Magikarp<1> (Japanese: コイキング) is a Water-type Pokemon that has the appearance of a koi fish. It is often ridiculed online for only having one essentially useless move until level 20 when it evolves into the Water/Flying-type Gyarados.
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Magikarp was first introduced in the first generation of Pokemon games, Pokemon Red and Blue, which were released in 1996 in Japan and 1998 in the United States. In these games, the creature was described as “horribly weak.” Since 1999, conversations about the pros and cons of training Magikarps have taken place on newsgroups including alt.games.nintendo.pokemon<2> and alt.games.pokemon<3> where several posters agreed the creature is only worth leveling up until 20 to get the powerful Gyarados, which could not be found in the wild in the original two games.
Between 2004 and 2006, discussions of how Magikarp would handle in battles began to appear on message boards like the Evermore forums<5> and the Pokemon Elite 2000 forum.<8> In April 2006, YTMND sites<6> featuring the fish began appearing, including Turbo Magikarp<7>, which depicts a level 100 fish defeating a number of other Pokemon in one hit including a Jynx, Sharpedo and Alakazam. As of October 2013, the site has been viewed nearly 20,000 times. Later that year, videos of Magikarp battles began to appear on YouTube (shown below).
Also in 2006, artist Nina Matsumoto<9> shared a design for a Magikarp tattoo on her personal art portfolio site. In May 2007, a flash video titled “Splash Attack” was uploaded to Newgrounds<10>, showing two Pokemon trainers both battling with Magikarps. Throughout 2008, dozens<12> of posts about Magikarp appeared throughout 4chan, especially on the /a/<13> (Anime and Manga) and /jp/<14> (Otaku Culture) boards.
In March 2009, a novelty Twitter account was created for the fish<11>, accruing more than 3,100 followers as of October 2013. A Facebook fan page<15> for the Pokemon was launched on January 10th, 2010, followed by the creation of the single topic Tumblr Fuck Yeah, Magikarp<16> that December. Throughout 2010 and 2011, it was common for competitive Pokemon players on YouTube to post videos of battles known as Magikarp Sweeps (shown below), in which they are shown defeating a group of six strong Pokemon with one Magikarp. The process was outlined that year on WikiHow<17> and as of October 2013, there are more than 15,200 search results for “Magikarp sweep”<18> on YouTube.
In early 2012, an extreme advertising-style infographic about the Pokemon began to circulate online, appearing on FunnyJunk<19>, the /r/Funny<20> subreddit and Dorkly.<21> That April, the /r/MagikarpFTW<22> subreddit launched for people to share photos and videos of the creature. In February 2013, a Japanese Pokemon event was held in Nagoya where players could download a level 99 shiny Magikarp.<23> The same month, Tumblr artist seedatart<24> shared an animated comic with a parody of the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air featuring Magikarp (shown below) which has gained more than 20,000 notes as of October 2013. In July 2013, YouTuber Meikachuchu uploaded a run-through of a Magikarp battling the Elite Four of either Pokemon Fire Red or Pokemon Leaf Green successfully.
Magikarp Jump is a mobile gave for Android and iOS in which a player trains Magikarp to jump as high as it can. In the game, each Magikarp is given an Everstone, which means Magikarp will not evolve so long as it has it. Through the jumping training, the Everstone eventually breaks, and the Magikarp can then evolve into Gyrados, making it useless for the purpose of the game. The game first appeared in the App store on May 23rd, 2017.
The game was quickly met with positive reviews. Two days after its release, Polygon<30><31> wrote two positive pieces about the game, saying it is an example of what the series gets right. Notable about the series is that unlike other Pokémon games, in Magikarp Jump, the players Magikarp can die rather than simply faint. The Magikarp can die either in an explosion from an opposing Voltorb, or it can be snatched from the sky mid-jump by a Pidgeotto. The Verge<32> covered fans” shocked reactions to this feature on May 30th.