In February Nintendo announced Pokémon Sun and Moon for the Nintendo 3DS, the next two entries in the series’ main line of games. They will be the first Pokémon games released in traditional and simplified Chinese in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Until now, the Pokémon games, comics and animation have traditionally been released in different languages to reflect the local culture and linguistic differences of various regions. Ahead of Sun and Moon’s release later this year, Nintendo has released the Chinese-language names of the original Pokémon characters, many of whom have been renamed, including series icon Pikachu.
According to Quartz, fans in Hong Kong, where the Cantonese dialect is widely used, not traditional Mandarin, feel the changes are disrespectful to their culture and language.
“Pokémon in Greater China will be officially called 精靈寶可夢, or Jingling Baokemeng in Mandarin (Jingling means “spirit” or “elf,” and Baokemeng is a transliteration of Pokémon),” the Quartz report explains. “Earlier in Hong Kong, it was 寵物小精靈, Pet Little Elves (or Spirits), while in Taiwan, it was 神奇寶貝, Magic Babies.
“Pikachu was originally translated as 比卡超 (Bei-kaa-chyu) in Hong Kong. Now it is named 皮卡丘 (Pikaqiu). While the name 皮卡丘 in Mandarin sounds similar to the global name Pikachu (as it was always called in China and Taiwan), it reads as Pei-kaa-jau in Cantonese, which doesn’t sound the same at all.”
On Monday 30 May, dozens of protesters marched to the Japanese Consulate in Hong Kong, demanding Nintendo change the name from Pikaqiu back to Bei-kaa-chyu. The protest was organised by gaming-focused Lonely Media and political group Civic Passion, Quartz reports.
“We have been using Beikaaciu for over 20 years,” Sing Leung, chief editor of Lonely Media and a co-organiser of the rally, told the South China Morning Post. “This is a part of our way of life and the Cantonese translation also underlines the distinctiveness of our language.”
“Pikachu is 比卡超, not 皮卡丘, I hereby vow I will never buy from Nintendo again, unless you finally understand what is Cantonese and the correct Chinese usage,” one Facebook user wrote in Cantonese.
Protesters have collected 6,000 signatures for a petition against the change as well.
Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are set to release on 23 November in Europe and 18 November for the US and Japan.