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Paka paka is the anime technique that is used to create strong flashes of colour. It is more generally known as Transmitted Light Photographing.

In the early evening on December 16th, 1997, nearly 700 children were taken to area hospitals in Japan with complaints of sudden illness, akin to epileptic seizures. Over 1700 children were absent from elementary schools the very next day.

These children became ill at approximately 6:50 pm, while watching episode #38 of the original Pokemon cartoon. The Pikachu character successfully detonated incoming rockets, and the resulting explosions appeared as blue and red blasts of colour. It was also discovered in the later research that similar symptoms had occurred, although smaller in scale, during the airing of "YAT Anshin! Space Travel" story #25 on Saturday, March 29, 1997.

Formal experiments later confirmed that the rapid, rhythmic flashing of blues and reds triggered the seizures. The symptoms varied, and all affected children recovered soon after.

Paka paka was used in this particular scene. Illuminating the animation cell from behind during production photography creates a more radiant flash or light effect. This is commonly used in the genre. In fact, paka paka was used in many previous episodes without (reported) incident. There were certainly other key factors at work, including the child's proximity to the television, light levels in the room, and the size of the screen.

Nor is this an isolated incident. Music videos, cinema, and advertisements have been known to cause seizures for a small percentage of the viewing population. Early videogames came with health warnings for those who may be at risk.

Photosensitive epilepsy (PSE) is not a new phenomenon. Seizures (and/or extreme discomfort) can be created experimentally using existing biofeedback technology. Through an electroencephalograph, a stroboscopic flash can be synchronized with the brain waves of the subject, generating what is equivalent to a neurological feedback loop. In this case the subtle rhythms of the mind are fed directly back through the visual cortex. Consciousness loss begins to happen.



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