Cyber Soldier Porygon (でんのうせんしポリゴン) (commonly named as Electric Soldier Porygon) is the 38th episode of the Pokémon: Indigo League.
Its only broadcast was in Japan on December 16, 1997, and has not aired anywhere else since. This episode was infamous for causing over six hundred children in Japan to be sent to hospitals due to many illnesses such as epileptic seizures, eye irritation, and vomiting. It is strongly believed that the flashing strobe effect was the major cause of the illnesses. As a result, this episode has been stripped from the main canon of the series and has not re-broadcast on TV Tokyo's affiliate networks or released on VHS or DVD since.
Ash and his friends travel to Matcha City and find at the local Pokémon Center that there is something wrong with the Poké Ball transmitting device. To find out what's wrong, they must go inside the machine, where they meet a strange Pokémon named Porygon, who is the key to get Team Rocket (and themselves) out of the cyberspace.
Ash, Misty, Brock hurry to a Pokémon Center in Matcha City to heal Pikachu, who is worn out. When they get to the center, Nurse Joy is very frustrated because the Poké Ball Transporter isn't working. Every time she sends a Pokémon to another center, the Pokémon never arrives and its replaced by another Pokémon.
Dr. Akihabara, the inventor of the Pokémon Transport System, is at the center trying to figure out what went wrong. Brock says a virus may have gotten into the system, but Dr. Akihabara says that that's not possible because he designed the circuits so well. Ash, who is a bit confused, says that the computer could be sick. Nurse Joy has heard of an Anti-Virus Vaccine, a powerful device that fixes the problem. But, when Dr. Akihabara looks further into the system, he gasps and then quickly leaves the center.
Ash and his friends go to Dr. Akihabara's huge mansion to find out what happened to him. Inside, the doctor leads them into a room with a giant machine in it. Dr. Akihabara orders them to enter the machine and when Ash and his friends do, Dr. Akihabara tells them they have entered the Human Transporter only after he has locked the door. A Porygon appears before Ash and his friends and the doctor introduces them to Porygon. He explains that Team Rocket has stolen his other Porygon and are blocking the Poké Ball Transporter, keeping all of the Pokémon for themselves. Dr. Akihabara can't send in the Anti Virus Vaccine because there are people inside the machine. He asks Ash and his friends to go into the transporter and get Team Rocket out. They refuse but Dr. Akihabara sucks Ash, his friends, and Porygon into cyberspace anyway.
Ash and his friends fall into cyberspace, but Porygon grows in size, flies over, and catches them. Riding on Porygon, they fly over to Team Rocket. Team Rocket is celebrating over what they have done, claiming they have gone where no human has before. Just as they say no one will catch them, Porygon flies over and Team Rocket challenges them to a battle. Jessie and James send out Arbok and Weezing. Weezing uses Poison Gas on Porygon, making Ash and his friends cough. Porygon uses Conversion and its skin turns purple. Porygon charges, with Ash and his friends still riding it, at Arbok and Weezing, knocking them out of the battle.
Team Rocket sends out their Porygon, which looks like Dr. Akihabara's Porygon except it has a flag with an R on its tail and a 0 on its forehead. Team Rocket's Porygon uses Sharpen to gives itself a swordlike beak and it tries to attack Dr. Akihabara's Porygon. Ash and his friends use the barrier Team Rocket made to hold back all of the Poké Balls from the Pokémon Centers to attack Team Rocket. Porygon sends Team Rocket and their Porygon blasting off again.
Then, a T.V. appears and Dr. Akihabara's picture appears on it. He says that Nurse Joy hired another technician to put the Anti Virus Program in the computer. In his hurry, Dr. Akihabara forgot to tell Nurse Joy that there are people inside the computer. As the vaccine tries to hurt Ash and his friends, Porygon gets them on its back and tries to fly into the air to escape. From the ground, Team Rocket yells at Ash for running away from the battle. Ash tells them to run away from the vaccine. The vaccine destroys the rest of the Poké Ball barrier in flashing blue and red explosions. Meowth and their Porygon rescue Jessie and James from the sea of Poké Balls and they join Dr. Akihabara's Porygon to escape.
The vaccine transforms into a spaceship and chases after them. Inside the Pokémon Center, Nurse Joy and the technician are surprised by the resistance of the "virus" and they command the vaccine to use a powerful attack. The virus locks onto Team Rocket's Porygon, fires a laser beam at them, and sends Team Rocket into a cyberspace hole the vaccine made. Ash and his friends cover their eyes from the blinding red and blue light. The cyberspace bug holes cause a system error and Nurse Joy tells the technician not to use the attack again.
Team Rocket, lying at the bottom of a bug hole, realize that their Porygon is knocked out and they can't escape. Just as the vaccine is about to fire a laser beam at Team Rocket, Bulbasaur saves them. The weight of Team Rocket slows down Porygon as they head to the exit hole. The vaccine fires missiles at Porygon and Porygon is so tired that it can't defend itself. Pikachu uses a huge electric attack that destroys the missiles in a red and blue explosion. Porygon has enough time to reach the exit hole just before the vaccine fires more missiles, destroying Dr. Akihabara's mansion.
Ash and his friends are happy to be back in the real world. Team Rocket thanks them and when they leave, they forget about their Porygon. Ash and his friends go back to the center to see if the system is working again. It is and Nurse Joy is very happy, unaware Ash and his friends risked their lives to fix it. Ash decides it would be best not to tell Nurse Joy that they were in the system.
- "Who's that Pokémon?:" Porygon (unaired outside of Japan)
- According to Maddie Blaustein on the Serebii forums, 4Kids did dub this episode. Eric Stuart also stated in 2016 that the episode was dubbed. Contradicting these statements, Veronica Taylor has said in an interview that they never dubbed it and would never be dubbing it.
- There are also indicators that 4Kids never received this episode, as the versions received by 4Kids were from the post-Porygon incident edits, and the series dubbing did not start until after this incident, whereas the official Pokémon websites, including an old version of the English one that lists all the episodes banned in the dub, do not list it as "episode 38", in order to treat this episode as non-existent. Further supporting this, the footage shown in the Pokérap for Porygon was not from the episode, it was artwork with a background behind it, whereas footage from the 35th episode of the series was used for some Pokémon, including Tauros, even though it wasn't dubbed. Finally, the dub's "Who's that Pokémon?" segment for A Way Off Day Off uses a different voice for Porygon from this episode, even though its Japanese and English names are the same, indicating that they never had access to the original Japanese audio for its voice.
- The episode is infamous for using visual effects that caused seizures in a number of Japanese viewers, an incident known as the "Pokémon Shock" (ポケモンショック Pokemon Shokku, or sometimes also called the Porygon Shock ポリゴンショック Porigon Shokku) by the Japanese press. 685 viewers were taken to hospitals soon after the scene was shown at 6:51 PM JST, but only two people remained hospitalized for more than two weeks. Due to this, the episode has been banned worldwide and TV Tokyo puts warning labels on their Thursday evening anime series telling people not to sit too close to their TV screen and to watch in a brightly lit room.
- After the shock, the Pokémon anime went on hold for four months, and it returned on TV Tokyo in April 1998. Because of this, Porygon2 and Porygon-Z have never appeared in the anime by a bad flash.
- This episode also infamously holds the Guinness world record for most Photosensitive Epileptic Seizures Caused by a TV show.
- As such, when the anime series came to Hulu Japan, Hulu did not post this episode in their archive and there is a note saying "Season 1, Episode 38 is not available in accordance to our company intentions." Since all episodes (excluding episode 1) on Hulu are based on their initial broadcast on TV Tokyo, the previous episode did show a preview of this one despite being banned. This episode is also not listed on the official website unlike The Legend of Dratini, which is still listed there as it was not banned in Japan, unlike this episode.
- Similarly, other sources such as the episode guide on the official Pokémon website and the old version of the English version Pokémon website, listing all episodes including banned ones in the dub, fail to recognize this episode. Numbering such as the one on Kids Station's upcoming rerun scheduling and the series listing on Amazon, however skip from 37 to 39 to recognize that this episode is missing, thus recognizing this episode's existence, even though it is never shown, and Netflix also skips from episode 37 to episode 39 the same way. Kids Station and Amazon Prime, however, replaced the preview at the end of the previous episode with the one for Pikachu's Goodbye in its place.
- The preview at the end of the previous episode was not changed to Pikachu's Goodbye in the Chinese dub version unlike the Kids Station reruns of Ditto's Mysterious Mansion in Japan, and this episode's preview was left in and dubbed (with this episode officially titled 電腦戰士3D龍), even though this episode was not aired in Chinese. It is unknown if a Chinese dub was actually produced for this episode itself, however.
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