"Dude Pokemon rocks, let's make a weapon inspired by it!" – Someone at the Pentagon, apparently
Way back in 1997, during the heyday of the Japanese cartoon Pokemon–when school lunch breaks were for Pogs and trading character cards–a slew of Japanese people were hit with epilepsy-like symptoms while watching the beloved show. During the episode “Computer Warrior Purigon,” more than 700 people experienced convulsions and vomiting, and they weren’t due to cute overload induced by Pikachu.
According to a CNN article from the time:
Most of the children developed the symptoms about 20 minutes into the program after a scene depicting an exploding “vaccine bomb” set off to destroy a computer virus. It was followed by five seconds of flashing red light in the eyes of “Pikachu,” a rat-like creature that is the show’s most popular character.
Instead of chalking it up to a scary isolated event and discouraging kids from looking into the strobe-ridden rave that is a Pokemon episode, word of the incident trickled back to the U.S. Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center. Then, the Army did what it does best: they weaponized it, starting research on a neurological tool that would produce similar effects.
According to Wired, the idea for a “weapon that would disrupt the chemical pathways in the central nervous system to induce a seizure,” which graced the Army’s “nonlethal wish list,” came from that very Pokemon episode. Sadly–or perhaps for the better–Wired reports that the EMP seizure ray never made it out of the conceptual phase.
Still, we eagerly await the development of a real life Poke Ball, which can entrap enemies in its spherical magic.