比卡超 or 皮卡丘? Pikachu or Pika-blu?

(if you can’t see the above text, that’s okay)

The question of how Pikachu should be translated, is one that Nintendo of Hong Kong has to answer, and soon, they have until Pokemon Sun and Moon releases on November 18th to quell the rising frustration Hong Kongers are facing over the new names for a franchise they’ve loved for 20 years. A frustration that lead to 20 people protesting the Japanese consulate.

During the Pokemon Direct in February, it was announced that Pokemon Sun and Moon will be shipping worldwide with nine languages, including for the first time, Chinese (both Simplified and Traditional), obviously to tap into the 1.3 billion people living in the mainland. The Pokemon Company International is unifying the localised names, skewing more towards the Mandarin rather than Cantonese translations.

In doing so, TCPi is alienating 7 million people in Hong Kong who can’t read Mandarin, only Cantonese, the other language of China, and effectively lumping everyone together under one culture, one that Hong Kong disagrees with.

While this doesn’t effect every Pokemon, it does effect the name of the franchise, turning 小精靈 into 精灵宝可梦 / 精靈寶可夢, changing the name of a brand that has had 18 years of build up. The most prolific change though, is the franchises mascot, Pikachu.

Beikaciu or Pikaqiu?

“比卡超”(Pikachu) is simply an icon. In fact, every time you mention the name, people in Hong Kong would conjure up an image of a yellow Pokémon with pointed ears, rosy cheek, and lightning bolt-shaped tail, and the sound of “pika pika” it makes would also come to their minds.

English translation of a petition sent to Nintendo of Hong Kong by fans

Putting it that way you can’t help but agree with them, Pikachu is a part pop-culture, it transcends it’s own video franchise, it’d be like changing Darth Vader’s name, or making Captain America a nazi. Heck, my grandmother knows who Pikachu is, if that doesn’t say something about brand recognition, I don’t know what will.

Picachu-crying-pokemon

Pikachu just wants to be loved.

More Than Just a Video Game?

With growing unrest in the region as China tries to grab more of a foot hold, this is just one of many examples of the “Mainlanders” being catered for with Hong Kongers or Taiwanese being shafted in the process.

It’s understandable why TPCi would rather have just one translation to work on, especially considering this is Pokemon’s first official Chinese translation, but as they put it…

However, the absurd replacement of the familiar “比卡超” with “皮卡丘” will be like changing “Pikachu” to “Pikayau” in English – who is willing to pay for something they don’t recognise at all?


More reading:

BBC’s article on the subject
Pokemon Direct – February 2016
Full Letter to Nintendo of Hong Kong by fans
Pokemon in Greater China – Bulbapedia

Posted by Daryl Harding

A 20-something who has nothing better to do than watch anime, talk about anime, and play with my totally not sexual anime figurines.

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