When Pokémon Got A Little Too Nazi Germany

When Pokémon Got A Little Too Nazi Germany

Pokémon. It’s a card (and video) game for kids. You capture monsters, they faint a lot, it’s all good, clean, harmless fun. Right?

Well, mostly. Except for a few occasions where the series has been in trouble in the West for allegedly using Nazi imagery.

Since the franchise debuted in the 1990s, there have been three occasions in which Pokémon has either had to be recalled or edited for a market due to concerns over gestures and symbols used by the Nazis before and during the Second World War.


One of these involved the Pokémon animated series. In 2003, the episode All Things Bright and Beautifly! had a sequence involving the evil Team Rocket edited for the English release because the trainers (and their minions) were sticking their arms up in a move that it was felt looked way too much like a Nazi salute.

Another, and this one is quite subtle, involves a single Pokémon, Registeel. In the European release of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the creature’s one-armed stance – which again looked slightly like a Nazi salute – was changed so that both his arms were at his side. Note this only affected the European release of the game; in the US, his Nazi salute remains unchanged, as in the original Japanese version.

The third example is probably the most famous, and also the most ridiculous. In 1999, as Pokémania was hitting its stride in the US, consumers began noticing something strange on one of the series’ first run of cards. Golbat, an otherwise forgettable Pokémon, had on a trainer card an image that looked just like a Nazi swastika.

The card in question (the swastika is in the upper left)

Cue a torrent of complaints from parents and organisations like Jewish groups and the Anti-Defamation League, which resulted in Nintendo of America withdrawing the card from sale in the US, saying at the time “What is appropriate for one culture may not be for another”.

While Nintendo’s reasoning at least acknowledged this, the problem with most of the complaints was that the image was not a “Nazi” swastika. It was simply a swastika, a religious symbol of good fortune that has been used in Hinduism and Buddhism for centuries. In Pokémon’s native Japan, the symbol is known as the manji, which even features the symbol as a character in its Japanese spelling (卍字).

So for it to feature on a Pokémon card had nothing to do with Nazi Germany whatsoever!

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.
(Images courtesy of Bulbapedia)


  • Hmm the manji, or yungdrung as its also known. Despite the fact that the swastika is an inverted version, some people are still too oblivious to understand the difference.

    It seems people will still be lamenting and fearing nazi iconography for centuries to come. Get over it.

    • No one can get over it, yes the swastika was and still is a hindu symbol of good luck but its symbol is now forever associated with the Nazis and the atrocities that happened in WWII.

      • Only in western countries, or countries with a large Jewish population. In India and Japan the Nazi connotation doesn’t come up at all.

        To be honest, I think it’s pretty stupid to prevent anyone using a religious symbol for it’s original purpose just because some evil people put it on their flag. I mean the Nazi party also used eagles a lot in their iconography, should we ban eagles?

        • As a PC Non-Jew it is within my right to be offended that a country can use the Eagle as its national bird!

          I demand said country change its national iconography now! =P

        • Yeah the whole ‘politically correct’ thing is getting way out of hand. The symbol will never shed those connotations while everybody tries to erase it from history. You can’t face up to your mistakes by pretending they didn’t exist. In Germany its so bad I’m pretty sure if I made a reference in the street, everybody nearby would cover their ears, and start screaming that they’re not listening.

          The Nazi’s did terrible things, there’s no denying that. Erasing them from history won’t serve as the example it could that may help prevent somebody else from taking humanity down that same path.

  • It’s probably not too hard to believe the creators of this did not intend to invoke Nazi imagery. I think people need to relax. I consider it completely culturally insensitive and ignorant to just immediately think of the Nazi connotations without ever thinking this has come from an Eastern culture which has a completely different meaning for the symbol. The west needs to educate itself and stop this cycle of bullshit self pity for a terrible thing that happened 66 years ago, and move on. Nazis have been history for decades, Hindus and Buddhists are here today.

    The Team Rocket salute? Yeah it’s similar, because team rocket are the bad guys, last time I checked the Nazis were the bad guys, it’s not a stretch.

    • I heard there’s a glitch in Super Mario Land where there’s a room full of nazi flags. I think it’s on YouTube.

  • I seem to recall reading that the Romans used that same salute looooooong before Nazis existed.

    Just politically correct bullshit again.

  • How sad to see the splendid Jessie and James in such a ghastly context – it is hard to see how such natural outsiders would really thrive in any sort of fascist existence! And Meowth- in every wy the antithesis of any sort of Nazi1t

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