Nintendo is getting all kinds of worked up about the upcoming Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon games, which are set to arrive in late 2016. In their corporate march towards insane amounts of child cash, it looks like they’re pissing off quite a few fans across China. Quartz is reporting that in an attempt to ‘unify’ the pronunciation of Pikachu’s name (instead of adapting it to reflect local language and tradition) they have sparked protests in Hong Kong. Apparently Nintendo released a list of Pokémon names, and several of them had been switched from Cantonese to Mandarin. Zheping Huang, over at Quartz writes:
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.
Although from an outsider’s perspective, this might seem like a bit of overreaction, I do think its a much more legitimate issue than getting pissed off by the delaying of No Man’s Sky to the point of sending death threats to its developers. It’s a sign of how pop culture (and its incarnations in the worlds of film, television, card games, and video games) is growing in strength as a source of self-identification for many people. This Pokémon situation is particularly interesting, because it sits at the junction of self-identification by way of nationality / language, and self-identification by way of pop culture / entertainment.
So here’s a question for American fans: would you protest too if they renamed Pikachu to, let’s say, Pikajew?