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I hope you all found the last Japanese article helpful, and have brushed up on your Hiragana and Katakana. This month we are going to put those new skills to the test, and have some fun by examining Japanese Pokemon names. Stupid Japanese Pokemon names. If you thought some of the English names were wack, get ready to be surprised because some of the Japanese names really take the cake. Pokemon names are all written in Katakana, so there's no need to bust out that Kanji dictionary. Let's test those alphabet skills!
Erhm... yeah... Am I the only one thinking "Did I read that right? Yes I did... Really? Really?" You did not read that wrong. Charmeleon's Japanese name is effectively, "Lizard." No comment on its flames, no attempt to make the name sound cool—he's just, "Lizard." So much for creativity, right?
The Katakana is "Koratta." Obviously "Ratta" is the English word "Rat." So, maybe the "Ko" is there to make it sound cool? Wrong, Ko is read 子, which means child or baby. In other words Rattata's Japanese name is literally "Baby-Rat."
You think you would be depressed by that, but then you look at this:
So, "Baby Rat" evolves... into... "Rat." Yeeahh...
You translate and... "Still a Bud." It just gets better and better, doesn't it?
You'll have to bust out a Japanese dictionary for this, seeing as it is not English-based. So you bust out the dictionary, translate Gloom's name and... "Stinky Flower." Seriously?
Yeah. By the way, for those who are interested, Gloom's relatives are "Mystery Weed" (Oddish) and "Pretty Flower" (Bellossom). Vileplume's Japanese name is Rafureissa, which is just a katakana spelling of "Rafflesia," the copy-and-pasted real name for the world's largest flower (which incidentally smells like poo and uses flies to pollinate). Kind of cool, but I am annoyed that they once again used an English name completely unaltered.
On the subject of Grass Pokemon, let's talk about a really familiar one.
"Fushigi" means mysterious or peculiar, while "tane" (which becomes "dane" in kanji-based combination) means seed. That would be all well and good if not for it being used for some terrible jokes in the anime. While ダネ means seed in Bulbasaur's name, です, shortened to だ in casual speech, can be translated as "is", simply used as a sentence ender. ネ or ね on the other hand indicates "yeah?" used to confirm a common opinion. For instance, "Ratatta's name is really stupid, isn't it?" The Japanese use ね and similar words a lot in order to connect back and forth while conversing. Basically, if you take "dane" and pronounce the "da" strongly, it means seed, but if you put the emphasis on "ne" it ends up sounding more like "isn't it?" This leads to all sorts of stupid jokes with Bulbasaur answering as if he can speak Japanese. 「ふしぎだね？」 "That's weird, isn't it?"
You can't talk about stupid "sounds like it is talking" joke names without mentioning Wobbuffet and Wynaut. ソー is pronounced the same as そう, which roughly means "that is", and we use it constantly in the language. そうですか？ (really?) そうだね (that's how it is isn't it). Notice here that "dane" is used just like in the Bulbasaur example. そうなんす！ Is a very energetic or over-done way of saying そうです, or "Yes that is it!" or "That is how it is!"
As for Wynaut, の is usually used as a sentence ender that indicates a strong interest in continuing the conversation, or implies that you are egging the speaker on to go into greater detail. Thus the phrase そうなの (synonymous with Wynaut's name) is a very enthused "is that so?" Obviously this is meant to be a stupid pun to make a conversation between Wynaut and Wobbuffet.
ソーナノ？ "Is that so?"
ソーナンス！！ "That's how it is!!"
Incidentally, Wobbuffet's design is supposed to be partially based on a comedian named Sanpei Hayashiya. Hayashiya's catch phrase involved bringing his hand to his forehead and exclaiming 「そうなんす！ 奥さん！」 "That's how it is Oku-san!" Oku-san is a general term that refers to a woman who is married. You can also say "your oku-san" to refer to "your wife" or "his wife." Interestingly, the character for "oku" means "inside" so a wife is "the one who is inside (the house)". Let's see how many inter-cultural lulz are had with that one.
It should not be a surprise that these types of jokes persist into Black and White. The most recent victim of Game Freak's troll humor would be Clefairy 4.5, or Tabunne.
たぶん, read in kanji as 多分, translates to "maybe" or "it's likely". ね, as previously mentioned, is a sentence ender. In other words, Tabunne's name literally means "Probably, right?" This puts me at a total loss for words. At least Sounansu has some personality chemistry with his name-phrase, but Tabunne . . . 訳分からへん！
Overall though, the names of Pokemon have become more and more acceptable. Going over the list of Fifth Generation Pokemon, it is harder to find any obvious facepalms. Some of the notable ones with obvious meanings are Daigeki/Nageki, meaning Strike / Throw respectively, or Shikijika, which literally means "season deer." Ones like ギーア (Gear) or シャンデラー (a chandelier) are pretty obvious, but somehow still come across with more tact than "lizard" or "stinky flower." It could just be that learning the Japanese names "after the fact" gets a bigger reaction than learning them first-hand.
There are generations of names to look over though—why not put your skills to the test, and investigate for yourself!
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