Pokémon is one of the most beloved franchises worldwide, especially in the US. Pikachu and the rest of the Poke-gang have become staples of pop culture that everyone knows; however, to achieve universal appeal, Nintendo, Game Freak, and the like had to do a lot to make Pokémon accessible for American audiences.
From simple name changes to much more drastic measures, Pokémon is no stranger to censorship occurring in the west. So, for this list, we’ll be taking a look at ten different ways Pokémon was changed for US Audiences. From the games to the TV series, we’ll be taking a look at it all.
10 Changes to Jinx & Lenora
Pokémon doesn’t have the best representation of Black characters. Back in 1999, the franchise came under heat for alleged racism for how it portrayed Jinx. The black-skinned creature with big lips and eyes was accused of portraying blackface by a parent. While Jinx was based on the Ganguro Girl fad of the mid-’90s, the fad itself was about changing a girl’s skin color to tan and can be translated to “Black-Face.”
Even if a franchise comes from Japan, when a publisher brings it over to other nations, they have to make sure that it does not offend people of different cultural backgrounds. So, from then on, Jinx’s skin color was changed to Pink. But it doesn’t stop there. In Black & White, the character of Lenora (an elderly Black woman) had to have her apron removed due to avoid any accusation of her being portrayed as a Mammy caricature.
9 The Porygon Episode Repercussions
One of Pokémon‘s most infamous episodes is one that only a select few in Japan have seen. Most fans are already familiar with the “Electric Soldier Porgyon” episode causing dozens of children in Japan to have seizures. What some may have noticed in earlier episodes of the English version was that the frame-rate was decreased whenever Pikachu used his trademark electric shocks.
This was all in response to the Porygon episode. On a side note, according to interviews that were provided on Bulbapedia, voice actors Eric Stuart (Brock and James) and the late Maddie Blaustein (Meowth) have stated that they recorded their parts for the episode.
8 Changing female outfits
Japan portrays its female figure differently than other nations. So, when bringing Pokémon over to the US, several changes needed to apply. While it was noticeable in the anime, it was more so in both the games and manga.
In the games, a lot of the skimpier outfits were toned down, including lengthening girls skirts. But, the most significant changes came in The Electric Tale of Pikachu series. Characters like Misty and Jessie had their chests drastically reduced in terms of size, and an uncomfortable hot springs scene with Misty was removed entirely.
7 Rice Balls to Donuts to Rice Balls
Pokémon‘s English translators must really hate rice balls. While it’s important to teach children of other cultures, it’s going to be difficult to explain something so different, like food. Delicacies such as rice balls aren’t in abundance in the US, so the translation team had to stretch the truth a little for this.
When Rice Balls first appeared in Pokémon, Misty and Brock just referred to them as “Donuts.” But, when they later appeared again, the team decided to call them rice balls…only for a giant one to be replaced by a sandwich during the Ruby & Sapphire series.
6 Nazi Symbols?
Pokémon has had a surprising use of Nazi symbolism. Several swastikas can be found on the Japanese versions of the “Koga’s Ninja Training” trading card; Team Rocket performing the “Hail Hitler” salute in the anime and even Registeel did a little salute in one of the original sprite models for Ruby & Sapphire.
Japan and Germany had an “interesting” relationship together, but that’s no excuse for Pokémon to have some of this content in a series made for kids. Thankfully, the team made the smart decision to remove a lot of this content for international airings.
5 Cop a queen
Yes, even literal Pokémon can be sexualized. In the Japanese version of Pokémon Stadium, Nidoqueen is seen grasping her chest. Yes, that’s a real thing that happened. Thankfully, this was removed for the U.S. version, so American players never got to see something like this.
4 Wine to Juice
Apparently, dubbing teams have the power to turn wine into juice. Whenever a character(usually an adult) takes a wine glass, all the dubbing team has to do is remove part of it to make it look like any old glass cup.
In a few instances, they even change any labeled glasses to remove any reference to wine, like replacing it with an orange. In America, wine is usually a big no-no in kids’ shows.
3 The Legend of Dratini
In another one of the more infamously banned episodes of the TV series, audiences see Ash and his companions encountering both Dratini and its evolved form, Dragonair. “The Legend of Dratini” also explains how Ash captured his entire heard of Tauros. What was the reason for it never airing in the states?
Guns. While the Squirtle Squad episode had a group of townspeople pointing guns in front of Ash, it was only briefly and played as a joke. Here, Ash has a revolver pointed at his head, and even Team Rocket has a few bullets fired at them. The gun played such a prominent role that the episode did not air outside of Japan.
2 Up a Girl’s What?
As mention before, Japan has a few odd portrayals of the female body. In the intro to Pokémon, it has Pikachu run past Ash and between a girl’s legs, who holds her skirt down to make sure Pikachu didn’t get a peak. However, in the original Japanese version, she doesn’t do that, while the lyrics “and in that girl’s skirt” are sung…
What’s even odder is a unique Team Rocket Grimer Card. With the US version, it’s just a Grimer peaking out of a manhole. However, when you look at Grimer’s eyes in the Japanese version, he’s looking up a girl’s skirt.
1 No Milk for You
For pretty obvious reasons, breastfeeding is something children shows avoid like the plague. In “The Kangaskhan Kid” episode, a little young boy looks at Misty’s chest before asking if he can drink some of her milk. Pretty crass, but this was edited out in the English version. But, what’s stranger is the removal of Pokémon drinking from a Miltank.
In the “Got Miltank?” episode, Meowth and Cyndaquil are separated from their trainers, and a Miltank heals them. One scene, in particular, has the two lost Pokémon sucking on one of Miltank’s utters. It’s nothing out of the ordinary; kids see baby cows drink from their mom’s utters all the time. But for some reason, this scene went too far and was removed from the English version.
While huge around the globe, Pokémon's games, anime, and manga underwent some changes before making it to American shores.