An image of a young man mistaking a butterfly for the completely wrong thing has become one of the hottest joke formats lately. And as incredulous as the actual moment is, it isn’t the first time it’s been in the spotlight.
The still comes from 1991 anime series called The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird. The main character, Yutaro Katori, is the titular Fighbird, a space police force commander that unites with a humanoid android made by Dr. Hiroshi Amano. Though he can turn into aircraft with his transforming android body, he’s also from outer space, and has literally no clue when it comes to basic knowledge of Earth.
So when Inspector Satsuda shows up in episode three to question him, the Tokyo detective is predictably baffled when he finds out just how clueless Katori is. The android space cop mistakes a floating butterfly for, well, a pigeon.
The show leans into the joke, having him misidentify some flowers and then later, Satsuda makes the same flub when telling some inquisitive children why he was at Amano’s front door in the first place.
According to Know Your Meme, it started with a Tumblr post in 2011 simply pointing out the subtitles by themselves. It gained traction over time, and was pointed to as a moment lost in translation on sites like Smosh and Buzzfeed despite being an accurate translation.
More recently on social media, Katori’s moment of misunderstanding has become the perfect catalyst to express any level of obliviousness. From reading a situation wrong to sheer density, the boy who cried pigeon is the easiest way to get across that someone isn’t getting it.