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Recap / Electric Soldier Porygon

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Japanese Title: Electric Soldier Porygon

Original Airdate: December 16th, 1997

The one where... that Japanese cartoon causes seizures.

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.

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. The episode was banned worldwide after airing just once in Japan. According to a post from Maddie Blaustein on, 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.)

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


  • Body Uploading: The existence of the Poké Ball transport system, which teleports the physical item of a Pokeball, or at least the physical Pokémon inside it, 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.
  • 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. An extremely rapid red and blue flashing effect is actually consistently used throughout the entire episode as a cyberspace effect, however the infamous scene takes it up to eleven with a cut that fills the almost the entire screen with said flashing effect for several seconds followed by a very brief cut where the effect is the entire screen.
  • 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!
  • Guest-Star Party Member: Team Rocket have a Porygon in their employ for this one episode, and that's it.
  • 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. At one point he even has a video call with her while the main Pokémon Center tech support is in the room, and doesn't bother telling either of them why it's a stupid idea.
  • Pun-Based Title: Tying into why this episode was given almost a half-dozen titles by various Fansubs. While Electric is the simplest and most literal translation of "Den-no" ("Den" meaning electricity and "no" roughly meaning of), it can also mean Computer, A.I., or Cyber (since "no" also corresponds to the kanji for brain - "electric brain" being the literal meaning of the Japanese term for "computer").
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Dr. Akihabara somehow creates a Pokémon from code which can exist outside the virtual world... and is more focused on his transporter system?
  • Save the Villain: The first and (especially in light of Ash's other perma-banned adventure, where he casually drops a bomb in Team Rocket's lap) perhaps the most shining in the whole series: Ash goes out of his way to save Team Rocket from the anti-virus missiles, even at the risk of trapping himself and his friends in cyberspace. Fittingly, this is the first if not only episode where Team Rocket humbly thank him, then withdraw without a fight.
  • 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 worked on the main series again, and wouldn't work on another animated series until Tamagotchi.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Ash and Team Rocket called their Porygons, Unit One, and Unit Zero in a reference to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • Once it opens its wings, resembles the X-Wing starfighter from Star Wars.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The final 2 antivirus missiles manage to make it through the exit right after the gang... at the expense of Dr. Akihabara's lab.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Team Rocket's Porygon just disappears, only guess is that it was left behind in the digital world?