"Cyber Soldier Porygon"
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Dogasu's Backpack | Features | Pokémon Shock

When you have an event as huge as Pokémon Shock was there are bound to be rumors that pop up from time to time. On this page I'll take a look at the more popular claims made about the incident and figure out if there's really any evidence to back any of these up.

Rumor: The Japanese government banned the episode

We all know that TV-Tokyo pulled "Cyber Soldier Porygon" off the air and hasn't aired it since, but rumor has it things were taken even further when the Japanese government actually stepped in and banned the episode altogether. Other claims state copies of the episode were seized by the Japanese government and then destroyed altogether in order to prevent anyone from ever releasing it to the public.

The thing is there doesn't seem to be any evidence to support this. While various government agencies did indeed get themselves involved with this incident -- the Diet, the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare,
the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, and even Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto himself -- I haven't been able to find a single shred of evidence that anyone actually moved to have the episode officially banned on a national level.

And if the episode had been banned then they did a really lousy job of enforcing it. After the episode initially aired on December 16th we know it was getting freely passed around from TV station to TV station in Japan.

Sunday Morning
Reporters on the December 18th edition of "Nice Day" discuss watching the episode. ...while a reporter on the December 21st edition of "Sunday Morning" reacts to watching the episode on-camera.

...and was even shipped overseas where people like Professor Graham Harding could review it.

From "The 'Pocket Monsters' Animated Series Special Investigation" broadcast on April 11th, 1998.

For an episode supposedly "banned by the government," it sure did get passed around a lot.

Similarly, claims that the episode was ever destroyed seem to be without merit either. It would also be wholly ineffective as the episode would still remain freely available online regardless of what happened to the original film.

So there's really no evidence the episode was actually banned or destroyed on a government level. But at the same time does such a ban even need to be in place? We can be pretty sure neither OLM nor TV-Tokyo has absolutely zero interest in ever trying to air the episode ever again, and even if they did I doubt there's any TV network or streaming service willing to take the risk to do so. A government ban doesn't need to exist for the episode to never see the light of day; it's staying off the air regardless.

Rumor: A second wave of victims was caused by news reports' coverage of the incident

After the December 16th broadcast of "Cyber Soldier Porygon," all anyone on Japanese TV wanted to talk about was Pokémon. The show was plastered all over TV news shows over the next few weeks and quickly became a major international news story.

But rumor has it that some news stations actually aired an unedited version of the scene in question, and that these re-broadcasts triggered a second wave of seizures among children. The idea is that children who maybe missed the initial broadcast were exposed to the unedited footage in the days that followed, triggering seizures in those who didn't necessarily have a chance to catch the episode "live."

The source of this rumor seems to stem from this Reuters piece from December 1997 entitled "Monster" TV cartoon illness mystifies Japan.

Other children were stricken when they watched TV replays of the offending scene in news reports on the earlier victims.

CNN repeats the claim in their "Japanese cartoon triggers seizures in hundreds of children" piece. The article has a publication date of December 17th at 4:15 am EST, or 6:15 pm JST, roughly 24 hours after the episode aired. It cites Reuters as a contributor.

Some other children were stricken later, when watching excerpts from the scene in TV news reports on the earlier victims.

The BBC also made this claim on a news report that same day, December 17th. It's at the 44 second mark:

More children had fits when excerpts were replayed on the news.

All of these reports, and then the ones that would follow for years and years later, make a single sentence statement about reruns triggering a second wave but then don't bother to elaborate any further. Because of this some very key pieces of information are missing:
  • What network(s) allegedly aired the uncut footage?
  • Which news shows?
  • What time?
  • How many children were a part of this "second wave"?
I haven't seen any Japanese language news sources make the claim either. A Japanese page "TV Animation Document Museum" (TVアニメ資料館) mentions a 42 year old man in Nagareyama City, Chiba and a 15 year old boy in Beppu City, Oita losing consciousness after watching a VHS recording of the episode but that's not really the same as catching it on a live news broadcast.

A few years later the book Pokémon Story (ポケモンス トーリー) came out in Japan and provided a timeline of how reporting on the incident went down in Japan. From Page 7 of my translation:

Pokémon Story

この事故の第一報を伝えたのはNHKで、テレビ、ラジオとも、午後8時代の定時 ニュースから報道し始めました。民放ではテレビ朝日系のニュースステーションが取り上げ、共同通信社も午後10時過ぎた第一報を配信しました。テレビ東京 自身は、午後11時からのニュース番組 『ワールドビジネスサテライト』 のなかで、「ポケットモンスターを見た子どもたちが、気分が悪くなり、全体で約200人近くが病院に運ばれています。事実関係を調べています」というコメ ントを放送しました。
The first news channel to report on the incident was the public broadcaster NHK, who first mentioned it during its regular TV and radio news broadcasts at 8 o’clock that night. TV Asahi stations were the first commercial broadcasters to pick up the story, and the Kyodo News Service made its first report after 10 o’clock that night. TV-Tokyo, meanwhile, made its initial report during its 11:00 PM "World Business Satellite" broadcast with a statement that said "Children who watched tonight's episode of Pocket Monsters have fallen ill, with around 200 people being taken to the hospital. We are looking into this incident."

Is it possible that maybe one of these broadcasts were the ones that allegedly reran the footage? As far as I know none of these TV news reports (the 8:00 pm NHK broadcast, the TV Asahi broadcast, the 11:00 pm TV-Tokyo broadcast) have ever been archived online so we can't really say for sure. But the very next sentence in the book makes it seem like no, no they weren't:

この間、マスコミ数社から放送素材 (放送した番組や問題となった個所の映像) の提供を求められましたが、テレビ東京は断っています。当然の対応でした。
During this time, multiple members of the mainstream media reached out to TV-Tokyo for materials from the show (either the actual episode itself or just the scene in question) but the network denied those requests. This was the obvious response to make.

While TV networks did indeed have access to footage from the episode in question, literally every single Japanese TV news broadcast I've been able to find from this time period refrain from showing the seizure-inducing scene as-is. Instead, they opted to depict the footage as a series of still images.

News Japan
Super J Channel
The December 16th broadcast of Fuji TV's "News Japan" depicts the scene as a series of still images.
The December 17th broadcast of TV Asahi's "Super J Channel" likewise does the same, depicting the scene almost like a slideshow.

If news reports from this early in this incident's news cycle were able to determine that re-showing potentially dangerous footage is maybe not the best idea ever then it's highly unlikely any other network would have either.

At this point, anyone who wants to claim that Japanese news reports caused a second wave then they're going to need to provide some details and/or the actual news report itself. Otherwise I think it's safe to go ahead and mark this rumor as "false."

Rumor: 4Kids dubbed the episode

Perhaps the most widespread rumor of them all; did 4Kids actually dub "Cyber Soldier Porygon."

The background / timeline explanation of this rumor gets a bit involved so that'll actually get covered in its own page here!




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