Takeshi Shudo's
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No. 162

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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. 162 "The Pokémon Incident: How the Staff Reacted," 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. 162 "The Pokémon Incident: The staff involved

Posted November 5th, 2008
Original Text (Japanese)
Unabridged Translation

The further we get into these blog entries the more Mr. Shudo starts to write about the incident itself.

The first writers' meeting immediately after the so-called Pokémon Incident was a gathering of solemn faces.

We confirmed our understanding of the phone call we had gotten the day after the incident -- "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" -- and made sure we all knew that any and all work on the scripts that hadn't been finished yet was to be stopped. But everyone in the room already knew all this.

However, there were some episodes where the scripts had been finished and those episodes were already in the middle of the storyboards or animation stages.

After the final draft the script to an animated show is finished it takes about three to four months to finish the actual animation itself.

Those episodes were so deep in production that slamming the brakes on them would have caused a lot of trouble for a lot of people, financial and otherwise, and so they were allowed to continue.

I want to say the main producer of the series said something like "We'll figure something out. You guys on the writers' staff don't worry about a thing." But I also vaguely remember everyone in that meeting being absolutely crestfallen with what had happened.

In any case, the powers that be decided Pokémon would be pulled from the air.

When that writers' meeting took place, we wouldn't have been able to air any of the episodes we were working on even if we had finished making them.

I have no idea if there would've been a way for us to get those episodes out through some way other than TV, but it seems like the episodes being worked on at least were allowed to be completed.

Either way, the incident happened. That's a fact.

Whatever I could say now won't take back what happened.

The root cause of the incident hadn't been made clear yet, and we didn't know for sure what the victims' statuses were.

Nobody at that writers' meeting wanted to talk about the incident.

And actually, almost nobody said anything about it.

And so I can't say, with any certainty, what the people involved in Pokémon really thought about what was happening at that time.

A long time after the incident happened, someone tried to console the person who wrote the Porygon episode by telling him "You just had bad luck, that's all." But he didn't like that. "You know that doesn't really make me feel any better, right? You have no idea what it's like for someone as directly involved with this mess as I am, do you?" At that moment, his usually pleasant demeanor turned remarkably grim.

We had no idea what was going to happen to the Pokémon animated series from then on out and so future writers' meetings were canceled.

The screenplay writers had no idea if the show would even come back.

The news was reporting that the incident caused severe illnesses for some of its victims but that nobody had died.

But it had only been a few days after the incident and we still didn't have any idea of what kind of after-effects might pop up.

Of course, it was hard for anyone to talk about this.

But even in this situation, there's bound to be a few grumbles or complaints uttered here and there.

After all, the Pokémon animated series had been growing in both viewership and popularity.

Nobody was allowing themselves to become complacent back then.

We wanted to keep pushing ourselves to the next level.

One of the big wigs apparently sent out an order to make the battle scenes more flashy to catch the attention of the viewers, seeing that as one way that Pokémon could reach new heights.

"If another show had come along and was more flashy than ours, whose battle scenes caused this incident, then imagine how much bigger this mess could've been, how many more victims there'd be..."

This isn't an exact quote, but something similar to this slipped out one of the producers' mouths in an attempt to make the staff who worked on that Porygon episode feel better.

But the general director, the person seen as bearing the responsibility for the Pokémon animated series…his disappointment outweighed his regret.

I'll never forget what he said next, as he sighed out something that I don't think was meant as a joke at all:

"I wonder if I'll be arrested for 'injury caused by corporate negligence'…"

I immediately thought "there's no way that'll happen…" but my mouth couldn't form the words.

Injury caused by corporate negligence. ' is a crime in Japanese law where someone knowingly takes an action at work they know can be dangerous if done wrong but then do it anyway. But since neither the general director nor anyone else involved in Pokémon would have had any reason to think a TV show, of all things, could cause actual bodily harm our actions wouldn't have fallen under that law.

Nobody had even imagined the Pokémon animated series could pose any sort of physical dangers and so we didn't end up getting sued by any of the victims, either.

And even if we were taken to court I don't think we'd lose.

As a writer I've written a bunch of different scripts and have picked up some legal knowledge along the way.

But even if I had managed to say something to the director at that moment it wouldn't have done anyone any good.

Actually, it would probably come across more like "That Shudo guy's the series organizer and so of course he'd say it's fine. I mean, it's not like anyone ever collapses from reading words in a script, right?" I can't have people going around saying that, right?

For the general director, it's not whether or not he committed a crime, it's the shock of the Pokémon animated series that he's in charge of causing people who watched it to collapse.

I feel the same way.

I have a responsibility for the scripts that serve as the foundations of the TV series.

Everyone involved with Pokémon, no matter how big or small their role is, must have felt the same way.

The gloomy writers' meeting ended and I went up to the general director.

"Well, it is what it is."

He didn't say a word.

I was trying to make the general director feel better (and of course to make myself feel better too) and so I just said something without thinking. I have no idea how he took it.

I wish I'd kept my mouth shut and just not said anything back then.

After that, there weren't any more writers' meetings for a while.

Next, he talks about how the media handled the Pokémon Shock incident:

Most of the mainstream media took turns going after Pokémon as a whole based simply on the fact that the Pokémon animated series is what caused its viewers to collapse.

People who had never watched an episode of the show or played any of the video games -- in other words, people who only knew the name "Pokémon" and nothing more -- started adding in their two cents.

This was the so-called "Pokémon Bashing."

What follows are rumors I've heard mixed with what the media was reporting.

The actual facts and the nuance of the whole thing might be a bit off.

But from the point of view of the people involved in Pokémon, their opinions of how this incident was reported also varies.

I'd like to stress that I personally reject the way the incident was reported below.

I feel like with the Pokémon Bashing, there was a lot of reporting based on shakey evidence and zero regards for personal responsibility.

Everything with the name "Pokémon" on it was bad.

We should have been hearing directly from the victims themselves but we barely heard from them, with the media instead focusing its coverage of the Pokémon Incident on its criticism of how big the franchise had gotten.

The network that broadcast Pokémon worked feverishly to apologize to the mainstream media and figure out the clear root cause of the incident.

And of course, they also went around and visited the victims affected.

How did Nintendo react?

The game company that made the Pokémon video games must have also been frantically running around.

From the game production side, something terrible had just happened.

The Pokémon animated series, which at the time was going to keep going at least one more year (though the possiblity it would continue beyond that was definitely there), was being pulled from the airwaves out of an abundance of caution. This wasn't going to leave the video game side unscathed.

So they immediately lept into action by putting out a statement like "The Pokémon video games and the animated series are two different things. What happened with the TV series has nothing to do with the video games."

But even after doing that, the hit to the TV show's image was also a hit to the video game's image.

Anyone could see that.

Mr. Shudo goes off on a bit of a tangent about how animated adaptations affect the comics or video games on which they're based before returning to the Pokémon Shock incident to talk about all the "what ifs" people were throwing around back then.

The Pokémon animated series, which had been a good little boy up until then, suddenly became a troublemaker not just for itself but for the video games and the merchandise, all in the space of one night.

During that day's broadcast, a commercial for the Rocket-Dan's image song (the one I wrote the lyrics for) and Sachiko Kobayashi's ending theme both aired exactly one time each before Pokémon was taken off the air.

Even so, the Rocket-Dan's song ended being a hit on a league of its own when you compare it to all the other songs I had written.

I haven't been able to produce a hit of that level ever since.

A music producer once said this to me:

"If it weren't for that incident then both the Rocket-Dan's song and Sachiko Kobayashi's song could have become way bigger hits."

I can't even imagine what those numbers would've looked like.

"If it weren't for that incident…woulda, coulda."

At the time I was hearing people say things like that all the time.

Pokémon, at the time, was doing so well that a lot of people from a lot of different industries were getting involved. And so immediately after the incident happened these people felt down and got really upset.

You can say "if it weren't for that incident" all you want, but the truth of the matter is that it happened.
When the TV series restarted and Pokémon became a hit again, you stopped hearing people say "if it weren't for that incident…"

And up until about a year and a half later, when I had been admitted into the very same hospital that one of the victims had been taken to that night, the incident had largely vanished from my mind.

As I sit here now, more than ten years after the fact, I'm wondering more about how the victims are doing than I am about anyone of the production staff.

But we don't hear from the victims.

When people say "if it weren't for that incident…," I feel like that can easily become "please pretend like that episode doesn't exist," which then turns into "that incident never happened."

I don't really want to remember it either, but as I sit here writing this, I can't help but look back.

He ends the entry by bringing up "That Person," my translation of the person Mr. Shudo has given the nickname Gozen-sama (御前様).

However, and I'll say this again, when it comes to production of the Pokémon animated series all I can tell you is what I saw and heard myself.

Out of all the people involved with the production of the Pokémon animated series, the people who were in the worst predicament, job-wise, were the people who helped start up the Pokémon animated series in the first place. In other words, it would have been the big producer who I'll be calling "That Person."

The notice we got that I told you about at the beginning of this entry -- "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" -- the person who had to decide what that "consistent story" was going to be must have been that person.





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