

  1.  Or「行け!幸せ運ぶコイキング」in the original Japanese.
  2.  At least six threads with a thousand posts each, all about Karp, spanning February 14-16, http://game11.5ch.net/test/read.cgi/poke/1171565206/?v=pc
  3.  See: https://happy.ap.teacup.com/cherrypink/200.html, http://tanakatarou6.blog38.fc2.com/blog-entry-452.html and http://ninamu.hatenablog.com/entry/20070215/p2
  4. They snagged a Norii♪ Magikarp.
  5.  A 02226 RuiRui♥ Magikarp, to be precise.
  6.  Including: http://lylat.com/blog/archives/2007/02/post-13.html; http://tif.usamimi.info/tif/koi.html;
    https://b.hatena.ne.jp/entry/www.pokemon.co.jp/special/koiking/index.html;
    http://pikachuftt.blog82.fc2.com/blog-entry-105.html; and http://tempshop.blog.shinobi.jp/ポケモン全般/行け!幸せ運ぶコイキン
  7.  As related here: https://m.blog.naver.com/riomedevon/110014007254
  8.  Even so, people took a stab at telling real from fake. Details of 01256 Uttsu Magikarp were first to emerge on January 14. (Post 222, http://game11.5ch.net/test/read.cgi/poke/1171451028/?v=pc) The contents of Heart Mail carried by a Ryuuta Magikarp supposedly also leaked.
  9.  The Yahoo Kids preview screencap shows another TID/OTN combination altogether – 57705 / Daisuki (だいすき) – though the caption itself clarifies that it’s for demonstration purposes.
  10.  メールを持っているよ!
  11.  ここのことばを
    だいすきクラブで 入カしてね!