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Dogasu's Backpack | Features | Rumor Guide


4Kids actually did dub "Cyber Soldier Porygon," they just never aired it

Rumor Status:  All signs point to this being false

Eyecatch from the Season 2 episode
"A Way Off Day Off"

The idea that 4Kids actually created an English version of the infamous "Cyber Soldier Porygon" episode but just never got around to airing it is just about as old as the English dub itself. But is there any truth to this rumor?

This page takes a look at the arguments both for and against the existence of an Episode 38 dub and tries to figure out which scenario is more likely to be true.


Before we dive into whether or not 4Kids dubbed Episode 38 it's worth taking a quick look at the series of events leading up to what would have been the episode's North American debut.

Pocket Monsters Episode 38 "Cyber Soldier Porygon" aired on TV-Tokyo on December 16th, 1997.

According to this Fuji TV news report from December 18th, the Pocket Monsters VHS releases that had come out so far (Volumes 1 & 2, covering Episodes 01 - 06) had already started being pulled from store shelves.

On December 20th TV-Tokyo announces they're putting the show on an indefinite hiatus. From Page 367 of the book Pokémon Story (ポケモンストーリー), or
Page 15 of my translation:

Pokémon Story

97年12月20日、テレビ東京は、民放連の調査結果が出るまで、という期限付き で、ポケモンの放送を休止すると、正式に発表しました。
On December 20th, 1997, TV-Tokyo made the official announcement that Pokémon would be going on hiatus, stating that it would not return to the air until the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association (JBA) completed its investigation.

Meanwhile, negotiations between ShoPro and Nintendo of America for a deal to bring Pokémon to the United States continued to move forward. Here's what Masakazu Kubo recalls on Page 414 of the book "Pokémon Story" (
Page 21 of my translation):

僕と小プロのワーキングチームは日本がお正月休みになるのを待って、1月3日、緊急 渡米しました。アメリカはお正月休みがないので4日からすぐに契約交渉が可能だったからでした。

荒川さん自ら出席する会議で契約交渉は進みまし た。それはまるまる2日間に及ぶハードな交渉でしたが、長時間膝をつき合わせたことで、NOAが何を求めているのか?どう展開したいのかがよく分かりまし た。小プロとNOAは仕事をした経験がないのでなるべく早い時期にお互いに信頼感を形成する必要がありました。

The rest of my ShoPro team and I sat tight until the Japan's New Year's holidays and then, on January 3rd 1998, we rushed over to America. The U.S. doesn't have a New Year's holiday the way Japan does and so we were able to enter contract negotiations right away on January 4th.

(Nintendo of Japan president) Mr. Arakawa himself attended those meetings and moved ahead with the contract negotiations. The negotiations lasted two whole days and had their ups and downs, but after talking frankly with each other face-to-face we were able to really understand how NoA hoped to launch Pokémon in the U.S. and what they wanted to get out of it.

It was somewhere around this time when Norman Grossfeld, president of 4Kids Productions, started calling around to let people know that they were the ones who were granted the rights to produce an English version of the Pocket Monsters TV show.
Here's Michael Haigney's recollection of his initial conversation with Mr. Grossfeld, as told on the first episode of his podcast "Original Pokéman." The story begins at the 00:47 mark:

"It must have been late 1997 or early 1998 when I got a call from Norman Grossfeld. He was working at a syndication company and I had worked with him on a few different projects over the years and we had stayed in touch and became friends. He knew I was working on a direct-to-video series called Slayers, adapting the scripts and casting the actors and directing the actors. And so he called me and he said 'I think I may have a job for you.' And he described a series that his company 4Kids was syndicating. He said it was about these kids who captured these little monsters, and then the monsters would fight. And I said hey, is this the series that's been in the news that sent all the kids to the hospital in Japan? And he said 'Yeah, but we're not gonna show that episode.'"

On January 19th, Summit Media started shopping 4Kids' new "Pokémon" show to potential networks. From Pages 428-429 of "Pokémon Story" (Page
34 of my translation):

「NCLと小プロとNOAの間の契約合意後、すぐに活動を始めました。セールスは、 1998年1月19日からニューオーリンズで開かれた、NATPEと書いてナッピと呼ばれる映像関係のコンベンションに、アニメを持っていって始めまし た。アニメの売買が盛んなんですよ。目標は、シンジケーションの放送局一つずつに売っていって、全米90パーセント以上をカバーしようということでした。 広大なエリアですけど、やる以上はそうしないと効果がないんでしょう」
"We got right to work as soon as the ink had dried on the contracts with Nintendo of Japan, ShoPro, and Nintendo of America. The sales team took the animated series with them to NATPE (pronounced "Nappy"), a video contents convention held in New Orleans on January 19th, 1998. Animation is a big seller at this convention, you know. The goal was to sell 'Pokémon' to each syndication network, one by one, until the show was airing on enough networks to cover at least 90% of the country.

The trade show is covered in this Animation World Network report from February 1st, 1998. About halfway into the article Summit Media's Shelly Hirsch states that the offending scene in the Porygon episode had been cut. The emphasis below is mine:

As Shelly Hirsch, Chief Executive Officer of The Summit Media Group, flatly states, "As bad as the ratings are in the syndication market, we still make money." He goes onto explain that, "We lead with our media buying. If the programming went away tomorrow, we'd still have a very nice business. We are very secure." Summit is currently syndicating a slate of programming that includes Mr. Men, MGM Productions' Robocop: Alpha Commando and Pokémon. Hirsch was quick to explain that the offending Pokémon scene which caused a number of seizures in Japan in December had been cut.

Summit Media's stance of not airing the Porygon episode as-is, at the very least least, is repeated in the "Full Report" TV-Tokyo wrote up in the wake of the incident. From Page 430 of Pokémon Story (Page 35 of my translation):

「番組供給会社のサミット・メディアグループ は、できれば今年の9月からシンジケーションの市場でポケモンを放映したいと考えている。これに対して小学館プロダクションは同作品の海外販売について 『テレビ東京の一定の見解が固まり、ある程度の決着を見るまではいかなる権利も売らない。交渉中の相手に対してもこの基本方針を遵守した形で対応する』 としている。サミット側も安全性が確認できるまでは放送しない考えで、38話は外すことを決めているという」 (『全記録』 より引用)
"The programming distributor The Summit Media Group is hoping to have the show start airing in syndication this September. In response, Shogakukan Productions had this to say about selling the program abroad: “TV-Tokyo's mind is made up, and until we reach certain decisions we will not be selling over all the rights. The party we're currently in negotiations with is adhering to these basic rules that've been laid out.” As far as Summit is concerned, they're not willing to air Pokémon until they can guarantee it's safe to air and have also said they've decided they'll be removing Episode 38 from the lineup entirely." (excerpt from the "Full Report")

Back in Japan, Shogakukan started re-releasing re-edited versions of those first 37 episodes in which their flickering light effects were reduced and/or dimmed down. Volume 3 (Episodes 07 - 09) and Volume 4 (10 - 12) came out February 20th, Volume 5 (13 - 15) and Volume 6 (16 - 18) came out on March 20th, and so on.

Except from Page 147 of the March 1998 issue of Animedia announcing the upcoming releases of edited versions of the show's older episodes on VHS.

Back in the U.S., it was now time for 4Kids to actually sit down and dub the show. In the DVD audio commentary for the very first North American DVD release of the movie "Pokémon 4Ever," Norman Grossfeld confirms they got their hands on the show in April 1998, four months after the "Pokémon Shock" incident. This is at the 3:53 mark:

Pokémon 4Ever

"The great thing about Pokémon for us is that we've all been together from the very beginning. Everybody in this room has been part of Pokémon since September 1998 when we star- we launched the first series. Actually we started producing the show, for us on our end, back I think it was April of 1998. So we've become a bit of a family here."

At this point there were two versions of the show in Japan; the flashy 1997 version and the toned-down 1998 re-edits. The 4Kids dub ended up going with the latter.

The original unedited version of Episode 2
The edited version that the 4Kids dub is based on

On Page 14 of Viz's Animerica Vol. 6 #5 magazine, which came out May 1998, the upcoming English dub of Pocket Monsters is featured in its "hot off the press" section. In the final paragraph the magazine states that the Porygon episode's being edited.

In case you were worried, the infamous "seizure episode" of Pocket Monsters will not air in its original form; animators in Japan have reworked the episode to eliminate the flashing that caused Japanese schoolchildren to collapse from photosensitive epilepsy. Don't be scared -- it's a cute show!

Viz LLC, the company that published Animerica magazine, is a subsidiary of
Shogakukan Productions Co., Ltd.

A little over four months later -- September 7th, 1998 to be exact --
Pokémon starts airing in syndication in the U.S. A few episodes get skipped along the way -- "Holiday in Aopulco" and "The Legend of Miniryu" -- though footage from the latter can be found in some of the PokéRap segments that aired at the end of each episode. Footage from the Porygon episode is nowhere to be found, however, with stock artwork used for the Pokémon instead.

Dragonair is one of three Pokémon (the other two being Dratini and Tauros) to have their PokéRap card created using footage from the undubbed episode "The Legend of Miniryu."
A stock image of Porygon is placed in front of a moving battle background.

On October 26th "Ditto's Mysterious Mansion" airs. On October 27th, 4Kids skips over "Cyber Soldier Porygon" as well as "Pikachu's Goodbye" (though this second one's only temporary) and airs "The Battling Eevee Brothers" instead.

Contradicting stories -- Yes, we did dub it

So we know none of the networks that carried the 4Kids dub back in the day -- syndicated networks, Kids' WB!, Cartoon Network, etc. --  ever actually aired "Cyber Soldier Porygon." But did 4Kids at least dub it, maybe? There are conflicting stories.

Probably the earliest example most people know about of an actor stating the episode's been dubbed is from Maddie Blaustein, the voice of Meowth during the majority of 4Kids' run with the show. Ms. Blaustein was invited to the forums
shortly after TPCi took control of the dub back in 2006 to host a sort of Ask Me Anything type question and answer session for members of the site, and it's in this post from May 21st, 2006 where she addresses the then nine-year old Porygon episode:

Nathan Madien
The infamous Porygon episode is banned period. Not only is that episode not allowed to be shown in Japan anymore, it isn't allowed to be shown anywhere. Unless Miss Blaustein says differently, it is highly unlikely that TV Tokyo gave 4Kids this episode.

I don't think they will ever show it ---but we did dub it. And it didn't give any of US seizures

As far as I know this is the only statement Ms. Blaustein ever made about the episode before her death in 2008.

About ten years later
Eric Stuart -- who would have been voicing Brock and James back in 1998 -- said straight out that they did indeed dub the episode. Mr. Stuart's comments were made at Ramencon 2016, held September 23rd - 25th, 2016 in Merrillville, Indiana, USA and were provided by Drew Scott (who later allowed the video to be posted on YouTube):

Drew Scott:  "I'm sure you are aware of the banned Pokémon episode "Electric Soldier Porygon" that sent over 600 children in Japan to hospitals with seizures..."

Eric Stuart:  "Yes, with...with seizures. Yes, I actually have a form of petit mal myself when I give blood I have a little mini seizure when that happens, so I'm not allowed to. So I know all about that, yes."

Drew:  "Um, from your point of view, 'cause several voice actors from Pokémon, like the late Maddie Blaustein says one thing, and Veronica Taylor says another. From your point of view, was that specific episode ever dubbed in English?"

Eric Stuart:  "Yeah. Sure. Sure we did. How else would I have seen it? It's never released. We dubbed it. Why, did Maddie said we didn't? Or Maddie said we did?"

Drew:  "Well, she did. But Veronica Taylor said we -- they didn't."

Eric Stuart:  "Yeah, I think we dubbed it. I remember dubbing it. I know we didn't air it."

Drew:  "So it was banned?"

Eric Stuart:  "Yeah, it was banned. Well, you know, yeah, flashing lights and things like that. Yeah."

I looked and looked but it seems as though Maddie Blaustein and Eric Stuart are the only two people involved with 4Kids to say that claim that an English dub was made.

Contradicting stories -- No, we didn't dub it

On the other hand we have people who have outright said that no, they never dubbed it.

Veronica Taylor, most well known among fans as being the voice of Ash Ketchum in the English dub, has repeatedly stated that 4Kids never dubbed the episode. Whether it's in this interview on pokedream:

Q: Will you ever dub the episode that gave kids seizures in Japan?
Veronica: We did not dub it - we will never dub it.

...or her X (Twitter) account in October 2017:

Hey @joshmald89, We only recorded the episodes you saw on tv. Yours truly, Ash

...or her interview with Drew Scott (TheGreenBeetle) in March 2018 (it's at the 2 minute 52 second mark):

Drew Scott:  "I know I've asked you this once before but I'm sure you're aware of the banned Pokémon episode "Electric Soldier Porygon" that's been banned worldwide since it...the damage caused..."

Veronica Taylor:  "Right."

Drew:  "From your point of view, because there had been voice actors that said the episode was dubbed, like Maddy Blaustein and Eric Stuart said, what...could you tell us your side on how it was processed?"

Veronica:  "I don' my knowledge it was never...we never did it. So maybe they know something that I don't. So I don't know. I thought we weren't doing it. Maybe it was blended into something...? I have no idea. I never heard that we recorded it until you've asked me (laughs). So I don't know. But Eric worked in different...since he directed some, and he was directing other shows maybe he knows that. But I just don't...I never heard anything about it."

...Veronica Taylor has consistently said that no, they never did it.

Rachel Lillis, voice of Misty and Jessie, has also stated she was unaware of a dub existing. On July 30th, 2019 Drew Scott e-mailed the voice actor and got the following response:

"The episode was not dubbed as far as I know. I never heard anything about it being produced in the studio. Several episodes were banned or scenes were cut from certain episodes, and those decisions were made before anything was adapted, so as a voice actor I didn't hear too much about what went on in those earliest phases."

And then finally, we have this footage from Convention Coverage of the 4Kids Pokémon panel at the SacAnime Summer 2022. During a nearly hour long panel with a lot of the staff of the 4Kids' Pokémon dub, Michael Haigney interrupts a fifteen minute question and answer session to confront Eric Stuart about the comments he made at Ramencon:

Michael Haigney:  "I want, I wanna add, may I ask a question very quickly because I've had people come back and forth and ask about the Porygon episode."

Eric Stuart:  "Yes."

Michael Haigney:  "Now they've told me that you have said that, that... it was recorded but not... not shown. I don't remember that. Are you forg-? Are they right? Are you right?"

Eric Stuart: "I remember the only time I ever saw it was in the studio. I never saw it on..."

Michael Haigney:  "No. But are you saying that we recorded it and then never aired it?"

Eric Stuart:  "I think what happened was we did some dubbing on it and then...because that's where the trigger of, of the seizures..."

Michael Haigney:  "Yeah, but, right but what...."

Eric Stuart:  " in Japan right, we didn't air."

Michael Haigney:  "Yeah, but that... the Japanese episode that triggered the seizures was... That aired before we started airing the show. So when we got the series, Norman already knew that [stammers] because when... he when... he pitched the show to me, I said, hey is that... he said we have this show about creatures they battle..."

Eric Stuart:  "I think we took that out of the like... We took that out of the box."

Michael Haigney:  "But do you think any of it; that it was the script was rewritten in any of us or you recorded it?"

Eric Stuart:  "I don't...."

Michael Haigney:  "I don't think so."

Eric Stuart:  "No, I think I only saw it in the studio."

Michael Haigney:  "But because somebody said to me like it was recorded, but you never showed it, and I said I don't..."

Eric Stuart: "Well I think I was drinking a lot..."

Michael Haigney:  "No, I knew that. Yes, that had been a problem."

Eric Stuart:  "Sorry, made that a little sidebar."

Michael Haigney:  "That doesn't count for the 15 minutes."

As far as I know these are all the comments made by the show's cast regarding the existence of an Episode 38 dub. If you come across any other comments from the show's cast or staff then please let me know!

Other factors to consider

So what else can we look at to help us determine which of the the various conflicting claims made above are correct?

The original batch of 40 episodes
There's a theory going around that 4Kids' original order for their first batch of episodes -- the ones that debuted in syndication before the show got picked up by Kids' WB! -- ended up getting adjusted once 4Kids realized they were going to have to skip a few episodes after all. So, something like this:

Original Order:  Episodes 001 - 037, and 039 - 041 (40 episodes)
Adjusted Order:  Episodes 001 - 017, 019 - 034, 036 - 037, and 039 - 043 (40 episodes)

A major driving force of this theory is the
PokéRap, a series of music videos 4Kids put together to teach viewers the names of all the show's 150 Pokémon. Generally speaking, if a Pokémon appeared during the batch of episodes 4Kids had access to at the time (the "Original Order" above) then they'd use footage from the show to represent the Pokémon.

Koffing's PokéRap footage comes from Episode 002 "Pokémon Emergency!"
Sometimes 4Kids had to fudge things a bit; this footage of "Venusaur" here is actually just one of the robots from 017 "Island of the Giant Pokémon!"

Any Pokémon who debuted after that point -- Moltres, Victreebel, Lickitung, etc. -- would be represented with clip art placed against a background from the animated series.

Fearow doesn't make its debut until "Pallet Party Panic" so a piece of stock artwork placed against a background from "Sparks Fly for Magnemite" is used instead.
Vileplume doesn't make its first appearance until "Holy Matrimony!," one of the Kids' WB! era episodes.

There are exceptions to these -- the PokéRap inexplicably uses clip art for Chansey even though it appears in Episode Two, for example -- but generally speaking this is the way the video works.

As mentioned in the Timeline section above, Porygon falls into the category of Pokémon represented by clip art.

The theory goes that 4Kids was fully intending to dub all the episodes in the "Original Order" above but then once they actually got into it realized that uh-oh, we're not going to be allowed to air two of these (the beach episode and the gun episode)
and so they had to send for two additional episodes from Japan to take their place. The theory goes on to suggest that the PokéRap was edited together before 4Kids made the "Adjusted Order" above, which explains why footage from "The Legend of Miniryu" gets used while footage from "Showdown at Dark City" and "The March of the Exeggutor Squad" does not.

All of these, of course, are merely educated guesses. Porygon appearing in the PokéRap as a piece of clip art does not prove 4Kids was never sent a copy of the "Cyber Soldier Porygon," of course, but at the same time it doesn't exactly help the argument for the existence of an English dub either.

The "Who's That Pokémon?" segment from "A Way Off Day Off"
By the time 4Kids was in its second season they started to do this thing where they stopped limiting the Pokémon featured in their "Who's That Pokémon?" segment to species who actually appeared in that episode. Instead, they started using whatever Pokémon they felt like on any given day.

In the Season Two episode "A Way Off Day Off," 4Kids decides to use Porygon for the episode's eyecatch segment.

The thing I'd like to point out here is the voice. We don't know who provided Porygon's voice as the show's Japanese end credits do not have a dedicated entry for Porygon, but we can say that the voice used for the dub's Who's That Pokémon? segment is not the same. The English dub voice is noticeably deeper and more robotic sounding than the comparatively high pitched voice heard in the Japanese version.

Generally speaking 4Kids would keep Pokémon voices the same between versions if their names weren't changed during the localization process, though as with everything else Pokémon there are a ton of exceptions to this. Was Porygon's voice change here just another example of one of 4Kids' random recasts? Or, did 4Kids change the voice because they didn't have access to Episode 038 or any of its audio and therefore had no choice but to come up with a brand new one? You could make arguments either way.

The big thing I often see missing in these types of discussions is the logistics of actually producing a dub of "Cyber Soldier Porygon." Where would 4Kids have gotten the money to actually dub the episode? The amount it takes to dub an episode of anime can vary greatly from series to series, year to year, and concrete numbers are surprisingly difficult to come by. The only well sourced figure I was able to find was the Skip Beat! Kickstarter, which hoped to raise $155,000 to dub 25 episodes. That's around $6,200 an episode, though it's also worth mentioning that this amount does not cover the huge cost that is the show's licensing fees. Other estimates often cited online put the average cost closer to $10,000 per episode.

We don't have any hard numbers for how much it cost to dub a single episode of Pokémon back in 1998, but one thing is for sure; it would not have been a non-neglible amount, especially for a TV show just starting out. Remember, in 1998 there was absolutely no guarantee that this "Pokémon" thing wouldn't end up being a massive flop in the West. It's unlikely 4Kids would have had the extra 10Gs lying around to dub an episode they had no chance of ever airing.

So does an English dub exist?

Based on everything above -- the timeline of events, the voice actor comments, the other elements at play -- I would have to conclude that no, an English dub does not exist.

If you look at the way events unfolded after December 16th it's very clear how serious everyone was taking the Pokémon Shock incident. From Page 364 of the book Pokémon Shock (Page 11 of my translation):

被害者へのお見舞いに始まり、ポケモンの放送休止、ポケモン関係番組・コーナーの放 送自粛、当時31局あった全国の系列外テレビ局への放送中止要請、ビデオレンタル店へのレンタル中止要請、局内調査、外部調査チームの受け入れ、内部ガイ ドラインの策定、調査団の派遣、報告、検証番組の制作と放送、アニメチェッカーの開発と導入。その時点でとれる再発防止策はすべてとったと言えるでしょ う。
Going to pay the victims a visit, pulling Pokémon from the air, refraining from broadcasting any Pokémon related TV shows or segments, sending out formal requests to stop airing the show to the 31 affiliate networks that had also been airing Pokémon at the time, sending out formal requests to video rental stores to pull all their Pokémon videos from their shelves, agreeing on the formation of both internal and external investigation teams, formulating internal guidelines, dispatching research teams, creating and then airing reports and inspection specials, developing a device called the "Anime Checker" and then installing it...if there was anything that could be done to prevent a reoccurrence then TV-Tokyo probably did it.

With all the precautions everyone was taking it just doesn't make any sense for OLM to have sent the episode out to an international rights holder for the purpose of having them create a version they could then freely distribute overseas.

It's mainly the voice actor comments that have convinced fans that a dub exists, but when you look at them closely you'll see they're not all that clear-cut either. Eric Stuart more or less backpedaled on his 2016 comments when confronted about them in 2022, going from
"I remember dubbing it" to "No, I think I only saw it in the studio." But even his 2016 comments, on their own, aren't altogether convincing. The flippant way he says "Yeah. Sure. Sure we did" gives off the vibe of someone telling a kid whatever they wanna hear to get them to finally shut the hell up, and his "How else would I have seen it?" comment doesn't make sense either when paired with his conversation about "The Legend of Miniryu" at the very same convention. So Mr. Stuart knows about "The Legend of Miniryu" even though 4Kids never dubbed it, but he only knows about "Cyber Soldier Porygon" because 4Kids dubbed it? He's contradicting himself.

The Maddie Blaustein comment, in a vacuum, would usually be enough proof for most people. But given the mountain of evidence to the contrary it kind of keeps losing its efficacy.

In the case of both Maddie Blaustein and Eric Stuart, I don't think either one of them lied, at least not intentionally. I think it's much more likely they simply either mis-remembered what happened or got the episode mixed up with something else. "Cyber Soldier Porygon" was old when these actors were asked about them (nine years when Ms. Blaustein was asked about it in 2006 and nineteen when Eric Stuart talked about it in 2016) and they had done hundreds, if not thousands, of episodes of television by that point in time. I don't think it's weird or inappropriate to suggest they were inadvertently mixing things up when they made their comments.

On the other hand, it's also possible actors like Veronica Taylor and Rachel Lillis are the ones mis-remembering what happened. They even admit as much in their respective comments. I've also seen some people claim Veronica Taylor is "backpedaling" in the video interview linked to above but I see her reticence to be less about her second guessing herself and more her not wanting to throw her colleague Eric Stuart under the bus. Showing professional courtesy and grace toward a former colleague by refusing to call him a liar is not the same thing as "backpedaling," now is it?

So what else is there? Well, there's the question of who would have paid for a hypothetical dub of the episode to be made, a major factor that we don't even have anything close to an answer for.

At this point, I think it's safe to say that all the evidence tells us that it's extremely, extremely unlikely that an English dub of "Cyber Soldier Porygon" ever existed. If any new evidence comes out that might change, but at this point? I think anything less than a full leak of the 4Kids dub episode itself is unlikely to be convincing.



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