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The First Pokémon Episode To Be Banned In The US

The "Pokémon" series has become a global cultural phenomenon since it started airing in 1996. Over the decades it's wowed fans with shocking moments and introduced some iconic characters. It also courted controversy, however.


Some characters, like Jynx, have been found to be offensive by fans and more than a few episodes have been outright banned in some countries. Perhaps the most well known is the infamous Porygon episode that allegedly caused seizures in some children. While the actual number of cases have been exaggerated, at least some children were affected (per Vice) and it continues to be a source of jokes in pop culture. This wasn't the first episode to run afoul of censors in the United States though.

A different episode has the infamous distinction of being the first episode banned in the United States (at least by the networks that air the show) and for a very different reason than risk to children's health. The episode in question features Ash and the gang taking a trip to the beach.


Beauty and the Beach

The episode in question comes in the first season (also known as Indigo League) and is titled "Beauty and the Beach." Originally episode eighteen of the season, it comes after Ash and his friends escape from "Island of the Giant Pokémon." In the episode, the gang takes a break from their travels to have some fun in the ocean. But, of course, things don't go as planned; Team Rocket shows up, and adventure ensues.


According to Bulbapedia, the episode earned a ban when it was first sent to the United States, later aired twice in 2000, and was then banned again. Today, the episode doesn't show up on U.S. streaming services with Netflix, for example, simply labeling the following episode as number eighteen so that no one would even know one was missing.

The reason for the ban is two separate moments involving bikinis and some uncomfortable imagery.

Inappropriate comments and James in a swimsuit

The first incident happens early in the episode when the gang accidently crash a boat. The old man who owns the vessel is upset but calms down after he gets a look at Misty. In the Japanese version, the man ogles Misty and comments about "having fun with her in a few years" (per Bulbapedia). The English dub changed the line to the man saying that Misty reminded him of his granddaughter, but given the way he looks at her, this may actually make the scene even worse.


The second moment occurs at the end of the episode when, in an attempt to win a Pokémon and trainer swimsuit competition, Team Rocket's James dons a bikini and fake breasts. This scene also drew concerns and was ultimately cut entirely from the U.S. version the two times it aired.

Ultimately, the episode was officially removed from the show's canon (per GatorEX) with little impact on the series. Though one episode ends with Ash and crew excited to arrive at the beach and the next begins with them all eager to leave, there's only minor continuity errors left by the cut.

Pokémon fans can still find the episode online if they want to see what they missed. Apart from being the first episode banned in the United States, there isn't much special about the episode other than a few characters meeting face-to-face for the first time — and the creepy stuff.