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That Time a Pokemon Episode Caused More Than 600 Children to Convulse and Vomit

That Time a Pokemon Episode Caused More Than 600 Children to Convulse and Vomit

pokemon episode

Oh, Pokemon. The long-running and super-popular series has had a mostly positive ride. Unfortunately, though, on April 1st, 1997, a Pokemon episode aired in Japan that caused major problems, and it has since been banned completely. I have written about other times the Pokemon series has experienced problems, like how Christians thought the monsters were demonic and that time Red showed his “Poke-balls”. However, this Pokemon episode was really bad.

This is that time a Pokemon episode caused more than 600 Japanese children to convulse and vomit.

Meet Porygon, the adorable virtual Pokemon that stole many players’ hearts when it initially debuted in Pokemon Red and Blue back in 1996 in Japan. The little robot Pokemon instantly became a favorite, and its quirky appearance, sounds, and movements only amplified its popularity.

Shortly after the initial Pokemon games released, The Pokemon Company gave the okay to produce an anime series to continue to ride the popularity train that the game series began. Pokemon was on the uprise, and products were everywhere in Japan, including figurines, plush dolls, posters, keychains, and so much more. It was no wonder that an anime would quickly follow, and of course, it far exceeded the attention they expected.

On April 1st, 1997, the anime launched Episode 38, entitled, でんのうせんしポリゴン (Computer Warrior Porygon). This was Porygon’s debut in the anime, so young fans were glued to their television sets to see the debut of one of their favorite Pokemon. Unfortunately, this Pokemon episode did a little more than entertain. It actually caused more than 600 Japanese children to have epileptic symptoms like convulsions and vomiting, and all of those children were rushed to hospitals nationwide. The BBC news has more:

So what exactly happened? Well, the Pokemon episode in question had one particular scene with bright, rapidly flashing red and blue lights that had an extreme effect on a decent portion of the young Japanese population. At the time, Japan did not have any regulations in regards to this type of flashing on public television and other entertainment mediums, so technically, this was not the first time that something like this happened.

However, considering Pokemon’s popularity, the millions of children who tuned in to the Pokemon episode でんのうせんしポリゴン was significantly larger than any previous TV show, movie, or game, which is why this Pokemon episode is significant, because it alone pushed Japan to change regulations in order to prevent something like this from happening again in the future.

It is unfortunate, too, because Porygon’s popularity after that episode plummeted. A Pokemon that was considered to be one of the most marketable and popular almost instantly became one of the least popular, and it had everything to do with this Pokemon episode and its reputation. Parents began to monitor their children’s screen time more, and the Pokemon brand in general faced a bit of scrutiny due to this incident, including Nintendo’s shares dropping about 5 points. This situation was so bad that the Pokemon anime took an unexpected hiatus. However, once they returned, fans were greeted with this message explaining the problem and apologizing:

Thankfully, this incident was locked to Japan-only, and the Pokemon episode in question has since been removed completely and has not aired anywhere else. Unfortunately, though, Porygon and their evolutions remain a bit taboo in the anime to this very day. When the incident happened, they decided to remove Porygon from any major storyline, despite the fact that Pikachu was the one who caused the seizure-inducing flashes.

The Pokemon episode also gave the anime the infamous title of “Most Photosensitive Epileptic Seizures Caused by a Television Show” from The Guinness Book of World Records. Since then, Porygon and its evolutions have only been subject to cameo appearances, and they did not make an appearance in the anime again until the 15th movie, Pokémon the Movie: Kyurem VS. The Sword of Justice, that released in 2012, 15 years after the incident.

Thankfully, on September 19th, 2020, the official Pokemon Twitter account posted a tweet that read “Porygon did nothing wrong”, likely as a reference to that episode, and modern consensus that Porygon was a scapegoat due to Pikachu being the franchise’s mascot. The tweet, however, has since been deleted, and it looks like Porygon is still the scapegoat and will not be making any strong appearances any time soon in the anime.

Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link and enjoying this “That Time” article. What did you think of this Pokemon episode and poor Porygon? Let us know what you think in the comments below! Happy gaming, everyone.

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