The Pokémon franchise has flourished globally in no small part thank to its incredibly adorably mascot. Even if you don't play, read, or watch Pokémon, you know exactly who I'm talking about, don't you? Pikachu IS the face -- the cuddly, squishy little face -- of Pokémon. Even Pikachu's evolved form, Raichu, is pretty freaking cute. Pikachu almost had a third evolution, though, and it was not cute. It was terrifying.
According to a Yomiuri interview (translated by SiliconEra), Pikachu's third evolution was called Gorochu, and compared to the cuddly creature we all know and love, Gorochu is described as a menacing beast. When asked about the fabled third form, Pikachu's original illustrator Atsuko Nishida opened up about this grisly apex form: "Yes. It was 'Pika(chu),' 'Rai(chu),' and 'Goro(chu).' The Pokémon known as Gorochu bared fangs and even had a pair of horns."
Fangs and horns?! They really were going to turn our favorite Pocket Monster into, well, into a monster! The SiliconEra article includes a fascinating editors note pointing out that the "Rai" in Raichu is derived from the Japanese word for thunder, while Goro (or Goro-Goro) is onomatopoeic for the sound thunder makes when it rolls through the sky. If Raichu could be seen to represent the idea of thunder, Gorochu actually was meant to be that intimidating, earth-shaking force. Pretty wild, right?
If you guys were hoping to see some concept designs, I'm afraid that the image I so masterfully crafted for you at the top of this article is the closest you're going to get. Nishida-san did mention, however, that the appearance of Gorochu had nothing to do with its being cut from the game. Its exclusion had more to do with game balance, and that's why we'll never see it.
We can conclude with Nishida-san and designer Ken Sugimori's reasoning as to why people love Pikachu so much. Interestingly, neither thinks that it's due to Pikachu's cuteness:1comments
Nishida: "I think there’s a strong sense that comes from being raised by the fans. And I believe that’s what made Pikachu what it is today. I like to see Pikachu as the fruit of everybody’s love."
Sugimori: "I think it’s because Pikachu is 'easy to understand.' At first we couldn’t use colors well and the resolution was coarse. From there, Pikachu was made to have a characteristic shape and its colors were simple. It was easy to understand yet still had characteristics. I believe that was the secret behind Pikachu’s universal love."