Pokémon controversy

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There have been numerous controversies regarding the Pokémon franchise in its various forms and media.

Pokémon Shock incident

An episode of the Pokémon anime broadcast in December 1997 on Japanese television induced photosensitive epileptic seizures in a substantial number of Japanese viewers, many of which required medical assistance. As a result, the episode was not broadcast overseas and never shown in Japan again, and the incident caused the anime to go into a temporary hiatus. Every Pokémon episode that aired until this episode, including the opening, was edited by lighting certain scenes, removing or changing fast-flashing scenes and more. The original version of the episodes have never been shown again, except for when the next episode preview for EP037 was mistakenly retained on Hulu Japan. For this, Pokémon currently holds the Guinness Book World Record for the most photosensitive epileptic seizures caused by a TV show.

Violence

Animation

Although 4Kids and TAJ allow for some cartoon violence in the anime, the following episodes contain scenes that were deemed to be "too violent", and thus were cut from the English broadcast:

Scenes like these are common in Japanese animation, and are intended for comic relief purposes. They are similar to scenes in Western animation such as Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, where characters get hit by extremely heavy objects and are completely fine afterwards.

Gambling

 
The Goldenrod Game Corner in Western HeartGold and SoulSilver

Over the years, there has been a growing distaste towards gambling and the exposure of it to minors. Due to the unpredictable “risk-it-all” nature of the activity and the high impressionability of youths, more and more people have voiced their opposition towards allowing minors to partake in gambling and/or gambling-esque activities, with simulated gambling in video games falling under particular scrutiny. As a result, the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) organization implemented stricter guidelines that limited simulated gambling first to older-skewing video games, starting in 2009, then eventually to adult-oriented games, starting in 2020,[1] and all games released in Europe featuring simulated gambling mechanics have been rated accordingly. While such restrictions are absent in other territories, many nations (the United States in particular) perceive gambling mechanics in video games as socially unacceptable, leading to the Pokémon games slowly phasing the concept out from Generation III onwards.

English releases of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen renamed the Gambler Trainer class to Gamer and removed gambling references from their dialogue. The English versions of the Generation IV games renamed Gamblers once more but to PIs instead; however, the references to gambling were kept.

In South Korea, the releases of Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum replaced the slot machines in the Veilstone Game Corner with non-playable game machines. These changes were later copied to the releases of Pokémon Platinum in Europe as a result of changes in the classification standards at PEGI.[2] This change has been greatly criticized by European players, who felt that it completely defeated the purpose and concept of the Game Corner.

All non-Japanese releases of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver replace the slot machines of the two Game Corners in Goldenrod City and Celadon City with a new game called Voltorb Flip. In this minigame, Coins are not wagered against a win or a loss but instead given out for completing a level. While many people find the game to be entertaining, the change removed the ability to buy coins, making Voltorb Flip the only way to obtain them.

With one exception, all core series games since Pokémon Black and White have not featured a Game Corner, remakes included. In Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, the Mauville Game Corner has been closed down; the owner will instead provide the player with three dolls, originally obtained from an NPC inside the Game Corner. In Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, the Celadon Game Corner remains, due to its importance as the location of the Team Rocket Hideout, but the slot machines have been replaced with non-playable arcade machines referencing other Pokémon games. In Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, the Veilstone Game Corner was removed, and is replaced by the Metronome Style Shop, a clothing store that serves as a means for the player character to change outfits and hairstyles; though, a remix of the Veilstone Game Corner’s background music plays in the Style Shop.

In the Virtual Console re-releases of the Generation I and II games, however, the Game Corner was left completely untouched, although the games did receive the higher-than-usual age rating of twelve and up by PEGI (compared to all other contemporary main-series titles, which PEGI gave a rating of seven and up).

There are other gambling methods that exist in later games, such as the Pokémon Lottery Corner, the Cram-o-matic, and the Item Printer. The difference is that these methods do not require any money to try out, and provide the player with items instead of money, the only luck-based factor being the rarity of the obtained item.

In Saudi Arabia, the TCG was blocked for a while because it “promoted gambling and Zionism”.[citation needed]

Eggs in Pokémon GO have been accused of being loot boxes, which is a form of gambling.[3]

Media-specific controversies

Pokémon GO

The sudden enormous popularity of Pokémon GO resulted in many controversies worldwide. Numerous organizations and companies complained about the spawning of Pokémon at places such as Holocaust and 9/11 memorials,[4][5] train rails,[6] and while driving a car.[7] Several people worldwide have been killed or seriously injured in accidents related to playing the game.[8][9][10]

In Russia, a 21-year-old video blogger received a suspended sentence for three and a half years in prison for charges of blasphemy after playing the game in a church.[11] Like the Pokémon mania in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Pokémon GO caused strong reactions in the Islamic world, declaring fatwas against the game as it could lead to "haram" activities such as "gambling".[12][13][14] The game was banned in Iran over security concerns.[15] In New York, registered sex offenders on parole were banned from playing Pokémon GO.[16] In a Belgian town with 35 inhabitants, playing the game became forbidden at night because the small town was constantly flooded with players.[17]

Pokémon Sword and Shield Pokédex

During the E3 2019 Nintendo Treehouse live stream on June 11, 2019,[18] Junichi Masuda stated that some species of Pokémon (455 in total across Generations I to VII) could not be transferred to Pokémon Sword and Shield. After a massive amount of backlash from Pokémon fans (most of which involving the hashtag #BringBackNationalDex), The Pokémon Company International posted a statement from Masuda in response on Pokémon.com in Japanese and English on June 28, 2019.[19] Despite this reiterated statement, the fan backlash on social media continued, with many fans requesting that compatibility for all Pokémon be included in a post-launch patch. When asked about the possibility of a patch, Masuda stated that he had not yet finalized a decision on such a patch. The controversy became somewhat mitigated when the Expansion Pass was announced for the games, which added 221 of the missing Pokémon back in.

This controversy is sometimes known as Dexit, a portmanteau of Pokédex and Brexit, which was the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (the basis of Galar, the setting of Sword and Shield) from the European Union.

Pokémon UNITE

When Pokémon UNITE was first announced, it quickly attracted controversy due to it being developed by a subsidiary of Tencent, which was controversial due to its ties to the Chinese government. It also brought up a controversy that had been steadily growing about the use of microtransactions in Pokémon games. As a result of these controversies, the Pokémon UNITE reveal quickly became the most disliked video on The Pokémon Company's YouTube channel.[20]

Palworld

 
The v0.1.0.0 title screen of Palworld

On January 19th, 2024, a game known as Palworld, developed by Pocketpair, was released on Xbox Game Pass and Steam to immense sales figures, with the Steam release alone selling over 8 million copies in less than six days,[21] eclipsing the first-week sales of Pokémon Legends: Arceus,[22] a title in the Pokémon series that was frequently compared to Palworld due to the similarity of being an open-ended monster catching game with a focus on action,[23] in addition to being the 2nd highest all-time peak in Steam history at 1.85 million concurrent players.[24]

Upon its release, the game was put under intense scrutiny as members of social media accused the game of plagiarizing Pokémon's aesthetic, particularly regarding Palworld's list of 111 "Pal" creatures at the time of its early access release.[25][26] This included criticism towards Pocketpair's other releases; such as Craftopia and its similarities to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild;[27] Never Grave: The Witch and The Curse and its similarities to Hollow Knight; and AI: Art Imposter and its similarities to Among Us and Gartic Phone, which came under increased fire as a result of the game's focus around generative AI artwork, due to the existing controversy surrounding the topic.[28] This led to a response by large influencers that enjoyed Palworld, causing increased debate about the title and its alleged morality regarding the artists behind the Pokémon series.[29]

Several users pointed out similarities between the Pal models found in Palworld and the Pokémon models from games such as Pokémon Sun and Moon, accusing Pocketpair of plagiarism. The Pal "Azurobe" came under particular scrutiny for appearing to be an edit of Serperior and Primarina.[30] One user comparing the models was accused of fabricating evidence due to uniformly scaling the model to make the comparison easier to see within a 3D modelling program,[31] though this accusation was chastised further by industry professionals as uniformly scaling a model does not edit the mesh in any way.[32] Other industry professionals pointed out that Azurobe and Serperior shared certain bone chains that have the same amount, and using a program to move them to match the same positions resulted in a near identical topology.[33]

The release of Palworld stoked further controversy surrounding recent entries in the series such as Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, which was frequently compared to the game, particularly regarding its visuals,[34] with some arguing that Palworld's sudden success could prompt better game design from GAME FREAK themselves by virtue of competition in the monster collection space.[35][36][37] Additional criticism against Palworld was rebuked by those claiming that the game was intentionally a parody of Pokémon,[38][39][40] though interviews in 2021 from the game's director mention that any comparisons to Pokémon were "lucky" and that they "totally didn't intend it."[41] Criticism against the game was met with memes chastising Pokémon fans for alleged brand loyalty.[42]

 
Takuro Mizobe, the director of Palworld

Additional scrutiny[43] was levied at game director Takuro Mizobe[44] for use of generative AI during the game's development,[45] as well as posts from the director's past praise of AI generative artwork to create Fakemon in the style of Ken Sugimori's artwork.[46] This was in addition to further posts by Mizobe about the use of generative AI being used to circumvent copyright law, another concern held by those on social media.[46] Mizobe has also gone on record in an interview with WIRED saying that his approach to game creation is founded on merging ideas together; not dissimilar "to that of a mashup" in musical terms.[47] In an interview with Automaton Media, Mizobe mentioned that Palworld cleared legal reviews prior to its release with no objections[48] and that Palworld was not at all similar to Pokémon. This is contradicted by a different interview with the same publication, where Mizobe noted that the developers directly referenced Pokémon as a "great predecessor", further stating that he was impressed by games like Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.[49]

The controversy was commented on by various professionals from all walks of the video game industry. VGC spoke to two anonymous experienced AAA game artists claiming that the model comparisons done by other users were effectively a smoking gun for a hypothetical legal battle between the companies that own the rights to Pokémon against Pocketpair, with a senior character artist adding that they would "stand in court to testify as an expert on this."[50] Keitai Denjū Telefang and Monster Crown designer Saiko Takaki wrote a thread commenting on the history of Pokémon plagiarism, where she claimed that her work on Telefang was designed to not be similar to Pokémon's, with Palworld's designs "clearly adding or subtracting" from existing ones, though noted that she had no comments to make on the actual gameplay, saying it "seemed fun, which is a shame."[51] The Pokémon Company International's Ex-Chief Legal Officer Dan McGowan, who was the head of the company's legal team between 2008 to 2020, told GamesRadar that he was "surprised it got this far", and that it "looks like the usual ripoff nonsense that [he] would see a thousand times a year".[52]

On January 22nd, Mizobe claimed that the team behind Palworld were receiving threats of violence and claims of slander, calling for people to stop.[53]

On January 23rd, a user that edited the models of Palworld to include various Pokémon, as well as characters such as Ash, Misty and Brock as part of a paid mod released on their Patreon,[54] claimed that "Nintendo had come for me" less than 24 hours later, with his video of the mod on Twitter being disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner after garnering 11.5 million views.[55]

On the morning of January 25th, The Pokémon Company issued an official statement on their website[56] in both Japanese and English, which read as the following:


Inquiries Regarding Other Companies’ Games

"We have received many inquiries regarding another company’s game released in January 2024. We have not granted any permission for the use of Pokémon intellectual property or assets in that game. We intend to investigate and take appropriate measures to address any acts that infringe on intellectual property rights related to the Pokémon. We will continue to cherish and nurture each and every Pokémon and its world, and work to bring the world together through Pokémon in the future."

The Pokémon Company


On February 1st, Japanese tabloid magazine Tokyo Sports received an alleged tip stating that professionals in the Japanese entertainment industry were actively told to not associate with Palworld.[57] An anonymous senior executive told Tokyo Sports that they have told their talent "not to mention Palworld on SNS or in public" out of the concern that it could impact future collaborations with the Pokémon brand.

On February 6th, during Nintendo's review of the previous fiscal year, company president Shuntaro Furukawa directly mentioned Pocketpair, Palworld, and the game's similarity to the Pokémon series, stating; "We will take appropriate action against those that infringe on our intellectual property rights."[58]

Currently, there have been no legal measures taken against Pocketpair for the release of Palworld, and no action has been taken by the company to make any changes to the game as a result of the controversy. Pals that are currently unobtainable in the game, though are fully functional with completed models, animations and parameters; such as "Boltmane" and "Dark Mutant" appear especially similar to existing Pokémon, such as Luxray and Mega Mewtwo Y.[59][60]

Racism

Jynx

 
Jynx's original design
 
Jynx's current design

Following the American airing of Holiday Hi-Jynx in 1999, Carole Boston Weatherford, an African-American cultural critic, claimed that Jynx was a negative racial stereotype of African-Americans, due to the Pokémon's black skin, and oversized facial features, which were typical in minstrel shows. She chiefly compared Jynx to the racist characters in the children's book The Story of Little Black Sambo, as well as calling Jynx "a dead ringer for an obese Drag Queen", and further compared Jynx to Mr. Popo of the Dragon Ball franchise, another character who is also potentially offensive in his design.

Weatherford's complaint caused many repercussions in the Pokémon franchise. The sprites of Jynx in the Western releases of Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal were edited, and all episodes featuring Jynx's original design were cut from international airings of the anime, including a sequence depicting Jynx in its original design in All Things Bright and Beautifly!.

Jynx's design was officially revised by Game Freak to be purple rather than black, starting with the international releases of Pokémon Gold and Silver and being included in all versions of the games from Generation III-onwards. This change was reflected in later core series games, including in Japan and South Korea, beginning with Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, and in the anime starting in Mean With Envy. Jynx has also been recolored in VIZ Media's reissues of Pokémon Adventures. Although the manga is colored in black-and-white, Jynx appearing in the manga are recolored as a dark gray rather than a straight black, suggesting that they are purple instead of black. It is also recolored to purple on the back cover of the reissue of Volume 4. Jynx's skin was also recolored to purple when Holiday Hi-Jynx finally saw a re-airing in Japan in 2012; nevertheless, the episode is still banned in the US due to the implications of African American-esque characters being subservient to a powerful white figure. The Pokémon Pocket Monsters manga published between 2005 and 2006 in English by Chuang Yi didn't change her color, and thus her original black design appears.

In recent years, some fans of Pokémon have noted that Jynx may be inspired by ganguro, a Japanese fashion where women tan heavily, bleach their hair, and apply large amounts of makeup, instead of a black stereotype. This theory is mainly based on Jynx's long, straight, blonde hair, a common attribute of ganguro fashion. Another theory is that Jynx is based on the Nordic goddess Hel, who was often depicted as having a face half white-half black and who ruled Niflheim, primarily depicted as a land of primordial ice and cold. Some fans say this is supported by Jynx sharing traits with the iconic opera singing "Fat Lady," who is pop-culturally portrayed dressed as the valkyrie Brünnhilde. It has also been stated that Jynx is based on Yama-uba, the mountain Crone.[61]

Lenora

 
The change in the anime

The Gym Leader of Nacrene City in Pokémon Black and White, Lenora, also brought up concerns of racism. Lenora's original artwork, as well as her in-game sprites, depict her wearing a large apron. Concerns arose that people outside of Japan would allude Lenora to the Mammy stereotype. Similar to Lenora, the mammy is often depicted as a dark-skinned woman who wears a handkerchief on her head and an apron. Because of the similarity, Lenora's artwork was changed, from her wearing the apron to her having it slung over her shoulder like a cape. Despite this, Lenora's in-game sprites were not altered in the international releases of Pokémon Black and White or Pokémon Black 2 and White 2.

In the original version of A Night in the Nacrene City Museum!, Lenora was depicted wearing her apron. When the English dub aired, her apron was removed completely.

In Pokémon Adventures, Lenora is depicted with the apron over her shoulder in the first panel she appears in and she is not shown with it after that. In Pocket Monsters BW, she is not depicted with an apron at all.

In Pokémon Masters EX, Lenora is not depicted with an apron.

Animal cruelty

In the past, several animal rights groups have tried to ban Pokémon, claiming that Pokémon battles closely resemble cockfights. This aspect of the controversy was actually touched upon in Pokémon Black and White.

Upon the release of Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, PETA released a mock game named Pokémon Black and Blue. In the game, the player controls the Pokémon to attack the opposing human. PETA claims that the way the Pokémon are "stuffed" into the Poké Ball is similar to how circus elephants are chained inside railroad carts. Nintendo responded to this by simply stating, "Nintendo and The Pokémon Company take the inappropriate use of our products and intellectual property seriously."[62] Around the release of Pokémon X and Y, PETA released another mock game called Pokémon Red, White, and Blue that features Nintendo's claimed association with McDonald's and also makes fun of the frequent release of sister games.

Religion

Christianity

Satanism

Some fundamentalist Christian groups have accused Pokémon as being linked to Satanism. The following is a summarized list of claims:

  • Pokémon are like demons. They are captured and must be called upon to perform tasks.[63][64]
  • Magical talismans (presumably a reference to Gym Badges) are needed to control them.[65]
  • Pokémon evolution has often been criticized due to sharing the name with the scientific theory of evolution which fundamentalist creationists usually reject, although the phenomenon in Pokémon is closer to metamorphosis.[66]
  • Many Pokémon have extraordinary paranormal powers, notably Psychic-types and Ghost-types.[67][68][69]
  • Many Pokémon inherently involve East Asian spiritualism or mysticism, due to the franchise originating in Japan. Some Christian groups denounce these as pagan rituals.[70][71]
  • Some claimed that if one were to play backwards the Kanto Pokérap, "Gotta Catch 'em All!" can be heard as "I love you, Satan".[72][inadequate source]
    • This has been referenced in a 1998 trivia board game.
  • Pokémon causes homosexuality; the close relationship between the characters Ash and Brock was "a sign of the cartoon’s gay agenda".[73][74]

In response to these claims, the Vatican City-based Sat 2000 broadcast public approval of Pokémon in April 2000, stating that the games did not have "any harmful moral side effects" and was based on "ties of intense friendship".[75]

Islam

 
The Poké-fatwa smear campaign reaching the headline page of an Egyptian newspaper on April 15, 2001. Title reads: It is forbidden for Muslims to interact with the Pokémon game.

On March 15, 2001, an anonymous user online claiming to be located in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, posted a forum thread on the then big Arabic message-board site Montada, making questionable claims of the Pokémon franchise being tied to Darwinism, Zionism, and Satanism.

The post contained the following fabricated evidence of the character's names having anti-Islamic meanings and Zionist undertones when translated in English:

The following months would see those questionable claims get spread around by either word-of-mouth or anonymous printings of those very misleading rumors that originated off of that forum, which spiraled into a perplexing social smear campaign movement that succeeded in convincing a number of Arabic nations to outright ban and limit the presence of the Pokémon franchise, such as in Egypt, where Mufti Nasser Fareed Wasel declared a ban on remotely interacting with any of its content on April 6, 2001.

Some outspoken, fundamentalist Muslims claimed that Pokémon is a Jewish conspiracy intended to get Muslim children to renounce their faith.[76][77][78][79] These same groups claimed that the word "Pokémon" means "I am Jewish", with the claimers and their followers generally unaware of the franchise's Japanese origin. The "Evolution vs. Creationism" conflict was also commonly brought up.[80][81][82]

In 2001, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, who is the highest religious authority in the kingdom, issued a fatwā banning the Pokémon franchise. It claimed that the franchise promoted Zionism by displaying a six-pointed star that resembles the Star of David as well as other religious symbols such as crosses they associated with Christianity and triangles they associated with Freemasonry in the TCG and encouraged gambling in the games due to the inclusion of gambling elements, which is in violation of Muslim doctrine.[83][84]

High Muslim authorities in Qatar and Egypt then joined the ban. As this happened during the second Intifada, a Jordanian newspaper printed a caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sitting in a tank and laughing at an Arab man chasing a Pokémon. This is meant to convey that Arabs are distracted from their conflict with the Israelis by popular franchises, with Pokémon as an example of such "distractions."[85][86]

Despite the initial banning, which quickly wiped away Pokémon merchandise, especially the card game, from markets in Saudi Arabia, Pokémon video games quickly returned to be sold normally, but under much less demand from local consumers. Some Pokémon merchandise, such as the Expedition Base Set, reappeared in certain stores a few years later, but newer sets were never brought. Games from Generation III on seem completely unaffected by the ban.

Judaism and perceived Nazi imagery

Animation

In All Things Bright and Beautifly!, a Team Rocket fantasy involved Jessie, James, Meowth, and many Team Rocket Grunts raising their hands in a manner somewhat similar to the Hitler salute. It was edited out in the English dub of the anime, with the Grunts no longer raising their hands. Despite this, Meowth's arm remains unedited in the dub.

Koga's Ninja Trick

In 1999, the Jewish civil rights group Anti-Defamation League took issue with Nintendo's use of a manji in the original Japanese print of Koga's Ninja Trick from Challenge from the Darkness, because of the symbol's strong association German Nazi Party insignia in the Western world, which they appropriated from the manji in 1920.[87] This was a sentiment echoed by Jewish parent Myla Specht; "we thought there had to be something we could do because it can be terrible for children."[88]

Response to criticism was mixed. Nintendo of America announced that the card featuring the artwork was to be discontinued in all territories[88] even though no English language copies of the cards were printed, as the complaints originated from American children recieving the card in imported packs. They also recognized that there was no ill-intent behind the manji's inclusion from "the card's Japanese creators",[88] though the original illustrator, Sumiyoshi Kizuki, has never publicly commented on the topic.

Kenneth Jacobson, a spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League, recognized Nintendo's sensitivity to the feelings of Jews and others to whom the swastika may offend. Conversely, Steve Weisman, who was upset after hearing that ten-year-old children were finding the cards from imported packs said that Nintendo should do more, saying; "maybe [including] a contribution to a Holocaust group. The whole premise of the game is kids having fun. This reminded people of 6 million deaths."[88] Larry Rosensweig, a Jewish director at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach claimed that opposition to the manji symbol was "misplaced indignation", bringing up the fact that the manji had "been used throughout Asia for thousands of years and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Nazis or anti-Semitism", saying "there are plenty of things out there that people should be offended about."[88]

In the resale market, the original print of Koga's Ninja Trick featuring the manji is often over twenty times more valuable when compared to its reprinted counterpart, even in Japanese markets.[89] Other cards that directly reference Nazism, such as Secret Mission, drawn by Ken Sugimori, which features the real-life map of German occupied Poland during World War II, have not been changed in a similar manner, despite the sensitive subject material. Today, although the manji has continued to be used as a symbol of peace throughout Asia, also continues to be co-opted by fascist Neo Nazi groups, including those also in Japan.

Registeel

In European releases of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the sprite art for Registeel is altered slightly. In the Japanese, Korean, and English releases, Registeel's arm is extended. In non-English European versions an altered sprite is used, depicting it with both of its arms down, presumably due to the original pose's resemblance to the Roman salute, infamously used by (and therefore commonly associated with) the German Nazi Party. In all versions of Pokémon Platinum and Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, the revised sprite is used.

In Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, if the player shows the Game Director at the Hotel Grand Lake a Pokémon originating from Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum, he gives them the Time Travel Award, featuring the Pokémon's original sprite from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Prior to v1.1.3, this award would use the original Japanese Pokémon Diamond and Pearl sprite for Registeel, although this award was not obtainable until Pokémon HOME support was added in v1.1.3 anyway; in v1.1.3, Registeel's sprite was replaced with the revised sprite used in Pokémon Platinum.[90]

Legal issues

Various lawsuits have been filed against Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and related entities regarding Pokémon or Pokémon characters.

Uri Geller

 
Dark Kadabra TCG card

Israeli magician Uri Geller, known for his attribution of his spoon-bending tricks to alleged psychic abilities, sued Nintendo, alleging that Kadabra (known as Yungerer in Japan) was an unauthorized use of his name and likeness. 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). In particular, he took issue with Kadabra cards in the Pokémon Trading Card Game, especially the existence of the card Dark Kadabra (named "Evil Yungerer" in Japanese). Geller, who is Jewish, additionally argued that Kadabra's design is antisemitic due to the five-pointed star on its forehead and the lightning bolts resembling the logo of the Waffen-SS.[91] 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."[91] The symbols themselves are taken from those used on Zener cards, which have been used to conduct research into supposed psychic abilities since the 1930s, and Geller has personally used in some of his magic tricks.[92]

Geller told news outlets that he first became aware of Kadabra and its similarities to him while he was Christmas shopping at a Pokémon Center store in Japan. According to Geller, the store manager "rushed out from his office continuously bowing," followed by "hundreds of children [thrusting] Pokemon cards at him to autograph while chanting what sounded like Uri Geller."[93]

In December 1999, he told news outlets that he was planning to sue Nintendo. Geller retained lawyers in Tokyo and the United States, and told news outlets that he was pursuing legal action in "Europe, America, Latin America and Australasia". In the US, his lawyer said they were planning to sue for US$100 million. When reached for comment, Nintendo in Japan told news outlets they had not yet received the lawsuit.[93] Nintendo told news outlets "None of the Pokémon characters is given a name based on the image of any particular person".[94] When VICE investigated the case in 2018, they were unable to find any evidence of Geller ever filing a lawsuit in Japan, although they were unable to contact the Japanese lawyer who Geller had retained.[95]

In November 2000, it was reported that Geller had begun legal action against Nintendo in Los Angeles federal court, for using his likeness (Kadabra) on Pokémon cards without authorization. It was reported that his lawsuit alleged he should receive substantial damages and that Nintendo cease producing cards containing his likeness.[91] When VICE researched the case in 2018, they were only able to find documents filed from 2001 to 2003.[95]

In 2001, Geller, along with Liechtenstein company Sambracal AG (who own the rights to Geller's name and likeness), sued Nintendo, arguing that the use of his likeness in Kadabra violated his rights under California's privacy laws. However, the judge ruled that as he was not a citizen or resident of the United States (he is a citizen of Israel and the United Kingdom who lived in the United Kingdom at the time), he was not eligible for protection under these privacy laws, so he could only sue under privacy laws in the United Kingdom, but no such laws existed that would protect him in this case; that part of the case was dismissed on August 16, 2001, but Geller continued to sue arguing that the cards violated the trademark rights to his own name. In November 2002, a judge dismissed Geller's trademark claims against Nintendo of America, ruling that there was insufficient evidence that Nintendo of America was involved in the distribution of Japanese language Kadabra cards in the United States (since only the Japanese language cards bore a similarity to Geller's name); since the Japanese language cards were only intended to be distributed in Japan, only Japanese trademark law could be applied, but Geller did not own a trademark on his name in Japan. On March 3, 2003, Geller's lawsuit was dismissed by the judge.[95]

Despite Geller losing his lawsuit, it seemed to have a chilling effect on the usage of Kadabra in official Pokémon media. From 2003 to 2022, there were no new Kadabra cards released in the Pokémon Trading Card Game, with the last Kadabra card to be printed before the drought being in Skyridge in 2003. Kadabra had not appeared in the Pokémon anime since Fear Factor Phony in 2006. In a July 2008 interview with PokéBeach, Masamitsu Hidaka stated that usage of Kadabra on a card is not allowed until an agreement was reached and that the case would not be settled anytime soon.[96]

Abra and Alakazam cards have continued to be printed, despite the lack of Kadabra cards. In matches that prevent the use of older cards, this made it impossible to play Alakazam without using cards that allow Alakazam to be played directly without evolving it from Kadabra, such as Rare Candy. The only Abra card released between Skyridge and 2023, in Mysterious Treasures, has an attack that allows it to evolve directly into Alakazam, skipping the Kadabra stage. Any Alakazam cards printed since were Basic Pokémon that did not need to evolve from anything.

On November 27, 2020, The Gamer published an article about the history of Geller and Kadabra.[97] The following day, after being contacted by a reader of The Gamer's article,[98] Geller reached out to The Gamer, telling them that he had sent a letter to "the chairman of Nintendo giving them permission to relaunch the Uri Geller Kadabra/Yungeller worldwide", which they published in a follow-up article.[99] The next day, Geller tweeted that he was sorry about "what [he] did 20 years ago", and that he was rescinding the ban; the tweet included an image of The Gamer's second article and a link to his personal museum, which at the time was scheduled to open in December 2020 after its opening had been postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.[100]

In 2021, Kadabra made its first appearance in animation since 2006 in the Pokémon Evolutions episode The Show (debuting December 16, 2021). The first Kadabra card printed since Skyridge is included in the Pokémon Card 151 subset in Japan (released June 16, 2023) and its counterpart 151 expansion in English (released September 22, 2023).

Power Bouncer suffocation incident

In January 1999, a 7-year-old boy suffocated to death after a Pokémon Power Bouncer ball became lodged in his throat while playing with it. After his death, his parents created a website named "Pokémon Kills", criticizing Hasbro and Pokémon for not taking appropriate safety measures in their product design.[101] In November 1999, the boy's parents filed a lawsuit against Hasbro and Toys "R" Us.[102]

Burger King toy suffocation incident

In December 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 a child suffocated because she had covered her mouth and nose with half of the Poké Ball, Burger King recalled the Poké Balls and exchanged them for food for a limited amount of time.[103]

Other lawsuits

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.[104]

Other

Creatures, Inc. Yasukuni Shrine visit

On January 7, 2019, Creatures, Inc. posted a tweet[dead link] showing several employees visiting Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial shrine located in Tokyo, Japan.[105][106][107] The shrine, said by Shinto practitioners to house the souls of fallen soldiers who fought for Japan, has been the subject of scrutiny over the years for including 1,068 military officials convicted of various war crimes by the 1946 International Military Tribunal for the Far East, including 14 convicted Class A war criminals. Following social media backlash from fans in South Korea and China (two regions Japan colonized before World War II and conducted war crimes in), the tweet was deleted later that day. An apology was posted on January 22, 2019 in Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin on the Creatures website and the official Korean and Chinese Pokémon websites.

2024 World Championships location announcement

At the end of the 2023 World Championships on August 13, 2023, it was announced that next year's Pokémon World Championships will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii; it will be the fourth World Championships to be held in the US state. As it was announced in the wake of wildfires happening throughout Hawaii beginning early August 2023, this announcement has been met with criticism, with people citing issues with announcing the news during an ongoing tragedy and the over-tourism in Hawaii causing problems to the state as it tries to meet the tourism demand.[108][109]

The Pokémon Company made a donation of $200,000 to the Hawaii Wildfire Relief Fund via the nonprofit GlobalGiving, which was announced on the Play! Pokémon Twitter account shortly after the 2024 World Championships location announcement.[110]

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