Across the Pokemon series, the nurse at the Pokemon Center helpfully heals up the player’s Pokemon. When handing them back, however, she says:
We hope to see you again!
The line has been referenced in a lot of silly ways based on how it is a relatively “terrible thing to say in a hospital.” After all, hoping to see the player again means that Pokemon get injured and need healing…again. This rather dark outlook that spawned several humorous memes and webcomics.
So that made me wonder, what is that line in Japanese anyway? Can it be read the same way?
Short answer: “We look forward to serving you again!” is what the Japanese comes out to be. Similarly polite business speak, but it’s all about the little context and nuance which explains why it became a running joke in the English-speaking fanbase but not so much in the Japanese one.
Let’s take a deeper look!
While the dialogue varies in both English and Japanese when meeting the nurse throughout the games, the ending line is what we are focusing on.
With the exception of HeartGold and SoulSilver (more on this later), the Japanese is always the following:
The second version is from later games that support kanji characters, but they have the same meaning. For reference first, a very literal translation would be:
We are waiting to serve you again!
The phrase more appropriately means (and is indeed often translated as):
We look forward to serving you again!
It is often used at the end of a customer correspondence –basically, polite business speak as a server would make to a customer. They are happy to provide this service and will do so again, looking forward to serving the customer’s needs.
With that in mind, the English translation is not inaccurate, as it is a similar business speak of hoping to see (and serve) a customer again.
So why do they read so differently? Why are there not any silly memes or comics about the nurse saying this in Japanese?
It is likely due to context and how the specific word choices play out here.
Given the context (in service of the equivalent of an animal hospital), the English indeed sounds relatively more malicious (even if by accident) –which serves as the source of the humorous interpretation of the line among the English-speaking fanbase.
A big difference is the usage and connotation of the word “hope.” The Japanese “look forward to serving you again” versus “hope to see you again” can come off in different ways indeed!
Context: the Japanese version:
In the Pokemon context, they of course are looking forward to serving you again as you will likely need it with all the battles going on (and subsequent harm coming to Pokemon…) and will be there for you when you need it to heal those poor Pokemon up!
In the context of a hospital, the Japanese “looking forward to serving you again” comes off as more of a “If you’re in need of our services again, we will (happily/willingly) fulfill them.”
One must also keep in mind, of course, that I am providing English readers with a translation of the Japanese, so of course Japanese-readers are not seeing the literal English words “look forward to.”
In the super literal version I provided above, you can see how it becomes more of a meaning of “awaiting” to serve the customer. So a Japanese reader will not (even purposefully) misinterpret any intentions here, even if they wanted to add a humorous twist to it.
Context: the English version:
In the context of a hospital, one can see how “we hope to see you again” already can be twisted humorously or read the wrong way. After all, “hope” has a stronger connotation already. Just look down the literal definitions of the word and one can already see how this becomes even sillier.
The nurse “hopes” (i.e. “wants something to happen or be the case.“) to see you again. The nurse hopes that she will see you again –and for that your Pokemon must be in pain, or else why would you be in there talking to her?
That’s the root of why the English-side took off with the jokes about a malicious intent, compared to the Japanese.
On the Localization
Of course, I understand this post is overblown, as it is, as mentioned earlier, likely meant to be a translation of the polite business speak. “Thank you for choosing this particular Pokemon center”, etc. Putting aside all the memes, why would localization have gone this way originally, and, continue to do so?
One theory is that given the space limitations of the original games, perhaps the English had to opt with a shorter line. The Japanese fit its line into one box, and English did the same:
One can see how “We look forward to serving you again!” can have a similar meaning to “We hope to see you again!” Both are polite business speak to a customer, so was likely chosen as a shorter option.
Now whether the localization back then anticipated the other readings of the English remains to be seen. But, they have continued to translate the Japanese line as such to this day, even when they have more room.
An exception: HeartGold and SoulSilver
Really, this could be an article of its own. But I decided to just combine it with this one.
Earlier I mentioned an exception in HeartGold and SoulSilver. That is because in these games, the nurse in Japanese and English actually says something different!
Please, come back again any time!
The English here is harder to make malicious. Now it is up to the player to come back as they need to, and a (more clearly) friendly nurse who does not have the hope that you will come back, but remains just as welcoming.
In Japanese, she says:
Literally, it is:
Please make use of us/our services again anytime!
This is made stranger by the fact that the original Gold and Silver had the standard lines in both English and Japanese…
…except that the English nurse does not even use an exclamation mark like the rest in the series do… and instead opts for a full stop. Very curious!
However… once the trainer acquires a Gray/4 Star Trainer Card, the Japanese becomes:
また いつでも おこしください！
Please come again anytime!
Or more often translated simply as “Please come again!”
Yet in English, she reverts back to our favorite:
We hope to see you again!
Unfortunately, I lack a screenshot of this instance or a video… so this assumes the script on Bulbapedia is correct.
I found the above very interesting, as I would say the dialogue before the trainer card sounds friendlier. Yet, one can argue it is because a trainer who has such a high level card is valued and one they would hope (uses their services) again!
Also, I should mention that some Japanese bloggers would interpret the “Please come again!” as “We hope to see you again!” as their favorite English equivalent of the phrase… but I could only find one instance of this. This would still lack the interpretation of the root English joke, too.
In terms of why the Japanese was changed to this in HeartGold and SoulSilver… perhaps it was to give a more regional inflection on the nurse? The Johto region is based on the real-life Kansai region, which is stereotyped to have more “friendly, outgoing people” (compared to the “cold and hard to read” people of Kanto). Indeed, her dialogue comes off more that way compared to the Kanto equivalent in the prior game.
That being said, I did not actually get to investigate whether the nurses in the Kanto region (as you go to both in HeartGold and SoulSilver) actually speak differently or not… so this may be looking too deeply into it. But it would be an interesting way to highlight a reflection of the ongoing Kanto vs Kansai silliness!
Japanese comes off as more of, “We look forward to serving you again!” compared to English’s “We hope to see you again!” Localization may have originally chose this line for space limitations and then stuck with it for consistency. The way the English line can be read, in the context of a hospital, is likely why there are a lot of silly jokes and memes in English of the nurse’s line compared to the original Japanese!
That’s it for this post! Anything fun trivia on this line I may have missed? Let me know!
How would you have gone about localizing that line with the space limitations?
I will continue to look at fun differences between the versions of sorts of games when I get time! Any dialogue you’re interested in? Feel free to send in comments or via email!