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4Kids Entertainment was a United States film and television production company specializing in the acquisition, production and licensing of children's entertainment around the world. They are most known for their acquired television programs. On December 21, 2012, they changed their names to 4Licensing Corporation.
4Kids Productions is a wholly owned subsidiary of 4Kids Entertainment, and is responsible for the production of original or licensed properties owned by the company.
4Kids and One PieceEdit
On June 4, 2004, 4Kids announced they had acquired the television distribution and merchandising license over One Piece in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
After this, 4Kids set to work on an English version of the series. Norman J. Grossfeld, the president of 4Kids at the time, was the executive producer. On August 14, 2004, the first promotional trailers were released for viewing alongside Mew Mew Power and F-Zero: GP Legend. Their English dub of One Piece debuted on the Foxbox TV block (which would later be known as 4kids TV) on September 18, 2004. On November 18, 2004, Toonami announced it was allowed the broadcasting rights to air the show in the UK; the series began airing on Saturday, April 23, 2005. The next channel to announce production was Cartoon Network on February 16, 2005.
In an interview on April 24, 2005 4Kids CEO Al Kahn suggested that One Piece, along with every other 4Kids property, would receive an uncut DVD release, and added that anime fans would "have to accept the fact that it's going to be available in two styles". The American home video rights to the series were sub-licensed to VIZ Media, who began releasing the edited version of the series on DVD in February 2006 with "English TV Version" specified on the DVD covers . Despite Kahn's earlier statements, Viz were unable to release an uncut version as they were not involved with the dub's production.
On November 11, 2005 One Piece along with another show dubbed by 4Kids, Mew Mew Power, were reported missing from the 4Kids line-up. However, the show was announced as "not canceled" on November 23, 2005 and was expected to return later on, but 4Kids did not announce when. On December 22, 2005, 4Kids announced the show would return after the holiday season and on January 2, 2006 the series was announced to be continuing on February 11.
The dub's naming conventions were used in One Piece-related media in North America at the time, such as Viz Media's English release of the Manga, and the English version of the fighting game One Piece Grand Battle for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Gamecube.
In producing a version of One Piece for the North American market, 4Kids Entertainment considerably altered the original content. It is speculated that 4Kids licensed the series based on its merchandising potential and success in Japan without looking at the content of the episode in detail, and were shocked at how much unsuitable material they found once they began to work on their child-friendly localization . Many, if not all, of the changes made were mandatory for the series to be suitable for broadcast in a children's timeslot. In total, 4Kids created 104 English episodes based on the first 143 Japanese episodes, cutting 20 entire episodes and the equivalent of 39 episodes of material in total.
One of the more noted changes that was spotted was in episode 5 when 4Kids changed the skin of a character from black to white. This was common practice made by 4Kids to avoid a certain stereotype and was seen in other anime at the time. They also changed "Devil Fruit" to "Cursed Fruit".
4kids toned down many of the series' more emotionally intense scenes, often due to bad voice direction, lines, and inappropriate music. They also toned down violence and other extreme situations.
Virtually no death scenes are shown, regardless of their importance to the plot, and the deaths of characters such as Bellemere and Kuina were written out of the story, sometimes only making their situations even worse (such as saying Kuina was in a coma after being brutally assaulted). Initially the concept of death was never directly referenced at all, although later episodes were more lenient. All blood was also removed, even when significant to the plot such as in the third Luffy vs. Crocodile fight; In the 4Kids version of the fight, Luffy uses his sweat to hit Crocodile rather than his blood.
A lot of dialogue was altered to include humor, often pun-based, even during scenes that were entirely serious in the Japanese version. Also, speech was added in scenes which were silent in the Japanese version.
Removal Of Story ArcsEdit
One of the most significant changes 4Kids made was the removal of several story arcs. These included:
- Buggy's Crew: After the Battle!
- Warship Island Arc
- Reverse Mountain Arc
- Diary of Coby-Meppo
- Little Garden Arc
Additionally, episodes from the Arlong Park arc and Loguetown Arc were removed. In all cases, the storyline had to be altered resulting in significant problems. At the time, there was no way of knowing which way the mangaka Oda was taking the storyline, and therefore many removed plot points became hugely significant in later episodes. These changes were never given reason for and remains the subject of much speculation amongst fans. While there are also many other complaints on the company in regard to alterations, such as visible alterations, poor translations and low-quality dubbing, this remains the only non-opinion based problem caused by the dub.
Plot Hole Creation: Warship IslandEdit
Information left out in the Warship Island arc on entry into the Grand Line created problems in explaining why one cannot just sail into the Grand Line.
Plot Hole Creation: Reverse MountainEdit
Crocus was removed, resulting in the storyline being reworked to fit around his absence. The rework initially included just his Log Pose explanation that he gave the Straw Hats. Crocus, however, was a focused character during the Thriller Bark Arc and Sabaody Archipelago Arc. At the time other storylines that mention his importance to the One Piece world had not been reached in the original Japanese version.
Plot Hole Creation: Little GardenEdit
Because the Little Garden arc was removed, there was no explanation behind much of Mr. 3's later appearance in Alabasta. He was said to have been chasing the Straw Hat Pirates since Rogue Town yet Baroque Works did not know about the crew in the actual storyline until Misty Peak. Mr. 3 and his partner Ms. April Fool's were also spoken about during the explanation about Baroque Works given on the organization as if the crew had met them. This would also create a problem in the Impel Down arc, as Luffy would never have met Mr. 3 previously and thus would not know who he was.
Because the Little Garden Arc was removed, Dorry and Brogy were not part of the storyline. This meant later on another plot hole would have been created for Oimo and Kashi. Elbaf also plays a small part on the story, as Usopp wanted to go there, yet 4Kids removed it.
Nami has gotten sick due to being bitten by a Kestia in Little Garden but because 4Kids skipped it, they attempt to explain her illness by calling it "Grand Line fever", but 4Kids would later contradict this by letting Kureha ask Nami if she had been walking around on a prehistoric island.
On September 9, 2004 4Kids answered the problems of Sanji smoking in the show. This was one of the few announced changes made to the series and the first alteration 4Kids spoke of in regard to the dub.
Many firearms were changed to look less realistic, and some were edited into other objects. Most often, Marine guns are turned into water guns while the others are simply colored green.
They also removed of all religious references; Dracule Mihawk's cross dagger was changed to something else, while Miss Merry Christmas' Christmas tree was colored purple and her name changed to Ms. Groundhog's Day.
In addition to the censorship, 4Kids made other changes to the series in an effort to Americanize it. Kahn justified these changes by saying that they were necessary in order for anime properties such as One Piece to be financially successful in the west .
Removal of Japanese text and CultureEdit
Almost all text was removed, including all Kanji and even text that was originally in English.
The word "MARINE" on Marines' clothing was replaced with the word "NAVY".
Most Japanese references were changed to something more "American" (i.e. onigiri was changed to chocolate chip cookies).
The original symphonic score by Kohei Tanaka and Shirō Hamaguchi was replaced with synthesized music composed by John Angier, Louis Cortelezzi, Matt McGuire, Ralph Shuckett and Dan Stein. Additionally, the series' opening and closing theme music was replaced with an original theme song produced by 4Kids. An English version of the original theme, "We Are" was used in an early promo, but did not feature in the final English version.
Kahn explained that the music westernized "so that children in English-speaking countries will understand it" and to appeal more to American audiences . It has also been suggested that composing an original soundtrack is cheaper and more profitable for 4Kids than licensing the Japanese soundtrack .
Renaming many locations and attack names. Many attack names in other non-English languages (i.e. French, Italian, etc.) are given English names. These are often not proper translations of the name, and are sometimes different names completely (for example, most of Sanji's attacks, which were originally French cooking terms, are changed to food-based puns).
Altering many character names. Some names that were originally English were changed to apparently make them sound more exotic. Examples include Portgas D. Ace (Portgaz D. Trace) and Edward Newgate (Ward Newgate). In addition to this, several other names are changed for content, like Captain Smoker (Captain Chaser) and possibly Cobra (Nebra), while others use uncommon romanizations of names, like Zoro (Zolo), Nefertari Vivi/Cobra (Nefeltari), and others.
Despite the numerous edits, One Piece was one of 4Kids' more violent properties. The producers had left in certain unavoidable excesses; blood, appendages being ripped off (such as Shanks' arm and Zeff's leg), and a character being killed by gunfire. Errors were occasionally made in scene edits. Since the dubbed version of the Drum Island arc began, more violence and references to death were included, and no new arcs have been skipped or episodes joined together, save for a few filler episodes.
A sticking point for criticism from fans was 4Kids' marketing strategy for the franchise; although the show is enjoyed by a fairly broad audience in Japan and consistently scored high ratings from teens, children, and even adults, 4Kids decided to initially air the show on Saturday mornings and focus solely on the lucrative 6–11 demographic. It formerly aired at night on Cartoon Network's Toonami Broadcast and had been receiving much higher ratings from the 9-14 demographic, but the new time-slot has brought question to the necessity of the excessive editing the series continues to receive. Also, the broader potential audience that could be reached through an uncut DVD release is still being ignored completely. Over time, the editing had decreased, perhaps due to the fact that the show was airing on a later time slot, although the production still resembled that of a typical 4Kids localization.
Some 4Kids employees have responded to this criticism by pointing out that many of the people criticizing their localization were not in its target audience in the first place, and that some viewers enjoyed their adaptions as children and only complained about the changes once they were older . At the same time, they described One Piece as "an extreme case" that "tarred the reputation" of 4Kids.
Following an announcement on March 16, 2006 by 4Kids, the company stated they will concentrate only on producing its own shows. A fall of profit was blamed on the shortfall of several of their dubbed licenses such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh, although One Piece and several other licenses they held were said to offset the results. The company as a result later dropped a few shows including one of their biggest earners, Pokémon. The dubbing of new anime lessened, and 4Kids announced on December 6, 2006 that they had canceled production of their dub. As of September 2007, 104 English-dubbed episodes have been produced from the first 143 . 4Kids dropped the license afterward.
The full list of fan complaints is long; in fact, fan disappointment remains the biggest factor to date in how the series was received. When FUNimation took over, while anime magazines did note the take over, the fan disappointment at 4Kids was over things that articles would note the most and the actual magazines themselves did not seem to express their own editorial based opinions.
At the time of its North American release, the 4Kids dub was universally panned by fans of the original Japanese version. It is considered to be one of the worst dubs in 4Kids history. The first immediate complaint is animation censorship, which in actual fact is often a common complaint at anime dubbing in general. Particularly, the most common complaint aside from the fact the series was censored to begin with, is the removal of many child-sensitive issues such as alcohol and guns. An Anime News Network interview with Mark Kirk, a 4Kids representative, states that One Piece was acquired in a package with other anime such as Shaman King and Yu-Gi-Oh!, but 4Kids had not screen tested One Piece prior to its acquisition. Therefore, 4Kids pretty much had to do what they could do with the series until they could legally drop the license. In note of the company itself, 4Kids entertainment is aimed at children from the age of 8 to mid teens while One Piece is aimed at teenagers and older in Japan. This meant the show had to comply with rules set for TV of not only the intended age limit, but also the intended time of day the show was aired in, the TV networks own rules and 4Kids own standards of the age group it was aiming for. The problem was because of the age difference and the time of day it aired during, One Piece did not comply with the rules set before it. Therefore, some of their edits were justified and FUNimation's rep later confirmed some of the need for TV censorship when they themselves aired One Piece on TV. As a note in the matter when FUNimation later acquired the show, they were able to air it at a later time, allowing FUNimation to avoid some of the problems 4Kids had to comply with. In the process, they confirmed that cigarettes had to be removed for One Piece to comply with the shows ability to be shown on a TV network at a teenage audience.
While these issues are left to fan debate, the fact many episodes were skipped is by far the biggest and most apparent complaint of all. In addition with this, it was pointed out there were inconsistencies with edits that were done to a number of animated scenes. An example would be Robin who was subject to cleavage removals, but in some scenes she would have an undergarment, then the edits would switch back to only the lines removed. In some cases, scenes that were meant to be edited were done ham-handed and in one case the removal of a cross using the blue sky color overlapped actual animation taking place within the scene. In other cases, the edits also left in frames containing blood which should have been removed to comply with TV standards. However, the scenes where this appeared in were only present for a mere few seconds and most went unnoticed. As well as removal of scenes, new scenes were created by reusing old frames from the show, usually used to disguise the removed scenes and edits made to the show. The success rate of this varied as story writers were left to create improvised storyline around the edits and new replacement scenes.
A strong opinion on the dub was that the show seemed to sound "flat" or monotone. 4Kids did not air their shows with the original music scores. The removal of music scores and the addition of new introductions were not exclusive to 4Kids and other companies such as Nelvana also used these practices. The music scores used within the show were not as numerous as the original and there was a lack of variety. In addition it was noted that some scores were reused from other shows 4Kids had dubbed. The One Piece Rap (the 4Kids dub introduction) however remains the most controversial music usage of all, particularly because they had purposely given fans the impression that they would be using a dubbed version of We Are.
Amongst this, general complaint is also poor voice acting. Fans have strong opinions on voices throughout the series because they felt emotions were not conveyed well in the 4Kids dub, though this is more the fault of the voice director rather than the voice actors themselves, as many of the voice actors have been well received for other voice performances in their careers. This is particularly aimed at Vivi, whose voice actress (Karen Neill) was criticized for her lack of emotional emphasis in the role of her character despite the character having to be involved in some heavily emotional scenes. In addition, criticism was also directed in particular at Luffy's voice actress (Erica Schroeder) because common opinion is that the acting sounded like the directors were forcing his character to constantly sound happy no matter what the situation was by shouting down the microphone. In the later episodes, stereotyping became a common complaint with new voices being chosen for their stereotype rather than characterization, the most notable example being Miss Father's Day and due to her frog outfit was given a French accent. This was a play on the fact Frog legs is one of many delicacies in France, but was also pointed out that this association could be interpreted as a ethnic slur. Another one is Sanji as his voice actor gave him a thick Brooklyn accent with a nasal tone, which caused major controversy among fans, and another was the decision to have Veronica Taylor play Nico Robin with a Texan accent just because she was wearing a cowboy hat when first introduced.