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Friday, May 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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TV Cartoon Characters Make Japanese Kids Sick Hundreds Suffer Epilepsy-Like Symptoms From Strobe-Eyed ‘Pokemon’

By Mari Yamaguchi Associated Press

Hundreds of Japanese children suffered seizures and were hospitalized after watching a vividly illustrated cartoon show on television, officials said today.

Nearly 600 people, aged 3 to 20, suffered spasms and nausea about 20 minutes into the popular Tuesday night program, the broadcaster, TV Tokyo, said.

The viewers had been watching the program “Pokemon” - Japanese for “little monsters.” The show is based on characters in a video game produced by Nintendo Co.

TV Tokyo did not say which scene of the show sickened the viewers, but news reports said an explosion mixed with the strobe-light flashing of a character’s eyes coincided with the viewers suffering the epilepsy-like symptoms.

“Toward the end of the program there was an explosion, and I had to close my eyes because of an enormous yellow light like a camera flash,” viewer Takuya Sato, 10, was quoted as saying.

TV Tokyo could not say exactly ow many viewers had been hospitalized. National broadcaster NHK reported that 594 people were taken to hospitals, and 111 of them were still hospitalized this morning.

TV animation and cartoon books are wildly popular in Japan, and both children and adults watch the strikingly colored and often violent cartoon shows for hours at a time. Tuesday’s “Pokemon” featured a child and a monster fighting together to escape a computer.

TV Tokyo spokesman Hiroshi Uramoto said the scheduled broadcast of the same program on 30 other stations nationwide would be canceled.

“We are shocked to hear many children were taken to hospitals,” Uramoto said. “We will investigate thoroughly, and consult with experts.”

Toshio Yamauchi, an epilepsy expert at Saitama University of Medicine outside Tokyo, said that the symptoms suggest a one-time attack triggered by optical stimulus, which is different from epilepsy, Kyodo News said.

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