Pokémon — sanctuary of innocence, realm of endless progression and adventure to all millennials and onward. Right? Well, not exactly. As it turns out, people tend to find a good enough reason to ban anything in the world, even Pokémon. Even several episodes of Pokémon. The sheer number of banned Pokémon episodes boggles the mind. One would certainly not think there would be enough content to fill up a 15-entry list. As kids, watching Ash do his thing in Kanto, Johto, and beyond, we don’t remember ever bringing up concerns over political-correctness in any of the episodes of the Pokémon anime that passed through our star-speckled retinas. Apparently, as kids, we didn’t know jack s*** about the world.
In researching this article, we discovered that there were several reasons why so many of these episodes got banned. Some of them are fully justified (like when Porygon unleashed a beam blast that literally stunned hundreds of Japanese kids into near-epileptic states), some are lukewarm at best (banning an episode for portraying a battle of the sexes is lukewarm at absolute best), and others are just stupid (oh, Jynx is racist, is she? Really?).
At the end of it all, we find it fascinating that a thing as seemingly innocent, childlike, and playful as the Pokémon show can inspire such appalment from across so many oceans. Really, it’s not that serious (except when Porygon zaps little kids’ eyes out, that is not cool), but we have no choice but to respect people’s right to be put off by a piece of fiction. We guess. Anyway, here are a few episodes of Pokémon that were banned from rotation.
15. Computer Warrior Porygon
This is perhaps the most well-known Pokémon show ban of all time, mostly due to the actual, tangible health hazards that it produced and the worldwide controversy that followed. Known popularly as the “seizure episode,” Computer Warrior Porygon aired only once in Japan. The scene that caused the ban contained a series of incredibly bright flashing lights that seriously harmed the vision of its viewers. In fact, in Japan, a reported 685 children (of which 375 were girls and 310 were boys) had to be sent to the hospital, since they were experiencing some symptoms of epilepsy. The anime ended up going on hiatus for four months following the widespread backlash, and the show’s producers dimmed the lighting in all previous episodes as a result. Porygon, the Pokémon that produced the violent light show, and both of its evolutions, Porygon2 and Porygon-Z, have not made any appearance in the anime since this episode was aired.
14. The Legend Of Miniryu
This episode was banned in the English dub, and the reason for the ban was quite understandable. In the episode, the warden of the Safari Zone points a loaded handgun right at our hero Ash’s head. Later on in the episode, that same warden actually shoots the gun right at Team Rocket! While the Pokémon anime did have its fair share of dark moments, actual gun violence was not expected by any of its viewers, and certainly not by the people responsible for rating and censoring the show. So, due to the United States’ views on guns in relation to kid’s shows, the episode was banned. This ban actually lead to some continuity errors; Ash captured 30 Tauros in the episode, leading to some confusion among viewers as to the event where Ash actually caught the Tauros. Due to this ban, viewers who only watched the English dub of the Pokémon anime were vastly unaware that the Safari Zone even existed.
13. The Ice Cave!
Out of all the Pokémon in the original roster of 151, as well as the rosters featured in the future generations of Pokémon, we doubt that there has ever been a creature quite as controversial as Jynx. Although she looks quite grotesque, awkward, and creepy in her own right, that’s not exactly the reason why she’s the source of so much controversy. Jynx’s original design featured her with jet-black skin, which lead many people to believe that the Pokémon designers were making some sort of sideways reference to black people, or white people wearing black face. We happen to be of the opinion that this was a sorely misguided mass assumption, and that the good folks at the Pokémon headquarters were just designing a jet-black, horrifying glam queen. Regardless, Jynx was redesigned to have purple skin in order to quell the controversy. The Ice Cave!, however, did not feature Jynx with her new, politically correct skin tone, so it was banned in the English dub.
12. Beauty and the Beach
There are a few reasons why this strange episode of the Pokémon anime was banned. One of the more obvious causes of the ban is its title; many people reading it could easily see how it could be interpreted as Beauty and the… Female Dog, or something like that. For that reason, the episode was banned from the United States circuit. However, there are also a few questionable scenes featured in Beauty and the Beach. One of these is a scene in which James wore some sort of body suit that gave him the appearance of bearing large breasts so that he could win a beauty contest. In another scene, and only in the original Japanese version, there is an old man who is staring at Misty’s breasts, and he eventually says that he would be looking forward to having some variation of “fun” with her in a few years. Yikes!
11. Tentacool & Tentacruel
This episode featured clear innocence on the part of the Pokémon anime’s writers, but the simple fact in this case is that the episode was scheduled to be broadcast to American audiences at a very unfortunate time, so the ban is completely understandable. This episode was removed from U.S. rotation following the events of September 11. During the months that followed the event, Kids’ WB!, the company responsible for broadcasting the Pokémon anime to United States audiences, took a firm stand and refused to air the episode, due to the fact that it featured the destruction of several buildings, not to mention the use of machine guns. A particularly sensitive scene featured Tentacruel destroying a skyscraper. Of course, writers of fiction are allowed to make their monsters destroy whatever buildings they want, but it’s easy to see why Kids’ WB! did not like the idea of exposing their audience to such a format of destruction so shortly after such a devastating real like event.
10. Holiday Hi-Jynx
Once again, our unfortunately proportioned friend Jynx is the main source of controversy here. The actual ambassador of that controversy is a writer named Carole Boston Weatherford, who wrote a strongly opinionated article on Jynx after Holiday Hi-Jynx aired in the United Staes. In the article, Weatherford paints Jynx as a negative stereotype of African-American culture, which began a widespread conversation that lead to the episode being pulled from rotation, and from Jynx having to change her skin tone from jet-black to purple in order to be seen by large audiences without perpetuating some form of racism. Weatherford also had some criticism of the Dragon Ball franchise, where she believed that the character of Mr. Popo also cast black people in a negative light. We wish that Weatherford would spend more of her writing time on poetry and fiction of her own, instead of putting fantastical, imaginary characters under heavy-handed, real world scrutiny.
9. Stage Fight!
In this episode, our heroic trio of the time period, which consisted of Ash, Misty, and Tracey, bought tickets to attend the Pokémon Showboat, which is a lovely carnival wherein Pokémon actually speak human words and perform wonderful plays. The plot of the episode features a particular actress who performs in the plays. She has been having some issues with her beloved Raichu since early on in their relationship, which has been a shocking one throughout, to say the least. Ash and Pikachu, being the good samaritans that they are, endeavor to help this poor actress through her struggles. Of course, they’ll have to deal with Team Rocket at some point, who never tire in their efforts to steal all the Pokémon they can. Sounds like a pretty run-of-the-mill episode of Pokémon, don’t you think? Well, it featured a small cameo by Jynx, so of course it was banned on several platforms in the U.S. and India. Thanks again, miss Weatherford.
8. The Mandarin Island Miss Match
Another episode of the Orange Islands saga, this one also features Ash, Misty, and Tracey. This time, the three find themselves on Mandarin Island, and Ash has just won three Pokémon battles in a row. However, his real challenge approaches him in the form of Prima, who is considered one of the greatest trainers on all the Orange Islands. Since Prima is a fellow trainer of Water-type Pokémon, Misty immediately fangirls out as soon as she meets her. As it turns out, Prima also has some insight to offer Ash as a fellow talented Pokémon trainer. Eventually, she sets him deeper on his course for a shot at yet another Orange League badge. Once again, this sounds like a pretty casual Pokémon episode. So, why was it banned from airing in the U.S. and India? Any guesses? That’s right, Jynx is the reason for the controversy here yet again. So, again, we thank the lovely miss Weatherford for being so vocal about her strong opinions.
7. Shaking Island Battle!
This episode was the victim of unfortunate timing and, by sheer chance, its content reflected badly on real-life events that occurred in Japan at the time. Scheduled to be broadcast on November 4, 2004, this episode was never aired due to the horrific earthquake that struck Japan. Shaking Island Battle! actually featured earthquakes prominently in its plot line, so broadcasters endeavored to pull it from rotation, believing the content would be insensitive to viewers if it was aired so closely to the catastrophic natural event. Furthermore, all earthquake-related moves like Earthquake, Fissure, and Magnitude were banned from airing for the same reason. Shaking Island Battle! would have featured the debut of the Pokémon Barboach. However, since it was never seen by the masses, Barboach instead debuted in The Great Eight Fate!, in a comparatively supporting role. Who lost the most from this ban? Poor Barboach did, of course.
6. Challenge of the Samurai
Challenge of the Samurai is actually the fourth episode of the entire Pokémon franchise. It prominently features Ash and Misty as they continue to venture through Viridian Forest. Eventually, they spot a Weedle, to Ash’s bloodthirsty delight and Misty’s sheer disgust. She never liked Bug Pokémon, as we all know. As Ash is battling this needle-headed monstrosity, a boy dressed as a samurai (who actually refers to himself as Samurai) challenges Ash to a battle, and Ash eagerly agrees. Eventually, a swarm of Beedrill interrupt the battle (an iconic one featuring Samurai’s Pinsir against Ash’s Metapod), and of course, our heroes have to deal with Team Rocket at some point. It was a great episode, however it was banned in South Korea, and the reasoning for the ban was that it featured a samurai. As far as we know, everyone loves samurais (unless you happen to be living in Asia a few centuries ago, and had the misfortune of being beheaded by one), so this is definitely one of the stranger bans on the list.
5. It’s New Year’s Eve! Pocket Monsters Encore
This episode was meant to be broadcast on December 31, 1997. Given that it was a seasonal, holiday-based episode, the show’s creators certainly had fun with it, and they no doubt had the intentions of spreading that fun to their extremely wide audience. However, due to the extremely unfortunate incident that came out of the airing of episode 038 (the one where Porygon released a blast of light that sent hundreds of kids to the hospital), the Pokémon anime broadcasting schedule was reorganized, and this episode never ended up making it on the air. In fact, the trailer pertaining to this seasonal, apparently fun episode was never even seen, and no information is known about it other than its Japanese title. All of the above makes us even more curious to watch the episode, but it seems as though that’s probably not possible. Perhaps at some point in our lives we’ll infiltrate the Pokémon headquarters and dig our way through the vault. Will it be worth it? Yes.
4. The Bicker the Better
In this episode, our heroes are on their way to Fortree City, the next major stop on their journey. However, silly May is delaying them. Ash and May argue as they continue down their path, and are eventually stopped by Andi and Oscar, a trainer couple who challenge Ash and May to a 2 vs. 2 Pokémon match. However, our two heroes could not properly focus on the match, since they are still upset with each other, so the synchronicity between their Pokémon is completely off, which leads to them being defeated. Later on, Andi and Oscar face Team Rocket in another tag team battle. This episode was banned in multiple countries, including Ireland, France, and Aruba, allegedly due to the “battle of the sexes” dynamic of the plot. We don’t work in the field of censorship, so we won’t argue too vehemently about this sort of ban. All we’ll say is that the battle of the sexes has been a thing for a long time now, and it’ll probably continue to be a thing for some time yet, regardless of whether or not it’s reflected in the Pokémon anime.
3. Pokémon Scent-sation!
Pokémon Scent-sation! features our heroes Ash, Brock, and Misty as they arrive in Celadon City, the best-smelling town in Kanto. Celadon city is filled with department stores, elaborate arcades, and condominiums. The trio instantly falls in love with the town, especially its amazing scent. Eventually, Ash talks shop with a perfume vendor, but the conversation escalates quickly as Ash becomes extremely put off by the high price of the perfume. He is kicked out of the department store and makes his way to the Celadon Gym, which is the real reason for his trip to the city. However, word apparently spreads quick in Celadon City, and Ash is banned from entering, since the perfume he criticized was produced in this very gym. So, our hero must make amends in order to gain access to the gym and earn his fourth badge. This episode was banned in South Korea, since it featured traditional Japanese clothing worn by the gym leader, Erica.
2. For Ho-Oh the Bells Toll
This episode features Ash, Misty, and Brock investigating a chorus of strange bells that ring out without warning. With help from the Pokémon researcher Morty, they discover that these are the sacred Crystal bells, and legend says they ring when Ho-Oh, the legendary fire bird Pokémon, returns. The plot of the episode revolves around recovering these missing bells. The ancient Crystal bells are also said to heal Bug-type Pokémon that live nearby. Since the bells are missing, the town’s people are being terrorized by the Bug Pokémon, unable to live normally due to the fact that they can’t make their way about town without being caught in a web. This episode covers several elements of traditional Japanese culture, including geishas and sumo wrestlers, and was banned in South Korea. Upon further research, we have learned that 79% of South Koreans view Japanese influence negatively, and this is mostly due to the way Koreans were treated by the Japanese in World War 2.
1. An Undersea Place to Call Home!
In this largely marine-based episode, Ash meets a couple of underwater archeologists named Eddy and Lindsey, who are currently undergoing an elaborate search for the Cussler, which is a luxury liner that tragically sank several years ago. Our heroes, being good old fashioned, altruistic saviours, decide to help Eddy and Lindsey find the sunken ship. Of course, our team are bound to run into Team Rocket eventually, and this time the evil trio comes gunning for our marine heroes in a submarine! Although this was a fun episode to watch, and we certainly presume that the writers penned it with completely innocent intentions, it was temporarily banned due to the sinking of the MV Sewol ferry in South Korea, which occurred nearly a week before the episode was due to air in Japan. The episode also ended up being skipped in the American dub. Eventually, it was aired in Japan in November 2014, and in the U.S. in February 2015.