Today, July 21st, is Professor Willow’s birthday! As our main point of contact in Pokémon GO, Professor Willow helps us through the game, teaches us about Pokémon, and lets us know about his mishaps. But just who is Professor Willow? His birthday seems a great time to explore his lore, so let’s take a look at what we know.
Who is Professor Willow?
Professor Willow is the first character we meet in Pokémon GO, introducing himself before we encounter any Pokémon, and teaching us about the world in Pokémon GO. Unlike the other Professors found in the various regions and main series game, Professor Willow doesn’t provide us with our first starter Pokémon, and instead gives us our first Pokéball with which to catch them. He is our guide and teacher throughout the game, and teaches new players about various game mechanics when they start their GO journey.
Throughout the game Willow gives us assignments in the form of Special Research that he talks us through to aid in his research. When we transfer a Pokémon we send them to Willow’s lab in return for a Pokémon Candy, and once a week he greets us as part of the Weekly Research Breakthrough Box.
During Willow Week in 2018, we learnt some Willow facts shared on social media. He is an only child, who got his love of both Pokémon, and exploration from his unnamed parents. Professor Willow’s mom researched Pokémon ecology, and his dad was fascinated by the outdoors, inspiring his dream to learn about new Pokémon, and unexplored areas. He stated that while he seems outgoing and confident, he is actually quite shy.
His birthday is July 21st, with no age specified.
In Japanese he is known as ウィロー博士 Willow-hakase, and his name in other languages are all translations of his.
We’re often given little glimpses into Willow’s personality via Community Day research, and other Special Research lines. For example, recently during the Catching Some Z’s event Willow shared that Candela had given him much stronger coffee than he was used to, leading him to write a paper called “The Aerodynamics of Various Hats as Worn by Pikachu.” He shares fun facts about Pokémon with us that are featured in events, jokes with us, and occasionally mentions losing things. He has a playful side to his personality, and clearly loves his research.
While Pokemon GO does not have voice actors, Willow has been voiced in a series called ‘The Two Professors’. In English he was voiced by Robbie Daymond, in Japanese he was voiced by Nobuyuki Sakemoto, and in Spanish by Marc Zanni. ‘The Two Professors’ was a 3 episode CGI series created to promote the release of Let’s GO Pikachu and Eevee, and featured Professor Willow and Professor Oak, alongside Meltan. The episodes can be found on the official Pokémon YouTube channel.
We know Professor Willow trained under Professor Oak, the first Professor we met way back in the Kanto region. He studied under Oak, and greatly admires him, and was inspired by him to set out on his own, and set up a laboratory for his own research. Professor Willow is unusual in that he is the first Professor from a spin-off Pokémon game, to name a main series game Professor, as a colleague.
As well as studying under Oak, Willow also mentions being colleagues with Professor Sycamore in Kalos, Professor Magnolia of the Galar region, and Jacq, from Paldea. He also collaborates in his research with the mysterious Rhi of the GO Ultra Recon Squad, who came through an Ultra Wormhole into the world of Pokémon GO. Willow himself had entered the Ultra Wormhole from the opposite end, and was lost! Rhi helps you learn about Ultra Beasts in Willow’s absence in order to find Willow when he is lost, and recover him back to our world. Thanks Rhi! The GO Ultra Recon Squad are an organisation that came to the Alola region, from a place beyond the Ultra Wormholes, known as Ultra Megalopolis. Since helping us rescue Willow, Rhi has regularly helped alongside his research, and has clearly become a trusted colleague of his.
In GO Willow also has three assistants, Blanche, Spark and Candela, who are the leaders of Team Mystic, Team Instinct, and Team Valor respectively. He uses each of these assistants to research in different ways, Blanche for evolution, Spark for eggs and Valor for battling. The Team Leaders work from a Gym, assisting Willow when called upon, focusing on their own specialities.
Willow is often depicted with his partner Pokémon, Meltan, who he discovered one day when researching Ditto. He often talks about Meltan during special research, and is shown with them nearby in official artwork. He considers Meltan to be his Buddy Pokémon, and has not evolved them currently.
Typically we see Willow in his classic white lab coat, backpack, and black and yellow outfit, but he has also been seen in another outfit, a leather jacket, boots and cargo pants. He wore this new outfit between August 27th and November 30th, 2022, before returning to his classic lab coat ensemble.
There have been several avatar items inspired by Professor Willow that have been available in the shop, or through special research, including the leather jacket, goggles, cargo pants, boots and gloves from the alternative look. There is also a pair of glasses that are worn on your avatar’s head in the same way Willow wears their glasses.
In 2021, a special Professor Willow TCG card was released as part of the Pokémon GO TCG collaboration. Each card came with a unique 16 digit code that could be redeemed in Pokémon GO from July 1, 2021, at 12:00 a.m. UTC to August 1, 2023, at 12:00 a.m. UTC to unlock a Special Research as well as a medal. A version without a code but with a Pokémon GO stamp was later included in the Pokémon GO V Battle Deck—Mewtwo vs. Melmetal.
As our trusted Pokemon GO Professor, Willow plays an important part in our world, but is often forgotten about outside of Special Research. We hope Niantic will celebrate his birthday this year, and keep sharing fun tidbits about his personality in our conversations with him. Happy birthday Professor Willow!