Chill Clinton is a trading card enthusiast and investor who operates an online trading card store.
Before falling under the ownership of its own international multimedia company, the Pokémon brand was controlled and distributed by a number of disparate media enterprises, all working in concert to distribute the trading cards, video games, and television episodes across the world.
As you may know, the Pokémon brand originated in Japan; as a result, certain cultural considerations had to be made when bringing the trading card game from the Japanese market to the Western market. Between differing attitudes toward certain icons and depictions, historical representations of gender and race in the media, and differences in the target market, many of the illustrations featured on the original Japanese cards were changed before reaching the Western shelves.
Below is a list of six of these altered or replaced illustrations with explanations for why the illustrations were changed!
1. Moo-Moo Milk (Gold, Silver, to a New World . . . )
Moo-Moo Milk was originally released in the Japanese set Gold, Silver, to a New World . . . and features the image of a Sentret feeding from an artificial udder being held by a farmer.
When considering this card for inclusion in the American equivalent, Neo Genesis, game designers felt that parents outside of Japan might find the image objectionable. Therefore, they elected to change the illustration to feature bottles of milk in a barn with a curious Cleffa peering in from the door.
2. Grimer (Rocket Gang)
Though illustrator Kagemaru Himeno has denied the accusation that he intentionally depicted Grimer peering up the skirt of a passing girl in the original Rocket Gang expansion of the game, Grimer's eyes were redrawn to appear crossed when brought to the American market in the Team Rocket expansion, avoiding any chance that the game could receive negative feedback for Grimer's seemingly creepy gaze.
3. Sabrina's Gaze (Challenge From the Darkness)
The reason for this famous Pokémon card revision truly boiled down to significant cultural differences between Japan and America. In Sabrina's Gaze, originally printed in Challenge from the Darkness, Sabrina (named Natsume in the Japanese version) holds up a master ball.
However, game designers feared that American audiences would interpret the orientation of her fingers to appear as if Sabrina was giving "the finger", which was not as widely recognized as an offensive gesture in Japan at the time.
Therefore, when the card was reprinted in the Gym Challenge set, Sabrina was depicted throwing a pokéball instead.
4. Jynx (Expansion Pack)
Jynx from Base Set is the only card in the game's history to have received a revision after being printed in English. Following the premiere of an early episode of the Pokémon television show in America, the character Jynx received significant criticism for its likeness to historically racist cartoon depictions of African and African-American people.
In response, the American distributors of Pokémon changed Jynx's skin color from black to purple. However, in later years, it seems that the Pokémon company largely moved away from featuring Jynx as a character in the TCG amidst the general criticism the character still receives, electing not to include Jynx in the 2015 Evolutions reprint of Base Set.
5. Misty's Tears (Leader's Stadium)
If you are at all familiar with banned Japanese illustrations, you will have likely seen the original image used for Misty's Tears, first printed in Leader's Stadium and later brought to the American market in the Gym Heroes set.
After reviewing the image above, it will likely go without saying why this card's illustration was completely scrapped and replaced. Between the partially lit nude silhouette of Misty (named Kasumi in the original Japanese) and her inexplicable embrace with a Staryu, this illustration would have sent the comparably conservative American market into an absolute tizzy.
Because of this, Misty's Tears was reprinted with the image of a Squirtle wiping away a tear from Misty's cheek.
6. Arcade Game (Gold, Silver, to a New World . . . )
When the card Arcade Game came from the Japanese to the American market with its printing in the Neo Genesis set, game designers elected to zoom into the gaming cabinet, omitting both the dimly lit casino floor and the word "slot" on the machine, though it still features the illustration of what is undeniably a game of chance.
7. Magmortar (Dragons Exalted)
It's not common to see revised illustrations in more recently printed cards. However, Pokémon America elected to change the illustration of Magmortar from Dragons Exalted before cards hit the shelf in 2012. In the original illustration, we are staring down Magmortar's mechanical arm, which resembles the barrel of a gun. Naturally, this illustration was easy to misinterpret, and deemed too violent-appearing for the American market.