Takeshi Shudo's
Blog Entry
No. 159

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Dogasu's Backpack | Features | Pokémon Shock


Below is an English translation of How to Craft a Story: Takeshi Shudo, How Anyone Can Become a Screenplay Writer (シナリオえーだば創作術 だれでもできる脚本家 首藤剛志), a blog written by former Pocket Monsters series organizer and head writer Mr. Takeshi Shudo. The following are excerpts taken from Blog Post No.159 "The Pokémon Incident: The Sleepless Night," a blog entry related to the Pokémon Shock incident.

Notes about the translation below
I have two notes about the translations you're about to read.

One, the Japanese version of the blog is written the way a lot of Japanese blogs are written in that the author only types out (roughly) one sentence per one line. To a native English speaker like me this makes the blogs seem weird and choppy but that's just the way a lot of Japanese blogs are written, for some reason. For simplicity's sake I've replicated this one-sentence-per-line writing style in my English translation.

Two, the following translation is a truncated version of a much, much longer blog entry. Mr. Shudo is an absolute treasure trove of behind-the-scenes information you can't get anywhere else but his blogs are, as far as your average Pokémon fan is concerned, about 80% filler. The writer had a tendency to trail off into some very off-topic tangents in his blog and so what I've decided to do is to pick out the parts that actually discuss the Pokémon Shock incident and present that to you on the page below. I hope you will find this abridged presentation a bit easier to read that it would have been otherwise. If you're someone who would prefer to read an unabridged translation, however, I've also got you covered; you can check those out here.

Blog Post No. 159 "The Pokémon Incident: The Sleepless Night"

Posted September 3rd, 2008
Original Text (Japanese)
Unabridged Translation

A few days later Mr. Shudo continued his story.

I watched a video of that problematic Pokémon episode using a projector on a 100-inch screen.

The story of that episode was that of a battle taking place inside a computer, a so-called cyber world.

As the series organizer I had read and then sent in my corrections to the script for this episode about three or four times.

I wasn't the one who wrote that episode directly, but as one of the members of the team responsible for the final draft I was in a position to take responsibility for what's in the script.

With Pokémon, we generally gather all our ideas in these writers' meetings where we work on revising the scripts until we get a final draft. So if the root cause of the incident had been determined to be with the script, then the liability would have been with the writer's meeting where that final draft was created rather than with the individual writer himself.

Long story short, I was the series organizer when that writers' meeting took place.

The script is sort of like the blueprint for the show.

So when there's an issue with the finished product then it's only natural to wonder if there was some mistake made when making said blueprint.

I got that phone call where I was told "it serves you right" and thought, well, I guess I should at least watch the thing that I'm supposed to be answering for.

After a brief aside about TV sizes, the story continues:

So I watched the problematic Pokémon episode on a 100 inch screen.

In a normal household, the TVs at the time were around 20 inches, maybe 29 inches tops.

But an image on a 20-inch screen is going to look a lot bigger to a child then it would to an adult.

So I put myself in those kids shoes and watched the episode on a 100 inch screen at my office.

The plot and dialogue basically went along exactly as written.

It was also a very quick paced episode.

Yeah, there were a lot of bright scenes.

But it's kind of iffy if anyone would have spoken up to say the episode used too many flashing effects.

One of the highlights of the Pokémon TV series is its battle scenes, and so it's only natural for production, who wanted to make the Pokémon animated series a hit, to want to make those scenes as powerful and flashy as possible to keep kids glued to the TV.

I'm sure there were orders from above to make the show more exciting, more flashy.

A battle in a neon cyber world is the perfect setting for a flashy battle, and the script was written to take full advantage of the setting.

Doing that with the budget they had meant using what the industry calls "Paka-Paka," a technique was used a lot in action animation at the time.

The bright parts were really bright…but it wasn't enough to make me feel sick or anything while watching on a 100-inch screen.

But still, the fact remains that throughout Japan, there are children who fell ill.

"But why?"

…The first thing that comes to mind is Pokémon Episode 2 where, during recording, I felt the scenes where Pikachu uses its electricity were too bright.

The version of Episode 2 on VHS and DVD apparently had its brightness dimmed. I rented the episode one night and confirmed this for myself.

At the time, the voice recording was done from a video tape being played on one of those old cathode ray TVs.

The second episode is probably the episode, besides this Porygon episode, of course, known for being exceptionally bright and flashy.

Mr. Shudo goes into the specifics of how cathode ray TVs worked back then starts talking about the sleepless night this week's blog entry is named after:

The cyber world as seen in the Martian Successor Nadesico episode "Those 'Unforgettable Days.'"

I thought about all these things on that night. I took sleeping pills but I still didn't sleep a wink.

They said on the news that the flashing "Paka-Paka" effects in Pokémon are what seems to have caused the incident.

I couldn't sleep as I lie there, thinking about things I probably had no business thinking about.

But it's clear that, in the problematic episode, we decided to use the flashing lights from the very beginning to show off the power of the battles inside the cyber world.

When we were plotting out the script it's not like there would've been any point where we would've said no, don't use flashing lights in this cyber world.

I've actually written a script, back before I started working on Pokémon, where the protagonist went inside a computer and I had to write action scenes inside a cyber world.

It was an episode called "Those 'Unforgettable Days'" of a series called "Martian Successor Nadesico."

During the meetings for that episode, we of course talked about how to depict the cyber world.

The producers, directors, series organizers, and I all came to an agreement right away.

"Don't rely on flashing lights."

It wasn't because it was thought to be too overstimulating to viewers' eyes.

We didn't even think about that.

It's because of an old Disney move named "Tron" about these adventures inside a cyber world that used a lot of flashing lights as its selling point.

When you think "cyber world" you think of the flashing lights in Tron, and that's exactly the problem.

"Don't pull a Tron on us."
"Tron's old news."
"Don't do Tron."

The staff of Nadesico were experts on the look and feel of science fiction worlds.

A cyber world = Tron = they're just taking the easy way out = this is no good…that's the kind of negative reaction we wanted to avoid.

Staff meetings where everyone agrees on the same thing like this are really quite rare.

I had no intention of writing a Tron-like cyber world.

The cyber world in the script I wrote was nothing like the one in Tron.

I made a cyber world that did away with everything we knew about cyber worlds from Tron.

Tron (Disney, 1982)

When they were writing the plot for the cyber world for the Pokémon episode they were apparently aware of Tron as they were working on it.

They're just taking the easy way out = everyone's already familiar with this version of a cyber world = anyone can understand what's going on…that's another way to look at it, I suppose.

But Pokémon and Nadesico are not the same.

For kids, it's better to make things as easy to understand as possible.

Inside my head I was thinking "Maybe you should rethink this…" but, at the same time, I also thought "This isn't my script to write"…and so I didn't speak up to say I thought the story felt old-fashioned.

There weren't any objections about the way the cyber world was going to be depicted from anyone else in the writers' room, either.

But let's suppose I said something like "The cyber world in your script is to much like Tron." Then what? Someone would ask "Well then what should we do instead" and then it would become this whole thing.

And I didn't want to point the finger at any of my fellow screenplay writers, either.

And so I thought the Pokémon episode's script was full of great action scenes, one after the other, and except for the problem I had with the way the cyber world was depicted I thought it was really entertaining.

"Well…yeah, it's fine."

And so without giving it much of a second thought, I moved on to another episode.

During those weekly writers' meetings we have to think about four episodes' worth of scripts.

To be honest, I thought "Cyber Soldier Porygon" was going to wind up being a rather forgettable episode.

And so of course, on the night of the incident, my mind raced back to that time.

"Could I have put a stop to it as the series organizer?  In the past I had just done what I wanted as a series organizer…what should I have done this time?"

I couldn't help but think those thoughts.

But that all just ends up being self-justification.

It doesn't really matter who it was who called me and said "Serves you right"

Before I got started with Pokémon I would have an eccentric or unconventinal series organization style and, without realizing it, people started to resent me.

I'm the type of person who will have a big fight with someone but then forget about it right away.

But there are also some people who will have an argument with me and then never forget.

I can't help what others think of me.

In the end, it doesn't matter that someone called me and said "Serves you right." The fact remains that what happened, happened.

No matter how much I think about it I can't change the past.

No matter what I do now, the incident still caught us off guard.

It probably goes without saying but the person who actually wrote that episode had more than just a little shock.

But it wasn't just him. Everyone involved with Pokémon must have been hit by this in their own unique ways.

But we mustn't forget the victims from the immediate aftermath of the incident.

Because while I was sitting there, learning about the incident and mulling over this and that, a girl was being taken to the hospital right here in Odawara on the night of December 16th.

The cause? Pokémon.





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