The concept behind Pokemon is genius from a marketing perspective, to the point of being nigh-diabolical. You can transplant the "Gotta Catch 'Em All" motif into nearly any medium that involves collecting material goods by purchasing them at retail, and no where else is this more evident than the trading card game.
Of course, being that there were so many designed, printed and sold, there were bound to be a few that got lost in translation. But it's amazing just how many of these troublesome cards there are, and how little oversight many of them must have had.
Seriously, guys? Again with the Nazis? At this point, everyone knows the defense: "The symbol originally meant peace or good luck, and was only adopted by Hitler later or any other kind of ready-made argument." That may well be true, but perceptions and definitions change over time, and these days that's a god-damned swastika, and it represents a horrific moment in human history. It was thankfully changed for the US version of the card, presumably because the American branch has people with eyes who can look at this sort of stuff before declaring "Nope, no one could possibly see anything wrong with this."
Other changes are just a little more subtle.
In this case, the US version of the Grimer card moves the slimy Pokemon's pupil's closer to center. Why? Uh, because he's apparently looking up that girl's skirt. Though the artist denied this was the case, it's kind of hard to see anything else, especially when Japan has a real (though sometimes overexaggerated) problem with perverts taking upskirt photos. In any case, the simple change does wonders, transforming Grimer from a sewer-dwelling pervert to an adorable gunk monster doing his best Ninja Turtle impression.
Though those cards only needed slight tweaks to pass muster with international audiences, some cards had their art changed entirely.
While it's likely that this card was changed because the appearance of a naked young girl, it wasn't even accurate in the first place. I mean, in what world could a card called "Misty's Tears" be interpreted to be "Misty tenderly holding a giant starfish in the eye of a watery vortex"? This is one case that a Squirtle feeding on the tears of a human makes complete sense.
In some cases however, the image change isn't as significant as the title change.
What was originally a series of slot machines (much like the playable minigames in the Pokemon series) is now hastily cropped with Photoshop. Despite the image clearly depicting a slot machine, the title has been changed to "Arcade Game." This is in an effort to curb any possible encouragement of underage gambling, which has since become a taboo in the virtual world where fantasy dog-fighting is the world's pasttime.
There are inappropriate historical references, partial nudity and promotion of games of chance -- and then there's this.
The idea of drinking milk from a Pokemon is strange, even if millions upon millions of people engage in the real-world equivalent every day. So while a Pokemon suckling on a cow's teat for milk isn't exactly offensive, it is allegedly what got the card changed to a series of jars from Lon Lon Ranch. Really though, what is of possibly more interest is the vessel for said sucklage -- namely, the limbless, headless cow torso that is somehow alive and feeding a young Pokemon. Some suspect it's a bag of milk with built-in rubber nipples and a cow pattern on it, but that's just crazy -- no god-fearing country on Earth drinks milk from a bag.
Cronenberg-esque monstrosities aside, at least there weren't any racism issues with the car--
God dammit, Jynx. Will we never be free of your vacant expression reminding us of our hideous past?
The Pokemon games and the anime are both the result of hundreds of people working on dozens of different areas to pull together a cohesive product. Manga, on the other hand, is often the work of just one or two people, which lends a bit more singular personality to a franchise that normally keeps on-message across its media empire. And sometimes that extra "personality" doesn't exactly make it through customs.
The Pokemon Adventures manga was infamous for its frank depiction of gory battles and the grisly aftermath (and you know, zombies). But for all the Pokemon-on-Pokemon violence that made it through to the US, one of the stranger things to get altered was a slap on the cheek. The offending blow was excised completely for the American release of the manga, being replaced with a powerful glare that implies some sort of psychic ability.
But no examination of censorship in manga would be complete without oversexualized women. I'll be honest, that's pretty much all we have for the rest of the page.
One of the weirdest examples has to be a trainer named Green (known as Blue in the Japanese version -- I know), who plays a kind of Chaotic Neutral foil between the hero and the villain. In one fight, Green's top is ripped, revealing her sizable bust to be nothing more than a pair of Pokeballs with conspicuously-placed buttons. This reveal is excised completely in the English translation, probably because Google servers can't handle any more entries of "pokemon boobs pokeballs."
The same could probably also be said for the manga The Electric Tale of Pikachu.
This series is infamous for its insane sexualization of almost every human female that appears on-panel. Both Misty and Jesse are drawn with a terrible condition that curses them with gigantic breasts that are constantly being pulled upwards by the gravity of the moon. This condition was fortunately cured in time for the English translation, relieving Misty and Jesse of their mammary hell.
It's a given that the censorship happens on the way across the sea. But once in a while, Japan is too much even for Japan.
This scene depicts Misty -- who is repeatedly noted to be twelve years old -- in the shower, wishing that her "breasts would evolve" like a Pokemon. Suffice it to say, this scene never made it to the US in any official capacity; in fact, it was so lurid that Japan even scaled it back a little. On the left you can see the original unedited version that appeared in a weekly manga magazine (we cropped the bottom of it a little, because Jesus Christ), and on the right you can see how it appeared in the collection, with soap partially covering the offending unmentionables. It's good to know that even Japan has standards. Sort of.