How a real-life tragedy changed the Pokémon anime forever

How a real-life tragedy changed the Pokémon anime forever

A major story arc in the Pokémon anime was dropped without a word after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, radically changing the plot of the series.

When a show has been on the air for as long as Pokémon anime has, it is bound to be influenced by real events sooner or later. Unfortunately for fans, one of the show’s biggest storylines at the time ended up being unceremoniously canceled after one of Japan’s deadliest earthquakes.

The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami did massive damage to Japan, including the Fukushima nuclear reactor, which went on to become another major disaster. Many anime and manga series ongoing at the time were affected as a result, and the event went on to have a lasting impact on several franchises, such as Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, who worked the earthquake into his plot. Among the affected series were Pokémon anime, at that time in its Black and White era.


Related: How Weezing & Arbok Became Villains in Pokemon’s Early Years

To Black and White, the series had decided to try some new things. Brock was permanently removed from the show and Ash had a whole new cast of companions for the first time. Part of that also meant rebuilding Team Rocket’s Jessie and James, who would no longer be goofy harmless villains, but instead a real threat, and with the full support of Giovanni and the rest of Team Rocket. In fact, the series set up a major confrontation between the Unova region’s own Team Plasma and the infiltrating Team Rocket. The “Team Plasma vs. Team Rocket” arc was supposed to be the very next episodes to air when the Tohoku earthquake struck on March 11, 2011. When the air date of the next Pokémon episode arrived, but the show skipped both episodes, with the network noting that they would air “one day”, though they never did.

Team Rocket caused too much destruction


The plot of Team Rocket vs. The Team Plasma two-party, as far as is known, was supposed to involve a major clash in Castelia City, one of the region’s largest and most populated. They fought over an item known as Meteonite, which had appeared in several episodes prior to the clash. The object apparently goes wild with power, threatening to destroy the city as a result. Airing the episodes depicting destruction at the time was felt to be insensitive, so they were skipped for the time being, instead moving on to what would have been episode 25. Naturally, this caused some major continuity errors, and eventually the show reconstructed the conflict . out of existence. Pokémon’s Team Plasma wouldn’t reappear for nearly 90 episodes, and their later appearance didn’t acknowledge the unaired episodes at all, instead taking things in a completely different direction based on the then-released episode Black 2 and White 2.

The episodes make up 2 of only 3 Pokémon episodes that were not aired in Japan, while the remaining episode was also not aired for earthquake-related reasons. The Pokémon The company’s decision here is completely understandable, but as fans, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been had Team Rocket and Team Plasma actually had the chance to face off.

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