Posted on November 29th 2019
Last Updated on December 9th 2019
In the original Pokémon games, the player character and the rival character have player-determined names. If you don't want to make up your own names, the game will suggest some possibilities based on which game you are playing. If you are playing the Japanese Pokémon Red version, the game will suggest that you name your character Red or Satoshi or Jack, and your rival Green or Shigeru or John. If you are playing the Japanese Pokémon Green version, the suggestion goes the other way around. If you and your friend are each playing opposite versions of the game, each player character can be named as the rival in the other game. That way, it would be like your friend who was playing the other version would exist in-game as the rival you compete against. This is pretty cute. Denise made this feeling even stronger by naming the protagonist with her own name, and her rival after her brother. She liked that Kevin could be in the game with her. But at the time, Kevin was a bit sad that she named such a jerk after him. (Aw, sorry, Kev! I didn't know yet he'd be such a jerk!)
In the enhanced Japanese Pokémon Blue version, the suggestions are to name the protagonist Blue or Tsunekaz or Jean, and the rival Red or Green or Hiroshi. And in the Japanese Pokémon Yellow version, the suggestions are to name the protagonist Yellow or Satoshi or Jack, and the rival Blue or Shigeru or John.
You may recognize some familiar names here. The second options given in the name suggestions are references to some of the key people involved in the Pokémon games, and these were the names adopted for the characters in the anime. "Satoshi" is a reference to Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokémon. This name was chosen as the name of the protagonist of the Pokémon anime, who would then be named Ash in the English dub.
"Shigeru" is a reference to Shigeru Miyamoto, the famous Nintendo game designer who was also an influential producer of the original Pokémon games. Shigeru was used as the name of the rival of the Pokémon anime (Gary in the English dub). It seems Tajiri had a similar problem with Miyamoto as Denise had with her brother: wanting to honor him by including him in the game, but accidentally giving his name to a jerk, whoops.
From the enhanced re-release Pokémon Blue, there is "Tsunekaz", a (truncated) reference to Tsunekazu Ishihara, a developer of Pokémon Red and Green who later became president of The Pokémon Company. And there is "Hiroshi", who was president of Nintendo when the Pokémon series started. Hiroshi was used as the name of another rival in the Pokémon anime (Ritchie in the English dub).
The third options of the suggested names seem to be a joke on names starting with J but having different vowels: Jack, John, Jean. Jack is a common nickname for John, and Jean is the French version of John. These name suggestions, all slight variations of the same theme, suggest that these characters are all similar, all easily interchangeable. The hero in your game is the rival of your friends and vice versa.
So, all during Generation I, these characters had no official names and no definite color associations.
With this being the climate around the protagonist and the rival character, Ken Sugimori made this particular illustration for the 1996 official Pokémon Red and Green Strategy Book. The protagonist character is shown with Bulbasaur. The rival character is shown with Charmander. And a female character is shown with Squirtle. Sugimori has said that he created this female character specifically for the cover, to fit with the other two characters. This drawing might have been a thought experiment of what a potential female protagonist of the Pokémon games might be like.
Official Pokémon side-material and the Pokémon fandom at the time readily adopted this mysterious female protagonist, even if she didn't actually exist in the games. However, we already had difficulty in how to talk about her. Just like the protagonist and the rival, she has no official name, and Sugimori has said he doesn't pick any particular name for her.
Outside of Japan, there were only Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, and no Green version. In that case, the protagonist would typically be thought of as "Red", the rival as "Blue", and this mysterious unreleased female character as "Green" - conveniently matching the mysterious unreleased video game. In Japan, the situation was different. The first games were Red and Green, so often the protagonist would be thought of as "Red" and the rival as "Green", which leaves "Blue" for the female trainer, and matches the Squirtle that she was originally drawn with.
In Sugimori's drawing, she is shown from behind and her long brown hair obscures most of her, but we can see she is wearing a black dress, black shoes, and white gloves.
This drawing spawned other art of the character, such as Pokémon Craft DX, a comic drawn by Emiko Yoshino that came with an papercraft set, in which the trainers and their Pokémon teach you how to fold a Pikachu papercraft using a template included in the book. This comic shows us this artist's interpretation of the "primordial Blue/Green" character.
Official Pokémon manga were also inspired by this "primordial Blue/Green" character. The Pokémon Adventures manga has a character named Blue in Japanese and Green in the English localization. She has a similar outfit as the Sugimori illustration and the papercraft comics. We think the manga's creators interpreted her as being a femme fatale type of character, what with the nice black dress and the white gloves. Her dark shoes were drawn as being heeled boots (in Sugimori's original drawing, since the view is from above, we can't see if they have heels or not). Her role in the story of Pokémon Adventures is something like a secret agent. Her Pokémon team includes Jiggly the Jigglypuff (who evolved into a Wigglytuff), Professor Oak's Squirtle (who evolved into a Blastoise), Clefy the Clefairy (who evolved into Clefable), Ditty the Ditto, Nido the female Nidoran (who evolved into Nidoqueen), and sometimes a Horsea, sometimes a Snubbull (who evolved into a Granbull).
Yet this "primordial Blue/Green" character was never in the Generation I games. We can speculate the idea might have been on the developers' minds, considering Ken Sugimori even thought to draw her in the first place. Whatever the case, the idea was not implemented in Generation I. When little Denise saw the drawing of the three trainers with their respective starter Pokémon on an advertisement for the official game guide, she thought it was a sign of good things to come - she was excited to finally be able to play Pokémon as a female character, especially one with long brown hair.
Frustratingly, the ability to play as a female character was not implemented in the first Generation II games either - Pokémon Gold and Silver featured only a male protagonist. It was not until the enhanced Pokémon Crystal version that we got the ability to play as a female character. Game Freak did not base her on the "primordial Blue/Green", leaving that brown-haired girl to continue drifting through the ether of unrealized ideas. Instead, we got the entirely new character of Kris. The only slightest homage that Kris maybe has to "primordial Blue/Green" is that both girls are associated with the color blue, but Kris gets an "upgraded" blue: the translucent cyan of Pokémon Crystal.
As for what concerns the name situation, the fandom considers her name to be Kris, but actually, it is a bit more complicated than that. The way names work in Gold and Silver is similar to that of Red and Green: if you are playing Gold, the top suggestion is to name the (only available) male protagonist "Gold" and the long-haired rival "Silver"; if you are playing Silver, the top suggestion is to name the (only available) male protagonist "Silver" and the long-haired rival "Gold". When Crystal came out, it added the ability to play the game as either the existing male protagonist or the new female protagonist. The top name suggestion for both the male and the female protagonist is "Kris", cleverly using a gender-neutral name. The American and Australian manuals even go so far as to say that you play Crystal "as Kris", regardless of which gender you choose. Because the male protagonist already existed in the earlier games, the fandom preferred to call him "Gold", the long-haired rival "Silver", and the female protagonist "Kris". Later, "Gold" appeared in the remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver with the name Ethan. Silver still has no canonical name, but we think it would be a bad idea for The Pokémon Company to try to rename him at this point. And much later, after apparently being retconned for many years, Kris reappeared in Pokémon Masters with her name solidly as Kris.
In any case, back in Generation II, Denise was a little disappointed not to see the "primordial Blue/Green" character realized in an actual game, but definitely acknowledged that Kris is great too. The introduction of Kris meant that, at the time, there could be two wonderful female protagonists, at least in the realms of fanfiction and side material. The creators of Pokémon Adventures continued to feature their interpretation of Blue/Green, together with Crystal, a character inspired by Kris. Because why not both?
The Generation II games are also direct sequels to the events of Generation I. You play the game as an all-new character, but you can meet most of the major characters from the previous games, including the protagonist and the rival. Now that they are NPCs, they need to have names. Whether you are playing Gold or Silver or Crystal, the Generation I protagonist reappears as the secret final boss in Mount Silver and is named Red. The Generation I rival character reappears as the Viridian City Gym Leader and is named "Green" in the Japanese games, and "Blue" in the localized games.
During Generation III, Game Freak created enhanced remakes of the original Generation I games as Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen versions. We suspect a primary motivation for creating these games was to "bridge the gap" and finally enable trading between "Generation I" and Generation III, a connection which was severed with the move to Game Boy Advance. In the remakes, Game Freak also implemented several new features that had become standard in the games in the interim, including the option to play the game as a female protagonist.
At the beginning of FireRed and LeafGreen, Professor Oak asks you if you are a boy or a girl. If you choose "Girl", this female character is your avatar. Ken Sugimori has confirmed that the design of the "primordial Blue/Green" was indeed on his mind during the design process of this female protagonist. We can see this influence in her long brown hair, and the fact that she is wearing a skirt, rather than shorts like the previously appearing female protagonists Kris and May. Some fans speculate that the Lass trainer class, and especially this pre-Generation-II drawing of an unknown female trainer, might have also been an influence in the female protagonist's design, which would be why she has a pleated skirt and falling knee-socks. Also, since this character is a protagonist in a Pokémon game, she's gotta have a hat, even if we think it is a silly-looking one, but, ah well. She needs to wear that hat with pride, as it took so long to finally be crowned with that honor.
It has become standard in later Pokémon games for the protagonist you are not playing as to appear during your story as an NPC with a default name. This is how, unlike the situation with the Generation I games, the Pokémon fandom is able to settle on solid names for the later protagonists, such as May and Brendan.
In Ruby and Sapphire, it is like there are two very similar parallel universes to explore. In one possibility, Brendan, the son of Gym Leader Norman, moves to New Bark Town with his mother and meets May, the daughter of Professor Birch. Or, in the opposite possibility, May, the daughter of Gym Leader Norman, moves to New Bark Town with her mother and meets Brendan, the son of Professor Birch. In either play-through, both Brendan and May exist, but their family and their role in the game is vastly different.
If we can go a bit weirdly meta here for a moment, this has some disturbing implications for the cosmology of Ruby and Sapphire. With zero other changes to the universe, either family could have potentially given birth to either child, and, regardless of which family they grew up with, they would have exactly the same appearance and fashion choices. It's like both universes must have a set number of human "phenotypes" that are required to exist in the world, so, if Norman and his wife give birth to a daughter, the unused son's design needs to get used in another way, so he gets bestowed on Professor Birch instead. The genders and appearances of the children in this multiverse are distributed by a gumball machine full of pre-set designs.
In this case, the player is able to hack the gumball machine and choose to play the game with a particular male or a particular female avatar. The player provides the protagonist's soul to the character they picked, and the other character is doomed to come out as an NPC instead.
The cosmology of FireRed and LeafGreen is a bit different, without the implication of there being such a gumball machine. No matter which avatar the player selects, nothing else in the universe is impacted. Whether the mother in Pallet Town gave birth to a boy or a girl, the composition of her neighbors' households are not forced to change. The only impact of the player's decision is whether or not the protagonist appears one way or the other.
We could argue that both protagonists of FireRed and LeafGreen are actually the same protagonist, but in one alternate universe they grew up as a boy, and in the other they grew up as a girl. The alternate version of themselves is not born to someone else - only one instance of the same person exists in the same universe at the same time. Whether male or female, the protagonist competes with their rival (the boy who grew up next door), collects the eight gym badges of Kanto, becomes Champion of the Indigo League, helps Professor Oak complete his PokéDex, and causes Team Rocket to disband.
Just like in the original Generation I games, the suggested names of the protagonist, versus the suggested names of the rival, are swapped depending on which game you are playing, so that you can have the experience of playing against your friend with the other version of the game. In Pokémon FireRed, Professor Oak may suggest the name of "Red" for both the male and the female protagonist, and may suggest "Green" as an option for the rival. The opposite situation happens in Pokémon LeafGreen.
So, if Generation II solidified the male protagonist as being "Red", and the rival character as being "Green" in Japanese, then what about the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen? What should we call her? Is she also "Red", but a female "Red"?
The male and female protagonists of FireRed and LeafGreen are handled like this in the Super Smash Bros. series. The third installment, Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008), introduced the character "Pokémon Trainer", who was modeled after Red's appearance in Generation III. Much later, the sixth installment, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018), added a new option to select a palette swap of "Pokémon Trainer" that looks just like the female protagonist from FireRed and LeafGreen. The gameplay of "Pokémon Trainer" is exactly the same regardless of which gender you pick. The creators of Smash Bros. treat the male and female protagonists of FireRed and LeafGreen not as distinct characters, but as two versions of the same character - so it's as if they are both "Red".
We haven't seen any other fans make the case that this female character should be known as "Red". Maybe because, not only would it make the confusing name situation even more confusing, it would also imply that only one "Red" can exist at the same time, and that's no fun! We love both characters, so we want to imagine both of them existing in the same universe!
Unfortunately, Game Freak took the unfun approach when they created HeartGold and SoulSilver. These Generation IV games served simultaneously as remakes of the Generation II games and as sequels to FireRed and LeafGreen, but only the male protagonist from Kanto makes a reappearance. He reprises his role as the secret final boss at Mount Silver. Game Freak made no effort to incorporate the female protagonist from Kanto into the plot; not only did they not give her a solid name, they also made the implication that her version of the story is non-canon, effectively retconning her from existence.
The fandom still loves this character, despite these retcon attempts. But we're still at a bit of a loss on how to refer to her. Most commonly, English-speaking fans have called her either "Leaf" or "Green". However, there's a bit of an ongoing fandom debate regarding which name has more merit, or if either name actually makes any sense. A lot of this debate hinges on a more ontological question: is this Generation III female protagonist the same character as the "primordial Blue/Green" from Sugimori's earlier illustration? Or are they two separate characters based on the same idea?
As mentioned before, Ken Sugimori has confirmed that the "primordial Blue/Green" was indeed an inspiration for the design of the Generation III female protagonist. The outfit of "primordial Blue/Green" is very different from the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen, but, then again, the male protagonist and the rival character also had major changes to the design of their clothing during the move to Generation III, and it's not like a character can only have one outfit.
The Pokémon Adventures manga took the route of combining the characters and considering this as merely a costume change. In later chapters, the established character of Blue/Green dons a new outfit to match the look of the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen.
If we think of the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen is the same as the "primordial Blue/Green", it makes some sense for English speakers to continue to call her "Green". This creates a nice symmetry, since the male character has been solidified as "Red", and the two games are FireRed and LeafGreen, so it's like the boy "Red" is the protagonist of FireRed and the girl "Green" is the protagonist of LeafGreen.
Yet, this ignores the opposed pair that FireRed and LeafGreen are presenting: the protagonist (male or female) and the rival. If the protagonist is "Red", then the rival is "Green".
Some English-speaking fans see FireRed and LeafGreen as Game Freak's attempt to "fix" the earlier situation with the rival's name, where, in Japan, he was thought of as being "Green", but outside of Japan, he was instead thought of as being "Blue". Instead, FireRed and LeafGreen present the rival as "Green" in all localizations, matching the way he is considered "Green" in Japanese. Unfortunately, it seems that at least the American perspective is to focus on the male and female protagonists as the primary paired set of FireRed and LeafGreen, so if this was an attempt at reunifying his name, it had very little impact. The majority of the English-speaking fandom continued thinking of the rival as "Blue", with only a minority arguing that he should be called "Green" now. Before HeartGold and SoulSilver came out, this small bastion of English-speaking fans were betting that the rival character's appearance in the Generation II remakes would re-solidify his name as "Green" once and for all! They were disappointed to see that HeartGold and SoulSilver localized his name as "Blue" outside of Japan, ignoring the attempts at reunification. But is this merely a mistake we should blame the localizers for? Did they consider it a higher priority to maintain consistency with the Generation II games? Did they even know about the supposed attempt to change his name in Generation III? Should we really be using his "true name" of "Green"? Or was this faction of the fandom reading too much into his name in Generation III?
The uncertainty of the English-speaking fans regarding whether the name of the rival should be thought of as "Blue" or "Green" did nothing to help the situation of the female protagonist's name. In Japan, since the rival is thought of as "Green", the primordial female character is thought of as "Blue". But, in FireRed and LeafGreen, Professor Oak will never suggest the name "Blue" for any character. If we don't want to consider the female protagonist as being an alternate version of Red and if we insist on her having her own name, we'll have to think of something else - it is not possible to cover all three characters with only two colors. Maybe it makes the most sense to think of her as being "Blue", even if there never was a Pokémon WaterBlue, and even if this creates a confusing situation with how the rival character is localized...
However, let's think about the other option. The fact that the "primordial Blue/Green" was an inspiration for the Generation III female protagonist does not mean that we are forced to consider the two characters as the same entity. The Generation III character could merely be to some degree an homage to the "primordial Blue/Green" while still being a whole new character in her own right, which would mean she is deserving of her own name.
When you are naming your character in Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, if you leave the name as blank on the entry screen, Professor Oak will offer you a random name from a pre-set list of default names. The possibilities change based on which version of the game you are playing (since some names will be reserved for your rival) and which gender you selected (as some names are gendered). One of the possibilities Professor Oak will offer when playing specifically LeafGreen is the name "Leaf" (for either the male or the female protagonist. Note that he will suggest that you name your rival "Leaf" if you are playing FireRed).
The English-speaking fandom often uses the name "Leaf" for the female protagonist. One of the main arguments for using the name "Leaf" rather than any other name comes from looking at the textdump of Pokémon FireRed. It appears that "Leaf" is the name the female protagonist is referred to in the code, even though this designation is never seen while playing the game. Some people interpret this as the name the developers used for this character - yet, that might be a bit of a stretch: also in these unseen parts of the code, the rival character appears many times with the name "Terry", but we've not encountered any faction of the fandom going around claiming that his true name is Terry. Using the name "Leaf" for the female protagonist is on par with insisting that the Generation I protagonist should be known as "Ninten" and the rival as "Sony" just because the English localizers jokingly put those as their default names before they would be overwritten by the player.
Some unused sprites in the spin-off game Pokémon Ranger suggest that at one point the male and female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen were planned to be included in the game, along many other characters from the main series games. In the unused code, the male protagonist is referred to as "Fire" and the female protagonist is referred to as "Leaf", giving us another example of this character being somewhat officially being called "Leaf", at least when looking at behind-the-scenes code left on the cutting room floor of a spin-off game...
Yet, with the lack of a more solid alternative, a good portion of the English-speaking fandom adopted "Leaf" as the name for the female protagonist. Fans have tried reaching out to Ken Sugimori for confirmation, but only gave a vague answer.
We always thought that the name "Leaf" was a bit strange. It is an unusual name; "Red" is an unusual name, too, but they are both weird in different ways that don't match each other, heh. The female protagonist originated in Generation III, so she doesn't need to be held to the convention of being named for a color like the characters from Generation I. And the awkward asymmetry can serve as an eternal reminder that Game Freak failed at having gender parity back in Generation I.
Meanwhile in Japan, there also isn't a solid name for this character, but there is a widely adopted fandom nickname. In an early Japanese teaser for FireRed and LeafGreen, the ampersand was omitted between the two games' names, so fans took the opportunity to divide the names in a funnier place: they jokingly referred to the male protagonist as "Red Lee" and the female protagonist as "Fuguri" which means, uh, "balls". In time, the "Red Lee" joke has mostly faded, but calling the female protagonist "Fuguri-chan" has stuck around, and not really in an insulting way either, but more like a strange term of endearment. But, ballsy nicknames aside, this character has no canon name in Japan either.
So, as of 2010, the female protagonist from Kanto was in a murky and grim state. The "primordial Blue/Green" maybe never existed outside of thought experiments and Pokémon side material; she may or may not have ever been the same character as the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen; that character never even had a solid name before being promptly retconned out of existence. And so the brown haired female character(s) were banished back to the Shadow Realm for many, many years.
It wasn't until 2018, long after we had given up hope on the poor girl(s), that there was a burst of hope. Generation VII ended with the release of Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! The pre-release material teased the existence of this girl:
She appears as a NPC in the game, named Blue in Japan and Green in localized versions. She has brown eyes and long brown hair in a similar shape to that of the protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen. She's wearing a black dress with teal shorts underneath and black-and-teal running shoes - an outfit that references the design of "primordial Blue/Green" while also being somewhat appropriate attire for riding a bike and exploring the wilderness. As an NPC, she doesn't get the honor of wearing a hat, but the top of her shirt has the same strange shape as that of the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen, just with inverted colors. She also has essentially the same yellow purse, and she also has armbands, although they are white instead of black, harkening back the hems of the white gloves that belonged to "primordial Blue/Green". She also has a similar battle pose as the protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen. ✽
So, she seems to be a reference to both "primordial Blue/Green" and also the the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen. Some fans consider all three characters to be the same entity. Apparently "Leaf" went to Hell and back, and, as you know, such a journey can have that effect of flipping your colors; she must have also at some point sacrificed her hat (and all it represents) to get by some demon-guarded obstacle.
Some fans deem this character's appearance in Let's Go as finally the "final word" for the canon name of the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen. However, you could just as easily think of this character of Blue/Green as an homage to the earlier girls while being a new character yet. Or maybe she's finally the first in-game appearance of "primordial Blue/Green" as a real entity, and the protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen is a separate character. Now that Pokémon is canonically a multiverse, and since Let's Go in particular seems to be an alternate timeline version of Pokémon Yellow, maybe these girls are parallel-universe versions of each other. It's left open to interpretation.
In any case, we were disappointed to learn that Blue/Green's role in Let's Go is relatively minor. She wants to catch Mewtwo in Cerulean Cave, but the protagonist Elaine or Chase beats her to it. Instead, she will challenge the player to a battle, and if you win, she will reward you with Mewtwonite X and Y, in case you for some reason wanted to mega-evolve your new Mewtwo. Afterward, Blue/Green will be available for rematches in Cerulean City, with a running gag of hitting the player with a Pokéball, the idea being that if she can "catch" the player, then she can catch their Mewtwo as well.
Uh, we were kinda hoping for something a bit more fleshed-out and dignified for such a long-awaited character that could potentially draw from the story of Pokémon Adventures and maybe even mention something from the massive web of lore surrounding Mewtwo as well... But, nope, nada.
Blue/Green doesn't seem to be meaningfully related to Mewtwo in any way except that it would have made sense back in HeartGold and SoulSilver to have the female protagonist from FireRed and LeafGreen reappear in the newly reopened Cerulean Cave, to mirror Red's role in the other end-game cave Mount Silver (and to address the potential plothole HeartGold and SoulSilver created regarding the fate of Mewtwo). But Game Freak missed that chance in Generation IV when the time was right. Instead, Blue/Green's association with Mewtwo in Generation VII is just plopped there belatedly, without having any meaning or getting fleshed out at all.
It would have been relatively easy to have done something mind-blowing with just a few words. For comparison, FireRed and LeafGreen added a detail that was not there in the original Generation I games: on Cinnabar Island, the player can inspect a photo that is said to include Gym Leader Blaine and Mr. Fuji from Lavender Town. Then Pokémon Emerald added a hint that someone whose name ended in "ji" was likely responsible for the experimentation done on Mew at Cinnabar Lab. These details strengthen the connection between the games' Cinnabar Island with the anime's New Island, links the games' Mr. Fuji to the anime's Dr. Fuji, and even references the story of Pokémon Adventures in which Blaine is a scientist and a key figure in the creation of Mewtwo. One little textbox can tie together multiple disparate Pokémon media and make them all relevant in the canon of the games. Whoever thought to add those details to the games was deeply familiar with the the other Pokémon canons that existed at the time and thought to add simple, subtle details that would acknowledge them in an inclusive way that could excite and unite the fandom. Woah.
If there was any small detail about Blue/Green that in any way referenced anything about anything that came before, it could have been similarly mind-blowing. But, actually, there is very little to her character at all. If Blue/Green is the same character as the protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen, there is no hint of that during the main plot of Let's Go - there is no evidence that she even exists in Kanto at all until the post-game. Blue/Green wants to catch Mewtwo, but no information is given about how she knows about Mewtwo or why she wants to capture it. She has the Mega Stones that can evolve Mewtwo, but no information is given about how she obtained them or how she knew what they were.
For comparison, the rival (Green/Blue) appears several times throughout the story of Let's Go, supporting and rewarding Chase and Elaine during their journey, and perhaps revealing a softer side to the newbie kids that he no is longer willing to show to his old friend Red. The rival mentions that he used to have to draw his own maps of Pokémon locations before his grandfather improved his invention, implying that the process of filling-in the PokéDex in Generation I was a lot more manual than it is now, and might be a cute nod to how the player can obtain a Town Map at his house in the earlier games. The rival even has some nice things to say regarding his grandpa, when not trying to be too cool. Later in the game, we learn that the rival didn't simply ignore Team Rocket's takeover of Saffron City like it was implied in Generation I, but that he was smart enough to go alert the Elite Four to the situation. Chase and Elaine also encounter the rival just as he decides to take on the role of Viridian City Gym Leader, revealing that it was a tough decision for him: he didn't want to end his journeys as a Pokémon trainer be tied to a specific place, and he didn't accept the first offer for the job, but after some serious reflection regarding the events of the game, he changed his mind. Each time he appears during the plot, his character is expanded upon and shown from a different perspective than he was in Generation I, letting us learn more about him as a person, the way he thinks, and what he values.
Blue/Green doesn't get anywhere near this same level of care in her development. Even while leaning on something as massive as the story of the Pokémon Adventures manga and any of the multiple potential canons regarding Mewtwo, we get... quirky antics™ with Pokéballs. ...is that really it? Really?
When Blue/Green battles you, she has a Blastoise (which can mega-evolve) on her team - the character of Red appears in this game with a Venusaur (which can mega-evolve), and the rival Green/Blue appears with Charizard (which can mega-evolve into the Y form), so Ken Sugimori's illustration of the Generation I trainers and their Pokémon are completely represented by the characters in Let's Go. But if you were hoping for the Blue/Green of Let's Go to also reference the character from Pokémon Adventures, prepare to be disappointed. Besides the Blastoise that you could think of as being Blasty, she also has a Clefable on her team that might be a reference to Clefy, but it could have just as easily simply been a girly choice made at random; there are no other Pokémon on her team that reference Pokémon Adventures. She does not even get to have her iconic Jiggly as either a Jigglypuff or a Wigglytuff, let alone Ditty, Nido, Horsea, or Snubbull/Granbull. Nor does she get any Pokémon that Ken Sugimori drew the protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen with in the past: Pidgey, Combusken, or Teddiursa. Instead Blue/Green's team is filled in with Gengar, Victreebel, Ninetales, and Kangaskhan. ...Where did those Pokémon come from? Perhaps putting both Clefable and Gengar in on her team is a nod to the fan-theory that Gengar is Clefable's shadow... but what does that have to do with Blue/Green? Why were any of these Pokémon chosen as her team?
We were excited at the existence of this character, and for her to exist is better than for her not to exist. We are just very disappointed that she didn't get to actually be more.
Around that same time as the release of Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!, there was an announcement of a new upcoming Kotobukiya ArtFx J figurine of a Pokémon character: Leaf. Yes, they referred to her directly as Leaf.
They also paired her with Squirtle, while the protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen had not been specifically associated with Squirtle before, except through her connection to "primordial Blue/Green".
This "Leaf" figurine re-opened fandom debate about who these characters are and what their names should be, and what can be considered merely ascended fanon or what should be embraced as newly confirmed canon. It's not even clear, how many articles should there be on Bulbapedia?!
This was also the same time that the female "Pokémon Trainer" with the appearance of "Leaf" was introduced in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. There also was leaked evidence that "Leaf" (with the name of "Leaf") may be introduced in a future update of Pokémon Masters. On the other hand, a Pokémon card featuring Blue/Green from Let's Go came out, referring to her in the title of the card as Blue/Green. And there was another figurine that simultanously called the character "Leaf" while also referring to Blue/Green. These events are all interwoven, and actually, it's probably clearer to make timeline...
Timeline of events
1996 Ken Sugimori draws an illustration for the cover of the official Pokémon Red and Green Strategy Book. It features the male protagonist ("Red") with Bulbasaur, the rival ("Green/Blue") with Charmander, and a female trainer ("primordial Blue/Green") with Squirtle.
December 16, 1997 The character of Blue/Green debuts in Pokémon Adventures volume 2, inspired by "primordial Blue/Green" from Sugimori's illustration.
1998 Pokémon Craft DX includes Emiko Yoshino's interpretation of "primordial Blue/Green" from Sugimori's illustration.
December 14, 2000 Pokémon Crystal is released, featuring Kris, the first female playable character of the main series Pokémon games.
January 29, 2004 Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen are released, featuring a female playable character Sugimori designed, taking inspiration from his earlier concept of "primordial Blue/Green". This Generation III character is sometimes referred to as "Leaf" by the fandom.
2004-2005 If the Game Boy Advance compatibility mode is used with Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon DX: Gale of Darkness, you can appear in battles as the avatar in your game in three-dimensional glory, including as female protagonist from FireRed and LeafGreen.
March 23, 2006 The spin-off game Pokémon Ranger includes many sprites of characters that ended up not appearing in the game, including both the male and female protagonist from Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, named behind-the-scenes as "Fire" and "Leaf".
October 27, 2006 In the Pokémon Adventures FireRed & LeafGreen chapter, the manga character Blue/Green changes her outfit to look more like the protagonist from Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen.
January 31, 2008 The "Pokémon Trainer" character is introduced in Super Smash Bros. Brawl based on the appearance of the male protagonist from Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen.
September 12, 2009 Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are released, which seem to retcon the existence of the female protagonist of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen (and retcons Kris, too, while they were at it...).
Many years pass...
February 27, 2018 Clothing like that belonging to the male and female protagonist of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen are released for Pokémon GO Style customization. The male protagonist's clothing are labeled "FireRed", and the female protagonist's clothing are labeled "LeafGreen".
October 6, 2018 A Kotobukiya ArtFx J figurine of Leaf is announced, literally referring to the character as "Leaf" and showing her together with a Squirtle.
November 16, 2018 Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! are released, introducing the character of Blue/Green, who appears to have been influenced by the designs of "primordial Blue/Green" and also the female protagonist of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen. Her party in the game includes a Blastoise.
December 7, 2018 After not appearing in Super Smash Bros. 4 at all, the "Pokémon Trainer" character returns in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, with palette swaps available so that this fighter can look like either the male or female protagonist from Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen.
February 1, 2019 The Pokémon Trading Card Game releases a Supporter Card known as "Blue's Search" in Japanese or "Green's Exploration" in English, featuring the character from Let's Go.
July 1, 2019 Bandai opens pre-orders for its Kanto Scale World series figurine of the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen, bundled together with Clefairy and Gengar (and soda-flavored gum). This set seems to refer to two Pokémon on Blue/Green's team in Let's Go (and seems to toy with the fan-theory that links these two Pokémon). At the same time, this figure is straight-out referred to as "Leaf". The advertisement also did an homage to the cover of the Pokémon Red and Green Strategy Book, referring back to "primordial Blue/Green", and possibly also as an homage to the previous homage done by Pokémon Adventures. This figure doesn't exclude anything. Fun!
August 29, 2019 Leaf appears in Pokémon Masters but not as a playable character (at least not yet - leaked assets were in a folder named "Leaf").
September 2019 The Kotobukiya ArtFx J figurine of Leaf and Squirtle is released, and it still literally refers to the character as "Leaf".
October 4, 2019 A "Tag All Stars" alternate print of the trading card "Blue's Search" is released, this time depicting the character from Let's Go together with a Squirtle - perhaps her Blastoise from before it evolved.
After the long retcon-death of the female protagonist from Kanto, there seems to have been a rebirth of not just one character, but possibly two. Regardless of what Game Freak thought in the past, with the female protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen being merely an alternate female version of "Red" who didn't really exist, it seems like now she is being recognized as a beloved character in her own right who can exist on her own - she's being celebrated with an appearance in Smash Bros., and as a figurine, and likely soon as a character in Pokémon Masters. In the meanwhile the "primordial Blue/Green" was also made into a solid character in Let's Go and also appears in the Trading Card game. Both characters have common roots and seem to have influenced each other, but it seems like lately The Pokémon Company is more and more treating these girls as two entities, with the name "Leaf" gaining traction for referring to the one with the silly hat. And even if they are the same character, having the different names sure helps to explain which design is being referred to - do you know how clunky it has been to keep saying "the female protagonist from FireRed and LeafGreen" all throughout this article?
Generally, the Pokémon fandom seem to be very rigid and authoritarian about what is and isn't canon, which I don't think really fits with Game Freak's style or the spirit of the Pokémon games. The designs of Pokémon have solidified over the years with the Pokémon franchise, but we would argue that something has been lost from the era of so-called wonky sprites that could be interpreted in many ways. The same holds for the playable human characters. Here we have fans having fights over the "official" names... of the characters that are supposed to be named whatever you want when you start up the game, and which were intentionally made to be ambiguous and switched around.
Repeatedly fans have asked Ken Sugimori to hand down "Word of God" canon regarding the names of any and every appearance of the female trainer from Kanto, and he does not let it get pinned down, saying how he didn't have any name in mind, and that you can think of her as being Leaf "...Maybe". After all, is this something Ken Sugimori would want to have pinned down like that? And regardless of his own thoughts on the matter, is this something The Pokémon Company's marketing department would want to have pinned down like that? Ken Sugimori himself might not want to speak on the behalf of the entire staff of Game Freak, and their opinions might not be unanimous. Besides, remember that the staff of Game Freak so many years ago might have had different ideas than the staff of Game Freak now: people could have come and left, and the people that stayed could have changed their minds, forgotten what their earlier train of thought was, or had new ideas that they also like and support.
Canon is a many layered thing, subject to interpretation, and ultimately meaningless compared to the fans' interpretations. The Pokémon Company can come out tomorrow with an official pronouncement saying that Leaf and Green are the same character and she's actually named "Suzi", but if we want to keep thinking of Leaf as Leaf, and Green as Green, and draw them having a Pokémon battle against each other, that's our prerogative. If the Pokémon Company comes out tomorrow and says they are indeed officially two different individuals, and we want to draw fanart of Green wearing Leaf's silly hat and imply they are the same person, with both names being valid (maybe one's her last name or her nickname) that's our prerogative. If we want to have either viewpoint on different days of the week, that's our prerogative, and no one can tell us that we are wrong. Celebrate your fanning however you want. Game Freak's got our back - we can fire up our copy of LeafGreen whenever we want, and we can name the female protagonist whatever we want.
We can even name her Balls.
- Hi-res Pokémon Art, which released a hi-res, fully restored version of Ken Sugimori's illustration like the day after Denise took a stab at color correcting the small version, heh. Their post also has Sugimori's comments regarding the creation of the illustration. We're using lots of other art that they have lovingly restored as well.
- Text dump from Pokémon FireRed in which you can see the order of the suggested names and all the instances of "Terry".
- The Lost Pokémon Wiki, which explains the source of the other artworks of "primordial Blue/Green" (Bulbapedia attributes the artwork to Ken Sugimori, but we doubt it).
- The Field Guide to Pocket Monsters: Pokemon Craft DX Books - a blogpost providing more information about the papercraft comics.
- The Bulbapedia Talk Pages for Green and Blue, which includes lengthy fandom fights over what the characters should be called.
- Pokémon Ranger on The Cutting Room Floor, with the unused sprites of "Fire" and "Leaf".
- Kotobukiya ArtFx J figurine of Leaf and an article about the figurine's announcement from October 2018.
- Bandai's Pokémon Scale World figurine of Leaf and the fun advertisements for the series, plus this tweet to ground it in time.
- Evidence that the FireRed/LeafGreen female protagonist may someday appear in Pokémon Masters, and, at least behind-the-scenes, she seems to be referred to as Leaf.
- Mountain Landscape photo by Adrian Senn, modified with attribution (license) to create an expanded image of the FireRed/LeafGreen female protagonist flying with her Pidgey, as used in the header.