Pokémon’s Controversial Past With Nazi Imagery Explained

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Not only have the Pokémon card and video games been accused of harboring Nazi symbols, the anime even had Team Rocket apparently saluting Hitler.

The Pokemon The franchise has had a litany of controversies and scandals over the years, involving both its video games and its nearly as long animated series. Perhaps one of its more unknown controversies stems from the franchise’s unusual relationship with swastikas and Nazi imagery.

Not only have the Pokemon card games and video games have been accused of harboring Nazi symbols, but the anime even had Team Rocket apparently saluting Hitler. Compared to all the other stories involving blackface and epilepsy, this one has gone relatively unnoticed. Here’s the story of the Nintendo franchise and its random callbacks to the Third Reich.


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Nazi imagery in Pokémon games

The first example of supposed Nazi images in the series was in the collectible card game, where the “Koga’s Ninja Trick” card featured a swastika. This symbol was of course the classic swastika of Eastern religions, which has nothing to do with Nazis or anti-Semitism. Its generic use in Japanese media represents Buddhism and mysticism, which is why it is also featured on a card involving ninja deception. Despite this, Westerners found the original imagery potentially offensive, which led to the image being changed to a more generic symbol on the international map print.

In video games Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Registeel has a position in combat that makes him raise his arm as if in a salute. This sprite was in the Japanese, Korean and even English versions of the game, but it has been changed for the European version. This was due to its resemblance to a Nazi salute, which saw the European release get a new sprite where both of Registeel’s arms are by its side. This sprite was then used in all versions of Platinum.

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Nazi imagery in the anime

The episode “All Things Bright & Beautifly” by Pokémon the series: Ruby and Sapphire isn’t particularly memorable, but it does contain the anime’s entry into the franchise’s Nazi legacy. The episode includes a segment in which Team Rocket minions Jessie, James, and Meowth fantasize that they’ve won a Pokemon contest, which was a concept introduced in this generation of games.

The problem with this segment is that they are shown surrounded by other members of Team Rocket as they all raise their hands in a cult, Nazi salute. This was changed in the English dub for the episode, with the Team Rocket mooks no longer raising their hands. Meowth, Jessie, and James, however, are still making the censorship somewhat questionable.

However, this episode is not as famous as “Denno Senshi Porygon”, which caused several children to have seizures. The situation surrounding Jynx and his somewhat racist original design is better known. In fact, Jynx was even removed from this episode in the English version due to a scene using his original, darker design. The more lax and forgettable nature of this edition may stem from the fact that, while still incredibly popular, the initial craze behind the Pokemon the franchise had definitely died out somewhat; the episode took place during the third generation of the series, where many of its early fans who liked the original generation had started to come out, especially in the West. Thus, the legacy of offensive content had far fewer eyes to notice it.

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