Pokemon Black and White Sprites

000 001

Remember when I threatened to do this? Today is that day.

Let’s start off sorting them male/female.
000 002  004  007 008  010 011 012 015 017   024  026 027  029 030 031 032 033  035   040 041  043 044 045 049 050 051 052 053 056 057 058  060  062 065 066 067 069 071 072 073  075  078 079  082 083  085  087 088 089   092  095 097 099 100 101 102  104   107 108 109 110  112 113  115   119 120  122  124  126 127  133 134 136 137 138 139 140  142 144  146  148 149  151 152 153 154 156 170181 182 185 187 That’s 93 male sprites. Such wild diversity of outfits.

Now let’s see the female ones.

001 003 005 006  009  013 014 016  018 019025  028 034  036 038 042  046 047 048  059 061  063 064  068 070 074  077 080 084 086 090 091 094  096 098 103 105 106 111 114 116 117 118 121 123 125  128 129 130 131 132 135  141 143 145  147 150 155172 178 179


Let’s count how many men have full pants.

004  007 008  010 011 012  017   024  026 027  029 030 031 032 033  035   040 041  043 044  049 050 051  056 057 058  060  062 065 066 067 069 071 072 073  075  078 079  082   085  087 088 092  095 097 098 099 100 101 102  104   107 108 109112 113  115   119 120  122  124  126 127  133 134 136 137 138 139 140  144  146  148 149  151 152 153 154 156 170181 182 187

Why, almost all of them! Eighty three. Eighty three men have their legs in pants.
013  019038 063 077 091  106 117121 123 125  129  132 150

Huh. Fourteen. It’s like there’s some huge disparity in treatment.What about the women in shorts?

001006   068  084 090  094  096 111  145  147 018103 116

Twelve. And in short skirts?

003 005  025  047 048  061  064  068  111  118     128   135


Hm. How many men have tiny, tiny shorts?

083 052002Wow, it’s as if the sprite famous for his love of short pants doesn’t even have very short pants at in comparison to the way huge numbers of the female sprites are drawn! 002 They reach about down to his knee, a feat only managed by 061.

I wonder what other things we’d uncover if we just put the gendered sprites next to their counterparts.

000 001 187142 143 144 145 146 147
038 040097 127
002 003
004 005
006 007 072  052 045
008 009
014 015 016
017 018
024 025
027 028073
033 034
035 036
041 042

047 065 066
048 049
050 063

058 059
060 061
069 070
074 075
083 084
085 086
089 090
094 095

101 103
124 125
149 150

So the female trainers are generally wearing the skimpier outfits, almost always have some leg showing and generally most, are almost never shown as older women. There is one female-only sprite, a woman taking care of preschoolers, compared to all those male-only sprites you see above.

002 003
004 005

This quartet highlights why this is so infuriating. These are little kids, but both girls are unable to bend over without flashing someone. It’s not just that almost every female sprite is sexualized, but that so many of them are also kids.

Not that the adult ones aren’t terrible in their own way.


Even when you have a PhD, you’re still going to be a woman first. So what if actual safety procedures say you need to be properly covered in case of an accident, you need those bare legs and open-topped shoes which, now that I look, have slight heels because of course they do.
083 084

And the outfits themselves are just the tip of the iceberg. Here we see two ones showing skin, but as you can see, the male’s is not only covering more, but he’s presented as an actual swimmer getting ready to go, while she’s showing off her body for people instead. This is only reinforced by the fact the female swimmers actually say as much, rather than swimming.

050 063
060 061

Then there’s the sprite pairs like these. Girls can learn martial arts, but they can’t grow up to keep doing it. If you want to heal people or pokemon, you can be a doctor if you’re a boy, but a nurse in pink (with skirt, tights and impractical shoes) if you’re a girl

There’s no sprite pair that has a boy and adult woman, nor any where the women has the more prestigious job. And in the sprite sets where there’s more than a pair…

006 007 072  052 045
014 015 016
027 028073
047 065 066

In groups where there’s one older one, it’s always male. The only one where there’s more girls than boys is among the preschoolers.

124 125

This is the best pair, but it’s because it’s a twin gym leader where a big deal is made of the fact they look alike, so cutting out chunks of the girl’s outfit wasn’t an option, and apparently no one wanted to make her wave her ass as the camera instead.

149 150

This pair is particularly terrible despite the fact she’s wearing more than most of the women manage. As you can see from the male sprite, apparently those are actual pants, but to make it look like she’s wearing a bikini over tights, either her outfit had the middle cut out. Either she’s just wearing a loop of fabric underneath for no reason, or for even less reason, she’s wearing something shaped like underwear on top of her pants.

On top of that, she’s kneeling with her butt out and breasts thrust forward. Why? Why the hell is she doing this?

People have made the argument that the Pokemon franchise is a glorious land of equality because women can be pokemon trainers too, but given three year olds can be pokemon trainers that doesn’t actually say much. The central idea of pokemon has always, always been that everyone can do it. They do have many (but not as many) women as gym leaders and elite four, and not every last outfit exposes as much skin as possible. But the fact it could be even worse does not make it good.

And let’s face it, it’s been pretty shitty from beginning to end.


  1. actonthat says:
    This kind of makes me want to die.

    The little girl thrusting her ass out for the camera is the worst to me, to say nothing of how Misty in Electric Tale was 10 years old (though fortunately the loc team edited out the really horrible stuff when it was brought to the US). I know Japan has all kinds of repression issues, but I have no idea why everyone just goes, “Oh, you!” at their persistence in treating little, little girls as sex objects. It’s disgusting.

    1. Mel says:
      Having met quite a few Japanese people and studied abroad there, I’m pretty sure most people in Japan would react the same way. There may be some problems with sexism there yes, but most people have a sense of decency. What probably happens with pokemon, as much as I can tell, is that most normal people are more concerned with the pokemon themselves and less with the human characters.
      1. Ember says:
        Mm. My guess would be that it’s part of the otaku-taking-over-media-production problem that Miyazaki got so much shit for highlighting. The sexualization of little girls isn’t particularly normalized or condoned in Japan at large, but it *is* normalized and condoned in a specific Japanese subculture that has been growing in influence as of late.
        1. Farla says:
          Which is pretty much what happened to comics decades ago, they just focused more on gore and sexy torture deaths.
      2. Farla says:
        I think it’s that America and Japan have different standards. America sexualizes teenagers quite heavily, but draws a hard line about anything below that age. I mean, compare manga to superhero comics, and half the books are literally traced from porn with clothes painted on. Also, America also generally suppresses sexual stuff more.
    1. Farla says:
      ….Well, what a nice job the evil American censorship machine did! I particularly like the chapter cover where in the process of giving her a real shirt they also repaired her broken back.

      Also, I like how they replaced what, given they’re molded to her butt, I can only assume is spandex with a jean print on it with actual jeans. It’s amazing!

  2. Keleri says:
    The “you never see middle-aged women because obviously they’re off somewhere being housewives”/”moms don’t do anything except be moms” thing is so awful.

    Also, OH MY GOD the Toshiro Ono manga. Barf.

    1. Farla says:
      Being a mom is so hard that the only middle-aged woman is a childless pokemon obsessive! Because only freaks could be both middle aged women and pokemon trainers.
  3. Person says:
    The fact that so many of the female sprites end up balancing/wobbling on one leg, even the one carrying a huge-ass backpack, whereas I don’t think any of the male ones do also really sucks.
    1. Farla says:
      But looking like you’re about to fall over makes you cute and childish, and that’s what’s most important in life.
    2. Wright of Void says:
      I just realized that even Cynthia, which is one of the better sprites here, balances on one leg for no reason. Was she too close to looking like an actual strong woman with agency?
      1. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
        She looks like she simply moved her right foot back with her toes on the ground to show she’s light in her feet. Notice that the left leg does not budge from one pose to another. This means both feet are on the ground and her center of gravity did not change from her original frame. Her stance is still very strong.

        From the female centered fics I’ve read, N seems to be the most popular(sex appeal wise) character and his sprite is emotive and looks easy to knock over. I’m not sure if “gender subversive” characters are as popular with the Japanese audience as they are with western audiences..

        1. Wright of Void says:
          Hm, alright. It does look fairly similar to the male cooltrainer pose so I’ll take your word on it.
          1. Farla says:
            Specifically, it’s a severely exaggerated version of the male cooltrainer – he’s shifting his stance slightly but keeping both feet on the ground, she’s lifting her foot so just the toes touch and balancing on one leg.

            It’s similar to how the psychic trainers look similar, but the female one’s stance is extra wide and with her knees bent so she doesn’t look braced but like she’s about to do a split.

        2. Farla says:
          You mean N, the bishie who’s got all sorts of feminine coding and there’s all those annoying jokes about how he’s hitting on the male protagonist and making the player uncomfortable.
  4. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
    The thing about sprites is that you have to relay a lot of data to the player in a very limited fashion. I remember a lot of people making a big deal about Bugsy gender which a lot of people couldn’t tell. Generally, all information you should know about the character should be instantly recognizable, including gender.

    Both males and females have to have a few major gender cues, simply because of limited space to carry information.

    A a sprite artist there are a few was to convey gender. Females have breasts, bare legs, stance, long(nonnonspikey), butt stances, skirts, tight shorts, and hairstyles, while males have width, short or spikey hair, strong stances. I don’t deny sexism is a factor, but sprite limitations are legitimate factor in your pants count.

    A sprite like Cynthia’s is actually pretty absurd with her hair, but it works.

    1. Wright of Void says:
      No. There are other ways to show a character is a girl than sexualizing them, and it’s on you as an artist to use those instead of appealing to the lowest common denominator. And even if sprite limitations were a factor once, we’ve come a long, long way. The reasonably dressed sprites here are all fairly easily recognizable as female – and if they aren’t, so what? Is making sure the players know this trainer is a girl really so important that all other personality has to go out the window for it?

      That’s another thing – art cues can show personality too, but objectification obliterates that pretty strongly. Their only personality is now “vulnerable” or “pretty”, and I’d say that’s simply bad art.

    2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
      Let’s say I’m looking down a tram platform, here in downtown Phoenix, at the people in the crowd two cars away. They’re pretty small to my eye! And in a moving crowd!

      I can mostly distinguish women from men, even though (a) the women’s bare legs are mostly in walking shorts, not minis or hot pants, and men also have bare legs in shorts (skirts are long this year, so they exist but don’t show much); (b) hardly anybody is taking a butt stance.

      At today’s level of computer technology, it should be possible to discern a sprite that has long pants and long hair (which most will code as female, though long-haired men exist) or that has short hair and a skirt below the knees or that has short hair and jeans but wears a bright pink shirt or a hair ornament. It’s possible to get enough information from one stereotypical gender identifier that there’s not a compelling reason to throw a whole bunch at every character, much less to sexualize characters who are supposed to be children.

      That’s assuming knowing the character’s gender at a glance is even important to the progress of the game…

    3. actonthat says:
      Now now everyone, I’m sure he also does all his male sprites wearing speedos with huge crotch bulges that get thrust toward the camera so we know they’re men.
    4. Farla says:
      A a sprite artist there are a few was to convey gender. Females have breasts, bare legs, stance, long(nonnonspikey), butt stances, skirts, tight shorts, and hairstyles, while males have width, short or spikey hair, strong stances. I don’t deny sexism is a factor, but sprite limitations are legitimate factor in your pants count.

      Right, but what that boils down to is “we make a sprite that looks normal, then for women, we alter it”. Most of the male sprites don’t have any clear gender cues. A lot of them, if not for their female counterpart, could be either gender. And this contributes to the idea that women aren’t real women if their sexual features aren’t constantly on display, so women who dress more normally are freaks who should be harassed.

      Most of these characters don’t even have strong stances. They’re just standing like regular people. Then the girls and women have crossed legs, or are balanced on one leg, or are kneeling on the ground. And besides, a miniskirt is pretty obviously a cue that they’re a girl, does she really need to also be hopping up with her leg behind her? Or the girl in the long dress, what’s added by having her pull in and push her knees together, she’s in a huge dress, long hair, a hat with a ribbon, and a flower in her hair. Why does she also need to pull her legs together so she couldn’t walk?

      1. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
        [Most of the male sprites don’t have any clear gender cues]
        Very few sprites are gender ambiguous, although the very few that are seem to be male. Spikey hair and ties are constantly male traits. Males also seem to have exclusive body types, which is why I mention width. Try to pay as close attention to the males as you do the females.

        I never come in defending the bad sprites or said that they did an excellent job; all I did was explain the process of character design in sprites. I personally think one good cue should be enough.

        1. Farla says:
          The fact that men are given a wider range of body types doesn’t mean chubby is actually a male feature. You’re arguing it’s not sexist by pointing out that they’re sexist.

          The only one that’s male coded is ties and beards, which most of them don’t have.

          All of the protagonists could be girls. They are kids and they don’t/should not have secondary sex characteristics yet. Just about all of the younger sprites and people uniforms or otherwise wearing clothes based on their profession would work fine. The only way you can tell gender on the biker, for example, is because there’s a pink version with even shorter shorts so the other one must be male.

          Nothing is lost is some of the girls are wearing skirts and some are wearing pants. Nothing is lost if some of the little girls and women look like people first.

          1. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
            [You’re arguing it’s not sexist by pointing out that they’re sexist.]
            I’m not arguing anything. I did point how they used some bad features to show gender. Is it because I don’t go out of my way to show my disapproval that you seem to think I’m on their side?

            I do argree that the cyclists (biker has completely different connotations) are closer to ambiguous. although they seem to have made the kneecap of all things oddly prominent on the male.

            1. Farla says:
              Is it because I don’t go out of my way to show my disapproval that you seem to think I’m on their side?

              No, it’s because you keep saying “But look at the boy sprites!” and saying some trait that they have in common in response to the complaint that the trait the women have in common is sexist.

              If you are not trying to draw false equivalence between lacking pants and having spiky hair, why are you bringing it up?

              1. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
                Because you said, “Most of the male sprites don’t have any clear gender cues,” and so I response accordingly. My original post was just an explanation of what went on when they made the sprites.

                I acknowledged that sexism was a factor in my first post, so I got a ton of angry and vile posts agreeing with me.

              2. Farla says:
                while males have width, short or spikey hair, strong stances.

                These are not gendered. Those are person traits. The problem of the pokemon sprites is that either you’re built as an anime character ready to take on the world OR you are an object there to show off your legs, and presenting a “strong stance” as the male equivalent to a three inch skirt is saying that being a person is a masculine trait.

  5. Ultraviolet says:

    This one is a guy, so that’s a -1 for the “girls with pants” count.

    And I’ve died a little inside with that manga.

    1. Farla says:
      Motherfuck. It has longer hair, so I was hoping one woman was able to dress for the job and not to show off her breasts and legs.
    2. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
      Oddy, Roxie was sorted into the men with pants.
  6. bushes289 says:
    In relevant news coro coro scans for the ruby/sapphire remakes just came out and the female sprites have not improved. The female team aqua admin’s in particular is just… easily one of the worst, I’m not kidding.
    1. Zephyr says:
      Yeah, this:
      (from the game-play trailer) is the redesign for the protags. Not really impressed with May/Sapphire’s collared t-shirt becoming a lacy tanktop.
      1. actonthat says:
        God, they somehow made May look even more ridiculous.

        I think the worst, though, is the Magma Admin, who has apparently broken her back in like 3 different places.

      2. Farla says:
        It seems like the better graphics get, the more important it is the girls look cute over anything else.
    2. Farla says:
      Later, we’ll learn it was intentional because in the remake Team Aqua has woken Cthulhu and all their admins are actually humanoid octopus things that no longer possess spinal columns or, in fact, any bone structure whatsoever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar