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Recap / Pokémon S1E38 "Electric Soldier Porygon"

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Porygon is now Pory-gone from the anime.

Japanese Title: Electric Soldier Porygon

Original Airdate: December 16th, 1997

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Ash and his friends bring Pikachu to the Pokémon Center, where Nurse Joy is experiencing problems with the Poké Ball transporter. Dr. Akihabara, the system's inventor, is pondering over the cause of the issue, but suddenly runs out of the building without an explanation. The kids follow him to his laboratory, where he explains that Team Rocket entered the computer network with a prototype of the digital Pokémon Porygon, and are now stealing the Pokémon being sent through the network. The use of an antivirus program would prove lethal, so our heroes are given a Porygon of their own and are sent inside the system to capture Team Rocket.

Inside the computer system, a battle starts between the two groups, and both Porygon show off their unique abilities. Ash, Misty, and Brock begin to fix the blockade that is preventing Poké Balls from properly transferring, while Team Rocket and the prototype Porygon are sent blasting off. Back in the real world, however, a computer technician is using an antivirus program, unaware of why this is such a bad idea. The program, represented by an ambulance filled with vaccination needles, targets the people and Pokémon inside the system. Everyone tries to escape, but a powerful attack from the program nearly destroys Team Rocket before Ash has his Bulbasaur intervene. The heroes' Porygon carries everybody towards the exit that will take them back to the real world, and Pikachu launches an attack at the program in order to protect the group.

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Everyone makes it out of the network unharmed, but a last-minute antivirus attack on the exit has destroyed Dr. Akihabara's house. Team Rocket escapes without their Porygon, and Ash and his friends go back to the Pokémon Center before continuing on their travels. Nurse Joy confirms that the transporter system is working again, completely oblivious to the events that took place inside the computer.

Due to a flashing strobe effect used in one scene, nearly 700 viewers (primarily children) were taken to hospitals; a number of these people had experienced photosensitive epileptic seizures. More seizures occurred after news programs showed clips of the scene during reports on the event.

The reaction was swift and severe. The Pokémon anime was forced into a four-month hiatus, and this episode was never again broadcast in any part of the world. According to a post from Maddie Blaustein on Serebii.net, 4Kids Entertainment dubbed the episode, and toned down the flashing to make it safe, but were legally unable to air it. The strobe effect was a direct result of Pikachu's attack, but Porygon's starring role in the episode caused it to become associated with the incident. To this day, Porygon and its evolutionary relatives have never again appeared in the anime, outside of cameos in the fifteenth movie's opening sequence. (Although it was included in the American Pokérap.)

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More information about the "Pokémon Shock" incident (and its subsequent response by the Japanese media) can be found here and here.

Tropes

  • Blinding Camera Flash: This episode has been banned worldwide after airing only once in Japan. One particular scene of this episode had a series of flashing lights, which caused a total of approximately 685 Japanese children, 375 girls and 310 boys to be sent to the hospital with symptoms of epilepsy.
  • Computer Virus: Nurse Joy thinks there is one, but there isn't.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: The presence of this trope is the only thing most people know about this episode.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: People in the real world get to watch the antivirus' movement through the system.
  • Eye Catch: Who's that Pokémon? It's Porygon!
  • Hollywood Darkness: Misty claims that it's too dark to see inside of Dr. Akihabara's laboratory, but the visuals don't indicate this at all.
  • Identical Twin Id Tag: Team Rocket's Porygon (Unit Zero) has an "R" flag on its tail to distinguish it from Unit One.
  • Inside a Computer System: The majority of the episode takes place here.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Dr. Akihabara had multiple opportunities to tell Nurse Joy not to use an antivirus, which would have prevented the conflict of the episode's second half, but he never did.
  • The Scapegoat: A meta example—Porygon didn't cause the seizure-inducing light flashes, but took the blame simply for being the episode's featured Pokémon and thus has never had a major appearance since.
    • Some blame Pikachu for the seizures, and for the scapegoating of Porygon. But the truth is that the only ones who can truly be rightfully blamed are the animators who designed the afflicting scenes. Animation director Takayuki Shimura, who animated this episode, never used in the main series episodes since then.
  • Shout-Out: Ash, and Team Rocket called their Porygons, Unit One, and Unit Zero in a reference to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The existence of the Poké Ball transport system was well-established before this episode aired, and the end reveals that Dr. Akihabara had been building a similar device that would work on humans.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Team Rocket's Porygon just disappears, only guess is that it was left behind in the digital world?

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