Pokémon Shock:
Effects on Scheduling

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Dogasu's Backpack | Features | Pokémon Shock

On December 20th, 1997 TV-Tokyo announced that it would be removing Pocket Monsters from its schedule following the Pokémon Shock incident that sent hundreds of children to the hospital. At the time, the show's hiatus had no definitive end date. Eventually Pokémon was allowed to come back to the air on April 16th, 1998, and while getting a second chance was a great victory for everyone involved with Pokémon there was still one problem left: the first theatrical film right around the corner and yet the TV show was now a third of a year behind schedule.

Due to these circumstances a number of changes were made to the order in which the rest of the Kanto episodes played out. On this page I'll be looking at what the current schedule looks like, what the original schedule was supposed to be (with evidence to back it up!), and try to figure out why any of these changes were made in the first place.

The current situation

This page assumes that most of you generally watch the Kanto episodes based on the order in which it actually aired back in 1998 and 1999. This is the same order that's on all the official episode guides and all the streaming websites, both in Japan and in countries like the U.S.

When you watch Pokémon in the official order you probably notice something's a bit off with the latter half of Kanto. The first time you probably would have felt this was with Episode 049, "Kamonegi's Sitting Ducks" (released in the U.S. as "So Near, Yet So Farfetch'd"). In this episode, there's a scene where the Rocket trio's getting their Pokémon stolen from them by the Pokémon-of-the-day, and during one scene Musashi explicitly calls out for her Beroringa. This is despite the fact she wouldn't be getting her pink Pokémon until Episode 052 "Fierce Fighting! Pokémon Hinamatsuri" ("Princess Versus Princess"). And when you watch that episode, you might notice that Kasumi's Togepy is conspicuously absent throughout the entire adventure despite the fact the Pokémon was officially added to the team two episodes prior.

In Episode 049, "Kamonegi's Sitting Ducks," Musashi already has her Beroringa... ...despite the fact she doesn't actually get it until Episode 052 "Fierce Fighting! Pokémon Hinamatsuri."

The English dub shuffles things around a little bit ("Princess vs. Princess" is shown even later in the run than its Japanese counterpart) but the points above all remain the same.

Later in the season we get two winter themed episodes, "Rougela's Christmas" ("Holiday Hi-Jynx") and "Iwark the Bivouac" ("Snow Way Out"). The way things are now these two get placed a little bit after Satoshi gets his eighth Gym Badge, but when you actually sit down and watch them it soon becomes obvious this isn't where they're supposed to go. That's because In these two episodes, Satoshi's Fire-Type starter, who had already fully evolved by this point, is now all of a sudden a Hitokage again!

Satoshi's Lizardon reverts back to a Hitokage randomly for two episodes at the end of Kanto.

So what's going on here? Why are some of the Kanto episodes placed out of order?

The answer is, most likely, because of the Pokémon Shock incident.

The original plan: What we can prove

To get an idea of what the original plan was supposed to be a good place to start is with the TV schedules released at the time.

Let's begin by looking at the January 1998 issue of Animedia, which would have gone on sale December 10th, 1997. On Page 100 we get the following list of upcoming episode titles:

This is what table looks like when translated into English:

Ep #
Assistant Director
(Ep 38)
"Cyber Soldier Porygon"
Katsuyoshi Kanemura
Ep 39)
"Rougela's Christmas"
No new episode

Ep 40)
"The Four Eevee Brothers"
Katsuyoshi Kanemura

Next, let's fast forward about a week to the January 1998 issue of CoroCoro Comics. This issue went on sale December 15th, 1997, literally one day before "Cyber Soldier Porygon" debuted on TV-Tokyo. On Page 519 we get a similar list of episodes to what we got in Animedia:

CoroCoro Comics

And here's a translation:

Pocket Monsters
Airs Tuesdays from 6:30 PM ~ 7:00 PM on TV-Tokyo networks

December 16th
"Cyber Soldier Porygon"

December 23rd
"Rougela's Christmas"

December 30th
On Break This Week

January 6th
"The Four Eevee Brothers"

January 13th
"The Sleeping Kabigon" (tentative title)

As you can see, we get one additional episode title (the Kabigon one) not listed by Animedia. Back in those days CoroCoro Comics would sometimes print tentative episode titles that would end up getting changed whenever they actually aired, and this Kabigon episode appears to be an example of this.

That next night, December 16th, "Cyber Soldier Porygon" aired. As hundreds of parents around the nation were running around trying to figure out what in the world is wrong with their children the Next Episode Preview for "Rougela's Christmas" played at the end of the Porygon episode.

After that the show was scheduled to take a week long break during the New Year's holiday. You may have heard whispers of there being a Pokémon New Year's special that was supposed to air in late 1997 but got canceled after the show went on its abrupt hiatus. The only concrete information I've been able to find about this special is a tiny sliver of text from the aforementioned January 1998 issue of Animedia that states that "On December 31st from 9:00 AM a clip show will air" (12/31朝9時より総編集を放映します). A title of "It's New Years Pocket Monsters! Encore" (大みそか ポケットモンスター!アンコール) was later provided by the TV-Tokyo website.

The New Year's special that was supposed to air on the morning of December 31st should not be confused with Pikachu's canceled appearance on NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen later that night.

According to the schedules above, the Pocket Monsters animated series was to return to the air with new episodes on January 6th with "The Four Eevee Brothers" and then on January 13th with "The Sleeping Kabigon," which was eventually released under the title "Wake Up Kabigon!"

And that's as much as I was able to find that connects specific episodes to specific airdates.

You may have noticed a few omissions in all these schedules. "Iwark the Bivouac," an episode that's often paired with "Rougela's Christmas" (these two otherwise unrelated episodes debuted on TV-Tokyo on the same night, for example), is not listed in any of these old TV schedules. Other websites -- including Dogasu's Backpack, I'm sorry to say -- have been reporting that TV schedules released at the time included this winter themed episode in their listings but I have not been able to find any hard evidence to actually support this. In that episode we can see that Satoshi's Hitokage still hadn't evolved yet and so the latest it could have possibly happened, story-wise, would have been right before the Nassy episode.

Also missing from these schedules is "The Pikachu Forest," the episode that would eventually be used as Episode 039 to welcome Pocket Monsters back on the air after its four month hiatus. It's possible the episode was thrown together during the show's hiatus (the lengthy montage at the end of the episode suggests a shorter than usual production) but there's no real evidence to support that.

"Iwark the Bivouac"
"The Pikachu Forest"

In the February 1998 issue of Animedia, on-sale January 10th 1998, the magazine continued keeping a spot open for Pocket Monsters in its monthly TV schedule listings. A note on the schedule page on Page 100 here mentions the issue's deadline was December 19th, three days after the Pokémon Shock incident and one day before TV-Tokyo made the official announcement that Pocket Monsters would be going on hiatus. And so Animedia just lists "TBD" (未定) for the entirety of January.

Animedia didn't keep any spots open in its March 1998 issue, omitting the show from its TV schedule section entirely. In its April 1998 issue, on-sale March 10th 1998, the magazine started talking about Pokémon again with placeholder spots for March 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st, and April 7th. This is on Page 108.

Animedia April 1998

And then...that was it. For a few years these old TV schedules are all fans had to go on to figure out what the schedule would have looked like if the show had never gone on hiatus.

And then, on July 17th, 1999,
Pocket Monsters The Movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back!" & "Pikachu's Summer Vacation" was released on Laserdisc in Japan. Now you might wonder what that has to do with any of this but it's actually a pretty crucial piece of the puzzle! Because for some bizarre reason, the inside cover of this one release of the first Pokémon movie lists out all the TV episodes that had aired at the time and includes a column listing off their original production order!

Pocket Monsters The Movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back!" & "Pikachu's Summer Vacation" Laserdisc 

For those of you who don't know, Laserdiscs are pretty huge (they're roughly the same size as an LP vinyl record) and so trying to fit my copy on an average flatbed scanner is kind of awkward. So in lieu of scans I'll show you these photographs I took instead. Click on each image to view a larger version.

What it looks like when you open the cover.
Episodes 1-38

Episodes 39 - 104
(aka what had aired up until the release of this Laserdisc)

With all these tools at our disposal we can come up with what is probably a pretty accurate picture of what the show's calendar would have looked like had the show never taken four months off in the beginning of 1998.

A few assumptions

But first, a few housecleaning items.

Pocket Monsters used to air on Tuesday nights at 6:30 PM JST before it went on hiatus.

When the show was abruptly pulled from the air at the end of 1997 its old Tuesday night timeslot was taken over by re-edited reruns of a show called Gakkyuu Ou Yamazaki (学級王ヤマザキ). This replacement show kept the Tuesday night timeslot warm throughout the majority of Pocket Monsters' hiatus before relinquishing it to a show called Fair, Then Partly Piggy (はれときどきぶた). This pig show, also known as "Tokyo Pig" in the West, wasn't a brand new series; it was a show that had actually been airing on Thursday nights at 7:00 PM JST for a little over half a year by that point. Fair, Then Partly Piggy took over Pocket Monsters' old Tuesday night timeslot and so Pocket Monsters, in turn, took over Fair, Then Partly Piggy's old Thursday night timeslot. The two shows swapped timeslots, in other words.

Gakkyuu-Ou Yamazaki
Fair, Then Partly Piggy
The shows that took over Pocket Monsters' old Tuesday night timeslot.
During the hiatus (left) and then immediately after (right)

But if the Pokémon Shock incident hadn't happened then we can reasonably assume Pocket Monsters would've continued airing Tuesday nights at 6:30 PM JST well into the new year.

Looking through the TV schedules at the time we can see that Fair, Then Partly Piggy aired every single Tuesday in 1998 from the time it took over the Tuesday timeslot (Episode 36) until its final episode (Episode 61). In other words TV-Tokyo never pre-empted the show to air an unrelated TV special or sports broadcast or anything like that. We can therefore assume that Pocket Monsters, similarly, would not have taken any breaks if it had been allowed to keep its original Tuesday night timeslot.

A TV schedule from the May 1998 issue of Animedia announcing Fair, Then Partly Piggy's new timeslot.

Similarly, once Pocket Monsters returned from its hiatus it aired every Thursday night from April until the end of December without taking a single break. So we know production would have been up to the task of continuing to air the show weekly, even with a movie also coming out that year.

The original schedule

With all the evidence above, I present what Pocket Monsters' TV schedule would have looked like if the show hadn't gone on a four month hiatus due to the Pokémon Shock incident.

Episode Name
Probable Air Date
"Rougela's Christmas"
Holiday Hi-Jynx"
Dec 23rd, 1997
We know this airdate is correct from the TV schedules available at the time and because of the Next Episode Preview played at the end of "Cyber Soldier Porygon."

Satoshi's Hitokage had not evolved yet.
Kasumi's Togepy is also absent from this episode as its egg hadn't been found yet.
"It's New Years Pocket Monsters! Encore"
(大みそか ポケットモンスター!アンコール)
Dec 31st, 1997
Clip show that was eventually canceled after the show went on hiatus
"The Four Eevee Brothers"
The Battling Eevee Brothers"
Jan 6th, 1998
We know this airdate is correct from the TV schedules available at the time.
"Wake Up Kabigon!"
Wake Up, Snorlax!"
Jan 13th 1998
We know this airdate is correct from the TV schedules available at the time.
"Showdown! The Pokémon Gyms!"
Showdown in Dark City"
Jan 20th, 1998
The February 1998 issue of Animedia indicates Pocket Monsters was originally scheduled to air on this date.
"The March of the Nassy Squad!"
The March of the Exeggutor Squad"
Jan 27th, 1998
The February 1998 issue of Animedia indicates Pocket Monsters was originally scheduled to air on this date.

Satoshi's Hitokage evolves into Lizardo.
"Paras and Parasect"
The Problem with Paras"
Feb 3rd, 1998
The February 1998 issue of Animedia indicates Pocket Monsters was originally scheduled to air on this date.
"Sing! Purin!"
The Song of Jigglypuff"
Feb 10th, 1998

"They're Back!? The Fossil Pokémon!"
Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon"
Feb 17th, 1998
Satoshi's Lizardo evolves into Lizardon.
"Lucky's Medical Charts"
A Chansey Operation"
Feb 24th, 1998

"Fierce Fighting! Pokémon Hinamatsuri"
Princess Versus Princess"
Mar 3rd, 1998
In 1998, the Japanese holiday hinamatsuri just happened to fall on a Tuesday, the same day Pocket Monsters would have been airing.

Kasumi's Togepy is conspicuously absent from this episode as it hadn't hatched yet.

"Gardie and Kojirou"
Holy Matrimony!"
Mar 10th, 1998
The April 1998 issue of Animedia indicates Pocket Monsters was originally scheduled to air on this date.
"Kamonegi's Sitting Ducks"
So Near, Yet So Farfetch'd"
Mar 17th, 1998
The April 1998 issue of Animedia indicates Pocket Monsters was originally scheduled to air on this date.

Musashi mentions the Beroringa she got in the Hinamatsuri episode two episodes prior.

"Who Gets to Keep Togepy!?"
Who Gets to Keep Togepi?"
Mar 24th, 1998
The April 1998 issue of Animedia indicates Pocket Monsters was originally scheduled to air on this date.

Kasumi's Togepy hatches.

The Pocket Monsters Gold & Silver video games' very first release date was originally scheduled for "late March 1998," maybe around the time this episode was scheduled to air...?
"Fushigidane's Mysterious Flower Garden"
Bulbasaur's Mysterious Garden"
Mar 31st, 1998
The April 1998 issue of Animedia indicates Pocket Monsters was originally scheduled to air on this date.
"Gardie the Police Dog"
The Case of the K-9 Caper"
Apr 7th, 1998
The April 1998 issue of Animedia indicates Pocket Monsters was originally scheduled to air on this date.
"Pikachu's Photo Op"
Pokémon Paparazzi!"
Apr 14th, 1998

"The Pokémon Certification Exam!?"
The Ultimate Test"
Apr 21st, 1998

"The Daycare's Secret!"
The Breeding Center Secret"
Apr 28th, 1998

"It's Children's Day! Everyone Gather Around!"
The Purr-fect Hero"
May 5th, 1998
Like with hinamatsuri, the Japanese holiday Children's Day just happened to fall on a Tuesday back in 1998.
"Get Fired Up! The Guren Gym!"
Riddle Me This"
May 12th, 1998

"The Decisive Battle! The Guren Gym!"
Volcanic Panic"
May 19th, 1998

"Kamex's Island"
Beach Blank-Out Blastoise"
May 26th, 1998

"Hanada Gym! The Underwater Battle!"
The Misty Mermaid"
Jun 2nd, 1998

"Pippi vs. Purin"
Clefairy Tales"
Jun 9th, 1998

"Tokiwa Gym! The Final Badge!"
The Battle of the Badge"
Jun 16th, 1998
Mewtwo makes its first of three appearances in the TV series.

At the beginning of Mewtwo Strikes Back!, the pirate-like Trainer asks Satoshi if he's the kid from Masara Town "who has eight badges," putting the events of that movie after this episode.
"The Barrierd of the Pokémon Circus"
It's Mr. Mimie Time"
Jun 23rd, 1998
Mewtwo makes its second of three appearances in the TV series.
"A Rival Showdown! The Ookido Laboratory"
Showdown at the Poké Corral"
Jun 30th, 1998 Mewtwo makes its third of three appearances in the TV series.
"When Yadon Becomes Yadoran"
The Evolution Solution"
Jul 7th, 1998

"The Legend of the Surfing Pikachu"
The Pi-Kahuna"
Jul 14th, 1998

Pocket Monsters The Movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back" & "Pikachu's Summer Vacation"
(劇場版ポケットモンスター 「ミュウツーの逆襲」 & 「ピカチュウのなつやすみ」
Pokémon The First Movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back" & "Pikachu's Vacation""
Jul 18th, 1998
This release date was announced months in advance and was therefore pretty much set in stone.
"The Kusaihana of the Botanical Garden"
Make Room for Gloom"
Jul 21st, 1998

"Pokémon the Movie!"
Lights, Camera, Quacktion!"
Jul 28th, 1998
The first real world Pocket Monsters movie would have been in theaters a few weeks by the time this episode aired.
"Nyarth's ABCs"
"Go West, Young Meowth"
Aug 4th, 1998

"Enter Shiba of the Four Heavenly Kings!"
To Master the Onixpected"
Aug 11th, 1998

"Collision! The Giant Ancient Pokémon"
The Ancient Puzzle of Pokémopolis"
Aug 18th, 1998

"Garagara's Bone Club"
Bad to the Bone"
Aug 25th, 1998

"Fire! The Pokémon League Opening Ceremonies!"
All Fired Up"
Sep 1st, 1998

"The Curtain Rises on the Pokémon League! The Water Field!"
Round One-Begin!"
Sep 8th, 1998

"The Ice Field! The Fiery Battle!"
Fire and Ice"
Sep 15th, 1998

"The Grass Field! An Unexpectedly Powerful Enemy!"
Fourth Round Rumble"
Sep 22nd, 1998

"Enter the Rival!"
A Friend in Deed"
Sep 29th, 1998

"The Sekiei Stadium! Satoshi vs. Hiroshi!"
Friend or Foe Alike"
Oct 6th, 1998

"The Pokémon League! The Final Battle!"
Friends to the End"
Oct 13th, 1998

There are also two episodes that do not seem to have been in the show's original schedule.

Episode Name
Probable Air Date
EX-1 "The Pikachu Forest"
Pikachu's Goodbye"
This episode does not seem to have been planned from the beginning.

Togepy does not appear in this episode.
"Iwark the Bivouac"
Snow Way Out"
Satoshi's Hitokage had not evolved yet. Kasumi's Togepy is also absent from this episode as its egg hadn't been found yet.
With this schedule, all the issues that exist with the current broadcast order are all cleared up. Satoshi's Lizardon doesn't randomly de-evolve into a Hitokage, the Beroringa reference in that Kamonegi episode no longer comes out of nowhere, and Togepy doesn't keep appearing and disappearing throughout the series. Everything makes so much more sense when you watch the show in the order it was meant to be seen.

So why shuffle the order of episodes?

Why would a four month hiatus require TV-Tokyo to air the episodes of order in the first place? Why not just pick up where you left off and air the show in its production order? We've never gotten an official answer for this but we can make a few educated guesses.

One, the various holiday episodes in the rest of Kanto would have been wildly out of season if TV-Tokyo had picked up where they left off. They'd be airing a Christmas episode in April, a hinamatsuri episode in June, and a Children's Day episode in August, all months after those holidays had already come and gone. Admittedly this theory is pretty weak as these episodes eventually ended up debuting out-of-season anyway -- the Christmas episode on October 5th and the two Japanese holiday episodes on July 9th -- but it could have played a tiny role, maybe...?

Two, it's possible TV-Tokyo didn't want to air "Rougela's Christmas" right away because it has a connection to "Cyber Soldier Porygon" in that it's the episode whose Next Episode Preview was playing after the December 16th broadcast. Maybe TV-Tokyo thought it'd be better, at least for the moment, to air a completely different episode from the one being teased that day...?

But the largest contributor to the episode order getting moved around as much as it was may have been Togepy. It's easy to forget this now, but back in 1998 Togepy was a brand new Pokémon who was one of the faces of the next generation of Pocket Monsters video games. The TV show may have been on hiatus but Pocket Monsters The Movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back" & "Pikachu's Summer Vacation" was still going ahead as scheduled and so Toho and OLM had to start promoting it. And, well, you're going to have to address this unknown Pokémon at some point, right? In this ad from Page 140 of the May 1998 issue of Animedia Togepy gets an entire little blurb dedicated to it.

Here's a translation:

A Huge Story!!
An Anime-Original Pokémon "Togepy" Has Been Discovered!

There must have been a lot of people left scratching their heads after seeing the poster for the upcoming Pokémon movie. After all, there's a large image of a Pokémon we've never seen before right there on the left side of the poster! Well, it seems like this Pokémon's an anime original!! But what kind of Pokémon it is remains a mystery. It looks like it's inside an egg shell, so does that mean it'll first show up as an egg? And will Satoshi or any of his friends get it...? It's a Pokémon surrounded in mystery!

Pikachu's word bubble:
"Pika~?" ("Hey, who is that?")

If TV-Tokyo had started its return by picking up where they had left off then the episode where Togepy hatches wouldn't have aired until July 7th, 1998. The first Pocket Monsters movie, meanwhile, had a release date of July 18th, 1998. OLM and TV-Tokyo were probably afraid that having Togepy join the team a mere two episodes before its big screen debut would have caused confusion among those who may have missed the last few episodes and so they devised a way to have Togepy debut even earlier. Remember, this was the 1990s; if you missed an episode the first time around then all you could do was wait for it to be rerun on cable. Temporarily skipping episodes and moving them around gave Togepy an extra three weeks of screentime before the movie, ensuring that even the most casual viewer was aware of who the Pokémon is when they walked into theaters.


When we look at all this we can see just how much the four-month hiatus caused by the Pokémon Shock incident affected the back half of Kanto. If you've ever watched Kanto and thought maybe the episodes were airing out of order then guess what, you were right!

So the next time you sit down and do a rewatch of Kanto it might be worth it to try watching it in its original production order to see just how much more sense everything makes.

Back to the main page for the "Pokémon Shock" Feature




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