And in Pokémon tradition, there’s even a minor change from the original Japanese version.
When writing lyrics for a song meant to express heartfelt love and dedication, “Totally pathetic, unreliable” seems like just about the worst choice for an opener. Still, it’s hard to argue with that descriptor when you’re talking about Magikarp, well-known as being the weakest of all Pokémon in the anime/video game franchise.
However, experienced Pokémon players know despite initially being able to do little more than splash about ineffectually, eventually Magikarp can be nurtured into evolving into the mighty Gyarados. Other hidden depths can be found in Magikarp’s name in Japan, Koiking, which could be translated as either “King of the Koi Fish” or “King of Love.”
Because of its diamond-in-the-rough characteristics and romantic name, Koiking became one of the chosen Pokémon to be honored with its own theme song, titled “The Koiking Song–I Love Koiking.” Released last summer and often played at the Kurikoan confectionary shops in Japan which sell Koiking taiyaki sweet bean cakes, the song finally has an English version, called “The Magikarp Song.”
After the scathing opening, the song goes on to explain that Magikarp is “Known throughout the world for being super weak,” which, given the international popularity of the Pokémon franchise, is inarguably true. In keeping with that, the words “weak,” “weakest,” or “weakness” show up eight times in the lyrics (plus twice in on-screen text), with the stand-out section being “But now it’s so weak, the weakest in the land. So weak that it’s sad, really really sad.”
▼ Even Pikachu is baffled by the seeming meaninglessness of Magikarp’s existence.
There are also three mentions of “pity” or “pathetic” and even a “lowly” for good measure.
But though the vocals unflinchingly acknowledge Magikarp’s lack of useful battle techniques, they also express an undying affection for the oft-defeated Pokémon. Yes, there is a brief mention of Magikarp’s evolved form, when the singer tells us that “Evolving into Gyarados makes it super strong,” but much of that praise is negated with the follow-up “Waiting to reach that level takes way too long.”
That doesn’t matter, though, because this isn’t a love ballad for Gyarados. It’s for Magikarp, and for those who love it for what it is, declaring “Beloved Pokémon, that’s you Magikarp. Magical and special, of course you’ve won my heart.”
Oh, and because no Pokémon discussion is complete without a localization issue, there’s one scene that shows up in the Japanese version which was altered for the English song.
▼ “Koiking no Uta-I Love Koiking”
The second verse of both versions talk about Magikarp’s/Koiking’s pointless jumping and splashing. At the 1:19 mark, as the second chorus starts, the Japanese version tells us “The jumping Pokémon, Koiking. You’re the one who jumps the most in the world,” accompanied by an on-screen announcement that Koiking is “The Jumpion,” apparently a combination of “jump” and “champion.”
▼ The Japanese version also gets gradually color-transitioning karaoke-style on-screen lyrics, unlike the English video.
Meanwhile, the English version just reuses the same image from the first chorus when the lyrics come to “The jumping Pokémon, that’s you Magikarp. Although your moves are pointless, still you’ve won my heart.”
Just goes to show that the Pokémon localization team’s work is never-ending.
Source: YouTube/The Official Pokémon YouTube Channel via Anime News Network/ Lynzee Loveridge
Top image: YouTube/The Official Pokémon YouTube Channel
Insert images: YouTube/The Official Pokémon YouTube Channel, YouTube/ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s wondering if there will now be a fan-subbed version of The Koiking Song with lots of gratuitous profanity added.