To celebrate Pokémon’s 20th anniversary, the Pokémon Company (owned, in part, by Nintendo) is releasing two new video games: Pokémon Sun and Moon, for the handheld Nintendo 3DS game console. These will be the first two games released in both traditional and simplified Chinese, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China.
Although it sounds like good news, the new Chinese games are being criticized throughout greater China, by fans who say they show no respect to their memories or language.
That’s because until now Pokémon comics, animation, and movies have used different translations within the region, to reflect local language and tradition.
Now Nintendo wants to unify them: 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). 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.
The new nomenclature was not welcomed by gamers in any of the Chinese-language regions. But fans in Hong Kong, where the official language is Cantonese, not Mandarin, are the most upset.
Earlier this month, Nintendo released the Chinese-language names of the original 151 Pokémon characters. Hong Kongers were unhappy to discover many of them were renamed in a Mandarin way.
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 (May 30) morning, dozens of Hong Kong protesters marched to the Japanese Consulate in Central, demanding Nintendo adopt a different Cantonese translation for the new Pokémon video game in Hong Kong.
What do you think? If Pikachu’s English name was changed from “Pikachu” to “Bikachu,” how would you feel?