The 64th episode in the Pokémon Sun and Moon series, titled “Touchdown of Friendship!!”, will not air in the United States because Ash Ketchum is pictured in blackface, Polygon reports. The episode already aired in Japan, but Disney XD, the network that airs the show, has chosen to skip ahead to the next one in the season. The move will mark the first time a Pokémon episode has been unaired in the U.S. since 2002.
So it looks like TPCi is skipping the Passimian episode...and I can uh....understand why pic.twitter.com/RnwPai1FaN— JPRPokeTrainer98 (@JPRPT98) July 4, 2018
The episode’s plot involves Ash getting to know a tribe of Passimians, a kind of Pokémon. He develops a need to protect and support the creatures; he gets so close to them, in fact, that he ends up acting like them by walking on all fours, for example. He also decides to wear a costume to make himself look more like a Passimian, a move that includes painting his face black.
This isn’t the first time race has caused a Pokémon episode to be banned in this country. A 2002 episode featured Jynx, a Pokémon some thought to be an offensive African-American caricature. Jynx was eventually updated to have a purple face. However, since the original episode still features the original look, it did not air in the U.S. and has been banned from re-airing. Other Pokémon episodes have not aired for various other controversial issues not having to do with race.
Has anyone else noticed that Jynx wears blackface and is also the only Pokemon who is weirdly sexualised? pic.twitter.com/0kDBVyPJjZ— 🐸🐸 Frog-kun 🐸🐸 (@frog_kun) February 3, 2016
It’s still possible that the “Touchdown of Friendship!!” episode may still air in the U.S. if changes are made like what was done with Jynx. The episode's ultimate fate remains unconfirmed, however.
For such a globally popular show, cultural differences such as this do happen every once in a while, and even though it sounds like the original idea of Ash dressing up like a Passimian has nothing to do with the loaded cultural history of blackface, it’s probably a wise move on Disney’s part to nip this in the bud.