An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 14: (The Time Has Come) (2006)

As they rounded the corner into 2006, 4Kids started wrapping up production on their eighth and final Pokemon season, Advanced Battle, as well their eighth and final Pokemon movie, Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation the Movie: Mew and the Wave Hero Lucario, retitled Lucario and the Mystery of Mew.

As I mentioned in my own review/comparison of the movie, I really feel like 4Kids wanted to go out strong in their last Pokemon excursion (even though, technically, the show still hadn’t finished being dubbed when the movie came out…..I’m still calling it as their last big hurrah) because their dubbing job on Movie 08 was one of if not their absolute best dubbing job. While there are some minor changes here and there, and some very typical 4Kidsisms, they weren’t that drastic or that bad, and the voice actors brought their A-game. It greatly helps that the original movie is also heralded as the best Pokemon movie to date.

While none of the Pokemon movies ever really seem to be big hits with critics, Movie 08 was about as close as they had gotten. The movie was praised for its action, comedy and excitement while also having a good story and great animation, but others criticized the dub’s more pop-ish music and the fact that the good story took a back seat to Ash and Lucario in the second half of the movie.

The Pokemon movies were also finally out of the hands of Miramax and into the more capable hands of Viz Video…..However, the movie was still released in 4:3 and would never get an American 16:9 release. It would be released in English in widescreen in Australia, but it’s disappointing that it’s never been released State-side in widescreen format. As far as I can tell, Movie 08 is the only Pokemon movie that was never re-released in 16:9 or given a Blu-Ray release in the US as Pokemon Movie 09 would be the first Pokemon movie to ever be released in the US as 16:9 from the start.

The DVD included some bonus features such as a letter from the director, a behind-the-scenes featurette and a slideshow. The original DVD release didn’t come with anything else. However, the Collector’s Edition, which was released at the same time, included two special bonuses – a limited edition Mew card and The Mastermind of Mirage Pokemon 10th anniversary special (re-dubbed version).

This is actually really awkward, when you think about it. The Mastermind of Mirage Pokemon, which was made specifically for American audiences to have something unique of their own to premiere during the 10th anniversary, which I think is pretty darn cool, was not dubbed by 4Kids. PUSA had already made their presence known and had dubbed the anniversary themselves, which, if you ask me, is one of the biggest passive-aggressive bitchslaps I’ve ever seen.

4Kids – at LEAST the cast and crew of the show – earned the right to dub the 10th anniversary special. Ripping it from them was bad enough, but oh no….They also aired it on Kids WB, which was basically 4Kids first domain, before the DVD release, and bundled it (redubbed, however, in order to improve the script and voice work) with the eighth movie in the Collector’s Edition, subsequently strong-arming 4Kids out of the limelight in what was supposed to be their final goodbye to the franchise. Just…wow.

I can say with certainty that PUSA made one of the worst first impressions as a dubbing company I’ve ever seen. Say what you will about 4Kids, but this whole situation with PUSA was just embarrassing.

As for 4Kids and their talented and caring cast and numerous hard-working crew members (Okay, mostly just the cast and crew.) who made the original dubbed Pokemon what it was – for better or worse – I don’t think we should forget that they introduced that awesome show and, to a degree, game to our lives as kids and helped make it the beloved franchise that it continues to be today for an entirely new generation and even the adults out there who still enjoy it, myself included…..I know 4Kids likes to pat themselves on the back and it’s usually unwarranted, but I think they deserve some credit here, and I think they deserve a proper send off as we move on from this historical moment in English dubbed anime history.

The time has come.

It’s for the best, I know it.

Who could have guessed that you and I,

Somehow, someway…..we’d have to say….Goodbye.

Next – Part 15: The Chaotic Nature of Rumors

Previous – Part 13: Pikachu’s Goodbye


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels/Jigoku Shoujo: Mitsuganae Full Series Review

Plot: Over a decade (I presume) after Ai had passed on, she suddenly returns to the living world with the intent of finding and recruiting her replacement – a young girl named Yuzuki. Why has Yuzuki been chosen for this role? And will she accept her duties as the new Hell Girl after witnessing all of the pain and suffering caused by the cycle of revenge?

Breakdown: It’s no secret that I went into this series not really looking too fondly on it. I was pretty annoyed that they even chose to continue the series after Ai had such a satisfying send off in season two. When the series/third season was released, I didn’t even bother watching much of it because I resented that they brought Ai back, and for no real reason either. I thought I’d have a better time now since over a decade has passed and I felt like I could give it a real chance.

That was not the case.

I can say with certainty that Three Vessels is the worst Hell Girl season….at least as far as I’ve seen because Fourth Twilight is supposed to be even hotter garbage.

There’s very little in this season that works. It had a couple of really good anthology entries, an episode or two that I really believe are some of the best Hell Girl as a whole has to offer, and some really interesting talking points, but, after going through all of my old episode reviews, I realized just how many of the episodes were awful. There were many silly, stupid and extremely nonsensical storylines and unlikable characters. We didn’t even get that many hell tortures, and what we did get was typically goofy and weird not creative and frightening.

As I mentioned, the season isn’t even built on a strong foundation. They literally bring back Ai for no reason after she had been gone for about a decade or more, I assume, given how much Tsugumi has aged. She had really strong closure at the end of season two, and they just threw it away. They did show that Hell Correspondence stuck around after Ai passed on at the very end of the season two finale, but I figured that must have meant that someone had just naturally taken Ai’s place and that Hell Correspondence would never truly go away.

They, honestly, could have gone that route. You could omit Ai entirely from the series and just have the show be about Yuzuki becoming possessed by the Master of Hell or something whenever a new client shows up. She wouldn’t remember doing Hell Girl activities, but she’d still has visions and she’d still gets involved with clients and cases, and the Hell Team could try to convince her to become the new Hell Girl because that spot needs to be filled.

The problem there is that Ai is the face of Hell Girl. People remember this series because Ai is such a memorable character. Her shtick, her character design, her story, her giant red eyes – all of it make up the iconic Hell Girl. You can easily make a new creepy Hell Girl, but you run risk of the audience not liking them as much as Ai. I like Ai too, but I wish that weren’t the case because the fans’ attachment to her kinda ruined her story.

Ai also comes back without a body….for some reason. I don’t really understand the ‘body’ situation with any of the Hell characters. Their bodies don’t seem to be actual bodies since they’re not alive. They’re basically illusions that they create, but they are physical constructs that look and feel like the real thing.

Ai basically exists as a butterfly….? Then she has to possess Yuzuki, for some reason, and is only able to have a human form when she’s doing Hell Girl stuff and emerges from Yuzuki via a boring magical girl transformation. Then halfway into the season she gets her physical form back….somehow.

This plot twist at the end makes the whole body loss thing completely nonsensical. How was Ai using Yuzuki as a means of having a physical body if Yuzuki is a friggin’ ghost?

She’s not the only one who loses her body – Kikuri does as well….again, for some reason. She possesses a wind-up doll on a tricycle and spends the entire series needing to be wound up in order to move…..Why? Again. No idea. You’d think a being that is basically the Master of Hell…..I think? would be able to move a doll on its own instead of needing to be wound up. It makes even less sense the more you think about it, and we should just move on.

This season also introduced a new assistant to Ai, although he seems to be more Kikuri’s assistant – Yamawaro. He’s living fungus, I think, or a mountain spirit, I guess. He has one episode dedicated to exploring his backstory, and while it is insanely confusing, it was pretty alright. I don’t have any real complaints about Yamawaro, he’s alright as a character, but I don’t get why he was created outside of giving them a fourth doll to work with, which is only useful in one episode.

Tsugumi returns. Hooray! But she doesn’t do much. Pbbbbttt….

Honestly, Tsugumi’s inclusion in the series was ultimately more of a bummer than something to be excited about. It would have been cool if Tsugumi was here as a deuteragonist, doing everything that she could to guide Yuzuki away from her supposed fate as Hell Girl, and it seems that was initially the intention, but she just wound up doing mostly nothing. She did help Yuzuki a couple times and fill her in on what was going on, but her efforts to stop her from becoming Hell Girl were pathetic. And when Yuzuki finally did become Hell Girl, Tsugumi just gave up and left, never to be seen again – at least in this season.

She has such a fatalist attitude with no faith in anything, which is basically the exact opposite of how we left her in season one. We don’t get many details as to what happened to her in the past decade or so besides Hajime wrote a book on Hell Girl like he promised (but that was explained in season two) and then, at some point, died. From what Tsugumi said, he gave up and died? That is, by far, one of the most depressing facts about this season. Hajime was such an important character to the series and Tsugumi and he just dies off-screen. The Fandom page says he went missing, but this season pretty clearly implies that he died. Of what and when, I have no idea. This show isn’t really big into explaining things and logic.

But of course the main aspect of this season that we have to address is Yuzuki.

*deep sigh*

I find it really ironic that I have so much to say over a character who is literally nothing that I really don’t know where to start.

Yuzuki’s the most benign main character this series has ever had. She’s arguably one of the inert main protagonists in an anime I’ve seen in a long-ass time. She spends an inordinate amount of time in the series doing absolutely nothing but existing and witnessing the Hell Girl clients and targets around her. And when she does finally resolve to do something about them, she always does the bare minimum if that. In one episode, she has a vision of some older people in a mansion. When she goes to the mansion, the people there are too young to fit her vision so she just leaves and never appears in the episode again….

I was getting beyond frustrated with her as the episodes wound down. She was just doing so much nothing. I was incredibly confused as to why this living gallon of Nyquil was chosen to be the new Hell Girl, and even after finishing the series I still don’t get it.

I thought things would start picking up for her after Akie, her best friend, was sent to hell unjustifiably. She got the red eyes briefly, she seemed devastated and she was adamant in not becoming Hell Girl….but nope. She more or less continues to be the same level of nothing she was beforehand, but now with more whining.

The episodes went on, and on, and on, and I was waiting for them to get to the goddamn point with Yuzuki. When they finally did, I was blown away by how dumb it was. Her backstory is so ridiculously poorly written and makes no sense whatsoever. Long story short, her father was a bus driver who crashed the bus because the brakes went out. He died in the accident, as did at least one other person, he was blamed for it because the bus company covered up their involvement in the incident, and the town vilified Yuzuki and her mother so much that literally everyone shunned them. They couldn’t find work or buy food, Yuzuki had to quit school because she was being bullied, they were denied fucking MEDICAL CARE. Then Yuzuki’s mother died of a long-standing illness because she was malnourished, and, of course, no doctor would see this horrible *check notes* unemployed single mother and widow of a dude who died in a bus accident.

When her mother died, she buried her in cherry blossoms, I guess no one ever found her body once the blossoms blew away (or, knowing this town, they found it and hung it in the town square to throw eggs at it) she went back home, curled up with her teddy bear and also eventually died I guess from dehydration and starvation. It’s also heavily implied that no one ever found her body in the past decade or more? The apartment building she lived in apparently became condemned in that time, but no one ever went back in that apartment in all that time?

Her entire existence in the series was an illusion created by the Hell Team to educate her on Hell Correspondence and….I dunno, make her more willing to take the role…somehow? Also, she died as a small child but she’s appeared as a 16 year old this whole time, and no one ever once explained why that was.

Out of all of the stories Hell Girl has had over the seasons, out of all the people who have been fueled with vengeance and have done awful things in the name of vengeance, Ai chose as her replacement a girl who, while having a reason to be vengeful, never actually did anything vengeful in life. She became vengeful for a split second before traipsing off to starve/dehydrate to death in her house. Oh and she was like four or five at the time.

Yuzuki doesn’t deserve to be Hell Girl because the job is a punishment. Ai was given the role as punishment for slaughtering her village in vengeance of her and her parents being murdered by them for the Seven Sending ritual as well as being betrayed by her cousin/only friend/love interest, Sentarou.

Yuzuki did absolutely nothing, not even in death. Even if she has a reason to be vengeful, she didn’t do anything to warrant taking the job. If anything, giving her the job was a stupid decision because they reminded her of everything awful that happened to her a child before her death after showing her all of the awful things involved with being Hell Girl and then pushed her into taking the job. Then they were shocked to find her abusing her power when she became Hell Girl. Like no shit, of course she would.

Not that that was much of a factor anyway because the main reason she flipped and went ‘mad with power’ was Akie. Yup, in the end, her motivation really didn’t have much to do with her tragic backstory. It was all about getting vengeance for Akie. And, yeah, Akie being sent to hell was bullshit, and the person who sent her there totally deserves to die, but if you’re going to shift her motivation to this, I need to feel way more emotional connection between Akie and Yuzuki. They were friends, sure, not denying that, but I never felt like they were anywhere near close enough for Yuzuki to go nuts about getting revenge for her. Akie gets sent to hell in the middle of the series, and I honestly forgot about her most of the time after she was gone. Yuzuki had several friends, and I never really saw how Akie was any more important than any of the others.

I honestly don’t even want to talk about how they justify Ai becoming Hell Girl again, but I feel I have to.

When Yuzuki breaks the rules of Hell Correspondence by pursuing revenge against someone without a contract (she never actually exacted this revenge – she only said she would and attacked Ai and the Master of Hell) Ai takes pity on Yuzuki, shows her the error of her ways, weeps over her dead child body and requests to accept the punishment on Yuzuki’s behalf. The Master of Hell accepts, but tells Ai that this arrangement will be forever if she chooses to take it. And she does.

Yuzuki immediately screws up in this role and Ai has to suffer forever to get her out of it. Good job, Yuzuki, you useless bag of dry baby wipes.

The season finale is just a bland and stupid version of the first season’s finale. I didn’t want Yuzuki to stay as Hell Girl, but I also didn’t want Ai to take the role back. Let them both rest in peace for god’s sake.

Overall, while there are definitely a handful of very good stories in this season anthology-wise, the main overarching storyline is basically unsalvageable, and a majority of the anthology episodes are much lower quality than they have been in the previous two seasons.

People pointed out that the series leaned a lot more towards nihilism than the previous two seasons, and I definitely can’t argue against that. Compared to the first season, which was almost entirely stories about completely justified vendettas that leave you with a sense of catharsis after the string is pulled while also getting that bittersweet realization that an innocent person is also damned to hell when they didn’t do anything wrong, this season is completely littered in stories where the motivations are either dumb or the client is targeting someone who doesn’t deserve it.

For example, in Akie’s case, she had nothing to do whatsoever with why the client, Azusa, was angered and filled with a desire for vengeance. In order to fridge her so Yuzuki would finally do a thing, they had to come up with a convoluted plan to make her a target.

Azusa’s father was left in a vegetative state after being assaulted by a drunkard. The drunkard in question was the son of some powerful rich family, and he quickly fled the country to avoid any charges related to the crime. Because of this, I guess, Azusa couldn’t focus her revenge on the drunkard, even though Hell Girl has never laid down any rules stating that the target must be in Japan. She didn’t target the father, who basically used his power and money to weasel him out of this, because I don’t remember why. So she then targeted the police chief, Akie’s father, whom she vehemently believed worked to cover up the crime.

She wasn’t content with just sending him to hell. She wanted Akie’s father to suffer so she befriended Akie and turned her against her father by explaining her story. It reached the point where Akie dropped out of school, moved out and nearly denounced her father entirely. That wasn’t enough for Azusa, so she also had it set up to have Akie raped in their house, mocking Akie’s father about it while it was happening over the phone. However, the assault was stopped by Yuzuki doing her series quota of one thing by somehow alerting Akie’s dad about this despite having no way of knowing this was going down.

But it didn’t end there. Azusa ran off, pulled the string and revealed that Akie was her target, even though she did absolutely nothing. The best I can figure is that she targeted Akie because it would cause the police chief great pain, but Hell Girl doesn’t work that way. Your target has to be the person you have a vendetta against. It was such a long and convoluted way to target her in the first place, but they couldn’t even follow the rules.

The aspect of the rules being broken is even brought up in one episode that, looking back, was very trippy. A “hell professor” theorized that there are many ways to dupe the system, falsify feelings of vengeance and target whomever you want with either hypnotism or simply willing yourself into it. In essence, you could weaponize Hell Girl to a certain extent. He was even able to create supernatural barriers and was in the process of making a portal to hell, and who knows the true implications of that if he succeeded.

If Hajime were still alive, he’d have a field day with this season because it supports his arguments so much more than the first season did.

The very end basically cements the nihilism angle. Ai is back in her role, doing this literally hellish job for all eternity. Tsugumi just gave up and left. She didn’t even get to witness Yuzuki being freed or Ai crying for Yuzuki’s sake. Akie’s father’s kind gesture in sparing Azusa was made pointless, for the most part, because Azusa just ends up conveniently stabbing the drunkard to death in the airport after he returns from America after Azusa’s father suddenly dies. Then Akie’s maid even more randomly sends Azusa to hell seconds after she murders him. Yuzuki gets to pass on, which is nice, but Akie’s still in hell. All of this culminates in a message of ‘Yeah, people are horrible and life’s garbage.’ with a teeny tiny asterisk next to microscopic fine print that says ‘but some people are okay sometimes I guess.’

I don’t know if the point of this season was to respond to anyone who may have criticized the first two seasons in that it made off like murder was the solution to life’s worst problems. The message was that it clearly wasn’t, but Hell Correspondence still stuck around and they continued to act as if it was a necessity of life. Ai asserts that she’s not a figure of justice in those seasons, but given how many circumstances where she quite literally saves the day (even though the client has to pull the string first) and how many lives she betters, to the point where it really seems like she retroactively alters reality for the sake of improving the client’s life, it really came off that way. In this season, she almost never comes off that way, which I guess is good, but using her for stupid and shallow purposes is not a good replacement.

You can’t just ignore that a majority of legitimate Hell Girl clients would be innocent people who are in awful situations with horrible people that won’t leave their lives otherwise. That’s why the rules exist, but now they’re saying she’s bad because, for some reason, people can screw with the system to abuse it for stupid purposes or just break the rules outright and it doesn’t matter. Except the rules for Hell Girl herself, because apparently you can’t even say you’ll break a rule and not actually do it without the Master of Hell getting pissy.

Through all of this, Hell Correspondence is still treated as a necessity in the end, and Hell Girl is once again portrayed in a heroic light because her services got vengeance on Azusa.

This series does have some interesting things to discuss about fate, life, philosophy of the afterlife, what people truly deserve and the nature of vengeance etc. I just think it stumbles with those thoughts more and more with each season. I honestly don’t even want to know how much more confusing and tangled their message gets in the next season, but I guess we’ll find out.

Additional Information and Notes: Hell Girl: Three Vessels was directed by Hiroshi Watanabe, written by Kenichi Kanemaki and produced by Studio Deen. It is currently licensed in North America by Sentai Filmworks, but it does not have an English dub.

Episodes: 26

Year: 2008-2009

Recommended Audience: The themes alone are far too heavy for children, but there’s also additional mature content regarding violence, some minor instances of nudity and sexual situations and a couple of uncomfortable situations involving a client/target with implied mental disabilities and one really dark episode involving a ‘miscarriage’. 15+


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 13: Pikachu’s Goodbye (2005 cont.)

2005 was a year that would be historical for 4Kids and Pokemon. It was definitely the first sign of dark clouds on the horizon for one and rocky roads eventually leading to greener pastures for the other. On October 10, 2005, 4Kids sold their 3% stake in The Pokemon Company back to them, meaning they would not get anymore revenue from Pokemon in Asian markets. While I can’t find any information on how much they bought it for, they sold the stake for $960,000.

TPC then announced that they would not be renewing their contract with 4Kids which was set to expire on December 31, 2005. Pokemon USA was instead tasked by TPC to be their own in-house North American dubbing and distribution company. Beginning in 2006, they would be creating and launching their own dub of Pokemon. Pokemon USA was created all the way back in 2001 to handle overseas licensing in the Americas, meaning they were probably planning for this day for a while. They no longer needed 4Kids, stripping them of one of their biggest titles and being one of the biggest hits 4Kids would ever take. (Some sources say 4Kids just dropped Pokemon, but I can’t fathom why they would. It was still one of their absolute top earners, and would continue being so for years even simply through residuals after they lost the license. Dropping the license would cause nothing but problems for them, so I don’t see what the logic is in the assumption that they dropped it.) 4Kids would be allowed to dub season eight, Advanced Battle, as well as the eighth Pokemon movie, Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, but that would be it.

While Al Kahn publicly wished PUSA all the best and celebrated eight years with the show, the company losing its main tentpole was far from good news. In addition, the voice actors were not at all pleased at being spontaneously fired from a series that they had put eight years of work into and had become beloved to many of them. Keep in mind, Pokemon was not just 4Kids’ big break – it was also the doorway to relative stardom for many of the voice actors. And throughout the years both the company and the voice actors (but mostly the voice actors) had been endeared to the fans and vice versa. To quote my recently edited-in entry on the ninth Pokemon movie review;

“None of the original voice actors were happy about being dumped by the new company, even though Maddie Blaustein took it in stride. Eric Stuart said they were driven by greed and even implied that this would be the death of the show, even though we now know that was an incorrect prediction, Veronica Taylor stated PUSA cares nothing about quality and that it’s ridiculous for them to claim it will be identical when they’re gutting everything 4Kids and the original VAs did to the show, and Rachel Lillis was pissed, she straight out said so, especially towards someone I’ll address in a second. In fact, they were all blindsided by both the fact that they were all being ‘fired’ AND the fact that 4Kids lost the rights in the first place. No one told them anything, there was no warning, they just told them they were being replaced and moved on.

So why were the original cast members shafted anyway? According to Eric Stuart, Veronica Taylor and Rachel Lillis – it was all just to save money. It was cheaper to hire a cast of “sound-alikes” than it was to keep the new cast on board, and they thought the fans would be too stupid to notice or wouldn’t care because, again, voice actors are treated like shit. But, of course, the fans DID notice and DID care, but by that point it was too late.

None of them asked for more money. They all would have worked for the same amount 4Kids was already paying them, which, by implications, was already not that great, but PUSA never negotiated for their contracts or invited them back. They just showed them the door.

To make matters worse, one of the PUSA voice actors, Bill Rogers, the new voice of Brock, made a post on Serebii.net that Rachel Lillis did not take kindly to at all because he made off like the original voice actors’ old contracts had a clause that made it so they couldn’t come over to the new company and could never be involved in future Pokemon projects. According to Rachel Lillis, no such clause existed whatsoever and he had “no idea what (he) was talking about.” and said all of this was incredibly shady.

And she was right to think that way because some of the original cast were eventually invited back to play bit parts and reprise some of their roles (none of the main cast) briefly, barring, oddly enough, Veronica Taylor of all people, and Eric Stuart. TAJ Productions, which was originally 4Kids’ dubbing partner and was PUSA’s dubbing partner for a bit, went out of business in early 2008 and was replaced by DuArt Film and Video. They made the decision to bring in some of the old voice actors, although to what end I really don’t know. None of them reprised big parts, except Dan Green who got to reprise Mewtwo, and Ted Lewis, who got to reprise Giovanni, and the parts they got that weren’t reprisals were kinda insulting (the last two roles they gave to Rachel Lillis before she left were voices of Pokemon….) The biggest roles the old cast seemed to land were Erica Schroeder, who originally voiced Nurse Joy, voicing Bianca in Black and White, and Jason Griffith, who really only had CotD/CotM parts in the original series, eventually voicing Cilan in Black and White.”

However, due to the way 4Kids’ contract was structured, they would reap some benefits from Pokemon. An article from Business Wire stated “4Kids will continue to receive commissions for the next several years on payments made under existing Pokemon license agreements whose term expires after December 31, 2005. It is expected that commissions earned by 4Kids from the Pokemon property will decline over the course of the next several years.”

As I stated, this money flow from old licensed work would continue to be substantial enough to be one of 4Kids’ bigger sources of income throughout a good chunk of the rest of their existence….However, that was a bit of a double-edged sword. It would be revealed in 2011, when they were filing for their first round of bankruptcy, that 4Kids still owed TPC quite a lot of money, $4.7mil in fact. According to an audit that TPC did in 2010 for the years between mid-2001 and 2008, 4Kids didn’t account for nearly $4,700,000 in “deficiencies” from undisclosed sources. The only specific thing brought up in the document is Pokemon Movie 04. 4Kids surrendered its right to receive any profits from the movie as a result of the dispute, so I assume it had something to do with that, at least (Although the movie didn’t make nearly enough to be worth all of that), but there are likely other areas that contributed to those deficiencies.

In 2012, they completed a settlement agreement in which TPC would receive $1,000,000 plus interest.

As this storm started, 4Kids would be in the middle of releasing Pokemon season seven, Advanced Challenge, and Pokemon Movie 07, Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation the Movie: Deoxys the Sky-Splitting Visitor, which would be retitled, Pokemon: Destiny Deoxys.

Ironically, things would actually start looking a tiny bit brighter for 4Kids on the Pokemon front.

Despite Destiny Deoxys still not seeing a theatrical release, 4Kids had a better idea on how to give the movie more attention. They struck a deal with Warner Bros. to have the movie air on Kids WB on January 20, 2005 – three weeks before it would be released on DVD. This would turn out to be an incredibly smart move, giving Kids WB the best ratings they’ve had in their target demographic since 2003. The movie did need to be edited for TV – particularly 15 minutes of footage needed to be removed and some footage was sped up for it to properly fit the broadcast slot. However, the DVD version was left intact. You can find all of the cuts required for broadcast length on Bulbapedia.

On February 15, 2005, Destiny Deoxys would be released on VHS and DVD. For the final time, the movies would be released by Miramax, and for the first time, the movie would not be accompanied by a short – allowing the movie to be extra long.

To their credit, Miramax would actually do better with their cropping issues on this movie. Despite still being released in 4:3 as opposed to 16:9, they edited the cropped footage better and panned the shots instead of jutting the footage when characters needed to be in frame. In re-releases, the movie would be in 16:9.

The initial DVD release would include a promotional Deoxys card. However, unlike the other promotional cards, this one would be given out at various other events, making it not quite as exclusive as the others.

The DVD also came with special features such as a ‘Who’s That Pokemon?’ game, a behind-the-scenes featurette with the director, a Pokemon quiz game and gallery art for the posters. However, as has been the norm with Miramax, their subsequent re-releases of the movie would not include these features despite recycling the box art that claims they’re on the disc. However, again, this issue would be fixed in the 2020 re-release.

For the edits that were attributed to 4Kids alone, the movie actually didn’t fare too badly. It’s noted as being one of their better dubs.

Critically, the movie earned a resounding ‘Meh’ from non-fan audiences – claiming it was decent, but not much better than the average Pokemon episode. Fans responded positively to the movie, praising its intense action, more mature feeling and fun characters – particularly Munchlax and Deoxys. It’s still not considered one of best Pokemon movies, but it is fondly remembered by many.

Overall, 2005 was a lower year for 4Kids, which isn’t really a surprise. They had net revenues of $86,662,000, down from $103,306,000 in 2004. Their net income was basically halved with $5,069,000 compared with $12,730,000 in 2004. Declines in returns from Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kirby, Pokemon and TMNT as well as One Piece and Mew Mew Power were blamed for some of the loss while Cabbage Patch Kids and Winx Club were credited as helping offset it.

Next – Part 14: (The Time Has Come)

Previous – Part 12: Out of the Box


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 12: Out of the Box (2005)

On January 22, 2005, 4Kids announced that they would be rebranding the Fox Box as 4Kids TV and would be greatly increasing their marketing efforts through TV, the internet, print sources, tie-ins and more to help 4Kids grow.

Time for another round of new 4Kids content – this time releasing their new animated series based on the new GI Joe toy line, GI Joe: Sigma 6, and dubbing two new shows, Ojamajo Doremi, which would be renamed Magical DoReMi, and Tokyo Mew Mew, which would be changed to Mew Mew Power.

Mew Mew Power got off to a weird and rough start, and it was one of the first real indications that Al Kahn’s views on the company’s content was….a bit odd. It was first licensed in February 2, 2004, and was obviously another effort to help draw in a female audience. When discussing the dub with Animation World Network, he said the more female-oriented shows in Winx Club and Tokyo Mew Mew weren’t purely directed at girls, but were more to attract both genders by “empowering girls while giving boys cute babes and plenty of action to look at.” which is definitely one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard him say, especially considering he’s talking about children. It’s also backwards. Like, yeah, talk about how the girls will be empowered while you also objectify the girls in the shows as being eye candy for the boys in the audience.

What I find most interesting about this interview is that they talk about the possibility of dubbing more mature shows. While the article mentions Shaman King, this was before One Piece had been announced. He said,

“It’s interesting, network TV is always complaining about the loss of their 18 to 35-year-old males. It was a big story a couple of months ago with the Nielsens; all the networks were very hard pressed. If you look at the anime ratings, even the stuff on Saturday morning, you will find that primetime ratings don’t do any better than us, even with our much smaller base. All of which suggests that much older boys will watch anime. I believe anime products that are much more aggressive and sensual are going to become more available in the appropriate timeslots. Certainly we, as a company, are looking at how we can expand our programming opportunities in order to do different things at different times.”

Add “Sensual” to the list of words I never ever want to hear Al Kahn say ever again.

Maybe I’m tin-foil-hatting right now, but this kinda leads me to believe that them acquiring One Piece was less of an accident or oversight. Some sources did suggest that Al Kahn actually did know what he was getting into with One Piece, some people in the company warned him, but he didn’t care…..Purely conjecture on my end, probably a reach, but still, it’s interesting to consider.

Al Kahn also said some things that anime fans probably weren’t too happy with. When discussing importing anime, he talked about how he downplays the fact that they’re imports at all.

“I think the term ‘anime’ is misleading; I think kids don’t know from whence we cometh. By the time we localize the programs, kids don’t even know they’re from Japan any more. We as adults tend to label this stuff, but kids don’t really know it.”

So, apparently, despite the fact that 4Kids was a big part of the anime boom back in the day, and they kept encouraging fans to appreciate what they did in making anime more widely available in the west, they didn’t want kids to know what they were watching was anime?

Indeed, as Tokyo Mew Mew’s original dub title was to be Hollywood Mew Mew. It was later changed to The Mew Mews sometime between February and August, and it was finally changed permanently to Mew Mew Power in August of 2004.

The airing of the show was odd as well. 4Kids released episode 12 as a preview for the show on February 19, 2005. The episode was smack dab in the middle of the mid-season finale and included a shocking plot twist in Aoyama, Ichigo’s love interest, meeting her in Mew form, causing her to panic as she believed this outed her secret identity to him. 4Kids changed this, including changing Aoyama’s, now named Mark, expression from a frown to a smile, and instead of him not really saying much to Ichigo, now named Zoey, they had him accept her and tell her it’s okay to be different. And instead of Ichigo reacting in shock and dismay before running away, Zoey happily responds.

Unlike with the way Battle Aboard the St. Anne was launched as a preview episode before the start of Pokemon, this preview didn’t drum up tension for what was to come. In fact, it did the polar opposite. This basically spoiled the entire plotline about Zoey trying to keep her identity a secret from Mark out of fear that he’d reject her, even though the series would never revisit this again and act as if nothing happened. It would have been much more tense and interesting if they had left it alone because it was a legitimate cliffhanger. They could have had the girls in the audience wonder how badly Mark is actually taking this revelation and how this will affect their relationship, instead of just brushing it off and having him immediately accept her without question.

The next episode preview also called the show The Mew Mews, meaning they didn’t correct the mention of the title in the preview despite it already being changed everywhere else to Mew Mew Power.

As my only fully complete Sub/Dub Comparison, I stand by my assertion that Mew Mew Power is one of 4Kids most mutilated titles. They really went all out with trying to make the show as unrecognizable from the original as possible. In addition to all of the normal edits and localization efforts, they also made everyone very unpleasant, cut out large parts of episodes and swapped scenes for no real reason. They changed storylines a lot, the dialogue was awful, the catchphrase in particular gives me ulcers to this day, and it’s just a very unpleasant experience for the most part with only some songs on the soundtrack being any solace.

The show ended with only 23 episodes being aired on 4Kids TV, and the final three episodes of the first season being aired on Canada’s YTV. The series ended in a cliffhanger, which was driven home further by 4Kids when they overlaid a foreboding shot of Deep Blue over the final scene to end the last episode on, and wrote “To be continued…” on the bottom of the screen.

Why Mew Mew Power ended before it ran the full 52 episodes is unclear.

One theory is that 4Kids’ only licensed the first season and were unable to acquire the second because the original creators of the anime, Studio Pierrot, Tokyu Agency, We’ve Inc., and TV Aichi, didn’t like what they were doing with it, so they refused to allow them to license the second season.

An admin on 4Kids’ forums said,

“Sorry everyone – I’ve seen the 4Kids TV schedule – from now thru April and there is no Mew Mew Power on.

I’ve checked with the television scheduler and 4Kids does not HAVE any more Mew Mew Power episodes – they’re working on trying to get more, but can’t say when or IF this will happen.”

The wording is confusing. Because you can either take this as 4Kids not having anymore episodes and they’re trying to get more, or the television scheduler didn’t have anymore episodes to list and they were working on getting more to fill out the schedule, or 4Kids didn’t have anymore episodes dubbed and they assumed they were working on getting more episodes dubbed.

I can’t imagine 4Kids only got the rights to season one and they planned so poorly that they aired all the way to the end and were like “Oh shit! I forgot! We have to get the rights to season two!” That doesn’t make much sense to me. It also doesn’t make much sense that they’d pull the show three episodes from the end of the season if they were intent on getting the second season. In every official announcement I’ve read on them acquiring the licensing rights, nothing ever mentioned they were only for season one.

In 4Kids’ documents, it said they had the rights to Tokyo Mew Mew until 2010 and doesn’t say it was just for one season. Why would they only get the licensing rights to one season if they were keeping it for six years? Why would Studio Pierrot, Tokyu Agency, We’ve Inc., and TV Aichi give the rights to season one for six years but not season two at all?

Also, that’s typically not how licensing works. You either get the license to the anime or you don’t. They typically don’t separate the license by seasons unless the show is currently airing and is in the middle of a season or something, and Tokyo Mew Mew had long since been over since January 26, 2003.

Either way, I don’t believe this was a case of them revoking the rights because they didn’t like what 4Kids was doing. Partially because it doesn’t add up very well, and partially because I believe the other theory a little more.

The theory in question posits that 4Kids wasn’t getting much revenue from Mew Mew Power since they couldn’t secure a toy or merchandising deal with anyone. I don’t know where the merchandising thing came from. I see a few people saying it, like TV Tropes and even the Wiki, but nothing actually confirming it. The forum thread which contained the initial announcement has 17 pages of comments, but the 4Kids forums are long since dead, and the Wayback Machine can’t access anything beyond the first page.

My one hangup with this theory is – how could they easily get merchandising deals for literally every other property, but not Mew Mew Power? Especially considering that 4Kids has decades of experience with tons of merchandising companies. Japan was able to release merchandise – dolls, CDs, art books, posters, DVDs, toys – they even had all of the transformation items as life-size toys. And isn’t one of the things they say they always do when acquiring licenses is determine if it’s profitable from a merchandising aspect? I can’t imagine no merchandising company would want to take this show, especially since they’ve managed to get toy deals for even their most obscure shows. It’s just very strange.

There IS no Mew Mew Power merchandise in America (there are some DVD releases in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France, but that’s about it) and revenue for the show was poor, according to 4Kids’ financial reports, so it’s quite possible this theory is correct, but I just can’t see why they would have such trouble with it, especially considering that Mew Mew Power wound up being their highest-rated show on 4Kids TV at the time.

2005 would also be the year 4Kids released Ojamajo Doremi, retitled Magical DoReMi. This had been in the works for years. They started discussing the licensing deal with Toei in October 2003, but they wouldn’t solidify the contract until 2004 and the show wouldn’t air until late 2005. DoReMi was another effort to hook in a female audience to 4Kids TV. Unlike Mew Mew Power, however, they intended to have the audience be even younger by having a lighter tone.

4Kids teamed up with Bandai to launch a huge line of merchandise for the show comparative to Winx Club. There were dolls, figurines, toys and even costumes. I’m surprised they managed to get such a massive merchandise deal for DoReMi but not Mew Mew Power. They’re both team-based magical girl shows. The only difference is one is based on witches (which you’d think would make deals more difficult because parents’ groups would probably get pissy) and one is based on animals. I’d actually think Mew Mew Power would be more popular toy-wise considering the cute animal vs. witch thing, but what do I know?

DoReMi was obviously given the same 4Kids editing treatment as any other show, but many people assert that the dub was one of their better efforts. Not great, but it could’ve been worse.

4Kids aired episode four on 4Kids TV on August 13, 2005 as a preview with regular broadcasting from episode one starting on September 10, 2005.

4Kids aired 26 episodes on 4Kids TV and then moved the rest of the series, barring one episode they never dubbed (Due to the on-screen death of a child, religious references, a shot of a dead character, and the frightening atmosphere of a cemetery at night being the backdrop for most of the episode.) to stream on 4Kidstv.com. 4Kids opted not to acquire the license for the second series, Magical Doremi Sharp, reportedly due to poor performance. Despite this decision, they had definitely planned to keep dubbing the series beforehand as evident by their unreleased merchandise for the second series which had been previewed at a toy fair, but I guess it didn’t pan out.

The reasons for the poor ratings were attributed to the show being aired at 7:30AM, which was way too early for many kids even for Saturday morning cartoons, the fact that it was aimed at an even younger audience than usual, and the sad facts that both Saturday morning cartoon blocks were dying and magical girl shows just weren’t entirely popular in America. I mean, I mentioned how Winx Club and Mew Mew Power were doing well, and of course there was Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors, but they really weren’t massive media franchises in anywhere near the same realm as Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh!

The fact that 4Kids chose to stream what episodes they had left on their website instead of 4Kids TV kinda drives that point home. Yeah, at this point, we had some modicum of streaming. Kids no longer had to wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch their cartoons. They could either watch VHSs or DVDs or watch shows online. It wasn’t nearly all that good back then considering the video quality was typically bad, there wasn’t a huge selection, and internet connections, usually dial-up, sucked for watching videos, but it was an option.

Airing the show on TV and also airing the show online was always a great idea, but moving the entire show to streaming was basically a death sentence back then. It’s kinda like how when Disney Channel or Nickelodeon wants to silently kill a show they typically move it to Disney XD/NickToons.

Magical DoReMi would be aired one last time on The CW4Kids in 2010 in an effort to get some more mileage out of the show right before their license would be up. It’s really, really depressing that 4Kids had two brand new shows for girls premiering this year and both wound up being canceled within the year.

But enough of the girly stuff. It’s MAN TIME.

Since the girls got new shows, 4Kids had to bring in new blood for the boys. In order to tie-in with the new generation of GI Joe toys being launched by Hasbro, 4Kids created GI Joe: Sigma Six, which shared the name of the new toy line. While the production of the series was handled by 4Kids, famous anime studio, Gonzo, handled the animation.

I watched some of the series recently, and, honestly, it was okay. Not great, but pretty okay. Perfectly watchable, kinda fun, and I say this as someone who loved the classic GI Joe show in her childhood and still enjoys the franchise to this day.

But the toyline bombed, and they returned to the classic version two years later. The show didn’t do any better. 4Kids produced 26 episodes of the show, but stopped airing the episodes on 4Kids TV sometime around or after season one (13 episodes). YTV, however, completed airing the entire run of the series.

The fact that all three of these series bombed rather quickly was bad enough, but 2005 would hold one of the biggest blows the company would ever take. One that they never really recovered from.

Next – Part 13: Pikachu’s Goodbye

Previous – Part 11 – Playing Their Cards Wrong


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels (Jigoku Shoujo: Mitsuganae) Review Archive

Episode 1 – The Girl Who Was Taken

Episode 2 – Caged Bird

Episode 3 – Rotten Fruit

Episode 4 – Elder Brother

Episode 5 – This Mundane World

Episode 6 – My Teacher

Episode 7 – Liar

Episode 8 – Neighbor

Episode 9 – Stray Inari

Episode 10 – The Goldfish in the Mirror

Episode 11 – Blotted Page

Episode 12 – Midsummer Graph

Episode 13 – Six Scripted Lanterns

Episode 14 – The Street Corner of Bitterness

Episode 15 – The Tortoise and the Hare

Episode 16 – The Trap of Temptation

Episode 17 – Inside the Straw

Episode 18 – Special Radio

Episode 19 – Snow, Moon and Flowers

Episode 20 – The Hell Professor vs. Hell Girl

Episode 21 – Right in Front Behind You

Episode 22 – Flower and Moon

Episode 23 – Twilight Hills

Episode 24 – Mayfly

Episode 25 – Yuzuki

Episode 26 – The Path Left by a Soul

An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 11: Playing Their Cards Wrong (2004 cont.)

The Pokemon movies and show were declining in popularity, but 4Kids still had a massive franchise as a backup – good ol’ Yu-Gi-Oh!…….Which was also declining in popularity, but still good ol’ Yu-Gi-Oh! Unfortunately, while Pokemon had a movie coming out every year, Yu-Gi-Oh! had no movies whatsoever (not counting the movie based on Yu-Gi-Oh! Season Zero.) To rectify this situation and help reinvigorate the series, 4Kids commissioned Studio Gallop, the original animation studio for the series in Japan, to make a Yu-Gi-Oh! movie specifically for an American audience – Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: The Pyramid of Light.

Now I’m going to need you to follow me here, because this is confusing. It’s unclear who controlled this movie’s production, but I’m going to bet it was 4Kids since the intended audience was clearly American and they were the ones funding everything. Al Kahn and Norman Grossfeld, President of 4Kids Productions, were producers on the movie. All of the producers, in fact, were listed as employees from 4Kids Productions. In addition, the production companies are listed as 4Kids Entertainment and Studio Gallop.

As for who wrote it, I checked the credits in the movie, and it credits the original story to Junki Takegami and Masahiro Hikokubo. The screenplay was credited to Matthew Drdek, Lloyd Goldfine, Norman Grossfeld and Michael Pecoriello. The only reason that confuses me is because “adaptation” is never in the credits whereas it always is in the credits for their TV shows. Crediting the translation work is also typically in the credits for the TV show. Also, saying they wrote the screenplay, not just the dubbed script implies they did more in regards to dictating the story and even the animation than simply adapting the script. Again, it’s a confusing situation, and feel free to inform me if there’s something I’m missing. This is just the way I’m interpreting things from the information I’ve gathered.

I originally thought that 4Kids left this movie more or less alone in the paint department since the movie was specifically crafted for them, but no. The original version of the movie had all of the on-screen text in English, which is weird because usually they put Japanese text on screen. You’d think this was at the request of 4Kids so they wouldn’t have to paint as much, but no. 4Kids decided to do something very weird. Admittedly, the English in the Japanese version is not good. But it’s just filler text – it doesn’t matter much. 4Kids didn’t care, so they replaced all of the on-screen text with their own text.

They even put in little 4Kids Easter eggs. In the newspaper Solomon is reading, the photographs are credited to Matt Drdek, Lloyd Goldfine and Norman Grossfeld, while the article itself is credited to Michael Pecoriello…..It’s really weird, honestly.

Sub:

Dub:

Most notably, 4Kids decided to replace the Japanese cards with exact copies of their English counterparts, which was quite the surprise to fans. In the TV show, 4Kids was restricted to painting over the cards to only show the artwork, the card type color, the monster type icon, the attack and defense points and the level stars. The reason for this was FCC restrictions on showing real-life merchandise in kids’ shows. Since the FCC doesn’t control theatrically released movies, 4Kids could show the cards full out. You could say this was 4Kids’ magnum opus of advertising.

However, there are some visual errors with the cards in the English version. Sometimes, the images are mirrored, and there are times when copies of a card show up when there are several cards on screen. The most famous example of this is when Yugi’s cards fly up in his face and you can see two Winged Dragon of Ra cards.

This errors aren’t present in the Japanese version.

Despite all of the confusion, this may seem like a perfect situation, right? If 4Kids is helping with the production of the movie, nothing will need to be cut, right?

No.

Apparently, despite the fact that 4Kids was basically orchestrating this entire movie, for the most part, they still had to remove 12 minutes of footage from the movie in order to make it 90 minutes, supposedly for the sake of future TV broadcasts, which I don’t think ever happened, but I don’t know for sure. (Edit: It was recently brought to my attention that it did air on TV at least once on Toonami on July 30, 2005) I don’t quite understand this because when 4Kids aired Pokemon: Destiny Deoxys on TV, they edited the movie down by 15 minutes as well, but they kept the full version on the DVD. Why did they release the broadcast edit of Pyramid of Light in theaters and on the DVD? The full 102 minute version was released in Japan. A lot of it seems like superfluous bits and pieces to build up to 12 minutes, so many of the shots are split-second, reaction or establishing shots.

This same Reddit user who posted that compilation claims the script was also drastically changed to near Pokemon the First Movie levels, but that’s a bold claim that I don’t think is true. I’ll refrain from making that my adamant opinion, though, as I have never watched either version outside of the deleted scenes reel and the bits and pieces I watched to double check some things. They really should have at least released the uncut version on DVD, especially since nothing seems cut for the sake of content or censoring etc.

The Yugipedia entry does say the two versions are substantially different, but outside of the aforementioned 12 minutes cut, they don’t list anything I would consider too drastic. Anubis speaks “Ancient Egyptian” much more in the dub when he didn’t in the Japanese version. The Dagger of Fate was turned into a plot device for one scene when it wasn’t mentioned there in the Japanese version. I do intend on making a review for this movie sometime in the future, so I’ll have to see for myself down the line.

Speaking of changes, though, they actually let this movie get away with a hell of a lot. Alcohol was left in. Several instances of violence that would have been cut from TV airings were left in. The pentagram on Dark Magician Girl, which was usually painted away, was left alone. Injection Fairy Lily kept her hypodermic needle instead of having it changed to the rocket that it usually is on the broadcast cut. They make direct references to death and say “die”. Most shockingly, though, they allow Kaiba to say “Spare me your bull about friendship, will you?”

4Kids did the most marketing they’ve done since the original Pokemon movie. They had several Yu-Gi-Oh! cards given away at theaters with the purchase of a ticket – Pyramid of Light, Sorcerer of Dark Magic, Watapon and Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon. They were given away in booster pack foil wrappers so moviegoers wouldn’t know which card they got until they opened them.

4Kids also made another deal with Burger King to give promotional toys for the movie away with Big Kids’ Meals. This time, they gave away little paper pyramids that covered plastic Millennium Puzzles that contained small toys of various Duel Monsters such as Kuriboh, Pumpking: King of Ghosts, Catapult Turtle, Silver Fang, Parrot Dragon, Time Wizard, Rocket Warrior, Baby Dragon, Big Shield Gardna, Labyrinth Tank and more. There were 20 toys and 100 pyramid puzzle pieces, which either came in gold, silver, pewter or bronze.

This time McDonalds also got in on the promotional material. They gave away a variety of 15 cards – all of which, in my opinion, being hot garbage, barring maybe Cosmo Queen and Millennium Shield.

They also released the vocal soundtrack, including a track by, of all groups, the Black Eyed Peas. The score was never released as a soundtrack in America, only Japan. One of the composers for the film, Joel Douek, did release the soundtrack unofficially on his Youtube channel, however. What I find most funny is, in the movie, right after the first credit to Kazuki Takahashi, before any of the other credits run, they put “Soundtrack available on 4Kids Lane Records.” on its own title card on screen. They REALLY wanted people to buy the soundtrack.

Oddly, 4Kids, along with Viz Media, made an ani-manga exclusively for the movie that was released in America, Italy and France. Basically, they just snipped screencaps from the movie and added comic text bubbles and sound effect text to turn it into a comic/manga. Each version of the ani-manga was released with a special promotional card. Americans got Slifer the Sky Dragon, the French got Theinen the Great Sphinx, and Italy got Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon. A preview ani-manga was even given out in 2004’s Comic-Con International.

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: The Pyramid of Light released in US theaters on August 13, 2004. It did poorly at the box office, and, though it didn’t perform nearly as badly as the Pokemon movies had been for the past few years, it was easily trumped by the first three Pokemon movie releases. However, considering 4Kids foot the bill for this whole project, it’s hard to say that it balances out for them. The presumed budget for this movie was $20 mil, and the total gross domestic box office returns was $19,762,690 with $29,170,410 worldwide. Considering all of the money 4Kids also injected into marketing and whatever money would need to go back to the Japanese production studio, it’s suffice to say they didn’t make much money on this movie. It’s noted on most sources as being a critical and commercial failure.

Their Television and Film Production revenues for the year the movie was released only went up about $5mil from 2003. If we want to be really optimistic, that can be a rough estimate of how much the movie netted for 4Kids, but the exact numbers are unclear since numerous properties are included in that figure. Either way, it’s safe to assume they were expecting much bigger numbers. However, it did stand as the third most successful anime movie released in theaters in America upon its release. As of this writing, it stands as sixth.

Critically, however, the movie fared abysmally, even worse than the worst received Pokemon movies. Critics even more strongly suggested moviegoers to stay away unless they were already fans of the franchise since, admittedly, Yu-Gi-Oh! does have a much steeper learning curve when thrown into it immediately than Pokemon, and they were purposefully inserting this movie immediately after the Battle City arc (and spoiling the ending of that arc in the process, which couldn’t have made fans happy since the last episodes of the arc hadn’t aired at the time. Whoops.)

It was ranked 68th in Rotten Tomatoes list of 100 Worst Reviewed Films of the 2000s, and it is currently the second lowest rated animated movie on Metacritic – The Emoji Movie taking the bottom spot. Across the board, the movie is viewed as dull, boring, nonsensical, badly drawn and animated (I can attest that the movie’s animation is even worse than it is in the TV series), with an extremely thin plot. Even reviews made by fans of the series go so far as to say it’s garbage and didn’t even suggest watching the movie if the producers had a gun to your head, claiming it’s preferable to just get shot. Geez. At best, I saw some fan say it’s okay for fans, it’s not the worst thing in the world, and that was about the height of it.

The movie is mostly considered non-canon since the events and the main villain, Anubis, don’t get referenced outside of this movie. The English version of the show makes some vague references in the future, but that’s it.

The movie was released on DVD and VHS on November 16, 2004 with really no actual bonus features barring a cinematic trailer and two music videos.

As for Japan….They did not give a damn about this movie. I really don’t think they even wanted to acknowledge the movie in the slightest. They really wanted to keep this out of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s canon and likely didn’t think their Japanese audience would take to it anyway. It was a paycheck for Studio Gallop above all else, I think. Mostly a win-win because 4Kids was really the one taking the financial risk. It was released in Japanese theaters in an extremely limited capacity on November 3, 2004. It was then aired on TV Tokyo on January 2, 2005, and that was about it for Japan’s acknowledgment of the movie. As far as I know, it was never released in any home video format in Japan. It just kinda disappeared.

Interestingly, though, they did release an exclusive novelization of the movie in Japan written by Junki Takegami. It is insanely rare, never released State-side and is out of print.

Overall, in 2004, 4Kids did okay. They did about as well as they did in 2003, earning $103,306,000 in net revenues, up just slightly from $102,079,000 in 2003, their production costs were slightly higher at $10,029,000 from $7,819,000 in 2003, and their net income was $12,730,000, which was down a bit from $14,799,000 in 2003.

In lawsuit land, Summit Media was in the crosshairs again, this time by Telamerica Cable Connect or TCC involving the purchase of advertising units for use on ABC Family, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. TCC apparently didn’t provide proper documentation for their delivery and purchase of these units, so Summit refused to pay them. TCC demanded Summit pay $234,000 plus interest for the money they owed. In response, Summit countersued for $150,000. They had an arbitration hearing scheduled for May 2005, but they opted to just settle the matter themselves. The countersuit was dismissed, they settled out of court, and Summit wound up paying TCC $112,000.

Next – Part 12: Out of the Box

Previous – Part 10: One Piece in Pieces


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 26 – The Path Left by a Soul (Season Finale) Review

Plot: Yuzuki has accepted her role as Hell Girl, and one of her first clients is none other than Akie’s father. He wants to send Azusa Mayama to hell for sending Akie to hell – a request Yuzuki is all too happy to fulfill. However, he changes his mind later on and returns the doll to Yuzuki. Enraged with a desire for vengeance for her fallen friend, Yuzuki resolves to send Azusa to hell with or without someone pulling a string. This is obviously a direct violation of the rules of Hell Girl, but Yuzuki doesn’t care. Her blatant disregard for the rules and abuse of her power calls out the Master of Hell to exact retribution.

Breakdown:

Yeah, that pretty much encompasses my feelings on this episode as a whole.

After the disaster that was the last episode, my hopes for the finale were nonexistent. I just couldn’t see any way that they could write themselves out of this stupidity hole and make a satisfying ending. And I was right. They didn’t.

What surprised me is they didn’t even try. Not even slightly. This is depressingly lazy.

The episode starts with Akie’s dad calling Hell Girl to send Azusa to hell after she sent Akie to hell. He knew she did that because he read up on Hajime’s book and noted the curse mark on Azusa’s chest. Also, apparently all the stuff with Yuzuki did happen, but the entirety of her existence beyond her childhood was fabricated and everyone’s memories of her were erased (she asks if Akie’s father would remember her – this is my only indication that this is what happened) which seems insanely unlikely and would be a huge thing to do just coerce Yuzuki, of all people, to become Hell Girl, but whatever. Yuzuki is happy to oblige, and he even wants to face Azusa as he does it to watch her go to hell, but after he sees Azusa through the window of her home, he returns the doll and refuses Hell Girl’s services.

Yuzuki doesn’t understand, but she also doesn’t care. She just proclaims that she’s going to send Azusa to hell anyway as an act of justice for Akie. This is obviously a no-no, and Ai appears to tell her as much. Yeah, remember how Ai disappeared into Yuzuki in the last episode? And how they acted like she was fully gone this time? Well she’s back now somehow for some reason. Yuzuki still doesn’t care and uses her Hell Girl powers to blast Ai away.

Realizing what she’s doing, the Master of Hell emerges from Kikuri to go punish Yuzuki. Bear in mind, Yuzuki still hasn’t actually done anything. She’s just saying she will. When she arrives at Azusa’s house to take her to hell, the Master of Hell arrives with “Akie” (she’s not really Akie – she’s just a construct of her) to punish her for breaking the rules. Yuzuki fights back, but obviously she can’t really match up in power to the Master of Hell.

By the way, if I’m giving off the impression that Yuzuki’s in any way being interesting or cool or badass for these moments when she’s ‘mad with power’ please don’t think that. It’s horrendously boring. She has a fiery curse mark ball she shoots at people while standing still, the Master of Hell wraps her up in web…..the end. She can’t even be entertaining while she’s doing this stuff. The emotion in her voice is minimal.

Ai and the others save Yuzuki….somehow. They’re in some sort of hell dimension when this is going down, so I’d think the Master of Hell would be able to prevent them from leaving, but whatever. After showing Yuzuki her dying self in the past and weeping over her body, Ai confronts Yuzuki and asks her if she knows why Akie’s father decided to give up the contract in the end. She doesn’t. Ai shows her what Akie’s dad saw in the window – Azusa caring for her bed-ridden father (For backstory, see the review on episode 13.) He must have realized that sending Azusa to hell would mean no one would be there to care for her father, so he left her be. He knew she’d go to hell when she naturally died anyway, so he made peace with it.

Seeing this, Yuzuki collapses as well, also not having the heart to exact revenge on Azusa. However, it’s too late. The Master of Hell catches up with them, intent on punishing Yuzuki for breaking the rules, which, again, she didn’t. She said she would, but she didn’t.

Ai steps up and accepts the punishment in Yuzuki’s stead. The Master of Hell accepts this arrangement, but it, for some insane reason, means Ai will be damned to do this job FOREVER.

In the first season, Ai blatantly broke the rules of Hell Girl, using her powers to attack and manipulate Tsugumi into sending Hajime to hell, which cost her more time as Hell Girl. In the second season, she broke the rules again by returning Takuma to the living world when he had been sent to hell, but it was a test to see if she could overcome her own past tragedies and feelings of revenge to finally accept her full punishment and move on. Yuzuki just says she’s going to send someone to hell without a contract, Ai takes her punishment for her after convincing her not to send Azusa to hell……And she has to be Hell Girl forever? How is that in any way fair?

As Yuzuki is released from her role, she starts to vanish in a field of blue flowers. Before she heads off to the afterlife, Ai holds her and kisses her once more to show her her own backstory. Because apparently she can’t just show her that with her own powers like everything else. When they break apart, they smile at each other, and Ai tells her that Yuzuki is her…….Uh…..no. I’m not even going to go into a tangent about why that’s inaccurate. Just no. You barely have anything in common. No.

The last thing Yuzuki says before she vanishes is pointing out that Ai had a boyfriend (Sentarou) and that she’s kinda jealous of that……*lip smack* Kay. Wait, is she jealous that Ai had a boyfriend and she didn’t or is she jealous because she was romantically interested in Ai? Because the latter is kinda creepy given that Ai is like 12 and Yuzuki is either 16-ish or a five-year-old in a teenager’s body.

Ai’s left alone in the field of flowers and the credits roll. During the credits, we see Ai back in her normal attire getting ready for more clients. We also see Azusa’s father’s memorial marker (I had to look this up on the Hell Girl Fandom page, because there’s no name on it and I didn’t recognize the apartment building.) We cut to an airport where some dude I didn’t recognize is getting off a plane when Azusa comes out of nowhere and stabs him in the gut. The guy was apparently the drunk guy that assaulted her father and left him in such a feeble state. Since her dad died…..I….guess he felt like he could come back to Japan? Azusa’s wearing all black like she just left a memorial, and what I assume were her father’s ashes were still in the box on her table. Did he get the news of her father’s death and immediately caught the first plane back to Japan? What a psycho.

I would think it’d be even more risky to come back considering her father most likely died from complications regarding his injuries, meaning he could be up for manslaughter or at least a hefty lawsuit from Azusa. I’m not really familiar with the Japanese legal system, but I’d assume there’s something she could do.

If this was her plan….why didn’t she just hire someone to care for her father for a few days, fly out to wherever this dude ran off to, and murder him whenever? Why shift her focus to the police chief and then his daughter? You could argue that she couldn’t risk being sent to prison for the murder because she had to care for her father, but it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t care about possibly being sent to prison because in her debut episode she tried to have Akie raped and then called the chief of police, ya know, Akie’s father, to taunt him about it as it was happening.

Actually, what the hell happened with that anyway? Did Azusa get off of any charges because Akie suddenly vanished?

Anyway….Azusa suddenly vanishes.

As she disappears and the other guy falls down from his gut wound, we see….Akie’s maid. She uh….pulled the string on a straw doll….sending Azusa to hell………..Akie’s maid….Just…what? Akie’s maid cared about her enough to not only stalk Azusa after somehow finding out she was responsible for Akie’s disappearance, but also damn her own soul to hell to get vengeance for her?….And why did she wait until Azusa murdered a man? I mean, he deserved it, but this seems really weird. Also, again, I didn’t recognize Akie’s maid at all. I had to look that up in the episode synopsis too. I don’t remember Akie and her having any meaningful interactions – I barely remember her at all.

And that’s it. Ai’s Hell Girl again “forever” even though she’ll relinquish the title somehow in the next season. Yuzuki’s passed on to wherever. And I couldn’t feel more like I wasted so much time on this crap.

I honestly, truly don’t understand how this season has relatively high ratings. I mean, the stories besides Yuzuki’s are fine, for the most part – they have their ups and downs like every season, but we’ll address that in the full series review – it’s Yuzuki’s story that’s lazy, boring, poorly written garbage. But somehow I seem to be in the minority…. Yuzuki’s story and her as a character get quite a lot of praise on MAL that I really question if we all watched the same show. A few people are on the same page as me, but many people are giving this series high recommendations, with some people saying the main good point of the show was Yuzuki’s story.

Even THEM Anime Reviews liked Yuzuki with their only real complaint against her being that she was a bit of a doormat. They even state that they like her much more as a protagonist than Takuma (even though they keep misnaming him “Tamura”) which I don’t understand at all. I mean, Takuma’s story wasn’t all that great either, but I sympathized with him much more than Yuzuki, and his story had way more impact on me than Yuzuki’s. Plus, the conclusion to his story was much more satisfying for both him and Ai than whatever this is.

Yuzuki’s big finale isn’t even unique, because, as I pointed out, it’s basically just a watered down version of when Ai went mad with vengeance. However, while Ai’s breakdown was badass and frightening, Yuzuki’s was boring and stupid. It wasn’t even emotionally understandable. Ai’s backstory is so tragic and heartbreaking, and even though you can agree that she deserves the punishment that has been assigned to her, to some degree, you still feel really bad for her that she even wound up in the position she’s in. She was hated her entire life by nearly everyone. She had to leave her family and everyone she loved, besides Sentarou, to live in hiding only to be found out, murdered alongside her parents and betrayed by the one person she had left.

Yuzuki’s story is sad, but only if you also don’t find it ridiculously stupid – which I do. She didn’t deserve to be selected to be a new Hell Girl because she didn’t do anything vengeance-wise when she was alive. Being Hell Girl is meant to be a punishment, not a gift. And then they made the stupid decision to juice her up on “Look at how many people wronged you in life and how much people suck, look at all the Hell Girl victims, also Akie was a wrongful victim of Hell Girl.” before putting her kimono on and sending her on her way.

It was very obvious that she’d lose her mind to vengeance immediately, and her motivation for doing so was crap. She wasn’t even trying to get vengeance for how she and her mother were treated in life or how they died because literally no one gave an iota of caring to them. She was trying to get vengeance for a person who technically never met her…I think.

Akie’s situation is awful, and I agree she never should have been sent to hell, just as I very much agree that Azusa should have been sent to hell, but I never felt any strong emotional connection between these two. They were friends, sure, but I’d just as quickly forget she existed once she was removed from the story if they didn’t bring her back later. They should have had them be best friends as children or something instead of just her giving Yuzuki a candy in passing once. I actually felt more of a connection between Akie and Azusa during her brief stint on the show than I ever did with Akie and Yuzuki.

I stand by my statement that the show probably would have been a little more interesting if Akie was the protagonist and the next in line to be Hell Girl. The series did wind up basically centering on Akie in the end anyway, and Akie had a better personality. Maybe she could have moved away shortly before the bus accident and Yuzuki and her mother died, and she became filled with rage and vengeance when she moved back and realized her best friend and her parents had died in such a horrible manner. Then she could meet and befriend Azusa, whom she wouldn’t realize was only befriending her to get closer to her father so she could send him to hell, then she’d have Akie attacked, send her father to hell and then Akie would be consumed with vengeance that would make her break emotionally and she’d, I dunno, kill Azusa and maybe some other people.

Oh and you may be wondering what happened to Tsugumi during all of this.

She just leaves during the beginning of the episode.

Yup, just straight up leaves and doesn’t come back.

She apparently came to this town to help Yuzuki, but decided to leave when Yuzuki became the new Hell Girl because she viewed that as the end. There was no more helping her. Thanks, Tsugumi, you sure were…..pretty damn useless. I am really struggling to see how Tsugumi affected much of anything over the course of this series besides to convey exposition.

She stopped Yuzuki from going through the torii gate….for some reason. Now that we know Yuzuki’s a ghost, and Tsugumi knew this….why did she stop her from going through the torii gate? She wanted to save her from becoming a new Hell Girl. Passing on through the torii gate would be the best and fastest way to do that, would it not? Although, if I recall, that may have just been a one-way ticket to hell and she didn’t want that either.

Tsugumi had one interesting episode centered on her, but other than that she pretty much just sat around and watched stuff happen. She was almost as passive as Yuzuki. And I hate to say that because Tsugumi has so much potential to be a strong and interesting character, and I still believe she would have been the best protagonist for the third season, but she’s become so defeated over the years. What’s worse is that we never learn why she’s so defeated. Hajime gave up and died, I guess, but we never learn when or how. She’s still getting Hell Girl visions, I guess, but, again, we don’t know why or how. She felt the need to move to this town to help a ghost to prevent her from becoming Hell Girl but she barely puts in any effort, so why did she even bother showing up?

This season finale as a whole was just so boring and a complete waste of time. The first two season finales had so much more tension, drama and intrigue than this. They couldn’t even provide any decent mindless action or cool visuals.

I’m probably just going to plow through season four quickly just to get it out of the way. If this season was given fairly good reviews but four was considered awful, I can only imagine the levels of terribad I’m in for in that season, but hey at least it will supposedly close out Ai’s story for good.

Full Season Review

…..Previous Episode


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 10: One Piece in Pieces (2004 cont.)

June 8, 2004 is a day that will live in infamy. It is the day that 4Kids got the license to the anime superstar, One Piece, and created what has been hailed throughout time as the worst English dubbed anime ever.

Just the most ridiculous edits 4Kids has ever done. Cigarettes changed to lollipops, guns changed to super soakers and hammer guns, poison darts changed to poison suction cup darts, editing Luffy’s not-moving mouth to move as he’s yelling so they can have him speak dialogue, a black guy painted into a white guy, pretty much any instance of violence, alcohol etc. completely removed, the soundtrack completely changed, the Marines were changed to the Navy, the voices were grating and overly loud, and yes, the cous de gras, the One Piece rap, which, oddly, they opted to use when they already recorded and publicly screened an English translated version of the first theme song, ‘We Are!’ And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.

One Piece also suffered the most episode skips of any other 4Kids dub. They reached episode 143 but, out of those episodes, only 104 were dubbed, leaving 39 episodes in the wind. This situation was particularly odd in that there technically wasn’t 39 episodes missing. Only 20 full episodes were removed. It’s just that the episodes were frequently edited so badly that their runtimes would be too short for airing as a full episode, causing them to use footage from the next episode to make up the slack. As a result, the next episode would be short by default and would be made shorter due to content cuts, which means they’d have to take scenes from the next episode to pick up the slack and so on and so forth. This circle of mutilation resulted in enough edits to equal 19 more episodes technically being cut. To make matters worse, only 78 of those episodes ever aired on the Fox Box/4Kids TV, although the remaining episodes did air on Toonami in the US before they shifted to the Funimation dub. (Edit: Thanks to Bluebaron on Twitter for the info regarding Toonami.)

While 4Kids’ dub of One Piece was mostly lost media for many years, there were at least 11 volumes of DVD releases of the dub, reaching episode 52 before they stopped. Despite Al Kahn teasing they’d have an uncut One Piece release, this never happened. Sometime in 2006, 4Kids would reach a new DVD distribution agreement with Viz Media to release their cut DVDs, One Piece included, but, reportedly, Viz wouldn’t participate in an uncut DVD release because they weren’t involved in the dubbing process. I don’t really see why that’s a factor, but that’s what was reported.

The remaining 52 episodes were entirely lost for several years until TV rips were uploaded and posted to the Lost Media Wiki page.

One Piece, despite being a shounen show, was still very much not in the demographic that 4Kids aimed towards. It was loaded with violence, blood, death, fanservice, drinking and much more. Japan has a much different set of views on what is appropriate for children to watch compared to America. So 4Kids choosing to dub the show was a baffling turn of events to say the least. It was either a huge oversight or they didn’t care and just wanted the super popular property in their lap.

4Kids did okay in the merchandising department with One Piece, all things considered. They had several toys, four video games and even a trading card game released with Mattel.

The word around town in regards to the blame for this situation was that Toei tricked or forced them into taking the show. In a much-referenced interview with ANN, Mark Kirk, then-Senior Vice President of Digital Media for 4Kids, claimed that One Piece was part of a bundle of shows that 4Kids was purchasing from Toei. At the time of purchase, they had not screened the show or looked up much information about it and just accepted it as part of the bulk purchase. Poor little 4Kids didn’t know that One Piece wasn’t appropriate at all for their age demographic, so we shouldn’t judge poor little 4Kids for mutilating it as much as they did. They had to. It was out of their hands.

I want to know how many people actually listened to the interview instead of just cited what was quoted on Wikis, because there’s an important note about Mark Kirk’s interview. Before he goes into details about One Piece, he specifically says that the One Piece stuff happened “before (his) time.” Meaning he wasn’t even there when One Piece was being bought and dubbed. He was hired in 2007, which was after 4Kids canceled One Piece and Funimation purchased it. One Piece was obtained by 4Kids in 2004. Meanwhile, this interview is from 2010. What he was conveying was his account based on what he had heard and that was his, directly quoting here, “Non-official take on how (he) think(s) that came to be.” He doesn’t even say that this is based on what he heard around the office or what anyone specifically told him – it’s all just his theory on what happened.

The interviewer asks him what they look for in anime they acquire. He responds that they look for shows where the license is available, they can do marketing and merchandise for the property and that, specifically, it is suitable for their demographic.

The marketing thing is supported by Al Kahn in this quote from an interview with ANN in 2005.

“We look at things such as popularity, but also if it has a merchandising component; can we license it, can we license products for it? That’s really the main issue for us… the playing pattern, if it’s popular and how it merchandises. If we can’t merchandise it, it really doesn’t have a lot of interest for us.”

Something else from that interview that’s interesting:

Because it’s not financially viable?

“That’s correct, because it’s too expensive to do the dubbing and the acquisitions because we rewrite, we re-script, we re-score. So it’s very difficult to do that if you don’t have any other revenue streams and we have to make sure we get that.”

Kirk went on to say that, since Shaman King and One Piece are both Shounen Jump titles owned by Shueisha, that the shows were, directly quoting “probably some sort of package deal.” I don’t know why he’s just assuming that. If their announcements are anything to go by, Shaman King was acquired on May 15, 2003 and One Piece was acquired on June 8, 2004. Even on the official financial reports by 4Kids themselves, Shaman King is on the 2003 report as an owned title, but not One Piece, which would later be added on the 2004 report. They also premiered a year apart with Shaman King premiering on August 30, 2003 and One Piece being aired on September 18, 2004.

In addition, while their manga were both produced and owned by Shueisha, their anime weren’t. Shaman King’s anime was controlled and produced by TV Tokyo, and One Piece’s anime was controlled and produced by Toei. The acquisition and ownership information in 4Kids’ own official documents list Toei Animation, but not Shueisha. Same thing with Shaman King – it lists TV Tokyo but not Shueisha.

The way the actual rights work is confusing, but it basically boils down to this, to my understanding. Shueisha (and Eiichiro Oda, to a degree) own One Piece‘s manga. The anime is an adaptation of the manga, meaning Shueisha sold the anime rights of One Piece to Toei. As far as I can tell, when anime/animation rights are given to a production company, no other company can be given the anime/animation rights unless the first company gives them up or the contract runs out. The animation/production company in question controls the anime side of things with little input from the manga owner besides the ability to pull the rights if the contract allows or not renew them when the contract expires.

It’s basically the same thing as a dubbing company. When a Japanese anime studio sells the rights of an anime to a dubbing company, the dubbing company has control over how they adapt and present their adaptation. In some circumstances, as we’ve gone over with Ghibli, there are restrictions baked into the contract to have certain changes approved by the original company, but that was a particularly unique circumstance and typically isn’t the norm.

As another comparison, take when someone writes a book or a graphic novel and they sell the movie rights. It’s quite common for the book/graphic novel writer to have little to no input on the movie’s production and for the movie to wind up being insanely different from the source material, in some circumstances being an ‘in name only’ adaptation. The original author still probably gets a chunk of change from the movie and any merchandise the company gets as a result of the film, but the author still can’t do much, if anything, about any decisions involving what the production company does with the movie rights outside of selling the rights to someone else. For example, that author cannot force the production company to do something like sell the foreign dubbing rights to the movie to a particular company because they don’t control the movie – they only control the book.

Toei sold the international rights to the anime to 4Kids to dub. Shueisha likely didn’t have anything to do with it because the anime technically doesn’t belong to them. They have some degree of ownership, of course, and the anime would be under their ownership if the anime production company went under or decided to not renew the license, but they don’t have nearly as much control as Mark Kirk seems to imply they have, at least to my understanding. They deal with a multitude of animation studios and production companies who make anime based on their properties, but they don’t control them, at the very least not in regards to how they sell their localization/adaptation/international rights. If it worked the way Mark Kirk is acting as if it worked, Shueisha would have to somehow force TV Tokyo to sell the international rights to Shaman King’s anime to 4Kids at the same time this deal was going on, and not only does that not make sense, but that also doesn’t seem legally plausible or ethical unless Shueisha has some very specific clauses written into their contracts, and even then the timeline still doesn’t mesh.

For another comparison, when the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit was going down, only TV Tokyo, NAS and ADK were listed as the entities pursuing legal action. Shueisha also owns Yu-Gi-Oh!, but since the anime version is not technically theirs, and anti-manga 4Kids didn’t have anything to do with the manga, it wasn’t their legal battle to fight.

There are a lot of additional and strange rumors about this whole ‘bundle’ situation. People have speculated that they bundled One Piece with Winx Club, but Toei doesn’t own that, it’s not even Japanese, or Ultimate Muscle, which is from Toei but was acquired long before One Piece was on the table and was only still going purely because of 4Kids. Some people also threw out Ojamajo Doremi, Tokyo Mew Mew and Futari wa Pretty Cure, because 4Kids really wanted those properties for the sake of hooking in female viewers and took One Piece as part of the deal because Toei was desperate to get the property out, which is probably the most laughable accusation.

First of all, 4Kids would never be so desperate for female-centric shows that they’d need to enter into negotiations to also take a show they have little to no idea about. Outside of branching out a bit, they never gave much of a crap about their female audience. They were always trying to lure in young boys……That sounds terrible out of context.

If they were really desperate for more girl-oriented shows, there were tons of popular girly shows out there that 4Kids could have acquired, either in Japan or otherwise. They didn’t need to roll over to Toei just to get titles like Ojamajo Doremi, Tokyo Mew Mew or Precure. In addition, Doremi wouldn’t be licensed until November 2004 while One Piece had been licensed in June (It’s true that they had been interested in the show since late 2003, but the license dates and announcements don’t match up at all, so the bundle theory still doesn’t make sense to me.), Tokyo Mew Mew isn’t owned by Toei, so that doesn’t hold water, and they didn’t even acquire the license for Precure until 2006.

Second of all, they allegedly desperately wanted Precure, but wound up never dubbing it?

Third and most of all, acting as if Toei was desperate to get One Piece off their hands and had no other offers or choices is ridiculous. In fact, Funimation, in 2003, said they were one of the “top companies still in negotiations” for One Piece, and they reportedly even bought the rights to a domain for the sake of making a website for One Piece. And of course there was intense competition for One Piece – it’s frickin’ One Piece!

It’s suggested that, despite all of the offers on the table, they went with 4Kids because they had massive powerhouses like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, despite both faltering in popularity in the west around that time. They wanted to ensure One Piece would also be a western powerhouse, so they went with 4Kids’ offer. Funimation did have Dragon Ball Z, but at that point it couldn’t touch the popularity that Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! once had, especially in regards to merchandising, so 4Kids probably seemed more appealing in that regard.

To be fair, 4Kids reportedly did want the dub to be more loyal than usual, which is why most everyone retains their names and they were going to use an English version of the Japanese theme song and keep the score. It’s also why Al Kahn seemed to be adamant in telling everyone that two versions of the show (the TV cut and the non-released uncut versions) would be two completely separate entities that needed to exist alongside each other.

Reportedly, the intense localization changes were mostly done on Toei’s behest because they thought that was what American audiences wanted, which is weird to insist upon 4Kids of all people, but I really don’t know if I believe that. Then you have the whole supposed ordeal with 4Kids being put off by how their less-edited version of Shaman King was received to take the same risk with One Piece. Again, hardly any of this is substantiated to any degree. It’s mostly rumors and accounts from people who say they know people in the know who paraphrase from other people who might be in the know.

For example, according to someone named ‘Sam’ in the music department at Toei, which is someone this random banned person on a forum supposedly knows, they were shocked fans liked the original Japanese music and thought they’d like 4Kids’ score and theme song more, implying that either Toei made them use a new soundtrack or 4Kids greatly convinced them that kids liked the dub version better. Considering Al Kahn said he liked the rap better and thought it would be more popular, and I can’t imagine they can be legally forced by Toei to make a new soundtrack, unless it was some weird insanely specific part of their contract, I’m going to assume it was the latter.

Kirk then went on to say that 4Kids, at the time, probably overlooked the content issues because they believed that no anime could really be successful unless it was a kids’ anime because merchandising, toys etc. No company in America, at the time, would even consider making toys or other merchandise for anime unless it was aimed towards kids. They saw that Japan had toy lines for One Piece and just made the assumption that it was suitable for their audience before even looking at a frame of the anime. They didn’t take into account that Japan, is, shockingly, a different place with a different culture and different standards of content for various age groups where anime has been popular for decades.

The interviewer talks about how there’s beer and guns in episode two, but you don’t even have to watch that far. For god’s sake, the opening narration of every episode is Gol D. Roger’s last words before he’s skewered to death in his public execution. Granted, they don’t show the execution, but that should at least be a hint for them.

Did they seriously sign a contract to dub five seasons of One Piece without understanding anything of what it was? In any other show that they’ve acquired, they never had any problems dropping them. They dropped Fighting Foodons, Ultraman Tiga, they’ll go on to drop Mew Mew Power, Yu-Gi-Oh GX, Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds and F-Zero GP Legends all without a single issue. If Precure is any indication, you can license a show and just not dub or air it at all. Why is One Piece different? Why would 4Kids make that big of a commitment, allegedly, for a show they didn’t screen? It just screams incompetence, if this is true.

In my opinion, I think 4Kids paid a ton of money for that license, took way too long to realize they screwed up, and they simply wanted to try and make back as much money as possible before they ultimately decided to pass the baton and get out of that sinking ship. The way I see it, they were more trapped by a desire to not lose their massive investment than they were by Toei and their contract of doom. Remember, once that license money is out, it’s out, it’s gone. That is Toei’s money now. If 4Kids really did quickly realize the mess they got into and wanted out immediately, they’d lose all that money. And this was the license for One Piece, of all things, and they were competing against Funimation, who obviously really wanted it. I can only imagine how much money they put down for that. That’s the only theory that makes sense to me given everything I’ve learned.

If you don’t take my word for it, take Al Kahn’s.

In that same interview with ANN in 2005, he said that, because Japanese titles are so expensive to acquire, they have to be “extremely selective” about the shows that they buy. This was after they had bought One Piece, which comes off to me like they weren’t careful in their selection beforehand and had already learned that lesson the hard way.

They also had options that would have allowed them to be more free in regards to editing. For example, a good argument was made by Theron Martin of ANN where they talked about how Naruto, which was airing around the same time as One Piece on Cartoon Network, wasn’t nearly as changed or censored as One Piece. They just slapped the Fox Box complete cut version of One Piece on Cartoon Network when you can get away with a lot more on Cartoon Network.

Of course, there were obviously still gore/blood removals, painting over Naruto’s Sexy no Jutsu boobs and stuff like that, but for the most part, pretty much everything else was left alone like the dialogue, the story, the soundtrack, the personalities, the names (which, admittedly, were also kept in One Piece, barring the fact that people like to complain about the Zoro/Zolo thing, which is pointless because Japanese doesn’t differentiate between L and R sounds) the text on screen, the Japanese voices and vocals in their theme songs etc. Naruto became a massive success in the west despite not doing all of the localization stuff 4Kids claimed was necessary to earn success in the west. And they had roughly the same demographic.

I would argue even further for Yu Yu Hakusho. That could be a pretty brutal anime at points. It has legit made me cringe at some of the graphic things they’ve put in the show. That also aired on Cartoon Network on Toonami, and while it was very obviously edited for certain things, again, it was largely left alone otherwise. Yu Yu Hakusho became a very popular title on Cartoon Network, and it ran in reruns for years, even rerunning again, uncut, on Adult Swim numerous times,

One Piece aired in syndication on Cartoon Network just months after it premiered on the Fox Box, which just makes me wonder why 4Kids didn’t opt to make a deal with Cartoon Network to have it premiere on Cartoon Network. If they knew that Fox’s standards and practices were too constricting for a show like Shaman King, and they knew One Piece was a similar situation by that point, why would they opt to cut the show to ribbons in an effort to adhere to policies more firmly than just find a different network to air it on? It’s not as if having a commitment of any sort to the Fox Box was a big deal….they OWNED the Fox Box. Toonami was insanely popular at the time, and they were always looking for new hit shows to have on their block. They probably would have loved to boast that they had the national premieres of One Piece.

The only reason I can think of as to why they didn’t choose to do that is none else but money. 4Kids would get more money if they premiered the show on their block first, theoretically. And they weren’t going to bother spending more money to have a lessened cut for Cartoon Network syndication, so One Piece basically had to be mutilated on all airings.

Some people may argue that Toei was probably a part of that, like they were somehow controlling what network they could premiere it on too, but I don’t buy that. I additionally doubt that they knew enough about American television networks to make an informed decision about that anyway. And if they did, they probably would have been fine with premiering it on Cartoon Network since their ratings numbers for 2003 and 2004 were breaking records. That’s not to say Kids WB and the Fox Box weren’t also doing well, because they were, but there’s absolutely no reason why Toei would care about what network the show premiered on.

Kirk also believes that when it came down to it, after everything was said and done, after the backlash had gotten really heated, there was supposedly two camps in 4Kids – one that basically couldn’t care less about the people complaining because those people weren’t kids, they weren’t their demographic, so who cares? The other “cared” so-to-speak in regards to the reputation of the company because those complaining people were loud, they had platforms in which they could reach thousands or millions of people, and they could easily damage the company’s reputation if this went on for too long. Eventually it just came down to which camp was really right. And, in the end, the camp that “cared” won out, so they decided to just wade through the rest of their contract, which was set to expire in August 2009, until they could shift the rights elsewhere.

That’s not what happened, though. 4Kids announced they were canceling One Piece in December of 2006 and Funimation picked it up in April of 2007, meaning 4Kids must have wiggled out of their contract early somehow, which would be unlikely if this truly was a case of them being trapped….Weird how he doesn’t mention that 4Kids had the option to cancel it, and didn’t, in fact, wait out the contract expiring. It’s almost like he doesn’t know much about what he’s talking about. Not as a sleight to him, because he admitted this is just his own theory about something that happened when he wasn’t there and has no given sources of any information regarding this.

If you want a little extra proof that he doesn’t really know much of what he’s talking about – in that interview with ANN, someone on Twitter asked about what happened to Tokyo Mew Mew/Mew Mew Power. He said that was also “before (his) time” (It was one year after One Piece had been picked up) so he had no idea. He said he’d have to ask someone and get back to them later, which never happened. I’m not saying he knows nothing, he obviously knows some stuff because he works there, but I’m saying his knowledge on literally anything that preceded his hiring doesn’t seem like something he’s actually asked about within the company or researched much himself, so I’m not sure how much of it you can really accept as an adequate or accurate explanation.

I’m also not saying I know more than he does as I also wasn’t in the board room of 4Kids when they acquired the One Piece license nor have I ever worked for the company or in the industry. Admittedly, I could be totally wrong about all this. I’m just also making my own theories based on the facts that I have, but those facts contradict Kirk’s claims very substantially.

Plus, I understand he’s obviously been pressured to talk about this. Apparently, the interviewers avoided numerous tweets in their Twitter Q&A for him because they were hostile, most likely about the One Piece stuff, and the one One Piece-related question they did let through was asking if Al Kahn/4Kids would ever offer a former apology for what happened with One Piece (He skirted around that question more or less). However, it probably would have been better for him to not say anything, because now I just feel like 4Kids was trying to cover their ass and put everything on other people.

According to Mark Kirk, he believes the One Piece fiasco was the main reason why 4Kids’ reputation was ruined, and that, if you took One Piece out of the equation, people would have been much more understanding to 4Kids and what they seemingly had to do in regards adapting everything else. Obviously, this is more than a bit optimistic, as the interviewer points out. 4Kids’ reputation had been terrible way before One Piece, and more shows after One Piece would ruin it more.

He didn’t really change his stance after that, but he did mention that the situation with One Piece most likely would never happen now (IE: 2010) because, in his personal experience with 4Kids and the way they licensed properties after the One Piece ‘incident’ was very professional. They vetted stuff more thoroughly, they did more research, and they were just overall more careful after that.

Kirk denies that 4Kids was being really sloppy and poorly researched what they were purchasing, which sounds really contradictory to what he was saying before. He basically just puts the blame on the fact that they were new to licensing anime, which they certainly weren’t by that point. They had around six years of experience licensing anime and decades of experience licensing tons of other properties, so I don’t believe that for a second. According to him, they were “stuck” with One Piece, so they decided to “do the best they could” until their contact was up and they could drop the show, which I already explained doesn’t line up with what actually happened.

The interviewer then asks if the people at 4Kids feel regret for what happened with One Piece. Mark Kirk starts saying that there’s “been so much turnover here” before stopping himself. Probably because saying “Oh there’s such a high turnover rate at 4Kids that hardly anyone who was there when the One Piece fiasco started is there anymore to show any regret.” is a little bit of a bad idea. I can’t be sure that’s what he was about to say, but it sounded like it. He added that he didn’t ask Al Kahn or any other higher ups about it or anything, and they’re always looking forward to what’s next instead of back at things like One Piece.

That comment also adds a little more validity to him not really knowing much about this situation because, if there’s so much turnover and hardly anyone who was there when the One Piece incident was going on was still there in 2010 or even briefly after the show got canceled, and he stated he didn’t ask Al Kahn or any other executive, then even if he did ask someone lower on the food chain about it, chances are they either didn’t know much about it or they weren’t there either and all they know about it is public word of mouth or rumors around the watercooler. And if they always look forward and don’t like talking about the past, then it probably hardly ever comes up in the first place.

Then Kirk brings up the fact that there were other offers on the table for One Piece since it was clearly a hot commodity. 4Kids basically thought they had to act immediately in order to beat out other companies, so rushing was also a factor in this mistake.

Yup. He pointed the very obvious that I talked about earlier. Something that directly contradicts his ‘bundle’ theory. They weren’t desperate to find dubbers and needed to negotiate with 4Kids to force them into taking One Piece. Toei just made a crappy decision most likely based on ‘Ooh One Piece could be the next Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh!’ As for Toei controlling how they dealt with the dub, there’s a reason I don’t buy that much. If Toei really wanted 4Kids specifically because they were the holy gods who made Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! western hits, why would they insist on micro-managing everything as some people claim?

From the best I can tell, Toei took the leap with 4Kids, hoping it would be this larger-than-life massive franchise in the west, while 4Kids took a chance with either a show they knew wasn’t in their demo and didn’t care or they didn’t know and didn’t care because ‘Ooh look at how popular and merchandisable it is in Japan’ and then gave it the ol’ college try afterwards to save their bank account as much as possible and maybe even profit a bit. After a while, I can imagine Toei regretting giving 4Kids the license just as 4Kids probably regretted taking it while they were in a panic trying to make it work, which was like trying to stop a dam from bursting by putting Silly Putty over the cracks. And after a while I can see Funimation laughing in the background while they put on sexy lingerie ready to seduce Toei the second the licensing agreement was cut short.

In the end, 4Kids is certainly most at fault, but there are also other factors here, most notably Toei, that share the responsibility for the disaster of One Piece’s first dub. It was a dumpster fire, let’s not mince words, but everyone learned from it, even if 4Kids kinda learned too late and should’ve have learned long before they even got the license. One Piece certainly didn’t suffer for it, when you think about it (If anything, a greater appreciation for the original series and desire to see it done justice in the west developed quite quickly. One Piece is doing amazingly now. 4Kids was just a battle scar.) and we can all still make jokes about it.

Phew, we’re finally through that shit storm. Thank god 4Kids didn’t have another big embarrassment in 2004…..

Next – Part 11: Playing Their Cards Wrong

Previous – Part 9: Be Careful What You Wish For


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 9: Be Careful What You Wish For (2004)

2004 brought a lot of change to the Pokemon franchise. With the release of the games, Ruby and Sapphire, an entirely new generation was born yet again. In the anime, now branded Advanced Generation, Ash finally got a brand new outfit, an entirely new roster, and this season brought Misty’s departure. After several years of being Ash’s companion, close friend and pseudo-love interest, Misty was forced to say goodbye to Ash and, unlike Brock, not return for several years. The ‘girl spot’ in Ash’s team was taken up by May, who would help bring the new addition of Pokemon Coordinating to the spotlight in the anime. Her little brother, Max, would also come along and act as a rare fourth companion.

As per tradition, another year also brought another new Pokemon movie – Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation the Movie – Wishing Star of the Seven Nights: Jirachi (Seriously, is there some secret anime/movie title length competition going on?), coined by 4Kids as Jirachi: Wish Maker.

This would mark the first time a main Pokemon movie didn’t get a theatrical release and instead went direct-to-DVD. As a result, I have no clue how good the sales were as that information, as far as I can see, is not available anywhere. I found one article on Animation World Network that claimed that rental sales of Jirachi: Wish Maker in the US between June 1, 2004 and October 2004 were $1.16 million, which is okay, all things considered, but those are rental figures so I’m not sure how much of that sees Miramax’s or 4Kids’ pockets.

Yet again, the movie was released in 4:3, which resulted in the worst cropping jobs and errors that any of the Pokemon movies had ever seen. At several points, the shots very obviously start out in one orientation then jut to being in the center of the screen. Since Miramax forces the aspect ratio due to the original movies always being in widescreen, I’m to assume that 4Kids’ original version didn’t experience the same janky issues with the editing in regards to getting characters in frame and all of the problems were Miramax’s doing.

Critically, it seemed like Pokemon was starting to recover as reviews for the movie were significantly more favorable than either 4Ever or Heroes.

The dub fared okay in regards to edits. While there were some changes, nothing was really drastic. It was moreso a case of ‘the original did this better’ more than ‘the dub completely butchered this.’ It’s also the first (and only?) instance of 4Kids opting to take a lyrical Japanese song and translating the lyrics into English instead of just replacing the entire song (‘Pokemon Hoedown’ doesn’t count as it used the same music but made entirely different English lyrics that didn’t even follow the melody on top.) The song in question is Asuca Hayashi’s ‘A Small Thing’ or ‘Chiisaki Mono,’ which was retitled by 4Kids in their English rendition to ‘Make a Wish.’

Not only that, but in one of the most shocking things 4Kids ever did, they kept the original Japanese version in the song as well. They only translated and covered half the song in English. The other half is retained in its original Japanese. They even got an English singer who sounds almost exactly like the original Japanese singer so you can barely tell a changeover happened – that singer being Cindy Mizelle.

In addition, when May is humming the lullaby version of the song in the movie, Veronica Taylor isn’t doing her voice – KAORI, May’s Japanese VA, is.

The DVD was released with the short, Gotta Dance!, which would wind up being the last time a Pokemon movie was ever released with a short film. Gotta Dance! also escaped the dubbing process mostly unscathed. The only drastic change was replacing the original narrator, who was once again a soft spoken lady, with Meowth, who was treating the short as a flashback.

As per marketing tradition, the DVD also came with a promotional Jirachi card. It also touted several special features such as another trivia game, artwork, and a music video for the song ‘Make a Wish.’

Like with 4Ever and Heroes, Wish Maker’s re-releases also just re-used old boxart that promised all of the special features that weren’t included after the initial release. It also used a 4:3 aspect ratio in the first re-release when a widescreen format was advertised. This problem would be fixed in the 2020 re-release of the film, however, and like the other movies, it would eventually see a widescreen release.

Moving on to other notable debuts in 2004, while the Fox Box had largely been centered on a young boy audience, they knew they had to appeal to girls as well, or at least make an effort to see if they could capitalize on that demographic. In comes Winx Club – an Italian fantasy series created by Iginio Straffi and licensed by Rainbow S.r.l. 4Kids acquired the rights to dub the series in 2004, and it was just as badly edited as any anime that 4Kids bought.

All of the hallmarks of 4Kids shows are present in Winx Club, including removing any instances of Italian culture in order to be more American-friendly, drastically changing storylines, changing characters’ personalities, and editing out the tiniest of curves during a transformation sequence because it implied the existence of the character’s boob. Again, this is merely scratching the surface of the various changes 4Kids did to the show, to the point where it was basically an entirely new show. For a detailed account of the changes, visit the Winx Club Fandom page.

Despite the heavy edits, 4Kids found success with the series for several years, spanning three seasons and launching toy lines, dolls, books, its own magazine, a card game and even a couple video games after teaming up with Mattel and Konami. In regards to the card game, Al Kahn was cited as saying;

“Girls play differently than boys, and it is in understanding these play patterns and appeal that led us to work with Upper Deck and create a trading card game that is more about friendship, fun, fashion and magic.”

The card game then went on to be a huge success and totally didn’t flop and fade into obscurity quite quickly to the point where even the very detailed Fandom site for the franchise has absolutely no mention of it.

According to what I could find, both Straffi and Al Kahn were happy with the success of the show and the possibilities of expanding its reach worldwide right as Winx Club was getting ready to take off in America.

Well, Straffi was happy with the other companies they were partnering with and the eventual success of Winx Club. He, as well as most everyone else at Rainbow S.r.l., were not happy with the changes that 4Kids made to the show, most of which were not approved by Straffi or anyone on his crew before being made. In 2009, Viacom started showing interest in the show. Details are unclear regarding this situation, but from all of the information I could gather, Viacom made Straffi a very good deal to help produce and localize the show from season four onward. With a new and seemingly much better American deal on the table, Straffi and Rainbow S.r.l. told 4Kids to take a hike and permanently revoked their license for the show.

4Kids would claim that their season three finale was the series finale, which wasn’t true. However, it might as well have been because, as stated, the series was basically an entirely different show from what it originally was in Italy. Even though Nickelodeon handled the show from season four onward, technically continuing the show, it didn’t continue on with everything 4Kids was doing, making season four kinda look like a soft reboot that started in the middle of the story.

Finally, 4Kids acquired the rights to the anime, F-Zero Falcon Densetsu, which would be retitled to F-Zero GP Legend in America. The series was launched to coincide with the North American release of the game of the same name. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, GP Legend also suffered from the same editing wounds as nearly every other 4Kids series. Most notably, they completely replaced the soundtrack, which was incredibly disappointing considering the F-Zero series is practically more well known for their great songs than they are for the games themselves, completely rewrote scripts and changed the main character from Captain Falcon to Ryu Suzaku, known in the dub as Rick Wheeler because haha cars have wheels.

Despite a strong promotional effort, the show was a total bomb. After releasing only 15 episodes on the Fox Box, the show was dropped. The reason for this is unclear, but was very likely poor ratings. The Lost Media Wiki page says there were rumors that the vague plot was to blame, while others claim the dark and edgy tone put off younger viewers while simultaneously having characters and storylines that were too childish for older viewers. The failure of the show combined with the failure of the game resulted in the sequel game not getting a North American release, and the entire F-Zero franchise has been put on ice to this day. Nintendo also seemingly put an end to any anime adaptations of their franchises, beyond Pokemon of course, also to this day.

It’s rumored that at least two more episodes were dubbed and unaired, but it’s unclear. Episode 16 at least was slated to be run in its normal air spot before it was canceled, so it’s safe to say that the dub at least got to episode 16. Supposedly, 4Kids got the rights to dub the entire 51 episode show. According to Captain Falcon’s English voice actor, David Willis, the entirety of the 51 episode show was dubbed, but he only remembers as far as dubbing a scene that came from episode 36. Whatever dubbed episodes do exist beyond the 15 that aired are considered lost media considering that it’s highly unlikely that whoever owns the rights now would be willing to release the episodes on home video, especially since the show was seemingly dropped so quickly due to poor reception.

All of those troubles pale in comparison to what was on the horizon, though. Yes, it’s finally here. Rejoice villagers! Or weep. Whichever. Because we might not make it out of the next section….in one piece….:D

Hey, if I’m going to write a 100 page retrospective on 4Kids, I’m going to use all the puns I have and you can’t stop me.

Next – Part 10: One Piece in Pieces

Previous – Part 8: Miramax Killed the Movie Theater Star


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SSBS – Wedding Peach | Episode 4: Angel Lily is Born Review

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Plot: Lily’s mother is preparing for a big fashion show to display all of her amazing wedding dresses. Pluie senses the presence of a Saint Something Four within Lily’s mother’s collection of dresses and destroys them all to find it, to no avail. Lily is blamed for the destruction, devastating her, and causing a rift between her and her mother. The threat of Pluie and Jama-P still hangs in the background. Wedding Peach will need a new ally to take them out this time.

Breakdown: By far, the best episode yet.

Very, very minor irritation on the side of the girls bickering, good story, emotional connections made and I think Yuri will turn out to be my favorite character of the bunch.

Granted, I don’t much care for her wedding dress. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t give off much of a real wedding dress vibe. That’s pretty much made up for with her really cool transformation sequence, though.

Also, I totally get that there’s a suspension of disbelief aspect to these shows in regards to the characters getting their powers. In practically any magical girl show, the girls will get their powers, learn their attacks and accept their roles fairly quickly because they have to for the sake of getting the plot going.

….That being said, Yuri accepted her role WAY too easily. Even though characters do accept these things quickly, hardly ever do you see characters accepting that they’re magical girls with superpowers who are now destined to save the world without a single question or hesitation. The only instances I can think of where that happens is when you have the super bubbly girls who think all of that is the coolest thing ever. Yuri is not one of those girls.

The goddess of love appears in her glowing hands telling her all of this, leading her to transform with lipstick into a warrior wearing a wedding dress and later a warrior wearing a battle skirt who can make a rainbow ribbon/whip, and she doesn’t seem surprised in the slightest. She doesn’t even ask why or how Momoko is Wedding Peach – in a world where I don’t think Wedding Peach has been publicly discussed yet, either. It’s just ‘I’m a newbie at this, so please excuse me.’ Bear in mind, this isn’t an actual complaint about the episode. I just found this aspect to be really funny.

Story-wise, it was simple but very realistic and impacting. Yuri getting blamed for the dresses being destroyed and the shock and hurt on her face after her (possessed, but still) mother slapped her across the face – I felt that. The fact that her (possessed) mother is the enemy they have to defeat in the end is heartbreaking. Not only would that raise some latent fear from when her mother attacked her earlier, but she has to deal with fighting her own mother. Plus, her mother’s attacking her with a giant pair of scissors! Yikes.

I really loved how supportive Momoko and Hinagiku were after Yuri revealed what happened to them. Yuri just wants to leave it be and brushes off her mother’s slap by saying she was just tired and stressed, but Hinagiku and Momoko won’t take that sitting down. I finally felt like these three were actually close friends for a change.

They’re still bickering (especially Hinagiku….) and poking at each other over Yanagiba, but when the chips are down they’re really there for each other. You really need to establish a good friendship and group dynamic in order for teams to work. They can have their problems, of course, but I need to believe they’re actually friends who can set aside their differences when it counts at the very least, and they did that here. Kudos.

All in all, a really enjoyable episode and a great introduction to Angel Lily. I look forward to seeing her work with Momoko in future episodes.

With Angel Lily now in the ring, it only makes sense that Hinagiku gets her transformation episode next. From what I saw of the preview, this should be a fairly emotional episode, too, so hopefully we’ll keep this quality train going.

Previous Episode…


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