Censored Artwork of the Pokemon TCG

Hey all! I had the idea for this article way back in August when it was revealed that the Magmortar card from Dragons Exalted had artwork that was altered from its original Japanese version. It was actually the first card that had its artwork changed for localization in over ten years, since the Neo Genesis expansion. I put off writing up the article because I still needed one of the cards but, now that I have it, I thought it would make for a cool article to show all eleven cards (that I know of) that had their artwork changed for release overseas.


The very first altered card was from the first set of the Trading Card Game. Before her cards featured her permanent purple skin color, Jynx’s cards were quite inconsistent in her portrayal, as some black cards were recolored while others were released as is. What’s interesting about the Base Set print being altered is that the set was released in January 1999, nearly a year before the dub of “Holiday Hi-Jynx” aired and Carole Boston Weatherford wrote her article about Jynx resembling a blackface caricature, yet Wizards (or whoever made the decision) still recolored Jynx purple anyway.


The next altered card is this one from the Team Rocket expansion. As you can see, Grimer’s eyes were altered for the English version, perhaps to eliminate any confusion that Grimer was trying to sneak a peek up the nearby Lass’s skirt. When Kagemaru Himeno was asked about the change, she adamantly denied that Grimer were intentionally supposed to be looking up the girl’s skirt. When we talked about this change previously, it was also posted that the girl’s socks had an alternate meaning. :wink:


Just like Base Set Jynx, these two cards were altered to change Jynx’s skin color from black to purple. Unlike the Base print, these cards were localized after Carole Boston Weatherford’s aforementioned article revealed the controversy of Jynx’s design. The Gym Heroes recoloring, for some reason, leaves Jynx’s hands as black, while the Gym Challenge US print is kind of interesting because the artist got a little carried away with the paint bucket option and all of Jynx’s outlines were recolored purple as well. :stuck_out_tongue:


Beyond Jynx, the Gym sets had quite a few altered cards, with the only other Pokemon card being a more subtle edit in Sabrina’s Gengar from the Gym Heroes set. Because Gym Heroes is one of the few English sets where the holographic cards only exist as holographic graphic cards, this was a change that I was unsure actually happened until smpratte confirmed it later in this very thread. The Japanese version of the card clearly depicts Gengar standing within a graveyard with several cross tombstones, while these aspects are removed from the English version entirely, leaving Gengar standing in a non-descript area. The localization team was clearly not okay with the religious iconography or a card situated in a graveyard.


The rest of the censored cards of the two Gym sets were Trainer cards. Sabrina’s Gaze here was apparently changed because the placement of Sabrina’s fingers in the Japanese print resembled her giving the viewer the middle finger too much for the tastes of those in charge of the localization. I think the change was pretty overcautious on their part because it’s clear that all of her fingers are a bit bent and she’s holding the Master Ball.


Next up in the line of controversial Gym series trainers is Koga’s Ninja Trick, which was altered because due to the presence of the Buddhist symbol, omote manji, next to Ditto. Obviously, because the symbol resembles the Nazi swastika, it was edited into a different symbol when it was translated for overseas release, but apparently the card was even altered and re-released with the updated artwork in Japan as well.


Perhaps the most infamous altered Pokemon card is Misty’s Tears for obvious reasons. The Japanese print is constantly listed for outrageous prices on eBay to try to bait Misty fanboys who want a card featuring “Naked Misty” who is crying and holding onto her Staryu. Due to different cultural standards between Japan and the west, unsurprisingly the English artwork was changed so that a Squirtle is wiping away Misty’s tears in a far more G-rated illustration.


Two altered cards that frequently fly under the radar when it comes to discussing censored/banned cards are these two Trainers from Neo Genesis. The gambling aspect of the Game Corners in the video games has been under fire for many years now, causing the Gambler trainer class to become the “Gamer” class in the English versions of FireRed/LeafGreen and even causing the Game Corner itself to be altered and/or removed entirely in more recent Pokemon games. These cards were clearly edited to downplay the casino-esque layout of the Game Corners, with both featuring zoomed images that focus solely on the “game” aspect of the artwork.


The third and final altered Trainer card of Neo Genesis originally gave us the terrifying image of a Sentret sucking on the utter of a headless, limbless deformed cow courtesy of everyone’s favorite TCG artist, Tomokazu Komiya. Much like with Misty’s Tears, the different cultural standards saw a tamer copy of the card being released overseas, with Cleffa entering a barn that houses the namesake item. Apparently the card was too traumatizing even for Japan, because the reprint of Moo-Moo Milk in the VS set uses the updated English artwork.


A dozen years after Neo Genesis, we got our next and currently the most recent censored card in the form of Dragons Exalted’s Magmortar. People have kind of speculated on why this card warranted changes when several Magmortar cards have had Magmortar pointing his hands at the viewer, even with fire present in the artwork. I think in this case, the previous cards with Magmortar “firing” were deemed acceptable because they could be passed off a fantastical Pokemon attack, while perhaps this time TPCi thought that the smoke was too suggestive of a fired hand gun, which is a type of weapon that is more accessible to children than Pokemon fire or a mortar/bazooka, and changed the pose for that reason.

Ultimately the change was probably for the best as there did happen to be a shooting at the opening of the Dark Knight Rises that made national headlines only a couple of weeks before Dragons Exalted was released. However, it’s extremely doubtful that the shooting itself was the reason why the card was modified, as a change like that would have been planned and executed further in advance than how close Dragons Exalted was released after the tragedy.


Wow I really enjoyed this article and the pictures attached. I learned about quite a few changes that I didn’t even know existed. I had no idea that the game corner was censored in English card and game releases. Thank you so much for posting Frost :blush:

You’re welcome! :3

The changes to the cards in Neo Genesis were the first changes in the series related to the subject of gambling, followed by Nintendo of America changing the “Gamblers” to “Gamers” in FRLG like I said above. The first time they went after the Game Corner itself was when Nintendo of Europe removed the slots from their versions of Platinum. For the release of HGSS, Japan once again got the slots like we always had, while the rest of the world had them replaced with Voltorb Flip, and then BW didn’t have a Game Corner at all.

That was a great article! I never knew about the Grimer and arcade cards. Too bad there wasn’t a lot, cause I was hoping the article wouldn’t end. :stuck_out_tongue:

Great article. Very informatiove. I have the Sabrina’s Gaze, Koga’s Ninka Trick and Misty’s Tears cards but wasn;t aware of the others.

Very lovely article!
I wonder, is that all the banned cards thus far?
Like the ones that have been changed?

That Sentret card is disturbing, the Misty’s Tears card I got two from a Japanese Gym booster pack (3 actually) Amazon had sent me as a free gift back when I ordered 1 Starter Gift Box from them back in 1999/2000, I showed it at my school and everyone wanted to trade me for it, lol.

This is an awesome article! I had been searching the internet for info on these “banned” cards! Thanks so much for posting this!

Great fun:) Good job…

@frost this article has far and away been viewed more than any other article or guide on this site. Congrats Frost, and thanks again for the comparisons :blush:

The Mew version differences guide has almost double this many?

But it’s still an awesome guide. :blush:

Oooh I have absolutely no idea how I skipped over one with over 9000 views. You’re right! @uniqueusername rocks too with her Mew guide :blush:


wow for as long as it was i actually read it all it was so interesting.!!! the nakes mysty surprised me. and some i had to read b4 i actually noticed wut was changed

Great guide! very informative, thank you for educating me on that magmortar, as well as the blackface jynx :wink:

LOL, I have had all these cards since they were each the newest set, but also enjoyed this article.

However, I was always under the impression that the original moo moo milk was showing a bottle full of milk. the bottle is disguised as to look like a cow. In real life, they have used those bottles in farms and zoos for years. They dress it up as the mother animal, so to make baby animal think its a real parent. Now, why the Japanese card used a normal cow, instead of a sentret disguised bottle, is beyond me. But maybe the artist was thinking it would be more likely for that dairy farm to have a bottled disguised as a cow (not sentret or even a milktank).

Other then normal fish, I can’t think of many times when the pokemon series even shows or references normal animals, as in creatures that exist besides humans or pokemon.

I researched the existence of real animals in the TCG artwork a few months ago, too. They actually aren’t that uncommon in the earliest days of the TCG, but pretty much stop appearing circa the Neo era.

-Base Set: Bulbasaur? (possibly a small bug), Magikarp (worm used as bait)
-Jungle: Exeggutor (crab), Seaking (coral), Weepinbell (bird), Eevee (butterflies), Spearow (worm), Venonat (bee)
-Fossil: Psyduck (fish)
-Team Rocket: Oddish (frog), Slowpoke (butterflies and fish)
-Vending 1: Squirtle (butterfly)
-Neo Discovery: Wobbuffet (very cartoony worm), Wooper (sea anemone)

And that’s interesting about dressing up milk bottles as the mother animal and really makes sense. I actually didn’t know that, which explains a lot of the creepiness in the artwork to me. Since Tomokazu Komiya’s artwork is already very… unique, I really thought it was some headless, limbless cow!


Yeah, it seems like as time has passed and more and more Pokemon have come into existence, they’ve stopped using real-life animals in the various media of the franchise, but back in the early days it was kind of a necessary evil because so many animals didn’t have Pokemon counterparts yet – one example that comes to mind is the mongoose Gastly made appear in the Maiden’s Peak episode because that was years before Zangoose had debuted. That’s why I was really surprised when I went through the artwork looking for real-life animals and found stuff like Jungle Exeggutor and Weepinbell where those cards had real-life animals that HAD Pokemon proxies even back then.

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Hmm…now I shall have to look through my cards for real life animals pictured. I remember in some of the anime they had fish, and other sea creatures - like at festival stalls or at meal times. So my guess is real animals do exist in the world of pokemon, but they are both extremely rare in numbers (due to so many pokemon in the world) AND heavily downplayed (the game/show/manga etc is about pokemon).

I was going through some cards today, and found an appropriate censorship to bring this thread back from the dead!

I was looking at the Sabrina’s Gengar from Japanese Gym 2, and was like, “man this card looks so metal”. I noticed the background had some crosses as graves, and had to see if this carried over to English. Sure enough, the English version they are almost completely washed out:

This may be information known by others, I couldn’t find anything with a quick google search, but figured it would be useful either way!


“Man this card looks so metal.”
-scott 2016