There have been numerous controversies over events, images, names, and other themes stemming from Pokémon. This is likely due to the game's extreme popularity eliciting a backlash from some members of society.
Imagery, religion, etc.
Perceived Nazi imagery
In the TCG
Members of the Jewish community accused Nintendo of using an offensive image in the Japanese version of Koga's Ninja Trick. The image in question, pictured at right, features an omote manji, a left-facing version of the swastika.
While in the Western world, the image of the swastika in any form brings to mind the fascist and racist policies carried out by Nazi Germany during the course of World War II, the swastika's origin was in ancient times. It is used as a symbol of peace and good luck by many cultures, including that of Hinduism, where the left-facing swastika represents, perhaps a bit ironically, love and mercy.
In the games
In European releases of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the sprite art for Registeel is altered slightly. While in Japanese and North American releases, Registeel's arm is extended, this was altered due to its similarity to the Hitler salute. In all versions of Pokémon Platinum, the sprite takes on its European form.
Some fundamentalist Christian groups have accused Pokémon as being linked to Satanism. The following is a summarized and possibly incomplete list of their reasons for this accusation:
- Pokémon are like demons. They are captured and must be called upon to perform tasks.
- Magical talismans (supposedly a reference to Gym Badges) are needed to control them.
- Pokémon evolve. Though this transformation is more akin to metamorphosis in most Pokémon, the theory of evolution is denied entirely by the most fundamentalist creationists, who believe that all things as they are presently were divinely inspired.
- Some Pokémon evolution even requires the use of certain magical stones.
- Many Pokémon have extraordinary paranormal powers, notably Template:Type2s. Those with Psychic powers are labeled as having been given these powers by Satan in the Bible itself.
- Many Pokémon embody or practice East Asian spiritual or mystical concepts, being that the franchise originated in Japan. Many right-wing groups denounce these as pagan rituals.
- Some claim that if one were to play backwards the Pokérap, "Gotta Catch 'em All!" can be heard as "I love Satan".
Some outspoken, fundamentalist Muslims claim that Pokémon is a Jewish conspiracy that is intended to brainwash Islamic children to make them renounce their faith. These same groups claim that the word "Pokeman" is a Japanese phrase that means "I am Jewish". This is completely false.
Carole Boston Weatherford, a cultural critic, claimed that Jynx, which had recently appeared in Holiday Hi-Jynx, was a negative racial stereotype of African-Americans. She chiefly compared Jynx to the racist characters in Little Black Sambo, and further compared Jynx to Mr. Popo of the Dragonball franchise, a character whose design is also potentially offensive in his design.
Weatherford's complaint caused many repercussions in Pokémon. The sprites of Jynx in the international release of Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal were changed, and EP250 was cut from international airings of the anime. A Jynx that appeared in All Things Bright and Beautifly was also cut from the dub.
Jynx's design was officially changed by Nintendo to being purple, rather than black, and this change was reflected in later games (beginning with Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire) and the anime (starting in Mean with Envy).
In recent years, some fans of Pokémon with knowledge of Japanese culture have noted that Jynx is more likely inspired by ganguro, a Japanese fashion where girls tan heavily, bleach their hair, and apply large amounts of makeup, instead of a black stereotype. Most people who support this theory base it on Jynx's long, straight, blonde hair, a common attribute of ganguro fashion.
Various lawsuits have been filed against Nintendo and Game Freak regarding Pokémon or Pokémon characters.
In November 2000, Uri Geller, the biggest douche in the universe, tried to sue Nintendo for $100 million US, claiming that Kadabra, known as Yungerer in Japan, was an unauthorized parody of himself. Besides Kadabra's use of bent spoons to enhance its Psychic powers, the katakana for its name, ユンゲラー, is visually similar to the transliteration of his own name into Japanese (ユリゲラー).
He also claimed that Kadabra was anti-Semitic in nature, with the star on its forehead and lightning bolts resembling the logo of the Nazi SS. He is quoted as saying: "Nintendo turned me into an evil, occult Pokémon character. Nintendo stole my identity by using my name and my signature image."
A parents' group attempted to sue manufacturers of collectible cards, including Nintendo and Wizards of the Coast, claiming that the cards' collectible nature and the random distribution of the cards in packs constitutes illegal gambling.
In 1999, as a promotion for Mewtwo Strikes Back, Burger King released a series of promotional toys in handheld Poké Balls with their Kids' Meals. After their son suffocated because he had covered his mouth and nose with half of the Poké Ball, two parents set up a website named "Pokémon Kills".
In response to this, Burger King recalled the Poké Balls and exchanged them for food for a limited amount of time.
- Pokémon - I Choose You!: Misty slaps Ash after he tells her that he's okay, presumably because of his apparent lack of care for Pikachu.
- The School of Hard Knocks: Misty hits Brock with a log because he says "to be continued..." rather than beginning the episode.
- A Corphish Out of Water: A Carvanha hits Ash in the back of the head.
Scenes like these are common in Japanese animation, and are a source of comic relief, much like characters in Looney Tunes who are hit by heavy objects are completely fine afterward.