One episode of Pokemon was banned worldwide after only one airing. As most people already know, Pokemon is a series loved by millions of people all around the world. The show is so loved by viewers that it has been running for nearly 30 years, but not without the occasional controversy.
Though it is a show made for children, Pokemon has not always aired the most appropriate subject matter. However, the “Porygon” episode wasn’t pulled from viewing due to a subject matter issue. Instead, the episode was banned from showing due to a flashing light issue.
Early in the run of the anime, Pokemon was nearly canceled, following the airing of Episode 38 in Japan, which sent children to the hospital with seizures.
Episode 38 of the first season of Pokemon was originally titled “Computer Warrior Porygon,” or more commonly, “Electric Soldier Porygon”. Its one-time showing was on December 16, 1997.
The episode was only ever aired in Japan after the first showing of the episode landed more than 600 Japanese children in the hospital. Repetitive flashing blue and red lights during a battle scene (or two) proved to be intrusive enough to trigger seizures in hundreds of viewers.
Once it was discovered that the episode was causing this issue in children, it was immediately pulled from airing. In fact, Pokemon as a whole took a two-month hiatus from airing new episodes to focus on sorting out the problem. They also issued an official apology to children and their parents.
The episode begins with Pikachu needing somewhat of a spa day to recuperate, so Ash and his friends take him to a nearby Pokemon Center to rest. When they arrive, they discover that Nurse Joy is having trouble with the Pokemon transmitting device.
Porygon’s flashing eyes caused over 600 Japanese children to go to the hospital after viewing the Pokemon episode, forcing the series into a months-long hiatus.
Whenever she transfers a certain Pokemon, a different Pokemon shows up on the other side. Nurse Joy asks the children to look into the issue, and the team is off to talk to Professor Akihabara (the person who invented the transmitter).
The team learns from the Professor that Team Rocket has stolen his prototype Porygon (a special Pokemon that can exist in cyberspace), and they are using it to steal other people’s Pokemon from the transmitting system. Using his Dimension Transporter, the Professor sends Ash and his friends into cyberspace to locate and stop Team Rocket.
Other Pokemon episodes have been banned over the years, notably ones that feature Jinx.
Ash’s Porygon easily defeats Team Rocket’s Porygon, but Nurse Joy doesn’t know Ash and his friends are inside the system, and she sends an antivirus program to fight against the damage caused by Team Rocket. The antivirus subsequently causes problems for Ash and his buddies.
Pikachu tries to defeat the program with his Thunderbolt attack, but it only causes the foe to release four cyber missiles. The missiles caused an explosion of flashing lights that were part of the problem for the children viewing the episode.
Eventually, everyone escapes cyberspace unharmed, but the Professor’s house is completely destroyed by a few stray missiles that escape the computer. Ash responds to the Professor’s dismay with a cheeky statement, saying, “Try and make a safer system next time.”
One of the more interesting facts about this particular episode is that when the show ended, there was a preview for yet another banned episode. The actual Christmas special for that year was banned for its depiction of a Pokemon named Jynx.
The original animation of Jynx featured the character with a black face, and viewers didn’t take too kindly to the racial provocation. Jynx had to be altered for viewers in the U.S., but the Pokemon did eventually make it to air.
You can get a full listing of banned Pokemon episodes on Bulbapedia. In the meantime, you can enjoy all of the episodes in the first season that were approved for viewing streaming on Netflix. All 52 episodes of Pokemon: Indigo League are there for your enjoyment.