Pocket Monsters: The Show that makes Japanese Kids and Adults Sick: Last updated:

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  • Pocket Monsters: The Show that makes Japanese Kids and Adults Sick

    Don't sit too close to the TV. An admonishment given by parents to children for years, but one that Japanese parents are now taking more seriously. While the matter is still under study by Japanese authorities, details concerning a television broadcast that triggered epileptic-like fits among more than 700 Japanese viewers, most notably children, are now coming to light. The incident occurred in December during a prime-time episode of an animated show called "Pokemon" (Pocket Monsters.) Near the end of the 30-minute program, a cartoon "vaccine bomb" was thrown at a computer virus representation. The bomb exploded onscreen in a bright red flash, followed by about 5 seconds of intensely bright alternating red and blue lights. Within minutes, young viewers experienced such symptoms as seizures, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Even some adults were affected.

    Medical authorities in Japan speculate that the illnesses may have been prompted by a combination of high strobe rate and picture brightness, stimulation from the color red, and proximity to the TV.

    English researchers have shown that the strobing "trigger rate" is about 18 frames per second, but can vary among individuals. The 18-fps frequency seems to affect certain electrical signals produced by the brain. As a result, British broadcasters are prohibited from strobing about 3 fps, but a corresponding U.S. regulation has not been found.

    In general, Japanese children sit closer o the TV than their American counterparts. Average viewing distance in Japan is 3 to 7 feet; in the United States, it is 7 to 12 feet. At close range, the TV image covers more of each retina. Farther away, the screen not only occupies less of the field of vision, but the TV's alternating scanning lines are not visible.

    "Pokemon" may appear on U.S. television this fall, but the producers pledge that they will avoid any video pyrotechnics. Researchers also note that a well-lit room can minimize the effects of brightness and strobing.

    Original Article by S.A.B. featured on page 29 of the July 1998 issue of Popular Science

    Does anyone have any images pertaining to this insident that they wish to share? If so, please email me at evilryu@emulationzone.org.

    Last Updated: 26/05/99