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 and early-2000s with their dubs of Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, 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 and Cubix.With the acquisition from Saban, The CW 4 Kids/Toonzai 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 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:
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.
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.
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.
Creator Killer: Almost subverted byYu-Gi-Oh!; TV Tokyo and NAS tried to yank the license, and 4Kids ultimately prevailed within the year, but the damage had been done, and they still ended up selling the rights to Konami for all Yu-Gi-Oh!-related merchandise.
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 CW4kidsToonzai. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Hurricane ofIncredibly 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.
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.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: After their contract with FUNimation was terminated for reasons still unclear, 4Kids shows stopped showing up on the home video market. The one exception was Pokemon, who's home video rights remained with Viz. Dinosaur King did turn up on DVD through Shout! Factory, but it didn't sell well enough to justify the company working with them again. After 4Kids sold off their assets, Yu-Gi-Oh! did get a revival on DVD through Cinedigm (formerly NEW VIDEO Group), but it's unknown if any other 4Kids shows will be released to home video through the company. Until then, we have TV rips and foreign DVDs to rely on.
According to Maddie Blaustein, 4Kids apparently DID dub the notorious episode of Pokemon with the seizure-inducing flashing lights. However, despite the lights being slowed down to "safe levels," the Japanese refused to let them air the episode, and the dub has never been discovered.
Likewise, 4Kids went back and dubbed the previously skipped "Beauty and the Beach" episode of Pokemon (the one featuring James cross-dressing with inflatable boobs) with the Orange Islands episodes (with the aforementioned scene cut). However, it only aired once, and is not on DVD. TV rips can be found fairly easily online though.
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!"
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.
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.