The 38th episode of the famous Japanese animated series "Pokemon" is especially famous due to the fact that after watching it, 685 Japanese children aged 3 years and older were hospitalized with symptoms resembling an epileptic seizure.
On December 16, 1997, at 6:30 pm Japanese Standard Time, the Dennou Senshi Porygon (literally "Electronic Warrior Porygon") episode aired on over 37 TV stations across the country. It should be noted that "Pokemon" had the highest rating among all other programs in its timeslot: the cartoon was watched in approximately 4.6 million homes.
According to the plot of the series, the main characters find themselves inside the computer, where they have to destroy a dangerous virus. At about the twentieth minute of the episode, in the scene where Pikachu uses "Lightning Strike" on the antivirus, an explosion occurred in the plot - this explosion was accompanied by a very quick change of two contrasting colors - red and blue. Such explosions were found in many other cartoons, but this one was especially intense and bright; the flashes flickered at a frequency of about 12 Hz and occupied almost the entire screen for 4 seconds, and then for 2 seconds - the entire screen.
After this scene, the children began to complain of blurred vision, headache, dizziness and nausea. For several people, the consequences were even more severe: they had convulsions and convulsions, they complained of blindness and lost consciousness. 685 children were hospitalized (375 girls and 310 boys). Most of them recovered on their way to the hospital, but more than 150 were received by doctors, and two spectators spent more than two weeks in the hospital. The number of casualties increased after the morning replay of the episode, as well as a partial replay of the cartoon scene in the news, but the exact number of victims has not been established.
The management of TV Tokyo, which showed the "epileptic" episode, stopped showing the cartoon, apologized to its viewers and promised to investigate the reasons for such a reaction. Police interrogated the show's producers, videotape distributors across the country removed it from their stores, and the health ministry gathered for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the issue with doctors and specialists. The commission to investigate the incident was chaired by Toshio Yamauchi, a professor at the Saitama Medical College. It was found that the cause of the seizures was the so-called photosensitive epilepsy, which was provoked by bright color flashes; in most of the victims, who had not previously responded to flickering, the disease first manifested itself precisely while watching Pokemon, and small apartments and large TV screens aggravated the reaction.
The reaction of some people to a sharp change in colors and bright flashes has been known for a long time, but in the case of Pokémon, the number of victims has reached an unprecedented level. Due to the large number of victims, the series entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2004 (as well as its 2008 reprint, which focused on video games) as the cartoon that caused the largest number of seizures among its viewers due to photosensitive epilepsy. To prevent such incidents, severe medical restrictions on the frequency of flickering have been imposed on TV program producers. However, American researchers argued that only a small fraction of those affected actually suffered from photosensitive epilepsy.
Subsequently, it turned out that 5-10% of all spectators showed mild symptoms of malaise, which did not require hospitalization. In total, more than 12, 000 children reported problems, but the researchers were skeptical about their testimony and were inclined to believe that such a large number of victims was no longer due to the direct influence of the cartoon, but to the mass hysteria around it. As evidence, the fact was cited that the symptoms manifested in sick viewers are more characteristic of hysteria than for an epileptic seizure, and at the same time, on the day of the show, the number of victims was stable at around 700 people, but the next morning, thanks to the news, the number the number of cases increased by an order of magnitude.
Excerpt from Episode 38 "Pokemon" that caused epilepsy in children
The 38th Pokémon episode was no longer shown in any country. In the US, 4Kids Entertainment dubbed the episode and re-edited it to slow down the flickering of the flashes, but never showed it on television. To make society quickly forget about the incident, the creators of the anime removed references to the Pokemon Porygon and its evolutionary variants from all subsequent episodes.
The Pokémon show was resumed on April 16, 1998, 4 months after the incident. According to the representative of TV Tokyo Hiroshi Uramoto, during this time the channel received four thousand calls from viewers, 70% of which asked to return the series to the air as soon as possible.
To make everyone forget about this incident as soon as possible, the creators of the series decided that Pokemon Porygon would no longer appear in the anime series, which meant that the developed forms of Porygon, Porygon 2 and Porygon Z did not appear in the anime at all. Some scenes in the opening cutscene " Pokémon "were re-edited, the broadcast time was changed, and before the start of the show, the audience was shown the" Report on the investigation of the problem of the anime "Pokémon" "with recommendations for watching TV.