Pokémon is weird. The basic premise of children traveling across the countryside totally unsupervised to fight dangerous monsters doesn’t exactly sound age-appropriate for the series’ target audience. Despite this questionable elevator pitch, Pokémon went on to become a worldwide phenomenon. The video games, trading card game and anime series have all inspired generations of Pokémon trainers to get out there and try to catch ’em all. However, with greater attention comes greater scrutiny. At the height of Pokémon’s popularity, the franchise was constantly under massive fire from parents, schools and religious groups. Whether it was for content they deemed inappropriate or kids bringing cards and Gameboys into the classroom, Pokémon had enemies on all sides.
The anime in particular was notable for having several episodes removed from rotation or barred from ever being localized for audiences outside of Asia. Even with the added pressure, Pokémon still managed to sneak a surprising amount past American censors in its heyday. Raunchy humor and adult situations involving children were all par for the course in the show’s earlier seasons. For this list, we’re going to revisit eight times Pokémon snuck something especially bad past censors, and five times it got caught.
15. SNUCK BY: MAXIMUM HARDNESS METAPOD
Let’s kick things off with an episode no one could forget. The fourth episode of the series, titled “Challenge of the Samurai” in the states, was during Ash, Misty and Pikachu’s time in the Viridian Forest. While attempting to capture a Weedle, Ash meets a boy dressed as a Samurai who calls himself Samurai (go figure). The boys decide to have a battle that ultimately leads to the two trainers going head to head with their Metapods.
The show’s writers took every opportunity to cram in as many jokes about “male parts.”
They find themselves in a seemingly endless battle where the show’s writers took every opportunity to cram in as many jokes about “male parts” as possible. The most famous example is Ash literally yelling the words “Maximum hardness Metapod!” The cherry on top of this awkward sundae is when Ash and Samurai are both shown to be standing so rigidly that they fall over.
14. SNUCK BY: THE SUPER CREEPY DOCTOR
A Chansey Operation begins with Pikachu getting an apple lodged in their throat and Brock suggesting the group see a doctor right away. They soon realize that the nearest Pokémon Center isn’t for miles, so Ash runs Pikachu to the nearest human hospital. Upon their arrival, the gang finds that the hospital is closed. Ash bangs on the door until Doctor Proctor answers and acts indignant about being woken from his nap.
He doesn’t seem too concerned with Ash’s pleas for help until Misty chimes in and begs him. Saying he can’t “turn down such a pretty face,” he invites them in. When he finds out that Pikachu is his patient, he refuses to help until Misty asks again and he replies, “I’ve just never been able to refuse requests from young girls.” Misty is literally 10 years old during the first season of the show. What a creep!
13. BANNED: BEAUTY AND THE BEACH
The episode “Beauty and The Beach” is notable for being the first to be banned in every country outside Asia. After accidentally destroying a man’s boat, Ash and the gang are desperate to make some money to pay him back. Professor Oak suggests that Misty enter the Beach Beauty and Pokémon Costume Contest in hopes of winning some prize money and it’s really all downhill from there.
Team Rocket also decide to enter the competition with James dressing in a bikini.
Said bikini also contains an inflatable chest. One of the scenes that got the episode banned has James taunting Misty by saying, “Maybe, one day when you’re older, you’ll have a chest like this!” A heavily edited version did eventually air in the states as a “lost episode,” but was only shown twice and is still unavailable on home video releases or streaming services.
12. SNUCK BY: MORE GROSS COMMENTS
Unfortunately, creepy older men aren’t the only ones in the Pokémon anime to make inappropriate comments. We all know that fan favorite companion Brock was a romantic/wannabe ladies’ man, but generally his affections were aimed toward older women like Nurse Joy or Officer Jenny.
However, in the Johto-era episode “The Double Trouble Header,” Brock makes a pretty gross comment about a feisty young girl name Casey. In typical Pokémon fashion, Ash and company meet Casey, they battle, they team up against Team Rocket and then go their separate ways. However, at one point in the episode, Brock comments that, “She’ll be fun in eight years.” Granted, Brock is only 15 or 16 himself at this point in the series, but that’s still a really sketchy comment to make about someone younger.
11. SNUCK BY: DAWN & ASH DRESS AS FRENCH MAIDS
Okay, so the ’90s were a different time. Pokémon has probably cleaned up its act since becoming a family-friendly sensation, right? Wrong! As recently as the Diamond & Pearl series, which ran from 2007 to 2011, Pokémon featured some pretty racy fan service.
Its creepy nature is confirmed when a couple of male trainers run off frightened.
In the episode “Tanks for the Memories!,” Brock takes Ash and Dawn to the Mountain Hut Maid Café for some much needed R&R. The cafe is run by three young girls Autumn, Summer and Spring, who all dress in french maid outfits to serve their customers (it’s a cultural restaurant theme in Japan). While Brock is helping Autumn connect with her new Miltank, the other sisters rope Ash and Dawn into helping them serve customers. If you have any doubts about the purpose of the restaurant, its creepy nature is confirmed when a couple of male trainers who appear to be regulars show up and run off frightened when they see Ash in maid attire.
10. SNUCK BY: JESSEBELLE’S DUNGEON
At this point, you might be thinking that all of the adult situations in Pokémon somehow involve children, but the episode “Holy Matrimony” bucks that trend. We find out that James is actually the heir to an extremely wealthy family, but that he ran away to join Team Rocket. James is told that his parents have died and that unless he marries his fiancé Jessebelle (who happens to look exactly like Jessie), he’ll lose his inheritance.
Jessie and Meowth jump at the chance to make a quick fortune and force James to return home. They quickly find out that it was all an elaborate ploy to get James back under Jessebelle’s thumb. She reveals her plan, whip in hand, in a literal dungeon filled with a ton of torture devices and exercise equipment. We hope that the inappropriate nature of this entry speaks for itself.
9. BANNED: GUNS BEING POINTED AT CHILDREN
Even though the series is set in a world that has an entire economy based around fighting monsters, there’s really not a ton of violence in Pokémon. That’s what makes the second episode to be banned, “The Legend of Dratini,” such an outlier on this list. The episode was banned everywhere outside of Japan for its usage of firearms.
This ban is particularly notable because it led to some major continuity issues for the series.
The episode finds Ash and friends visiting the Safari Zone. At one point, Kaiser, the Safari Zone’s Warden, points a gun directly in Ash’s face. He later uses it again to fire at Jessie, James and Meowth. This ban is particularly notable because it led to some major continuity issues for the series. This was because Ash caught his herd of Tauros, which went on to make several appearances over the years, during the episode.
8. SNUCK BY: THE KANGASKHAN KID
Even after being heavily censored, “The Kangaskhan Kid” featured a surprising amount of questionable content when it aired in the United States. The episode finds Ash and the gang helping a couple find their long lost son, Tommy, who has been living among the local Kangaskhan population.
In the English dub of the show, when Tommy meets Misty, he asks if she’s a person or a Pokémon and she hits him. In the original dub, he actually stares at her chest and asks if he can nurse instead. This explains another awkward moment later in the episode where Tommy’s father bares his chest as he says, “Hey Tommy, remember Papa?” In the original Japanese version of the episode, he instead asks if he remembers being breastfed. This makes a bit more sense, but it still doesn’t explain why he’s taking his shirt off.
7. SNUCK BY: JAMES IS A FLAMING MOLTRES
James’ penchant for over-the-top flamboyance made him the butt of many jokes during the early days of Pokémon. More often than not, the digs at James weren’t in good taste, but they were at least on the subtle side. The Pokémon Johto episode “The Fortune Hunters,” is not one of those times.
The episode focuses on Pokémon Fortune Telling, which is essentially the Pokémon world’s version of horoscopes.
After learning that his birthday lands under the legendary fire type Moltres, James appoints himself the new leader of Team Rocket. Jessie and Meowth are so impressed by his newfound confidence that they decide to let James lead. Later on, James swings into battle on a crane dressed in a skin-tight costume, loudly declaring, “I AM A FLAMING MOLTRES.”
6. BANNED: NARRATOR’S CRIMINAL RECORD
While not technically an episode of the anime, the Pikachu & Pichu short that played before the third Pokémon movie is one of the only pieces of Pokémon media that’s been banned in Japan. However, it isn’t because of any of the content found in the short itself.
In Japan, Pikachu & Pichu was narrated by famed singer/actress Sakai Noriko. In 2009, Noriko was arrested and later convicted of the possession and abuse of illicit substances in a very public scandal. Following the controversy, the short was banned in Japan and hasn’t been aired or released on home video or VOD since the incident. As a result, it was the only theatrical Pikachu short ever released that was not included in the Pikachu The Movie Premium Box: 1998-2010.
5. BANNED: MULTIPLE EPISODES CANCELLED DUE TO EARTHQUAKES
Our next entry deals with the three episodes that were banned due to natural disasters in Japan. “Battle of the Quaking Island! Dojoach vs. Namazun!!” from Pokémon Advanced Generation was an episode that dealt with Ash and friends getting caught in an earthquake caused by a Wishcash. The episode was originally supposed to air on November 4, 2004, just a few weeks after the Chūetsu earthquake.
The episode was originally intended to be postponed, but was eventually scrapped entirely.
The two-part episode “Team Rocket vs. Team Plasma!” was also cancelled due to its proximity to a real-world natural disaster. The first episode was supposed to air the week after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The decision was made to postpone the episodes because of a scene where Castelia City was destroyed. There were supposedly plans to air”Team Rocket vs. Team Plasma!” at a later date, but they’ve still never aired.
4. SNUCK BY: IMPLIED CURSING
Our next entry comes from the show’s season four episode “Hassle in the Castle.” Ash, Brock and Misty find themselves seeking shelter from a thunderstorm in what they initially believe is an abandoned castle. They soon find a woman named Dr. Anna there using Pokémon to help treat humans. Being the upstanding young trainers that they are, the gang and their Pokémon immediately pitch in to lend a hand.
As usual, Team Rocket shows up to cause trouble for our heroes. When they first meet Dr. Anna, they take the opportunity to deliver a medical variation on their classic motto. The pair says that they need some ointment to protect them from itching and Jessie’s complaining. Now let’s see, what rhymes with itching and means “to complain?”
3. BANNED:FIRST APPEARANCE OF JYNX
Anyone familiar with the Pokémon franchise knows that Jynx has been a lightning rod for controversy over the years. The humanoid Pokémon first got mainstream attention shortly after the Christmas special “Holiday Hi-Jynx” originally aired back in 1998. Writer Carole Boston Weatherford called out the anime in an article titled “Politically Incorrect Pokémon,” which accused Jynx of being a racist caricature of African Americans.
The episode was quickly taken out of rotation and never aired on American television again.
Unlike many of the entries on this list it was at one point available on VHS and DVD. However, on the most recent reissue of the Indigo League Volume 3 DVD, the episode was removed and it is no longer available on any streaming platform. The impact of the backlash also extended beyond the episode. In modern appearances across all media, Jynx’s skin color has been changed from jet black to purple.
2. BANNED: MULTIPLE EPISODES BANNED BECAUSE OF JYNX
A handful of other episodes have also been banned because of appearances by Jynx. The Johto League episode ‘The Ice Cave!” was the fourth episode of the anime to never air outside of Asia because of its focus on Jynx. The episode found the gang at a Pokémon Center near the Ice Cave which is operated by a Jynx instead of a Chansey. When Team Rocket tries to steal the Jynx for themselves, Ash and friends send them packing.
Two more episodes from the Orange Islands series, “Stage Fight!” and “The Mandarin Island Miss Match” have also been banned since 2013 because of cameos by Jynx. Much like “Holiday Hi-Jynx,” the episodes are no longer available on streaming services, have been removed from modern DVD printings and are no longer mentioned on Pokémon.com.
1. BANNED: THE SEIZURE EPISODE
Infamously referred to as the “seizure episode,” “Electric Soldier Porygon” caused over 700 Japanese people to suffer from serious health issues including seizures, vomiting and irritated eyes after a four second series of frames brightly flashed between red and blue rapidly after one of Pikachu’s electric attacks hit a group of missiles. Because of the accident strobe effects were removed from Pikachu’s electric attacks and the episode never aired again or saw any sort of release anywhere else in the world.
The controversy was so bad that the show was forced to go on hiatus for four months!
In fact, every Japanese television show featured a warning inspired by the tragedy for several years. Even though it was technically Pikachu’s attack that caused the seizures, the stigma has made it so Porygon and his evolutions have never made another major appearance in the anime.
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