Takeshi Shudo's
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No. 160

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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. 160 "The Pokémon Incident:  Meanwhile, at the Hospital...," 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. 160 "The Pokémon Incident:  Meanwhile, at the hospital..."

Posted September 10th, 2008
Original Text (Japanese)
Unabridged Translation

Mr. Shudo starts to talk about the girl who was brought to his hospital:

I found out about the girl who had been rushed to the hospital in Odawara because of the incident about a year and a half after it happened.

It was around the time I had finished up writing the script for the second Pokémon movie. My health had taken a hit and so after I checked with the director to make sure my final draft of the script was indeed the version they were going with I admitted myself into a large private hospital in Odawara City.

The sisters (we call them nurses now) say they distinctively remember the girl who was brought into the hospital a year and a half ago.

The doctors and nurses in this hopsital, especially the ones in the pedriatrics department, would've definitely known all about Pokémon, that video game and animated series that's a huge hit with kids.

And so the ones that happened to be on duty that night would have had to take care of the ill children who were being brought in on ambulances, one after the other. Even though it had been a year and a half since that night the impact left by the Pokémon TV series was still felt by all.

"Anyway, that time was really tough."

The nurses told me about what it was like back then.

And just so there are no misunderstandings, the doctors and nurses didn't just blurt all sorts of confidential patient information to me.

When it comes to their job, medical professionals are just that; professionals.

And even when I, a patient at their hospital, told them that I worked for Pokémon it wasn't like they just started telling me everything I wanted to know.

But at the same time, it was less like the relationship between a patient and his doctors and nurses and more like that between friends or acquiantances, venting about this and that.

It's been over 10 years since that incident and so I think their experiences from back then are probably distant memories now.

But back then, I had no idea that, a year and a half before I was admitted into that hospital, that there was a victim of the incident right there in Odawara.

It was also shocking to learn that she had been rushed to the very same hospital I was in now.

It's a bit embarrassing to admit this but my memories from even a year and a half ago have started to fade.

A lot of things happened to me, both before and after that incident. But if I want to try to make sense of all of it'd be easier to just write about what happened in chronological order, starting with the immediate aftermath. So that's why I added in the part the girl who was admitted despite not learning about it until a year and a half after the fact.

The next few parts of the blog talk about phone calls he received throughout December 17th -- the day after the incident. Here's the first one:

But let's go back to the day after the incident, December 17th.

Pretty soon we got a call from the company that produces Pokémon.

They basically told us "In regards to this situation making the news right now, we want the stories being told by the production side and the network to be consistent with each other and so if you get a call from any news outlet make sure not to give them any of your personal opinions on the matter."

I imagine almost everyone involved with the production of the Pokémon animated series got the same call.

The reaction was swift, but telling us not to make any comments was the right move.

Because for the mainstream media, this was a huge incident, sure, but it was also a great chance for them too.

There would have been a bunch of half-truths and speculation; the media would've had a field day with this.

"Someone involved with Pokémon said this," "He said that," "Here's what I think," "I don't think that's right," "Who's fault is this?"…it'd get out of hand real quick.

I personally had experience with how dangerous making public comments can be. I had answered a question about some other incident in the past, but the way they reported it was completely different from the way I meant it.

Comments often get taken out of context or put together in whatever way fits the writer's narrative.

And then if you try to correct the record and say "I didn't mean it like that" then they'll come back with "Well those were your words, weren't then?" And then what can you do?

But back then, whenever I'd do interviews for the animated shows I wrote scripts for or the novels I've written, misunderstandings don't really mean all that much at the end of the day. But this time was different.

Because this time, there were victims.

Though we had no idea just how many there were at that moment.

And I had almost no knowledge about the actual incident itself.

Even if I had been interviewed, what could I have actually said? "Yes, it's true that I'm the series organizer for Pokémon. No, I had no idea an incident like this could happen. We apologize profusely for everything that's happened." That's about it, right?

But even if I had just said that, the mere fact that someone like the series organizer apologized meant that he's accepting responsibility for what happened. In other words, "the Pokémon animated series is to blame." That's what the mainstream media would write, probably.

So no matter what I said it'd just be filtered through the lens of whoever was writing up the news story that day.

So if someone comes up to us and asks for a comment and we say "I can't say anything at this time. I believe an official statement will be made later" then that's the right way to proceed.

That's how the big publishers who put out those weekly tabloid magazines get stories about the production of the Pokémon animated series.

It's like they say, you have to brush the sparks off you before they cause a fire.

And so they were quick to silence anyone involved with the show.

I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently they moved.

I know people who've gotten phone calls from the mainstream media, especially from the big newspapers, and then thanks to their half-assed reporting have had horrible things happen to them.

Later, he received a second phone call:

I got another phone call the day after the incident.

"Hey you, no matter what don't claim any responsibility for what happened."

"But as the series organizer I can't pretend like I have zero relation to what happened…"

I'm not good at articulating myself.

The people in my life don't know anything about what it's like to work in animation.

But they know a whole lot more than I do about how to get along with other people and groups.

"Now if you go and say that then -- and this is the worst case scenario -- the things that were done or not done would all become your responsiblity. Whenever something like this happens it's only natural for people to want to find someone to point their fingers at, after all."

I'm really grateful to have received this warning.

But when I asked "Why did you think you had to say this?"

"Because I know you, and you're the type of person to raise your hand and say "It was me, I'm the one responsible," no matter how big or small."

"Do I do that?"

"It's kind of become like your catchphrase."

I hadn't noticed that before.

"I'm the one responsible"…maybe that's proof that I think too much about myself?

He then received a third phone call:

That day I received a third phone call.

It was a doctor from a famous university hospital that I'm friends with.

I would sometimes get information about the medical world and other hospital matters, stuff your average person wouldn't know about, from that friend and the nurses there.

"Be sure to watch your drinking. You're the type of person who'll find any reason to drink your sorrows away. Don't forget about your poor liver."

"Ah, thank you" I replied.

But that warning came too late.

I was already working my way through some cheap liquor I had gotten from a vending machine at the ports in Odawara. That phone call made me stop after that cup, though…if I hadn't gotten that call I probably would've ended up downing a whole bottle of sake at some bar somewhere.

And so that's what happened on December 17th, 1997, the day after the incident. I'll talk about the things that happened after that a little later, but for now I want to go back to my time in the hospital a year and a half later.

Mr. Shudo then goes into a long history about the hospitals in Odawara City (where he lives) and how they all have a very loyal clientele. After the history lesson he resumes his story about the girl who was brought in:

It was in one of those hopsitals where, at around 7 o'clock at night, when the day shift had finished handing everything off to the night shift, when the patients had already finished their dinner for the night, when the staff was finally able to take a breath for a moment...that's when a girl was brought in, a girl who had collapsed for some unknown reason.

The doctors and nurses there all rushed into action, doing what was within their means to treat this patient and try to come  up with a diagnosis.

But they had no idea what had happened to her.

The girl's parents wanted their doctor, the one from this hospital they had put so much trust in, to tell them that everything was going to be OK.

That doctor must have been so conflicted.

He couldn't tell them she'd be OK without knowing what was wrong with her first.

If you know the cause then you can start to look for treatment, but they didn't even know the cause.
And even if they had taken her to another hospital that specializes in brain activity they might not have known either.

But if you don't act fast then too much time will have passed.

Why did I have to be on duty at a time like this…it seemed like the doctors were really at a loss.

But then, at around 11 o'clock that night, information from somewhere -- they don't remember if it was from the news or if they got a call from another hospital -- came in saying that patients all over Japan had succumbed to the same symptoms as the girl in their care.

And so they asked the parents.

"Was your daughter watching Pokémon on TV tonight?"

When they found out she had it seems as if a lightbulb had gone off.

…She's not the only one then.

"This might be a strange way to put this but if other people watched Pokémon tonight and had the same issues then that weirdly makes me feel not as scared."

It's like crossing a traffic light while it's still red…if everyone starts doing it then it's not so scary. I guess.

Eventually, they decided to keep the girl overnight for observation, and then once they confirmed that she was back to normal they released her to her parents the next day.

All of this was told to me a year and a half after the fact.

I forced a laugh when they told me this, but when it was actually happening I wasn't laughing at all.





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