The Pokemon Company sparked backlash online on September 19 when they appeared to make a joke about a now-banned anime episode involving Porygon which caused multiple children in Japan to have seizures while watching it.
Pokemon made its debut in 1996, and quickly became a cultural phenomena. Kids and adults around the world became hooked by its addicting Nintendo RPGs, and obsessed with its animated series.
However in 1997, an episode of the anime reportedly caused hundreds of viewers watching live to have seizures in Japan. The Pokemon Company sparked backlash decades later when a tweet appeared to joke about the incident.
On December 16, 1997, a Pokemon episode titled ‘Cyber Soldier Porygon’ aired in Japan. In the story, protagonist Ash Ketchum encounters the digital monster Porygon. During the episode, a move by Pikachu caused the screen to quickly flash red and white.
The visuals reportedly caused hundreds of childrens in Japan to have seizures, and quickly became a worldwide news story. Because of the incident, Porygon was banned from the anime and had all mention of it scrubbed.
Over 22 years later on September 19, the official Pokemon Twitter account tweeted a joke which appeared to reference the banned episode. “Porygon did nothing wrong,” it read. The post was made a day before Porygon’s Pokemon Go Community Day event which the social media account was hyping up.
Porygon did nothing wrong.
— Pokémon (@Pokemon) September 19, 2020
The tweet quickly sparked backlash from players angry that the company would make light of the serious story. “Um yeah he did! He got millions of Japanese kids sick with seizures with the episode “Electric Soldier Porygon” which is why it was BANNED in the USA,” one Twitter user replied.
Many Pokemon fans called out the company for punishing Porygon all these years, when they argued it was actually Pikachu’s electric move that had caused the flashing colors on the screen. “It’s true. It’s actually Pikachu who was in the wrong,” someone exclaimed. Another user agreed, stating, “The true criminal is this one” while including a picture of the yellow mascot.
Not everyone bought that argument though. “And b4 some dumb fan says “well actually pikachu caused the flashing lights” it doesn’t change the facts that Porygon is associated with the episode that caused numerous seizure and ruined several kids childhood,” another fan wrote.
While the joke sparked a wave of backlash from the fandom, it’s not entirely clear whether The Pokemon Company was actually referencing the seizure episode. However, that is how many players took it.
All things aside, it’s taken decades for the beloved monster to finally get its due. Porygon has been overshadowed by the tragic incident for years. With the series’ creators defending the ‘mon, it looks like they may be more open to including the character again.