Creator: 4Kids Entertainment
A New York City-based entertainment and licensing company which was responsible for several U.S. cartoons and dubs of foreign programs.
4Kids rose to prominence in the late-'90s
with their dubs of Pokémon
, which it helped popularize in the U.S. The success helped the company subsequently acquire more anime properties (mostly of the merchandising-type), and it adapted them with varying levels of success — chiefly by applying unusual edits, cuts, and modifications to get them on network TV. These cuts, in addition to inflammatory comments by its higher-ups and its refusal to release uncut DVDs of the adapted series (although they did briefly attempt this), helped 4Kids garner a fair share of hatred amongst fans of the original versions of these shows.
Its infamy came to a head with the bizarre localization and edit of One Piece
, which managed to combine all of the company's worst practices into one show: numerous content edits
, horrible voice directing, the replacement of all
of the original music, the removal of a large number of episodes (that turned out to be important later on — although they couldn't have known at the time), and widespread changes to the original script and plot even in the unedited
parts. All of this solidified fandom hatred of the company, and it remains the darkest mark on its reputation.
Because of this, Japanese studios would actually make an exception to the fansubbers' "gentleman's agreement" to stop fansubbing when a series is licensed. Said agreement is basically, when an anime gets licensed, fansubbers abandon that particular anime, so that Japanese studios will condone the fansubbers' "piracy" of the show. 4Kids' reputation has long been so
abysmal that Japanese studios would allow fans to continue fansubbing a show if it gets licensed to 4Kids, in large part due to 4Kids' refusal to offer Japanese audio even on the DVD releases, and their rabid censorship policies.
On the other side of the quality spectrum is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
, which combined good storytelling with content not usually seen in Saturday morning cartoons — and which would have never lasted as long as it did anywhere else. It also featured content 4Kids would normally censor in their anime dubs.
The hatred garnered from their dubs seems to have worn out as the company became significantly less prominent than it used to be. In the late 2000s, 4Kids' focus shifted away from anime to homegrown properties and acquisitions from other countries, which generally fit the company's creative philosophy much better and have obtained much more faithful treatment. What anime they still dubbed was generally well received — or, at least, drew less ire. With Kids' WB!
's decision to leave the network Saturday cartoon market in 2008, 4Kids became — for better or for worse — the last remnant of what was once an institution. It was a position they suffered for having.
In 2009, the series and merchandising rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
were bought out by Nickelodeon
as a component of their purchase of the franchise. Nick snatched up Winx Club
(an Italian cartoon that 4Kids dubbed) the following year.
In April 2011, months after the departure of CEO Alfred R. Kahn, the company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy
An auction resulted in the company being sold in pieces; Konami
bought all of their Yu-Gi-Oh!
rights, and Saban Brands
bought the rest of the company, including the Toonzai Saturday morning block and rights to Sonic X
With the acquisition from Saban, The CW 4 Kids
ended in the fall of 2012, being replaced by a new block called Vortexx
. CW4Kids' final broadcast on August 18, 2012 ended with a full marathon of one of its greatest properties, Yu-Gi-Oh!
. 4Kids successfully exited from bankruptcy in mid-December of 2012 as 4Licensing Corporation
without any notable entertainment assets. (Their Hulu page
shows that they did manage to retain some rights to some of their old programs, however.) Their main focus is on developing and licensing isoBlox, an impact-blocking surface designed for use in sports equipment. On the bright side, anime fans will no longer be enduring the company's notorious practices. On the downside, it leaves the New York talent pool of voice actors, for the most part, without regular work.
Notable voice actors included:
Properties that had been acquired and/or produced by 4Kids include:
In addition, when 4Kids ran the "FoxBox" block, their shows also included (in addition to some of the titles above):
Some of the biggest shows listed above were involved in a TV crossover
called "The Fight For The Fox Box
Their properties and dubs provide examples of these tropes:
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: One of the biggest offenders of this trope. All of the anime that 4Kids dubbed usually had a different theme song than the Japanese version. They also usually played an instrumental version of the intro song as the ending theme. One of the things that anime fans constantly complained about is the dub song being inferior to the original. Although by themselves, some were kind of catchy.
- The Yu-Gi-Oh! theme, in particular, is the only one which fans widely admit is actually "good" if not saying it may be superior to the original themes, as it gives off a dark, dramatic feeling, and incorporates the whole "Ancient Egypt" theme in its sound quite well. Have a listen.
- Ditto with the Pokemon theme song.
- Bad Future: Could be considered this for Saturday morning cartoons (at least on local channels). Almost all Saturday morning cartoon blocks were completely overtaken by 4Kids at one point, and most that haven't were just infomercial marathons. Then later on, Saban announced their takeover of the airspace for Toonzai with a block called Vortexx. And There Was Much Rejoicing. Farewell
- Be Careful What You Wish For: After years and years of fans complaining about 4Kids dubbing Yu-Gi-Oh! and its spinoffs, people weren't too happy about 4kids suddenly losing the rights to the show... since now the latter seasons of 5D's would not be dubbed at all, and the subtitled episodes of GX and 5D's would be pulled down. Fortunately, Konami picked up the rights, and while they restored the GX, 5D's, and Zexal subtitled streams, and the show is on home video again, both GX and 5D's dubs weren't able to cover their final episodes.
- Bittersweet Ending: The company's dissolution. Sure, a company infamous for Bowlderizing or otherwise toning down their properties for the sake of pandering, monopolizing saturday mornings and poor publicity throughout the 2000's closing is bound to draw cheers across the community, but a lot of honest New York voice actors now lack regular work or have entered semi-retirement.
- Bloodless Carnage: Thanks to massive censorship, a number of scenes that did have blood and violence would be turned into this after the fact.
- Bowdlerization: Too many to list, but they backed off from the worst of it in later years.
- Censorship Tropes: Try to see how many you can spot on this page.
- There used to be a comparison website that listed all the edits they made to their One Piece Dub. You can still view it through Internet archive.
- Cultural Translation: For years, this was so often that the 4Kids cartoon with the most references to Japan and Japanese culture was the one not created there (Ninja Turtles, in case you were wondering). They later backed off from this with
CW4kids Toonzai. In most of their commercials, they claimed that it's "where epic anime lives", their first two code words in the new block were anime and kanji, and they started up an online anime viewing site, Toonzaki, that includes such shows as Fist of the North Star and Pretty Cure.
- Cut-and-Paste Translation: One Piece, undeniably; the others are subject to debate.
- Cut Short: Had a few shows that didn't complete their runs for one reason or another. GX and 5Ds stopped on their third season (in the latter's case right in the middle of a storyline). Likewise Tai Chi Chasers which only made it through it's first two seasons and ended the show on a cliffhanger.
- Darker and Edgier: Surprisingly, the Shaman King dub; many religious references (blatant or otherwise) and incredibly frightening scenes are kept in. Sure, it was comparably lighter than what aired in Japan, but by 4Kids standards, it's one of the darker dubs they've done, and surprisingly one of the only times in 4Kids history where the Moral Guardians got involved because of the last episodes, theirs being even lighter than the ones previously dubbed. Eventually the show, along with TMNT, would be advertised during the primetime hours in hopes to gain adult fans.
- Disneyfication: Particularly the Yu-Gi-Oh! dubbing, infamous due to the invisible guns.
- The most blatant example is an episode where Solomon gets shot in the back by one of his guides. In the Japanese version and the manga, it's a revolver, but in the 4Kids dub it's a slingshot. Given what happens after Solomon is shot, a slingshot just doesn't look right.
- Dub-Induced Plot Hole: 4Kids' omission of the entire Laboon and Little Garden arcs from their One Piece dub caused several inconsistencies later on, and would have become much worse had they controlled the series beyond the Alabasta arc. The various Yu-Gi-Oh series also have a history of these.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds has quite a few, which are explained on the show's page.
- Dubtitle: Their Subs/Uncut Dubs of the Yu-Gi-Oh series and others generally use the Japanese script with dub names. This naturally upset the very audience such uncut releases were targeted at.
- Dub Text: Quite a few in the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX dub.
- Actually, nearly all their shows have this to some extent. The Pokémon Chronicles side-stories of Pokémon has Ritchie mentioning various Pokémon he does not have in the Japanese version. A lot of Team Rocket's dialogue is rewritten as well, ranging from Breaking the Fourth Wall to Getting Crap Past the Radar to bordering on a Gag Dub.
- Family-Friendly Firearms: Inconsistently applied; some shows have firearms removed completely (Yu-Gi-Oh), others get guns' sound effects altered (Sonic X) but are otherwise intact, and still others have the gun look different while still having them shoot bullets (One Piece, for the most part). A lucky few (Ninja Turtles, Funky Cops) emerge unscathed.
- And some (Pokémon) get entire, plot-important episodes banned because of them.
- Ironically, some rifles would be allowed to appear unedited. Around the Hoenn saga, though, there would be minor edits, such as the sound of guns cocking being muted.
- Back on the Yu-Gi-Oh example: this also resulted in some monsters getting edited (any monster which has a gun is edited to look toy or laser like) Revolver/Barrel Dragon was a PERFECT example of this◊.
- Frothy Mugs of Water: Due to censorship, this pops up a lot. In One Piece, it was sometimes juice as well.
- Gag Dub: Part of the third season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is like this, done in the style ofYu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. Team Rocket's dialogue on Pokémon borders on this. The latter is generally considered an improvement over the original.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In their dub of the Kirby anime, specifically the episode "Un-reality TV", Chief Bookem exclaims (when Kirby appears huge thanks to a combination of Dedede faking a monster attack via film camera and scale model of Cappy Town), "Looks like someone's been feeding Kirby steroids!" In addition in a Chef Kawasaki-centric episode, Escargoon mentions Chef Shitake has a new book, "A Crock of Shitake," in another episode. On the flip side of things, the Shaman King dub slips past homosexual overtones (Ryu's over-the-top "affectionate" behavior towards Lyserg and that one taxi driver), religious symbolism (the X-Laws, though oddly enough crosses are removed), and a surprisingly large amount of on-screen character death and blood during the latter half of the series. Hao/Zeke is also referred to as a devil during one flashback.
- Most famously, 4Kids was responsible for adding such moments in their Pokémon dub, particularly in regards to Team Rocket's dialogue.
- In one episode of Winx Club, Icy said, while locking Bloom in an ice coffin, "I hate to be a total witch about it, but I'm very quickly running out of patience!" Emphasis hers. And the Trix called each other "wi-atch" sometimes.
- Another example from Winx Club, their dub of episode ten ("Magical Reality Check") had Knut saying this line:
Sorry I'm late, traffic was a witch
- The tagline for their TMNT show was "You'll have a SHELL of a time!" The phrase also popped up in the theme song.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: One of the most infamous (mis)uses of this trope.
- Hostile Show Takeover: During the "FoxBox" block, when the Shredder threatens to drain the color of all its animated shows, like Sonic X and Kirby: Right Back At Ya!, kicking off the FoxBox Color Drain Sweepstakes, and the 4KidsTV Saturday Morning block, in which Cobra Commander takes over the block, renaming the block into Cobra TV, kicking off the Cobra Domination Station Sweepstakes. This was also the premise of The Fight For The Fox Box.
- Hurricane of Incredibly Lame Puns: Mewtamorphosis? Half of all Pokémon episode titles? One Piece probably got the brunt of this. It didn't even start that way at first, but later on, it seemed like every line the characters spoke were nothing but puns.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: Speaking of the Pokémon episode titles' puns, Spain translates most of these literally without preserving the (attempt at a) joke, making them go from bad puns to absurd nonsense.
- The amount of bad puns and lame jokes they have written over the years is more than enough to get a separate page.
- Inconsistent Dub: Was Gold Roger hanged or decapitated? And how did Nami get sick?
- It goes another way: expect to see one thing edited out in another show...only for the exact thing that was edited out to appear in another show they're dubbing.
- They didn't even have a problem with Misty holding up a cross to a ghost Pokemon in an early episode of the show, and have her saying, "You see this? It's a CROSS!" Never mind that crosses were one of the notorious things 4Kids censored in One Piece. This even included medical crosses.
- While their dub of One Piece tried to censor out everything having to do with cleavage and nudity in general, their dub of Ultimate Muscle actually added a talking ass to act as Mr. Exposition at the beginning of every episode.
- Mew Mew Power was infamous for this. 4Kids added the idea that Pudding (renamed Kiki) was living in a shelter. Then a dozen episodes later we SEE HER HOUSE. They had Mint (renamed Corina) "correct" this by saying she only THOUGHT Kiki lived in a shelter.
- Last Of Its Kind: Their block on The CW, Toonzai, was the last traditional Saturday Morning block prior to being replaced by Vortexx.
- Lighter and Softer: All of their dubs, even their Shaman King dub (which had dark elements, but was still lighter in comparison).
- Lull Destruction: Good luck trying to find a silent moment in a 4kids dub.
- For what it's worth, its actually not as bad as anything Saban gets their hands on, and the music they throw in isn't as bombastic or constantly intrusive.
- Moral Guardians: 4Kids was either absolutely terrified of them or controlled by them. Perhaps both?
- Never Say "Die": While 4Kids' would allow characters to die on some of their shows — Shaman King, Ninja Turtles, and later One Piece episodes — it is much rarer to see the word "death" used to refer to it (although the word may be used in other contexts). An exception occurs, of all places, in an episode of Funky Cops, where the episode revolves around the faked death of an Elvis-like rock star, with the word is used constantly throughout the episode.
- Played with in Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. Defeated Riders are "Vented" (trapped between dimensions), which is treated as a Fate Worse Than Death. Later it turns out that it's supposed to be a good thing, preventing the Riders from being killed; it only became a virtual prison when the Riders' leader, who has the power to bring them back, was incapacitated.
- Averted in Yu-Gi-Oh! episode 13. Tristan says "According to this, I'm dead!" Granted, he was standing in front of a tombstone, so avoiding references to death would have been Implausible Deniability even for them.
- There is also the four-episode duel between Yugi and a Marik-controlled Joey in which the loser would be dragged to the bottom of the sea. While the words "die" and "death" remain unspoken, the explicit threat of drowning remains throughout. To compare, most duels in the series have the penalty of death swapped out for eternal banishment to the shadow realm.
- And there is also Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie, where Anubis is known as the Egyptian Lord of the Dead, and towards the films end, tells Yugi and Kaiba that "It is no longer time to duel. Now, it is time to DIE!" Helps that the movie was a PG-rated theatrical release, in which case the word can easily be used in such contexts.
- Episodes 17 and 18, the two part "Arena of Lost Souls" duel tosses this trope out of the window: the words dead and death are thrown about a few times, part 1 ends with Joey saying that he can't "kill his(Bonz's) monsters", and Bonz states that the zombies get stronger every time they're killed at the start of the second part.
- In the second part of the duel against Para and Dox, Yugi says that his and Joey's monsters sticking together will help them get through the 'murderous maze'.
- Early episodes which flashed back to Kaiba and Mokuba's past made it pretty clear that their parents died (Mokuba's flashback states they 'passed away', Kaiba's outright says they died). In the cases of characters like Raphael and Mako, this trope is in full effect.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX dub, when a duelist loses a duel in one of the Duel Monsters Spirit World dimensions, they are "sent to the stars", though there was still a clear implication of death.
- Viva Pińata however seemed to throw the use of the word around randomly, with one episode using the words suicide, death trap, and killed within the space of a minute.
- A good rule of thumb for their dubs: for every mention of death that gets past the censors, there are probably several more getting censored.
- Cosmo's tragic death at the end of Sonic X was the only one in the show that they couldn't write their way around besides perhaps Maria, though neither are explicitly referred to as a "death".
- No Pronunciation Guide: Look at The Legend of Thunder! Pokémon special; Raikou's name is never pronounced correctly. Applies to a few other of the Mons as well.
- Not So Different/One of Us: One of the dubbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX had many references to Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series in the dialogue, and 4Kids themselves had said they are fans of it. Unfortunately, that was the only episode they did that in...
- Pragmatic Adaptation: A handful of the changes made by 4Kids were simply typical Saturday morning censorship where anyone trying to air the same shows would have made the same changes. This is why even the episodes of One Piece that Funimation aired on Cartoon Network had Sanji's cigarette, booze, some of the violence, and many of the guns still edited out.
- Self-Deprecation: There was a certain Kirby: Right Back At Ya! episode (the one where Dedede makes his own cartoon starring him as the hero) which had Tiff refer to the aforementioned cartoon as "So Bad, It's Good". Some fans saw this as 4Kids themselves making a dig at their own dubs and shows.
- Unperson: The Anime News Network refuses to acknowledge 4Kids's involvement with the Yu-Gi-Oh! Tenth Anniversary Movie due to a pending lawsuit filed by TV Tokyo and NAS and plays up the involvement of A&E Home Video and Manga Entertainment concerning the English dub.