Sometimes, in the middle of a stressful workday, it’s good to find a way to relax. Maybe make a cup of tea or a snack. Or stand up and stretch. Or maybe watch an eight-minute ASMR YouTube video of the Pokémon Chespin crunching on colorful cookies?
If you’re not familiar with the term, ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” and is basically a fancy way of classifying certain kinds of sounds that make your brain feel good. In some people, ASMR provokes a pleasant tingling sensation on the back of the head, neck, and spine, though not everyone experiences this. In recent years, ASMR has been discovered and popularized primarily as a genre of YouTube videos featuring sounds ranging from tapping objects, whispering into special microphones, cooking, crinkly sounds like from paper or plastic, and numerous other variants. You can find everything from intimate ASMR roleplays and performances to hours-long videos of people carefully raking tiny zen gardens or organizing their make-up containers.
Not everyone experiences the tingling sensation ASMR is meant to trigger, and exactly which kinds of sounds an individual will respond to can vary. But there’s no doubt that even if you don’t get the tingles, many ASMR videos can be very pleasant and relaxing to watch and listen to. So, why not combine them with adorable Pokémon characters to make them even more enjoyable?
That’s what The Pokémon Company Video Team in Japan has been up to over the last two years. It began back in January of 2020, with a 30-minute video posted to The Pokémon Company’s Japan YouTube of Charmander sleeping by a fire, only waking up occasionally to keep it burning with his tail. That’s it! The whole video – just Charmander having a half-hour nap while the flames crackle and pop.
The next one didn’t appear until the following August, and it’s a bit more active. In this video, Squirtle has a 15-minute romp on a beach, complete with the relaxing sounds of ocean waves, his little feet crunching in the sand, occasional splashing around in the water, and a few guest appearances by Wingull flying overhead.
Since then, The Pokémon Company has released a small handful of others, spaced out over several months each time. There’s one that’s a whole hour of just Bulbasaur wandering around a little forest, a short playtime session with Pikachu in a living room, and half an hour of Piplup rolling around a bedroom before getting sleepy and dropping off. Most recently, there was a three-part series called Sweet Winter With Pokémon produced by Chinese creator Lao Dao, who runs a YouTube cooking channel called Cat’s Kitchen. Though the series isn’t labeled explicitly as ASMR, it features the detailed gentle sounds characteristic of those videos, paired with some adorable Pokémon-themed recipes.
While ASMR videos are a common genre on YouTube, what’s fascinating about The Pokémon Company’s versions is seeing them interspersed on the official channel with game trailers, announcements, music videos, anime promotions, TCG announcements, and basically a lot of content that’s focused on informing and hyping up an audience – you know, the kind of stuff brand channels are normally up to. In the midst of all that, it’s a bit astonishing that so much time, and energy was put into producing something like this that seemingly exists only to be cute and relaxing.
We were able to get in touch with The Pokémon Company in Japan to answer a couple of questions about the videos, with a spokesperson saying that the Pokémon and activities were chosen “based on seasonality and the Pokémon’s ecology.”
But why make Pokémon ASMR videos in the first place?
“The Pokémon Company’s channels didn’t have any long length videos when the demand for them were high for people to watch while they did something else (or were working),” the spokesperson said. “In addition, one of Pokémon’s strengths is that people can feel their existence closely, as you can see in the popular Pokémon GO game in which you can catch Pokémon in real life. We thought there was a demand for something that you can feel close to within videos.
“Considering this, we came to a conclusion of making these videos utilizing the ASMR format that was already popular on YouTube. We thought there was potential in producing videos in which sound is the protagonist and the existence of the sound can be felt.”
The spokesperson added that the team was grateful for the positive reactions to the series, and wanted to keep making them going forward, though there’s no set schedule in mind. Looking at what’s already been covered, we’ve seen cooking, lots of nature sounds, various tapping and cloth sounds from the Piplup and Pikachu videos, and of course, Chespin’s eating noises. If we’re going to eventually cover all the major genres of ASMR, that means we’re well overdue for thirty minutes of Psyduck whispering in our ears – though personally, I’ll be on the lookout for Alolan Raichu doing an ASMR pancake-making tutorial.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.