I’m still playing catch-up with a lot of my older e-mails and Q&As, so here’s a look at one from Morgil about the Pokemon series:
So in the pokemon franchise, the three legendary pokemon Raikou, Entei, and Suicune tend to cause some argueing amonst the fandom as far as what to collectively call them. Some people call the The Legendary Dogs, while others say The Legendary Cats. Still others go with Legendary Beasts (I happen to be in this camp). I’ve even heard some people poke fun at the controversy and jokingly call them Legendary Hamsters. Needless to say, this has cause some arguing and debate amongst the famdom, and i started to wonder how the Japanese handle this. Do they have a collective term for the three, and do they argue what to classify them as?
Disclaimer: I’m way, way, way behind in terms of Pokemon games. I only played maybe halfway through one of the first-generation games and read a manga or two back in the day. And I’ve seen a few episodes of the anime before. So I’m not an authority at all. With that said, let’s take a stab at the question!
First, here’s a look at Raikou, Entei, and Suicune:
They go by essentially the same names in Japanese, and their names all have something to do with elemental stuff. The “Rai” in “Raikou” means thunder or lightning, the “En” in Entei means fire or flame, and the “Sui” in Suicune means water.
Again, since I know very little about the series, I had to do some very basic research first. Apparently these are rare Pokemon that are called Legendary Pokemon by English-speaking fans. Japanese fans sometimes call them Legendary Pokemon too, but sometimes they’re just called “rare Pokemon” too. I don’t know what makes a Pokemon “legendary” or “not legendary”, so digging further into it I came across what I assume is an unofficial chart that tries to categorize the rare ones:
This chart has three categories: Legendary Pokemon, Legendary Pokemon (Forbidden), and something that’s tough to translate but is something like “Mystical Pokemon” or “Mythical Pokemon”. And Raikou, Entei, and Suicune are all in the Legendary Pokemon category. Interestingly, judging from various Japanese message board posts, there do seem to be arguments about what should be considered “legendary” and what should be considered “rare”, so it seems it’s an issue that’s not necessarily localization-caused.
With that basic info down, I next looked to see what these three are called in Japanese as a group. From what I can tell online, the games simply use the general counter for animals (written in kana as ひき, びき, or ぴき or in kanji as 匹), which would make it something like “three animals” or “three creatures”:
Some other promotional materials handle it the same way:
Those refer to the three Pokemon in general terms, though, so it makes sense that the general counter for animals was used.
To find what their group is called in more specific contexts, I dug around Japanese fan sites and message boards even more. I didn’t see “three cats” used much, if ever, but the term “three dogs” seems to be very commonly used. In fact, here’s a list of the different groups of threes that I ran across during my research:
|Pokemon (using localized names)||Japanese Group Name|
|Terrakion, Cobalion, Virizion||the Three Beasts|
|Thundurus, Tornadus, Landorus||the Three Devils|
|Uxie, Azelf, Mesprit||UMAs (Unidentified Mysterious Animals)|
|Registeel, Regice, Regirock||the Three Statues|
|Moltres, Zapdos, Articuno||the Three Birds|
|Raikou, Entei, Suicune||the Three Dogs|
So it looks like Japanese fans don’t necessarily call them “Legendary Dogs” but they do call them “the Three Dogs”. Is that official or not? I’m not really sure and don’t have the resources to check right now – maybe someone reading this can add some extra info to the mix? But at the very least, Japanese fans seem to consider them dogs.
For added reference, here’s a Japanese image search comparison:
|A Japanese search for Pokemon + 3 cats||A Japanese search for Pokemon + 3 dogs|
So that makes it even clearer that Japanese fans don’t really think of these Pokemon as a group of cats.
Anyway, hopefully that answers the question somewhat. I’m no Pokemon expert, and I’m sure I’ve gotten some stuff wrong in here, so if anyone can offer more info or insight, please share it in the comments for all to see! When it comes to explaining Japanese Pokemon stuff, I seriously feel like a first grader trying to teach college students 😛
As an aside, I’m also amused by the fact that the birds are called Fire, Thunder, Freezer in Japanese. I’m gonna have to look into these games and give them a full analysis someday!