|| 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 | The original plan: What we can prove | A few assumptions |
| The original schedule | So why shuffle the order of episodes? | Conclusion |
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.
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!
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.
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:
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:
And here's a translation:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are also two episodes that do not seem to have been in the show's original schedule.
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.
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:
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.
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