Pokémon "Computer Warrior Porygon" (lost unaired English dub of anime episode; existence unconfirmed; 1998)
Screenshot from one of the seizure inducing scenes.
On December 16th, 1997, "Dennō Senshi Porygon" (translated in English as "Computer Warrior Porygon", but more well known as "Electric Soldier Porygon"), the 38th episode of season one of the Pokémon anime, aired in Japan.
Plot and Controversy
The episode centered around Ash (known as Satoshi in the Japanese dub) and his friends literally going inside an out-of-order Poké Ball transmitting device at a local Pokémon Center to determine the cause of its malfunctioning. They find out Team Rocket is behind the "malfunction" and are using the machine to steal other trainers' Pokémon, including one of Professor Akihabara's Porygons.
The episode is infamous, however, for a particular scene about halfway through the episode. As the group is combating Team Rocket, an anti-virus program is sent into the device by Nurse Joy to combat what she believed to be a computer virus. When Pikachu attacks the program with Thunderbolt, it causes a huge explosion that takes up most of the screen and flashes red and blue very quickly.
The scene caused over 10,000 viewers to experience things such as blurred vision, nausea, headaches, and dizziness in minor cases, and convulsions, loss of consciousness, blindness, and seizures in more severe cases. Japan's Fire Defense Agency reported that 685 children ended up being sent to the hospital by ambulances due to their seizures. While most of these children recovered during the trip, more than 150 of them had to stay in the hospitals, with two having to stay for over two weeks.
After the episode's premiere, the show went on a four-month hiatus, and "Dennō Senshi Porygon" was banned from re-airing anywhere. The incident also prompted the creators to edit any previous episodes that featured flashing lights and tone down the flash frequency, despite no reports of seizures or similar conditions for those episodes. Porygon also never appeared in any other episodes minus minor cameos.
Existence and Availability of English Dub
While the original Japanese dub of the episode has been unofficially released online, an English dub of the episode has not surfaced at all. While the existence of the dub has been questioned, it has been confirmed by two actors on the show to exist.
In an online Q&A with the late voice actress Maddie Blaustein (who voiced Meowth in the English dub), she stated that 4Kids had produced and completed a dub of the episode (with the seizure-inducing flashes likely edited out), but, due to the previously imposed ban on the episode, it was still not allowed to go to air, and as such, has never been heard/seen by the public. Eric Stuart (Brock and James' English voice actor) later confirmed in an interview at Ramecon 2016 that it was dubbed and he had seen it. Veronica Taylor (Ash's English voice actor), however, claimed in a 2004 interview that they never dubbed the episode and that it will never be dubbed. How Eric and Maddie could have seen and dubbed the episode but not Veronica is unknown, although the announcement that the episode was banned may have come before Veronica was able to dub Ash's lines. She may have also been afraid that if she said a dub happened, that she would get in trouble with 4Kids.
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- Washington.edu article on the incident. Retrieved 22 Jun '17
- A streaming copy of the original dub. WARNING: DO NOT WATCH IF YOU ARE PRONE TO OR HAVE A HISTORY OF EPILEPSY. Retrieved 29 May '13
- 2008 Q&A with the late Maddie Blaustein. Retrieved 29 May '13
- Ramecon 2016 interview of Eric Stuart. Retrieved 05 May '17
- 2004 interview with Veronica Taylor. Retrieved 22 Jun '17