10 movements you didn’t know have origins in Japanese culture


With over 800 attacks, over 900 monsters including shapes, and over 1000 episodes of the anime, the Pokemon series has been going on for quite some time now. Many series fall short of three main games, let alone eight.

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When a franchise has been around for more than twenty years, there will sometimes be some inconsistencies in the content it serves. Sometimes the conception changes, sometimes stories contradicting others, and sometimes the submission is described as a fiery wheel of death. Interesting sprite choices and confusing attack names are often due to the fact that the original Japanese name is very different, sometimes referring to a cultural phenomenon which, while known in Japan, is not so well known. In Occident.

Hard to swallow

Aerial Ace Swallow Pokemon Anime Video Game

Aerial Ace is a flying type move that never fails and deals 60 base damage. While pretty common now, it was first introduced to us as an attack learned by the handful of third-gen flight types.

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The Japanese name for the attack is つ ば め が え し or tsubame gaeshi, which means “swallow return” – this refers to the hallmark technique of 16th century Japanese swordsman Sasaki Kojirō, in which he would bring down his katana as fast as a swallow landing (hence the flying type!).


Help please

Assist Purrloin Skitty Pokemon Anime Video Game

Assist is a move given to us in the third generation, where it selects a random attack from the player’s team and uses it in combat. Rather practical, no? Kind of like Metronome. So why then, can over 30 Pokémon learn the metronome but Assist is primarily a cat Pokémon exclusively?

Well, the Japanese name for Assist can provide the answer – ね こ の て where neko no te means “cat’s hand / paw”. This is a reference to the Japanese expression 猫 の 手 ã‚‚ 借 ã‚Š た い, read as neko no te mo karitai and meaning “I even want to borrow a cat’s hand” – in other words, they have in need of help so much that they’ll even ask a cat for help. Mystery solved!

A cut above

Aegislash Samurott Pokemon Video Game Anime

Cut is a move new players and veterans of the series are familiar with. Used for chopping down trees (and cutting grass in a few people, try it!) And not much else. With pretty meager damage output, that’s not the movement players typically achieve when tackling the Elite Four.

It’s a shame, because the Japanese name makes it pretty cool. In Japanese, Cut is named い あ い ぎ ã‚Š or iai giri, referring to the martial art based on the Iaido sword, and the way the sword is pulled from the scabbard, used, and quickly returned to its scabbard.


Fake Out Hariyama Makuhita Pokemon Video Game Anime Sumo

Another cat reference? Oh yes, found in the Japanese name of Fake Out. Fake Out is a quick move that does very little damage but often hits first and thrills.

In Japanese, Fake Out is ね こ だ ま し or neko damashi. Neko and damashi are cat and deceit respectively, but together they refer to a devious technique used by sumo wrestlers in which they loudly clap in front of their opponent’s face to disorient him.

hot stuff

Fire Blast Daimonji Hydreigon Pokemon Video Game

Throughout the games, Fire Blast has been portrayed as a very satisfying T-shaped explosion appearing on the opponent’s face. Interestingly, it stayed the same shape, as if it was any burst of flame it could take on an endless amount of shapes.

The reason for its adherence to this colloquial form is that it is a reference to the Daimonji festival (Japanese namesake for the attack) in Kyoto, Japan – a festival in which a large 大 (among other characters ) is lit to send the spirits of family members visiting.

At the crossroads

Weavile Night Slash Japan Pokemon Video Game Anime

Night Slash has a rather gruesome reference to its Japanese name – as if the critically high-level Dark movement wasn’t threatening enough!

The Japanese name for Night Slash is つ じ ぎ ã‚Š or tsujigiri. Tsujigiri is composed of the word for street / crossroads but also slash / cut. Together, the translation is something akin to ‘crossroads murder’. This is a reference to the reported act of some 17th century samurai testing new weapons on passers-by at night. Now Weavile looks a lot more menacing.


Primmarina Oceanic Operetta Pokemon Anime Video Game

On a slightly nicer note, we have Oceanic Operetta, the Z-move signature of the Generation Seven Primarina water starter.

Ocean Operetta is an incredibly damaging move, as are most Z moves, and what better move to choose to represent a sea god? The Japanese name for the movement is わ だ つ み の ã‚· ン フ ã‚© ニ ã‚¢ or wadatsumi no shinfonia, which translates to Wadatasumi’s Symphonia. Wadatsumi is the name of a Japanese sea god, often depicted as a fierce long dragon, similar to Gyarados.

Blow in the wind

Razor Wind Absol Pokemon Anime Video Game

Razor Wind has been in the series since the first generation – a normal two-turn move with reasonable damage and a pretty scary name.

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Razor Wind is usually learned by flying-type Pokémon or Pokémon with sharp claws / horns / cutlery / whatever and for good reason – the Japanese name, or kamaitachi, is the name of a Japanese spirit that takes shaped like a weasel creature, riding gusts of wind and slashing people with long claws. This likely contributes to Razor Wind’s bond with Absol, a sharp weasel.

Pulseman Fan

Volt Tackle Pulseman Pikachu Pokemon Anime Video Game

Game Freak, while best known for the many Pokemon games they’ve produced, also developed several other games before their flagship series. Examples of these games include Mendel Palace, Mario & Wario, and Pulseman. Every now and then Game Freak slips out small references to their other projects in Pokemon, the most obvious being in Pikachu’s Volt Tackle.

Volt Tackle in Japanese is ボ ル テ ッ ã‚« ー or borutekka, which can be read as Volteccer, this is the name of Pulseman’s signature movement.

Throh Thunderstorm

Storm Throw Throh Pokemon Anime Video Game

Several fighting-type Pokémon are based on particular martial arts. For example, Hitmonchan for boxing, Hariyama for sumo and Throh for judo. Bulky and dressed in a judogi, Throh is a wonderful representation of the martial art.

One of Throh’s iconic moves – Storm Throw – loses its reference to judo when translated into English, but its Japanese name, or yama arashi, is the exact name for a particular judo throwing technique.

NEXT: 10 Best Pokemon Card Attack Names

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