Get ready to have your childhood messed up forever. As pointed out by BuzzFeed Deputy Global News Director Ryan Broderick, Pikachu speaks English in the new Pokémon movie, and the audience's visceral disgust at witnessing this for the first time couldn't be more priceless. Of course, if you're a long term fan of the franchise, you'll know that Pikachu has always been verbally limited to "Pikachu" and "pika," occasionally to a "pika pika." It's kind of narcissistic that way, but what are you going to do? Change it and ruin everyone's memories, apparently.
According to Pokémon fansite Pokebeach (who reported the insights of Alex Aniel, who attended the world premiere of the movie at the Japan Expo in France back in July 2017), we should have seen this coming. Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! had the same scene in which Pikachu breaks out into words in Japanese. Aniel writes, "In a touching scene that moved the audience, Pikachu speaks directly to Ash in Japanese and tells him 'I want to be with you forever.'" Logically considered, why would this part be changed in the English language movie? Still, none of this matters. If you take the video below as gospel, it doesn't seem like anyone in the audience was expecting this.
Listen to that sharp intake of breath; that audible mass groan. If it's any comfort, it is just one line before the Pokémon goes back to "Pikachu"-ing, and that's prompting Twitter users to develop some theories that might alleviate the pain a little.
According to @tigerwang, Pikachu isn't actually speaking words during the scene. "He can't really talk!! It's when they emotional moments they have a connection and can mentally understand each other," he tweeted. @Dwighthaul had an alternative theory as to why Pikachu can now talk, arguing that, "It's because of the accident, he is in the coma and the whole Pokémon adventure is just a dream." It's implied the conversation is also part of that dream.
Kotaku also offer another compelling theory for the Japanese scene in the original movie, arguing that, "Because the scene takes place with Ash in an alternative reality, that could also explain Pikachu's sudden ability to use the Japanese language." They even gesture to a precedent, the Nintendo game Great Detective Pikachu, which featured a talking Pikachu (though, they're careful to stress, not Ash's Pikachu).
However, this doesn't seem to be the only speaking Pikachu in gaming history. The Nintendo game Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity also shows a talking Pikachu, but, as the narrator at the beginning of the trailer explains, the characters inhabit a world solely populated by Pokémon, which could explain why they all speak language. At the risk of delving a little too deeply, presumably they're communicating via telepathy or their shared Pokémon language, and viewers witness the dialogue in translation.
All the same, despite these small precedents, in general, the internet (and the audience at the screening) do not seem to be amused. Luckily, at least according to The Pokémon Company's latest app, they seem to be sticking to the creature speaking its own language, mostly.
According to The Verge, Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Amazon Alexa devices in Japan are all getting their own Pikachu Talk app in 2017, which does pretty much what it says on the tin — allowing users to converse with Pikachu only in his native language. And, yes, The Verge reports this app will be exported overseas in 2018, which might provide some counseling that you can access at the push of a button in the wake of this disturbing movie scene.
The times, they are a changin'. But not too fast when it comes to Pikachu, please. Let's take this one sentence at a time.