Hong Kong Pokémon Fans Protest Pikachu's Name Change

In the English-speaking world, Pikachu is "Pikachu". In Hong Kong, things are more complex, especially after Nintendo renamed the franchise's most famous Pocket Monster. [Image: Quartz]

Upcoming titles Pokémon Sun and Moon will be released in traditional and simplified Chinese in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Until now, different regions have used different translations to reflect the varied linguistic and cultural differences. However, this will change with Sun and Moon.

Over on Quartz, Zheping Huang explains:

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.

As Quartz notes, the renaming is having the biggest impact in Hong Kong, where Cantonese, not Mandarin, has traditionally been the common language.

Again, here is Zheping Huang:

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.

According to Quartz, the issue's root is that in Hong Kong, many feel that Cantonese is being threatened by the mainland Chinese government. Fewer schools are teaching young children Cantonese, and there's concern that it could disappear.

This, along with a strong sentiment towards the traditional translation, is perhaps why Hong Kong Pokémon fans have been protesting the name changes on the Nintendo Hong Kong Facebook page.

"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," writes a Facebook user.

A small group of protesters even demonstrated in front of the Japanese Consulate in Central, carrying banners, singing the Cantonese theme song and demanding that Nintendo change "Pei-kaa-jau" back to "Bei-kaa-chyu".

Protesters also collected 6000 signatures for a petition against the change and launched a Facebook community to express their displeasure with Nintendo's decision. However, it seems Nintendo is keeping with the new translation.


    This is exactly why the process of regionalisation and localisation is profoundly mis-understood by modern western audiences.

      What on earth are you talking about @leigh? I'm perfectly happy in my Mitsubishi Starion drinking a flesh drink from my local Macudo and eating a teriyaki burger...

    Uh first world problems.

      Game related news on a game related website. Did you come to Kotaku hoping for an in-depth analysis of the Syrian refugee crisis?

        LOL WTF are you on? In no way was I having a dig at the article, but was directing my comment towards the fact these geese are wasting their time protesting about something Nintendo probably couldnt give two hoots about.

          Oh, was that in another comment? Must've missed it.

          Also aren't most protests against something the enforcer probably doesn't care about?

      You guys are missing the point of the article and protesters, it's that China is trying to subversively trying to change the language from Cantonese over to Mandarin stupid round eyes. (I say is jest) Thanks Kotaku for the article

    Grown men (and presumably women, somehwere) picketing/protesting the name change of a fictional rat.

      Except that's just the tip of the ice berg.
      As stated by the article it's more an issue of language and culture being slowly phased out. Something as popular as Pokemon is actually a pretty big issue if it lends itself to said culture phasing.

        You really think Pokemon is going to/trying to "phase out" a language/culture spoken by/experienced by hundreds of millions of people? Alarmist much.

          I feel like you either didn't read the article or don't understand the grip that China has over its media and the lengths it goes to in order to maintain that grip. Definitely not alarmist.

          As the article says, this isn't about Pikachu or Pokemon, it's about the citizens of Hong Kong feeling like their primary language is being threatened by the government.

          Last edited 31/05/16 9:16 pm

          Of course they're not trying to phase it out. They've made a choice to localize the game to the language spoken by the majority in the area, thus expanding reach.
          However, as the article states, Hong Kong's traditional language (and thus part of their culture) is slowly being phased out by the Chinese. It's not to hard to see why they'd be against a popular franchise that holds a lot of power over kids lending to this phase out, whether or not they're doing it intentionally or not.

      Yeah! They could be protesting over what toilet people should be using!

    have to understand the political context. this is less a protest about the naming of pikachu but one for Hong Kong people's believe that they are different to mainland China, particularly when there's a general feeling that China has been increasing control and trying to 'mainlandise' Hong Kong in the last few years. The protesters are fighting for what they believe to be their rights under the one country two system.

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