By Stephen Mea, George Tifverman, and Forte with consultation from Ryokon.
Japan has been one of the strongest countries in VGC’s history. They always seem to return home from the World Championships with some hardware, including four first place Masters trophies. Despite an off 2016, Japan re-surged in 2017, earning multiple Worlds Top Cut spots and winning the tournament. Continuing their online presence on battle spot and in their nationals qualifiers, the nation has produced 53 invites this year. At Japan Nationals, the Top 8 received Day 2 invites and the next 42 after Swiss and Top Cut received Day 1 invites. Alongside this, they have 3 invited from the 2017 World Championships. Let’s meet the finest that Japan has to offer in order of their placements at JCS (Japan National Championship).
1st: Hirofumi Kimura
- 1st January International Challenge 2018
2nd: Ryosuke Kosuge
- 1st Japan Nationals 2013
- 2nd World Championships 2013
- 5th World Championships 2014
3rd: Yuuya Tada
- Day 2 World Championships 2015
- Battle Road Gloria 2016 Champion
- World Cup of Pokemon: Team Japan Selection
4th: Kiyoshirou Arai (アライキヨシロウ)
- 1st Japan Nationals 2016 (Seniors)
5th: Tomohiro Seki
- Top 32 Japan Nationals 2015
6th: Oogushi Kazuki (Not attending)
- Top 8 Japan Nationals 2016 (Seniors)
- 4th World Championships 2016 (Seniors)
- Top 16 World Championships 2017 (Seniors)
7th: Hijito Kihara (Not attending)
- 7th Japan Cup 2018
8th: Masayoshi Ichigi
- 39th Japan Cup 2016
- 13th March International Challenge 2018
Hirofumi exploded onto the scene in 2018, surprising the entire community with a number of factors. Firstly, 2018 was his first time at JCS. Few can claim winning their first National in one of the most difficult regions of the world. Secondly, he did so using a team many would have scoffed at the week before. Nidoqueen was unheard of and Mega Salamence was beginning to lose relevance. Not only did he win Japan Nationals, he also won the first JCS qualifier online tournament in January. Historically, those who manage to win the tournaments Hirofumi won see great success at the World Championships.
Arai (known to many as Gerard) is one of Japan’s best who will be returning to the World Championships this year. With a strong Top 4 finish at JCS, Arai will be playing directly in the second day of competition. Arai is most well known for his victory at Japan Nationals in 2016 in the Seniors division. At that tournament, he took a deviation of the standard meta-game and piloted a Xerneas + Groudon team that featured Jumpluff. He continued his ability to find success with slightly off standard teams by piloting two fairly uncommon Pokémon, Nihilego and Gastrodon, alongside Mega Metagross to the semi-finals of JCS. Arai knows what it takes to win a big tournament so do not be surprised if you see him seated at or around table 1 in Nashville.
Koutaro is one of Japan’s finest and has earned another invite to the World Championships. He played perhaps one of the most interesting VGC sets of all time against Paul Chua of the US during round 1 of the 2015 World Championships. There, he nearly pulled off a close game using a unique Geomancy, Heart Swap Smeargle + Mega Salamence/Aurorus team. Despite the defeat, he would go on through day 1 and finish 40th after the second day of competition. This season, he placed in the Top 16 of Japan Nationals with an almost crazier Smeargle + Malamar team. Look out for Koutaro’s creativity and success in Nashville!
Ryokon has been a staple of the Japanese VGC scene since 2014, with consistently high placings at nearly every event he attends. His accomplishments include making it through day 1 of worlds 2015, placing 1st in the 2018 Japan Championships Online tournament, and winning numerous Japanese grassroots events such as the Kanto Battleroad Gloria qualifier and the 84th DEX Off tournament. Ryokon has been piloting CHALK team variants for the duration of the 2018 season including at Japan nationals where he managed to go 5-2 before losing in Top 32 Cut. Don’t be surprised to see Ryokon make it to day 2 once again this year at Worlds and potentially go even further this time.
Kumabe (known by most as Scar) is one of the most decorated Japanese players of all time. His impressive resume starts in 2014 with a Top 4 finish at Japanese nationals. He took part in Japan’s domination of the 2015 World Championships and piloted a Mega Gardevoir team to Top 8 in a format many deemed to be owned by Mega Kangaskhan. Over his career he has earned 4 worlds invites to the World Championships and been a constant presence in Japan Cup and at Japan Nationals. This year, he sneaked into his invite by placing 45th at JCS with a progressive Mega Salamence team. We are excited to see if Scar can continue his success and perhaps bring home Japan’s 5th World Championship.
Akanuma is infamous for being one of the most vicious players within the Japanese circuit. Getting DQ’d from Japan Cup in both 2016 and 2017 for his mischievous actions during the online competition, many expected him to be DQ’d within this year’s Japan Cup too but he miraculously managed to qualify for Japan nats by coming 14th in the May Japan Cup. During nats, he managed to cut Swiss with his tricky Tapu Koko + Accelgor team, demonstrating his true capability as a VGC player. Akanuma is also renowned for being one of the best team builders within Japan, not only assisting in building Morimoto’s Charizard-Venusaur team but also aided many Japanese nats and worlds competitors during 2016 as well.
Kawanishi is the co-founder of EMOLGAME, perhaps the most prominent Japanese resource database after the fall of AMALGAME and has gained his invite to day 1 after placing Top 32 during Japan nats. He was once renowned as being a dominant figure within the battle spot ladder, having placed 2nd in the All matches ladder during season 6 in Gen 6 and 1st place in the Championships ladder during the 1st season in Gen 7. After placing 8th in the online March International Challenge with the Koko-Gross Araquanid team he had shared with Morimoto, Kawanishi was able to secure his invite to nats. His capability of using the core of Koko-Gross Araquanid continued during Nationals as well, allowing him to cut Swiss with a 5-2 record by facing some of the dominant players within the Japanese circuit. Once a dominant online player, let’s see if Kawanishi can make a name for himself at Worlds.
Morimoto is perhaps one of Japan’s most consistent player within this format. He had placed 9th at the Sydney Internationals with his unique Venusaur-Charizard team, and he was able to soon afterwards gain his invite to Japan nats after coming 1st in the online March International Challenge. Outside of his achievements in the official circuit, he has also being performing consistently within the grassroots in Japan as well. Although he didn’t perform as well as everybody expected during nats, his 4-3 record still allowed him to secure his day 1 invite and will definitely be a player to look out for within Worlds.
Ryota is another one of Japan’s elite that will be returning to the World Championships. In 2014, he placed 2nd at Japan Nationals, starting his legacy. In 2015, he would Top Cut again and place Top 4 at Japan Nationals, following it up with a Top 32 finish at Worlds that year. Last year, Ryota cemented his place in VGC history with his historic win in Anaheim. In 2017, he completed the Japanese “perfect season”. Like Shoma Honami, he won Japan Cup, Japan Nationals, and the World Championships. His win at Japan Nationals was the most significant placement for any rain team in 2017. He changed things up at the World Championships and ran an innovative team featuring strong niche choice picks like Krookodile and Brick Break Alolan-Marowak. Many are eager to see if Ryota can repeat in Nashville and add to his historic legacy.
Top 16 JCS
- Ryuzaki – @ryuzaki0403
- Rin – @gozira2004
- Faitu – @faitu_wcs_poke (not attending)
- Sun – @NPo8qr
- Meteor – @DiMeteora (not attending)
- Koutaro – @rep_maikeruVGC
- Kouhei – @keima1212ab
- Yamanaka – @yamanakaaiueo
Top 17-50 JCS Confirmed to be Attending
- Terun – @teru_gift
- Sepal – @sepal_calyx
- Vete – @colonel_vete
- Nakajima – @lemon_nene
- Ryokon – @ryokonVGC
- Mackey – @MackeyVGC
- Rising – @light_Ragnaros
- Suica – @pokemon_Norain
- West – @WestGleen
- Side – @side_again
- Picasso – @pikaso_poke
- Yuuki – @yuki_rotom
- Mobu-Chara – @mobcharabuizu
- Ansena – @iruto_ansena
- Alcana – @alcana_10906
- Shiranui – @rena__poke
- Akanuma – @akanuma_asn
- Elf @examy_5
- Mintia – @mintia0810
- Katsumi – @Kaaaaatsumii
- Nathaniel – @Nathaniel_732
- Viera – @SHADEviera
- Scar – @Scar3020
- Zeen – @zeen172M
Special Cases (Day 1)
- Ryota Otsubo – @barudoru
1st World Championships 2017
- Tomoyuki Yoshimura – @BlueYossi
4th World Championships 2017
- Yuki Wata – @mkjk_y
2nd World Championships 2017 (Seniors)
The rest of the players qualified can be found here in a Japanese copy of the swiss standings for JCS (includes those not attending).
Japanese Smart Money
Achieving Top 8 at the World Championships two consecutive years is a feat that the majority dream of and a minute crowd of elites can tout. Ryosuke being amongst the latter makes him a prime candidate to win the 2018 World Championships. Ryosuke will be one of the most experienced players in the Day 2 field. He has been on both sides of some of the greatest VGC sets in history (if you have not seen his Top Cut sets from WCS 2013 and 2014, I highly recommend that be the very next thing you do). His experience does not stop at Top Cuts, but also holds a Japan Nationals victory in 2013. Ryosuke is one of the most feared players to ever play VGC and seeing him on Sunday would come as a surprise to no one.