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| Features | Pokémon Shock
How did anime fans respond to Pocket Monsters being taken off the
air after "Cyber Soldier Porygon" sent hundreds of kids to the
hospital? The March 1998 issue of
Animedia may help provide us with clues.
The issue has a cover date of March 1st, 1998.
This month's issue
contains almost nothing but reader letters regarding the Pokémon
Shock incident. Based on the comments in the letters / art gallery it
seems as though a lot of these were written immediately after the
incident, meaning this was probably the first issue which covered the
Let's start with the two long-ish letters on Page 72.
for "Pokémon" to return as soon as possible
watching the December 16th broadcast of "Pokémon" Episode 38, a
lot of people all over the country suffered from convulsions and
dizziness, one after the other. It became the top story on TV and in
the papers, and the number of victims climbed up to more than 600
people. I hope the victims (most of whom are children) all get better
soon but also, as both an animation fan and a mother of two elementary
school kids myself, want to share my opinions on the matter.
My youngest, my
eight-year-old, suffers from something called febrile seizures, and so
once a year we go have his brain waves checked out. During those check
ups, they measure his reactions to a series of strong lights that are
flashed on him to see what his reaction is this time, and while I was
waiting there a few years ago I remember coming across a newspaper
article about a boy who had a severe seizure from the flashing lights
of a video game he was playing. I read that and thought yeah, in video
games they'll often have the screen get dark and then light up with a
sudden burst of light whenever a special attack is used. At the time, I
remember thinking "You know, they use those same types of effects in
animated shows as well...are cartoons OK then...?"
ended up coming true. And if I'm being honest, when I first heard about
the incident I couldn't help but think "yeah, of course this happened."
But I was surprised at just how many people were affected. I also
imagine the staff of the show was taken aback as well, and that this
happened because everyone, the network who checks this show included,
just hadn't been doing their due diligence at the time. The show has
that something that kids
understand but that adults can't. Some of the children who felt the
symptoms of this case were a little older, maybe between 8 and 12 or
so, and I think it's hard to understand 100% what's happening in the
show unless you're at least that old. There was this doctor on TV, an
expert on the subject, who said the number of those who suffer these
type of symptoms due to being exposed to strong lights is extremely
limited. And I think there's a strong connection between "children
getting caught up in the story of the show." I guess what I'm trying to
say is that children really concentrate on the cartoons they watch, and
the shows they enjoy get etched into their hearts.
What I'm trying
to say is that I hope they come to a scientific understanding of what
happened as soon as possible, take care of it, and return
"Pokémon" back to the kids who love it. I'm worried that what
happens a lot with TV will happen here, which is that a single screw up
means the powers that be will take "responsibility" for this and
"refrain from airing" the show anymore, leading to it eventually being
canceled altogether. But if you cancel the show all of a sudden then
it'll end up really hurting the children who love it. Children wouldn't
accept the "responsibility" excuses we in the adult world would use to
justify this, after all. That's because while adults might see
Pokémon as "just another cartoon," children see it as their
"beloved treasure." Please work hard to pinpoint the root cause and
bring Pokémon back as soon as possible.
Wakayama Prefecture / Mine Moriyama
Response from Animedia:
Unlike with video games, where everyone plays them at their own
schedule, TV shows are mostly all shown at the same time all over the
country, resulting in a large number of incidents happening all at
once. In Pokémon's case, specifically, the show's high ratings
unfortunately only widened the scope of this disaster...
shocking animation techniques requested by fans
lot of people were shocked by just how many people became victims of
the trouble caused by the footage in the December 16th broadcast of
"Pokémon" Episode 38. It's possible there were even some
involved in the media who fell ill because of this. It's stressing us
all out. At the same time, as an animation fan I'm overcome with worry
about what will happen to "Pokémon" from here on out. So I
checked out news reports related to the incident and in one of the
things I saw it said that a cartoon on NHK ("YAT"-something or other)
also had a few kids complain of the same kinds of symptoms. When I
heard that I felt a mix of emotions. Why didn't NHK report this and
then warn the other animation companies sooner? If the people who make
"Pokémon" had known about this they could have maybe avoided
this whole thing and there wouldn't have been 600 victims.
But what happened happened, and a lot of people became victims as a
result. On top of that, everything from Episode 39 onward isn't being
aired, and those areas of the country where that are a few weeks behind
won't be airing any more episodes, either. And we have no idea if/when
the show can come back until TV-Tokyo's investigation team, the
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, and the Ministry of Health
and Welfare all reach their conclusions. I also wonder what will happen
to this coming summer's Pokémon movie...
I feel bad for
the children who were met with this misfortune, of course, but I also
feel bad for the show's staff.
The reason I
feel bad is because the animation technique that caused this issue has
been used for the big climax scenes in our cartoons for years and
years. Making the images more flashy the closer we get to an episode's
climax isn't so rare in the world of animation. But maybe these
animation staffs are prioritizing trying to shock their audiences with
flashy images over making the shows actually interesting, and as a
result they tend to go overboard with those techniques. To put it
another way, we viewers aren't the ones who asked them to make the
scenes so flashy in the first place, at least not intentionally. If you
think about it that way, I feel like you can say this incident was
bound to happen sooner or later. Shouldering the responsibility for a
show like this must be really, really tough.
It wouldn't be
an exaggeration to say that all of Japan is paying attention to every
detail of this "Pokémon" Trouble right now. But rather than
trying to push the blame on TV-Tokyo or the people who make the
"Pokémon" show, I think we should really work hard to find the
root cause of this and, after coming up with an explanation that even
the kids who love the show will accept and understand, work toward
getting Pocket Monsters back on the air.
Tokyo / Mari
Response from Animedia:
the root cause really is the flashing lights used in animation then
it's possible the same thing can happen with other shows (not just
cartoons, but talk shows and dramas, etc.) as well. We hope this
doesn't end up turning into some kind of witch hunt.
of Page 72 and the majority of Page 73 consist of a bunch of shorter
Around for a Solution
Pokémon Trouble was really surprising. They say the cause had
to do with the red and blue flashing lights in the episode. By the way,
have any of you ever felt the screen was too bright when watching TV?
so, I suggest you try adjusting the video settings (the actual wording
on the settings menu may vary depending on the manufacturer) on your
TV. You can adjust the "Brightness," "Saturation," and "Contrast" all
together to change the intensity of the display. You'll want to set
them to the lowest setting for a 14 inch TV and about halfway for a 25
inch display. At first you might feel like the image is maybe too dark,
but this way if the show you're watching gets bright all of a sudden
you'll be able to avoid receiving the shock to your brain and eyes. Why
not try it out!
Prefecture / Megumaa Kaji
And Page 73:
It! Hear It!
lot of children fell ill because of images in Episode 38 of
and it became a huge story. And yeah, the checks done by both the
network and the production company weren't enough and so they should
reflect on that. But on the other hand, I've been watching news reports
on this incident (particularly the morning shows) and the big
newspapers and I don't feel good about the way they're treating this
story. Their reports make it seem like they're saying "Pokémon"
is to blame and then use all this ominous background music whenever
they talk about it. It makes it seem like they're just reveling in the
blunder made by a highly rated show on one of their rival networks. On
top of that, the sports newspapers have sensational headlines like
"Pokémon Attacks Your Kids" or "Pokémon's Coming For Your
and it looks like they're just trying to get everyone riled up to sell
more papers. If you're a parent of one of the victims then I can
understand why you'd think "If only they hadn't been watching
"Pokémon"...," sure, but for everyone else, this type of
reporting just breeds misconceptions about the show.
it seems like this incident involves problems with an old animation
technique using rapidly flashing lights then that means it's not just
"Pokémon" that's affected but is something that could happen to
cartoon out there. Therefore, instead of trying to point the finger at
TV-Tokyo, I want TV as a whole to recognize this problem as a blind
spot that they themselves had been ignoring. The questions TV news and
print media should be asking now isn't whether "Pokémon" will
or if it will be pulled from the air, but about the dangers of TV being
able to affect such a large number of people all at the same time.
Prefecture / Shortbreat (Douyou 18 Tsuu)
I saw the news and newspaper articles that came out right after this
Pokémon Trouble happened I saw where most of them were saying
"Pokémon" was bad, and this made me feel frustrated and sad and
wanted to cry. During all this, a certain TV newscaster, K, prefaced
his report by saying "We want to say something to the children out
there. Pikachu didn't do anything wrong. This whole thing happened
because the episode had a lot of unfortunate elements to it, all piled
up on each other. So please don't hate Pikachu for this." Of course,
this wasn't the network that aired "Pokémon," but one of their
rivals. After hearing this I thought "Ah, that's exactly what I
wanted to hear" and then bawled my eyes out. Just those words alone
probably helped heal the hearts of Pokémon fans all over. Thank
K-san, you made this fan very happy!
Prefecture / Akari Minamino
did this have to happen?
sisters and I watched "Pokémon" Episode 38 and nothing strange
to any of this. I think this is because we all followed a certain set
of rules we have in our house. 1) Don't watch TV in the dark. 2) Sit
back at least one meter from the TV. 3) Don't keep watching for long
periods of time.
parents has been drilling these three rules into our heads for years. I
heard that a lot of the people who complained they weren't feeling well
had been watching Pokémon in a poorly lit room. While I do think
whole thing was due to mistakes by the network that aired the show, I
also think we viewers could have been a little bit more careful back
then. Let's all follow these three rules and be careful not to have a
repeat of this incident!
Tokyo / Purple
Clouds, Scorching Sun
An art gallery in the
middle of the page contains images of postcards that had been sent into
the magazine with fan art and little fan messages. Translations of
those messages are below:
I heard that the day
airing of "Pokémon" Episode 38, when everyone was causing a fuss
all those kids falling ill, that people were apparently going on the
Internet and saying things like "Does anyone out there have a copy of
Episode 38 I can see?" I can understand being curious and all that, but
what the hell do you think you're doing!? If you were to watch one of
those recordings and then went into convulsions then what do you think
would happen!? You'd just be adding to the number of victims! And then
Pokémon would be in even more trouble!! Didja ever think of
Don't be a jerk!
Osaka / Ayumi
There have been actual
of the Pokémon Trouble that's in the news right now and so,
forward, it's likely they're going to be enforcing some kind of rules
regulations for animated shows. I think it's probably inevitable.
However, as an animation fan the thing I worry about is that it'll turn
into this slippery slope, where the general public insists that "we
think this might dangerous so don't do that right now," which then
turns into production companies limiting what they can and can't show,
which then turns into the quality of our shows going down as a result.
So I think we
shouldn't just leave the new guidelines up to the investigation teams
to decide, but instead include us animation fans as well, compromising
necessary but always making sure our voices are heard. Now is not the
time to fall complacent and think that if we don't get involved then
someone else will; instead, we should all work proactively to help
the shows we love. As of January 1998 it's still not clear how far the
new rules will end up going. But, depending on the research teams'
reports, we may need to step up and start collecting signatures or
something like that. Let's all work hard to make sure "Pokémon"
Prefecture / Taku
Pikka chuu ♡
I'm getting used to drawing PikaChu so I thought "Alright! I'm gonna
post this!" when my teacher...and then the incident…Anyway, please
end, Pokémon (cries)
|Come Back Pikachu!
Hang in there Pikachu
I'm shocked! Since the show's off the air my son isn't so sunny
anymore, and my daughter started to cry…they were fine when they
watched the episode live and so it's really disappointing. But I won't
let them watch videos of the show anymore. Tokyo TV, we're rooting
for you. I hope they find the root cause and hurry up and get Pikachu
back on the air! We'll be waiting
Tokyo / Sakurako Niwa
That incident from the other day was so sad. Pikachu didn't do anything
And now, a commercial break
I have a manga running in a magazine called COMIC GAMEST. Check it out
if you have the time. Oh no, my deadline's coming up…
By Akira Satou
Saitama Prefecture / Akira Satou
|What's gonna happen to Pokémon!?
That incident where people watched Pokémon Episode 38 and fell
really paying close attention to this…and I've been watching the news
nonstop. It seems like more than half the phone calls TV-Tokyo got were
in support of Pokémon continuing, and yet the following week it
pulled from the air... (cries) Why did this kind of thing have to
happen? We were just having fun and enjoying Pokémon, and so
this is a
huge shock for us fans. Someone please tell us what's gonna happen!
Toyama Prefecture / Yana Gunmebara
|Pokémon getting canceled is the
Well, they haven't made a
"Why did this kind of thing have to happen? (cries)
And I loved it so much too 💦
I watched it and I was fine! Nothing bad happened to me!
But I think the ones who maybe have it the hardest right now is the
staff of the show. Cheer up ♥ Even though the show's not airing right
now we're all hoping this isn't how this story ends. By the time this
gets printed we'll have been able to smile and be reunited with
Pokémon, right? I believe in you."
Pikachu's praying with tears in its eyes
Dec 19th Masaho
Yamaguchi Prefecture / Masaho Seo
|We can't see Episode 38!?
The prefecture I live in's about two weeks behind everyone else and so
we weren't able to see Episode 38 (cries) And since everyone on TV's
getting so riled up about this it makes me want to watch it even more 💦
You can cut that scene if you want, just please air it for us (cries)
Toyama Prefecture / Tomo
Buddy (or my sweety LOL) Pikachu ♡
Come back soon, Pokémon!
Aichi Prefecture / Mario Yoshiha
|Pikachu did nothing
December 16th, 1997
This has really been
huh? I know this letter probably looks like chicken scratch to you but
I wanted to get something off my chest so here I am. As of
this writing, it was announced that "The show's taking a break from
next week. Worst case scenario, the show might get canceled" and as I'm
writing this I wonder what we should do. Pokémon makes us laugh,
and is really interesting...it's such a great show and so if were to
all end like this it'd be such a waste!! Some garbage sports
newspaper... things are going around saying that Pokémon's no
that pisses me off! Anyway, I hope they hurry up and solve this issue
so we can see Satoshi and Pikachu in action again! I'll bet you're
getting a lot of postcards about Pokémon this month...
Aichi Prefecture / February Thousand Years
Back in the late 1990s,
Animedia would dedicate two pages every month toward some kind of Pocket
Monsters coverage. The March
1998 coverage, featured on pages 146 - 147 of the issue, was dedicated
to the Pokémon Shock incident.
The parts of this spread
that have to do with fan feedback can be found on Page 147. The names
of the fans who wrote the letters are only printed in kanji and so the signatures of the letters
below are only educated guesses.
lot of fans are saddened by the Pokémon animated series going
off the air because of the incident that occurred. As soon as the
incident occurred we here at the Anime
Ai column received tons of worried letters from readers saying
things like "they didn't have to go and take the show off the air like
that…" Let's introduce some of those letters to you.
"As of today, December
18th, the broadcast of the 39th episode that was due to air on the 23rd
has been canceled and all the Pokémon
tapes at the front of the rental stores have been taken down as well.
The former I can understand, I guess, but the latter just seems like a
roundabout way of saying the Pokémon
animated series as a whole is no good, and that just doesn't sit right
with me." Gifu Prefecture / Makusu Zaki (???)
"For me, dropping "Pokémon" because of this
incident when they could just not use those colors in the show…I don't
like it. I don't want them to have to limit what colors they can use in
the show, of course, but I also think they need to take more
precautions when making the show...that's how I feel, anyway. I hope
they're able to do their best and develop a brand new way of doing
animation." Kanagawa Prefecture / Eri Yasuda (???)
Letters to anime
magazines aren't the only way fans are expressing their sadness at the
show going off the air. Using personal computers to connect to places
where they can exchange opinions with one another called "meeting
rooms," heated discussions about this incident are raging. Of course,
goes without saying that comments like "This is too bad...I'm hoping
for a quick return to the air" are common. On websites, where people
are able to express their opinions freely to people all over the world,
sentiments like "Protect Pokémon!" are spreading, and it's even
gotten to where people are gathering signatures to to get the show back
on the air.
But will the show ever
Images of the websites and fan letters found by the magazine were also
A lot of websites have been made where people freely express their
personal feelings about the "Pokémon Incident." No matter where
you look, people's love for Pokémon can be seen overflowing from
A lot of people were shocked by news of the "Pokémon Incident"
but were also angry at the mainstream media for their reports on the
incident that insinuated that the animated series itself is to blame.
It's too bad for the people who experienced health issues because of
this but this is also a good chance to take those lemons and make
lemonade by making the animated series even better that ever!
I tried to dig up the various websites posted in the screenshots above
but unfortunately I wasn't able to find any of them.