|This article is about an episode of the Pokémon anime that has not been dubbed into English. As such, its coverage may contain romanized Japanese names, rather than dub names.|
(Japanese: でんのうせんしポリゴン Computer Warrior Porygon, commonly Electric Soldier Porygon) is the 38th episode of the Pokémon anime. It was first broadcast in Japan on December 16, 1997. The episode is infamous for resulting in over seven hundred Japanese people (ranging from 3-58 years old) suffering adverse health effects, including epileptic seizures, vomiting, irritated eyes and other related symptoms, due to use of a flashing strobe effect upon its first and only airing. Because of that, this episode was never commercially released or re-broadcast anywhere in the world, and the show went on hiatus for four months.
The frames which caused the seizures are a four-second section in which Pikachu uses an Electric attack on a group of vaccine missiles. The explosion—which occupies a significant portion of the frame—flashes brightly and alternates rapidly between red and blue. The seizures caused by this episode resulted in OLM dropping strobe effects from Pikachu's electric attacks. For years following the incident, a disclaimer was broadcast at the beginning of all Japanese television shows, cautioning viewers not to sit too close to the television screen and to watch only in a brightly-lit room. (「テレビアニメを見るときには、部屋をあかるくして近づきすぎないようにしてみてくださいね。」)
Ash and his friends make their way to the nearest Pokémon Center in Matcha City in order to revive Ash's tired Pikachu. There, they meet a distressed Nurse Joy, who reveals that the Poké Ball transporter has been problematic — the Pokémon she sends never arrives at another Pokémon Center, and it was replaced by a different Pokémon. Dr. Akihabara, the inventor of the Pokémon Transport System, is at the Center trying to figure out what went wrong with the system. Brock suggests that a computer virus could be the source of the problem. Akihabara explains that the system couldn't have been infected with a virus because he designed the circuits so well. Ash confuses his explanation of a computer virus with a biological one and thinks the transport system is actually sick. Joy is told by Brock about an antivirus, which is a powerful software made to fix the problem. However, upon further investigation into the system, Akihabara unexpectedly gasps and suddenly bolts out of the Center, leaving Joy and the others confused.
Ash and his friends break into Akihabara's huge laboratory mansion to figure out what happened to him. Inside, they are startled by a giant holographic image of Akihabara's head. Ash and his friends are led into a room with a giant machine. The doctor orders them to enter the machine, only telling them that they have entered a giant Human Transporter after he has sealed and locked the door. Akihabara then introduces the group to a Porygon and explains that Team Rocket has stolen his other prototype Porygon, and are causing havoc. Team Rocket is literally inside the system and have set up a virus blocking the Poké Balls from reaching the Pokémon Centers and keeping them for themselves. Akihabara can't send the antivirus in there because it would kill them, so he decided to send Ash and his friends into the machine with Porygon to defeat Team Rocket. They refuse, but Akihabara starts the Human Transporter and the kids are eventually sucked into cyberspace.
The group falls into the Transporter system, but Porygon flies beneath them, grows in size, and catches them. Riding on Porygon's back, Ash and his friends go over to confront Team Rocket, who are celebrating the success of their virus, which looks like a roadblock sign. Jessie and James send out Arbok and Weezing; Weezing uses Poison Gas on them, making Ash and his friends cough. Then, Porygon regains composure and uses Conversion; its skin color becomes purple, like Weezing's. Porygon then charges, with the group still riding it, right into Weezing and Arbok, effectively knocking them out.
Jessie decides to send their prototype Porygon out next, which looks similar to Akihabara's Porygon, except that it bears a "R" flag on its tail and a zero on its forehead. Jessie's Porygon changes the shape of its head to give itself a sword-like beak and tries to attack the other Porygon, who has also changed shape to counter it. Ash and his friends decide to capitalize on the distraction to move the barrier Team Rocket built to hold back all of the Poké Balls that were intended to be delivered to the Pokémon Centers. Team's Rocket's attempt to stop them is stopped by Pikachu's Thunder Shock, and Akihabara's Porygon sends them and the prototype Porygon blasting off.
Despite this, Akihabara, represented by a floating TV screen, warns them that Nurse Joy has followed Brock's instructions and hired another technician to put the antivirus program into the computer; and it indiscriminately targets everything and anything, including Team Rocket, Ash, and his friends. Trying to fix the problem himself, the doctor did not tell Joy about Team Rocket. As the antivirus targets the group, Porygon gathers Ash and his friends to attempt an escape. From the ground, Team Rocket calls Ash out for running away, but are corrected by Ash when he tells them to run from the antivirus. The antivirus then launches a few rockets that destroy the remainder of the Poké Ball barrier, thus destroying the virus. However, the vaccine keeps going! Meowth and the prototype Porygon rescue a panicking Jessie and James from the moving sea of Poké Balls and join Akihabara's Porygon in an attempt to escape.
The vaccine transforms into an object that resembles a flying spaceship and takes pursuit. It launches more missiles that both of the Porygon dodge with difficulty. Inside the Center, Nurse Joy and the technician command the antivirus to unleash a powerful attack. Revealing a gigantic particle gun, it locks onto the prototype Porygon and fires a huge beam, sending Team Rocket downward into a cyberspace bug hole created by the powerful attack. The bug holes created by the antivirus's beam cause a system error, and Joy orders the technician not to use the attack again.
Team Rocket awakens at the bottom of one of the bug pits, and they realize that their Porygon is knocked out and that they cannot escape. The flying antivirus locks onto them again, but Bulbasaur's Vine Whip intervenes. Held onto Akihabara's Porygon by Bulbasaur, Team Rocket weighs Porygon down and slows its progress toward the exit portal. The antivirus locks onto Akihabara's Porygon and fires four more missiles, which it is unable to dodge. Pikachu steps in and launches a destructive Electric attack, detonating two of the missiles and giving Porygon just enough time to escape through the exit portal. The next two missiles hit the portal itself, destroying Akihabara's entire house, much to Akihabara's dismay, as his Human Transporter is now in pieces.
In the remains of the mansion, Ash and his friends are relieved to be back in the real world. Team Rocket spitefully thanks Ash for saving them and then quickly leaves, forgetting their prototype Porygon. Ash and his friends then decide to check in on the Pokémon Center. Nurse Joy is relieved to see the Transport system working again, oblivious to the fact that Ash and his friends risked their lives to fix the system. Ultimately, Ash and his friends decide not to tell Joy of the whole ordeal.
- For a list of all major events in the anime, please see the history page.
- Pikachu (Ash's)
- Meowth (Team Rocket)
- Bulbasaur (Ash's)
- Psyduck (Misty's)
- Arbok (Jessie's)
- Porygon (Jessie's; new; leaves; Japanese debut)
- Weezing (James's)
- Porygon (Dr. Akihabara's; Japanese debut)
- Ninetales (flashback; Japanese debut)
- Magikarp (flashback)
After the hiatus, the show moved from Tuesday to Thursday, where it remained until 2018. The original schedule was as follows:
Code English title Japanese title Planned broadcast Actual broadcast * Holiday Hi-Jynx ルージュラのクリスマス December 23, 1997 October 5, 1998 * Snow Way Out! イワークでビバーク — October 5, 1998 EP040 The Battling Eevee Brothers イーブイ４きょうだい January 6, 1998 April 16, 1998 EP041 Wake Up, Snorlax! おきろ！カビゴン！ January 13, 1998 April 23, 1998 EP042 Showdown at Dark City たいけつ！ポケモンジム！ January 20, 1998 April 30, 1998 EP043 March of the Exeggutor Squad ナッシーぐんだんだいこうしん！ January 27, 1998 May 7, 1998 EP044 The Problem with Paras パラスとパラセクト February 3, 1998 May 14, 1998 EP052 Princess vs. Princess げきとう！ポケモンひなまつり March 3, 1998 July 9, 1998 EP053 The Purr-fect Hero こどものひだよ！ぜんいんしゅうごう！ May 5, 1998 July 9, 1998
In the wake of the incident, all references to Pokémon, including a New Year's Eve show celebrating Pokémon, were removed from TV Tokyo's programming.
The incident caused by the episode was coined by the Japanese press as the Pokémon Shock. Before the series restarted, a special report was aired on April 11, 1998, titled Anime: Pocket Monsters Problem Inspection Report. In addition, an explanation aimed for children was shown on the first episode after the incident. However, it has been known some children faked seizures to skip school the next day. Every Pokémon episode that aired up until this episode, including the opening, was edited by lighting certain scenes, removing or changing fast-flashing scenes and more. The original version of the episodes have never been shown again, except by mistake on Hulu Japan. The resulting hiatus also impacted the production of Mewtwo Strikes Back, leading to the creation of a prologue explaining Mewtwo's backstory, as the episodes foreshadowing its appearance were delayed to beyond the movie's airdate.
To avoid further controversy involving the episode's central plot, Porygon has never had an important role in another episode since, despite Pikachu being the one to cause the seizure-inducing explosion. Porygon's evolved forms, Porygon2 and Porygon-Z, also remained absent from the anime until the fifteenth movie, and even then only appeared in cameo roles. Porygon itself has also made cameo appearances in the first four films and A Chansey Operation. As an indirect result, its signature move Conversion has never been used in the anime since, and its later-introduced signature move, Conversion 2, has not been seen in the anime at all.
The seizures caused from this episode have infamously made the Pokémon anime a frequent reference when discussing Japanese anime and its quick action and flashy effects. Numerous television shows and movies have made parodies with notable references by The Simpsons in the episode "Thirty Minutes over Tokyo" (as "Battling Seizure Robots" which gives the entire family seizures) and South Park in the episode "Chinpokomon".
This episode also gave the Pokémon anime the infamous title of "Most Photosensitive Epileptic Seizures Caused by a Television Show" from The Guinness Book of World Records.
On September 19, 2020, the official Pokémon Twitter account posted a tweet that read "Porygon did nothing wrong", likely as a reference to this episode, and modern consensus that Porygon was a scapegoat due to Pikachu being the franchise's mascot. The tweet has since been deleted.
On May 21 and 26, 2006, Maddie Blaustein said on the Serebii.net forum that 4Kids Entertainment did indeed dub this episode, although the validity of this statement has been questioned. On September 23, 2016, Eric Stuart also said that they did dub the episode. Veronica Taylor, on the other hand, initially claimed they never dubbed the episode, before saying on March 30, 2018, that she was actually unaware at the time as to whether it was dubbed or not, and that Stuart would know more about it being one of the voice directors of the anime at the time. Rachael Lillis also said she was unaware as to whether or not the episode was dubbed since decisions were made before it would be.
The rumor about the existence of an English dub of this episode actually predates Blaustein's word. For example, the first answer Blaustein gave about this episode was a direct response to a user who mentioned reading on Wikipedia about the episode being dubbed: the line "4Kids Entertainment has actually dubbed Computer Soldier Porygon even though it didn't air" was added to the Wikipedia article currently titled Pokémon episodes removed from rotation on March 15, 2006, and Bulbapedia was used as the source. When this Bulbapedia article was created on February 27, 2005, it had the line "4 Kids Entertainment have dubbed this episode and reduced the speed and intensity of the flashing explosion to make it safe, but the episode has still never been shown". The line has been without a source until October 28, 2007, when "According to Maddie Blaustein" was added at the beginning of the line. Contrary to rumors, neither Blaustein nor Stuart said 4Kids reduced the speed and intensity of the flashing explosion to make it safe for viewing.
- Fantasy in My Pocket replaces Meowth's Song as the Japanese ending theme.
- Akihabara, the name of the professor, is also the name of a famous electronics district in Tokyo.
- Jessie and Ash refer to the two Porygon as 零号機 zero-gōki and 初号機 sho-gōki, respectively—a likely reference to Evangelion Units 00 and 01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- This is the only aired episode of the anime to be banned worldwide.
- This episode was skipped in the comic adaptation Pocket Monsters Film Comic and the companion book TV Anime Pocket Monsters Big Bite Book. However, the missing episode is acknowledged by the numbering of the other summaries (it skips from 37 to 39).
- After Pikachu attempts to shock the floating head, Misty's hair has a darker shade.
- While the two Porygon fight, one of Misty's shoes is discolored green.
- When everyone first arrives back in the real world, Porygon is seemingly floating in midair above Misty's head; however, one cut later, it is between Misty and Brock.
In other languages
|Mandarin Chinese||電腦戰士3D龍 / 电脑战士3D龙*|
- Cartoon-based illness mystifies Japan
- Pokemon Twitter deletes Porygon Tweet: Controversy and History
- Ask Maddie Blaustein - Q&A with Meowth
- ポケモンショック Pokémon Shock and The Whole Story
- Interview with Veronica Taylor
- Veronica Taylor interview (Part 2)
- Drew Scott Hemmerich: Rachael Lillis' answer to the infamous banned Pokemon episode
- Neuroscience for kids - Pokémon on the brain
- Footage of one of the news reports
- Neurology report from 1999
- Dennō Senshi Porygon on Wikipedia