If a person's life story can be told through the state of their office chairs, then mine would be near-unpublishable. I have left a trail of destruction in the wake of my sedentary lifestyle: hard-wearing workhorses passed down from my parents, a fancy Herman Miller at my former job, and the peeling faux-leather wreckage of a cheap IKEA chair that now sits forlorn in some storage area somewhere.
None of them have ever been right for me — but I'm hoping this one, the one I'm sitting in right now, can be the happy ending to my tragic seat story.
What makes a good office chair?
With office chairs, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. First, there's cost: although you'll use the darn things every day for (hopefully) years, we all tend to balk at prices that trend higher than a couple of hundred dollars.
Some of us want a chair that looks a bit nicer than your bog-standard black
Secondly, there's ergonomics, because working in front of a screen (without a good, supportive chair or a rod down your spine) is liable to turn you into a spiral-spined shrimp, a little hunchbacked husk of a person who looks like they spend all their time inspecting the floorboards for dust.
Thirdly, there's looks. Not important to everyone, of course, but some of us — especially those who stream or care about their office aesthetic — want a chair that looks a bit nicer than your bog-standard black.
So, with all of that out of the way, enter: The Pikachu Chair. Technically speaking, this gorgeous piece of furniture is called the "Secretlab TITAN Evo 2022 Pokémon #025 Edition" (it also comes in Charizard #006 flavour), but look at it: It's a Pikachu Chair (affectionately known as "the Pikachair"), and honestly, it's absolutely delightful to have in my house. (The Charizard one, for reference, would be a "Chairizard".)
Gaming chairs and the "macho" gamer aesthetic
The Pikachu Chair is a gaming chair — that specific, sleek, high-backed type of seat that you see poking above the heads of streamers everywhere. You either love them (so comfy! So stylish!) or you loathe them (I don't want to have a nerd chair! They look like racing car seats!) and I, admittedly, am mostly in the latter camp.
You see, gaming accessories are generally very macho, as evidenced by my "Bazooka" graphics card and my "Republic of Gamers" PC, as if everything should be named after guns and war lest it invalidate someone's delicate sense of masculinity.
Gaming chairs are no different, although lately they have also begun to come in pink, in an attempt to appeal to this bewildering new demographic called "women". I was expecting the Pikachair to be macho, too, despite the wee rodent being a chunky little idiot that definitely looks more like a baby bunny than a gun — and my aesthetic sensibilities really tend more towards the cute and cuddly.
Imagine one of those books for babies about how all the animals in the zoo feel
But the Pikachair arrived at my house in a huge box (big enough for me, a 5'3" person, to walk through comfortably) that was clearly designed for the Ultimate Unboxing Experience, including a gigantic Pikachu poster printed with instructions on the back. Pulling out the individual parts — the chunky wheels, the intimidating hydraulic post, and all the various bits excitedly telling me that they were magnetic — I was able to notice and appreciate some of the details in this colossal nerdgasm of a chair.
Pikachu-wise, it's surprisingly and pleasantly tasteful, and not macho at all, really: A soft velour portrait of everyone's favourite mouse-bunny sits just behind your shoulder blades, with an obverse portrait (read: Pikachu's bum) on the back in the same touchable plush material — imagine one of those books for babies about how all the animals in the zoo feel, because it's a lot like that.
Either side of your head are two Poké Balls and the #025 — that's Pikachu's Pokédex number, of course — and the Secretlab logo in Pikachu-yellow, plus a couple of matching yellow racing stripes. On the sides, embroidered in black on black, are little images of Pikachu, subtle enough that you only really notice it in the light. It's classy. I did not expect a Pikachu Chair to be classy.
New year, new chair
But this is also an all-new chair for Secretlab, and although I have no previous version of the chair to compare it to, I do have a list of new features:
- New, more durable leatherette (fake leather) exterior
- Shorter hydraulics to cater to a wider range of users
- Better angles for the height, tilt, and recline levers
- Grippier handles and knobs
- Redesigned lumbar support
- Magnetic, replaceable armrests
- Magnetic memory foam head pillow
What does that mean comfort-wise? Well, if this is your first gaming chair — or heavily customisable chair of any kind — what that means is utter confusion, at least for the first few hours. There are, in total, eleven knobs, buttons, and levers that can adjust your experience, and none of them are labelled — you'll need to consult a guide to figure out what they do, as well as where they should be to fix your awful lumpy spine.
It will tilt you back, but not gently, and not quietly
The height and tilt lock are pretty standard for office chairs, and although they feel a little cheap compared to the rest of the luxe stuff up above, they do the job they're supposed to do. The recline lever is a bit harder to get on with — it feels a little bit like a handbrake in a vintage car, because it's got a terrifying judder to it rather than the smoother recline experience I was hoping for. It will tilt you back, but not gently, and not quietly at first (it gets better after the initial jolt). Luckily, unless you're hoping to sleep in your chair (it reclines to a near-horizontal 165 degrees), you won't need to adjust it much.
The new armrests are "4D", which means they move in three directions: up and down, back and forth, in and out, and at angles, like pinball flippers. You also can move them independently of one another, in case your arms are different. The magnetic toppers can be swapped out easily, most notably for a fancy cooling gel topper, although the factory-standard memory gel ones are nice enough for me — but the magnets are also very satisfying to fiddle with if you're in a meeting.
The magnetic headrest, too, is a nice new touch. Previously, the head pillow was strapped on, which — if you really care about these things — is a bit ugly considering how streamlined the rest of the chair is. With it being magnetic, it slaps on the backrest at just about anywhere your head might be, so it's adjustable for different heights.
Sorry, I'm short
Well... different heights to a point, anyway. As I've mentioned, I'm 5'3", and the "Regular" chair is designed for people 5'6" and up — people around my height will likely prefer the "Small" size, and I can confirm that it does make a difference.
It feels like I've got a construction crew dismantling and rebuilding my vertebrae
The lumbar adjustment settings, which basically push out a small curve in the chair at about the height that your spine should be doing the same thing (just above the bum zone) don't quite fit to my body on the "Regular" setting, leaving me feeling a bit like I'm wearing someone else's shoes that are two sizes too big. Still, it's easy enough to essentially just turn the lumbar stuff off, and if you're ordering your own chair, just make sure to pick the right size for you.
(It's worth noting that, at the time of writing, the Pokémon chairs only come in "Small" and "Regular", and not "XL", which is designed for people over 5'11" and up to 395 pounds, although the non-Pokémon chairs do have this option. Regular is designed for people between 5'7" and 6'2", and up to 220 pounds, which makes it suitable for most.)
The lumbar stuff is also there at the cost of airflow. I tested this chair over Christmas — arguably the least sweaty time of the year — but reviews of the chair from summertime are a little clammier. I can only imagine what this will mean for that velour Pikachu, and I'll admit to being a bit nervous about how he'll look in a few years after months of being squashed up against my spine.
And, I suppose, as a final warning to those of you who, like me, have historically had terrible posture: This chair is firm, and this chair is brutal, at least for the first week or two. It turns out that resetting your spine to a better position is a little bit painful, specifically in the lower back, where it feels like I've got a construction crew dismantling and rebuilding my vertebrae. This isn't the chair's fault, of course — it's on me and my inability to sit straight — but sitting in this chair feels a bit like going to the gym. It's a bit sore, but it's good for me. Ow.
Let the de-shrimpification begin
My main two criteria upon getting this chair were, simply: One, "Oh god, I really hope it's not ugly", and two, "I hope it can make me less of a shrimp person". The jury's still out on that last one, although the pain is promising, but I am pleasantly surprised by how nice it looks. Yes, it has a massive Pikachu emblazoned on both sides of it, but it's far from the only Pokémon merch in here — I can count seven Pokémon things in my office without even looking too hard.
Even the Charizard #006 Edition, which I have to admit I wouldn't have been as thrilled about (I'm a Pikachu stan, obviously), is rather lovely, with orange and blue stripes and artwork for Charmander and Charmeleon on the sides (and Secretlab were even confident enough in the design to send it to the artist of the original Charizard Pokémon card).
Sadly, the Secretlab TITAN Evo 2022 Pokémon #025 and #006 Editions are currently only available in Japan and South East Asia, although the TITAN Evo 2022 itself is available in the West with options for Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, League of Legends and Overwatch theming, among others. The base (non-themed) model costs $499, and the themed ones — including the Pokémon ones — cost $574 each.
Is that pricey for a chair like this? It depends what you want — Secretlab is the current king of the gaming chair space, so it's certainly a premium product in an already premium space. Of course, you have your Herman Millers out there, too, and the Pikachair is certainly nowhere near the cost of a really deluxe office chair — or even the fancy Herman Miller gaming chair that our boy Zion got to try.
But, if you're looking to upgrade from IKEA without leaping all the way to a $1k+ seat, the customisability and design of a Secretlab TITAN Evo 2022 makes it a really good place to land, and the surprising stylishness of the Pokémon Editions are pretty hard to resist — let's just hope they make their way West some day.
Plus, if you have a bad day at work, you can pet the little Pikachu. So fuzzy. So cute.
Massive thanks to Secretlab for sending this chair to us, and for wisely picking the Pikachu model for our Pikachu-obsessed reviewer.