- Parents need not worry: American children
aren't likely to suffer seizures provoked by TV cartoons.
- More than 700 children in Japan were
hospitalized for convulsions and nausea Tuesday and Wednesday after watching
Pokemon, a cartoon based on Nintendo's Pocket Monsters video game. The
scene that triggered the attacks showed an explosion and a character with
flashing, strobelike eyes.
- But that fast-paced style of animation
is rarely seen on TV in the USA.
- CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, UPN and WB don't
air the graphic Japanese cartoons known as "anime." Nor do the
major cable outlets for cartoons: Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network and
the Disney Channel.
- Where you will find anime is in video
stores, where anime sections are stocked with imports of Japanese cartoons.
- "Japan animation is so different
from what airs here," says Mike Lazzo, vice president of programming
for the Cartoon Network. "It's far edgier, adult and violent. Anime
isn't very story-based and is driven by intense moments. The story is hard
- The Cartoon Network does air Japan's
Speed Racer, made 30 years ago, and Voltron, about 10 years old, but neither
show is in the style of anime.
- Japanese children who suffered seizures
probably have an undiagnosed light-sensitive form of epilepsy, experts
- No one knows how many children in the
USA would be at risk if exposed to similar images. But 1% of the general
population has some form of epilepsy, and 5% to 10% of those people are
at risk for seizures when exposed to flashes of light, says neurologist
William Theodore of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and
Stroke, Bethesda, Md.
- Theodore says the number of people having
light-induced seizures has risen since the invention of television, disco
balls and video games. And as TV screens become bigger and brighter and
more children have access to video games, the chances of seizures occurring
in undiagnosed light-sensitive children increases.
- Some have reported suffering epilepsy-type
seizures while playing Nintendo games. The company added a warning to its
games in 1993.
- The Pocket Monsters game for Nintendo's
Game Boy, on which the Japanese program is based, is slated to be introduced
in the USA next fall.