Michael M. asked an interesting question that involves Pokémon and a possibly transgender character:
In pokemon x/y, there’s a character in the random battle place who is apparently transgender, and I was wondering if you could confirm the translations posted here and maybe confirm what’s going on on this fanart page (NSFW!)?
I thought it was a translation mistake at first, but apparently not!
From the tumblr post, it sounds like this is a hot topic among Pokémon fans, so let’s take a look! First, here’s a look at the line in both versions of the game:
|Japanese release||English release|
And here’s all the text side-by-side:
|Japanese script||Basic English translation||Official English translation|
|はんとしまえは カラテおう だったのに いがくの ちから って スゲーよね！||I was a Karate King just half a year ago; the power of medical science is awesome, wouldn’t you say?!||Yes, a mere half year ago I was a Black Belt! Quite the transformation, wouldn’t you say?|
Just from a quick look, we see the English localization definitely leaves out the mention of medicine/medical science, which doesn’t seem like a big change at first glance.
But the real confusion and questions seem to stem from the fact that the Japanese phrase translates to “Karate King”, which would make you think it’s referring to a male. Still, it’s important to note that this Japanese word 王 can sometimes refer to someone in power without any specific implied gender, similar to our word “ruler”. I’ve encountered this sort of unusual usage many times in my career, so it’s important to dig a little deeper than that.
So, doing a quick search, it turns out that the phrase “Karate King” is what these guys are called in the Japanese games:
Because of this, it sounds like the NPC in question is basically saying, “I was one of those generic karate guys a half year ago; I’m not anymore thanks to medical science!”
Still, just to be safe, I wondered if maybe there was a female version of Karate King. I might be wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be one – the only female equivalent I could find was this type of enemy, called “Battle Girl”:
In the official English translation, the NPC in question uses the term “Black Belt” instead of “Karate King”… and it indeed looks like that enemy was renamed to “Black Belt” in the English versions of the game. So that bit of consistency makes sense – in fact, if you read between the lines of the English localization and piece things together yourself, it’s still clear that a gender reassignment happened! It’s an interesting case of not fully removing something but making things a little fuzzier instead, much like how the Pokémon and marriage stuff was handled.
Again, like most of my Pokémon posts, I’ve likely overlooked or missed some extra details, so if you can offer any more suggestions or info, let me know in the comments or on Twitter!
If you enjoyed this look at gender stuff in video game translations, check out these other gender articles too!