AniManga Clash! Yu-Gi-Oh! Season Zero Episode 17: Close Match! A Model’s Invitation (Placeholder) Review

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Plot: Kaiba’s third shitennou appears! An idol named Aileen comes to Japan to defeat Yugi on Kaiba’s behalf using Anzu as a hostage. The game? An ancient Indian game called Raijinhai that Yugi has never played before. Can Yugi find some way to win and save Anzu?

Breakdown: The best part about this episode is the absolutely hilarious way Anzu was animated excitedly shaking a box back and forth in the beginning. If you only watch one shot of this episode, please just watch that. You won’t regret it.

As for the rest of this episode……eeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….First of all, yay, another Anzu-centric episode. Whoo. Hoo. It’s not as bad I feared because she thankfully spends a majority of the episode frozen in total silence, but still. She starts the episode being annoying, and she ends the episode being an absolute bitch. For someone who worships Aileen, a model who looked pretty unique, especially in Japan in the 90s, she’s sure easily fooled by a pair of sunglasses….

Second, the first half of the episode is mostly nothing. It’s entirely setup to the game, which, if you ask me, is too long. Most of the first scenes with Kaiba could have removed, and the scene with her….boyfriend (?) could have been removed too. The scene with her boyfriend, or whoever that was, was meant to show us that she’s really good at games and something awful happens when you lose to her. Somehow, losing to her caused this guy to break his leg. The game she chose was Raijinhai, which, I checked, is not a real game. And, somehow, losing that game resulted in the guy breaking his leg, which was a big deal because he’s a famous soccer player.

While this does inform the viewer that this woman is serious business…..isn’t it a bit better to have that be a reveal? Like she can just be a nice celebrity at first and then boom she reveals that she’s taken Anzu hostage and is one of Kaiba’s shitennou? What we learn about her through these scenes is that she became one of Kaiba’s shitennou because he promised she’d be able to meet smart and famous men to be game opponents that way, which is not exactly compelling. (Also, are women not good enough opponents for her?)

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Later, we learn that she’s all about strategy, psyching out her opponents and reading people. She loves games that rely on strategy and reading your opponent and dislikes all games based on random chance. Aileen is actually a pretty okay character. She might be the only half-Canadian half-Indian anime character in existence, which is cool. She doesn’t come off as nearly intimidating enough, though.

I pretty much just like her attitude. She’s not over-the-top evil or a massive jerk. She’s just someone who loves games and outwitting her opponents…..even if that’s not what she ends up doing. She even lost gracefully, and she left Yugi on good terms. I would say that’s a bit weird considering she held Anzu hostage, but who cares? She made Anzu shut up and not move for about ten minutes. It’s all good.

Third, the game of the episode is very poorly explained. Apparently, the people who wrote the Wiki somehow had access to more rules than they presented in this episode because, as far as I saw, it was very random and luck-based. Which is weird because she specifically said she didn’t like luck-based games.

There are a set of figurines kinda akin to a chess set. You have a king, queen, Raijin Indra, Shogun, two Elephants, two Cavalry and two Soldiers. The Raijin Indra is the strongest, it beats everything but can only be used once per game. The king beats everything and is only beaten by the queen. The queen can’t beat anything besides the king. For the rest, I’m assuming the Wiki writers were using what happened in the game to figure out what beats what and pretty much guess because she doesn’t explain what any other piece does.

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The game works like this – you have a game board with a screen in the middle. You put the screen up and choose a piece. Then you lower the screen and compare the pieces. If the piece beats your opponent’s, the losing piece is removed from the game. You win by either taking all of your opponent’s pieces, all of their stronger pieces or their king.

It’s very much just a guessing game until you have eliminated some pieces. Aileen goes on about how this is a game of psychology to the point where it honestly seems like she can read Yami’s mind. Part of this mind game is to take Anzu hostage because she knows Yugi/Yami cares about her, referring to her as his girlfriend.

The way she reads Yami is weird and never adequately explained. She invites Yugi and Anzu over after asking Yugi to bring her a really rare and interesting game from his grandpa’s game shop. She has a dance studio in her apartment, somehow, and invites Anzu to come dance. As she gets into a dance pose, Aileen tells her to hold the pose….and she does. She’s in some kind of trance. She’s not conscious, though her eyes are wide open and not focused. She can’t move a thing, and she’s totally silent.

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Yami later asks if this ability is hypnosis, and the Wiki says it is, but she doesn’t seem to agree. When she tries to explain this power later, she says “All I do is use words to get into the crevices of people’s hearts.” How did saying “Hold that pose, okay?” get into a crevice in Anzu’s heart?

During the game, it seems as if she’s cheating because she predicts every single piece that Yami uses, but this also makes no sense. It’s explained that she can do this because she rattled Yugi by taking Anzu hostage. Then she used probabilities combined with his disrupted thinking to predict what he’d play.

Here’s the thing, though…..That makes no sense. There are seven pieces. Yugi has no experience with this game. He can’t really make much of a strategy either since it’s largely random. There’s no way she’s accurately predicting every single move based purely on probabilities and the fact that Yugi’s a bit distracted by Anzu being in danger.

What’s even funnier is that Yugi turns around and does the same thing to her. Once he realizes what she’s doing, he rattles her by predicting one of her pieces accurately. Once she’s rattled, he’s able to predict all of her moves. But here’s the thing….again…..this doesn’t make sense either. Not only should he not be able to do this because of the reasons I just explained, but him doing this trick wins him the game. Why? Wouldn’t they just be stalemated because they can both read each other? Or would they stop letting the other read them and still end in a stalemate?

Oh and the funniest part of this whole game was when Aileen randomly upped the stakes. Apparently, the threat of Anzu forever being a ballerina statue wasn’t enough. She reveals that there’s a door slowly opening in the dance studio. With each piece Yami loses, the door raises slightly.

What’s behind this door?

……Aileen’s pet tiger!

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Because she’s Indian and thus has a pet tiger, I guess.

I laughed out loud when this was revealed. How completely random both with the unnecessary stakes increase and the sudden tiger.

Yami kinda uses his powers a little…..I think….or maybe not. His Puzzle glows as he boasts that she has 2000 years of Indian experience with this game behind her, but games were invented in ancient Egypt – so he has 5000 years of experience behind him…..I don’t get it. But whatever.

Yami wins, and Anzu’s safe, Yippee frickin’ skippy……

Oh, sorry. Does it seem like I’m being overly mean to Anzu today? You know, you’re right. I give Anzu too much crap. She hasn’t done anything awful today….Okay, she was kinda rude to Yugi earlier because he didn’t know who Aileen was, but she was okay besides that. Yeah, I’m sure once Anzu wakes up, she’ll perfectly delightful…….*cough*

I was so caught off-guard by what Anzu did when she was released from the trance. It was one of those moments where I had to pause because I was just flabbergasted.

……She slapped the unholy fuck out of Yugi.

For no reason.

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He ran into the room, concerned for her, and the instant she snapped out of her trance she slapped him so hard he fell down. She says that he got in the way, but 1) No, he didn’t. He was in front of her when she woke up. 2) Even if he did interrupt her, she was POSING before she was frozen. How do you get in the way of a pose? And 3) He didn’t touch her or do anything. He just ran in yelling her name and she scrambled his face meat with her palm.

Fuck you, Anzu. I can’t believe how much you make me yearn for 2000anime!Anzu. Do you realize how shitty of a character you have to be to make me yearn for Captain Friendship over there?

When all is said and done, Kaiba fires Aileen, and her final words to him are that he’s not as strong as Yugi. Later, Aileen flies back to….wherever she’s from…..wait, did she bring her tiger with her on an international flight…..for a day trip? Or does the tiger stay in Japan? Who takes care of that thing? She said it attacks everyone but her.

As Aileen flies off, she thinks to herself that she wants to play another game with Yugi in the future – a game of love. She’s 19 and Yugi’s like 17, so this isn’t squicky. I just always get distracted when people are romantically interested in Yugi because he looks so much like he’s ten….

This isn’t the last we see of Aileen, however. Apparently, she returns later in the show again under Kaiba’s employ for some reason.

All in all, this episode was fine, just kinda boring, which is a shame for the third shitennou episode.

Just so we’re clear – Kaiba’s shitennou so far have been a guy obsessed with dolls, a guy who was really lucky and a model who could kinda-ish use hypnosis and whose specialty game was one that relied extremely heavily on chance while saying she dislikes games relying on chance and acting as if the game doesn’t rely heavily on chance……….Cool.

Also, I should note that Jonouchi, Honda and Miho don’t appear for a single second in this episode, which is very, very odd. They constantly get shoehorned into episodes that have little to nothing to do with them, but here we have plenty of time to throw them in and they chose not to. Weird.

Next time, we’re finally getting back into comparison territory as we cover chapters 46-47 and an ancient Chinese game where your soul is on the line.


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Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters | Episode 1: Getting Played Review

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Plot: Yugi and Téa are getting into a new game called Capsule Monsters – a spin-off (?) board game of Duel Monsters. Joey wins an all-expense paid trip to India and invites all of his friends to come along, but their plane suddenly crashes on a remote island. While everyone is okay, they’re stuck until help arrives. The group decides to explore the island while they wait, and they quickly stumble upon an unconscious man named Alex Brisbane. According to him, he was exploring a strange Egyptian-esque pyramid on the island with Yugi’s grandpa when he suddenly went missing.

Yugi and the others follow Alex into the pyramid to Solomon’s last location only to see a massive empty room with a strange map covering the floor. As he walks onto it, Joey vanishes in a flash of light. Realizing Yugi’s grandpa likely vanished the same way, Yugi, Téa and Tristan step on the map as well, following Joey and Solomon to find them and bring them home. Little do they realize that they’ve actually become trapped in the world of Capsule Monsters, and they’ll need to play the game in order to leave.

Breakdown: Ever since I did my 4Kids retrospective, I’ve wanted to completely review Capsule Monsters. I won’t be able to do an SDC on it since a Japanese version either doesn’t exist or simply isn’t available, so I thought I’d just do a simple episode-by-episode review on this…spin-off?….Season? Arc? I dunno. Whatever 4Kids intended for this to be.

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The first episode starts with Yugi having a nightmare about Yami, who is clad in gold armor for some reason, fighting a giant shadow creature, who winds up consuming him. Yugi jolts out of bed and reveals that this is a recurring nightmare. He then notices the Puzzle glowing and acting strangely.

Yugi heads out, but then remembers that his grandpa is still gone after suddenly leaving for a ‘secret’ week-long trip. He should have been home that morning, but there’s been no sign of him. Does he not have a phone or anything?

After the theme song, we get such a dramatic reveal of Joey that I really thought this was indeed meant to be a spin-off moment. There’s no reason whatsoever to reveal him so dramatically when nothing is going on. However, no one else gets such a dramatic reveal so I dunno.

Joey partakes in a street contest for a prize of some sort.

Back at school, Téa and Yugi are playing Capsule Monsters, and Téa, being the mostly stereotypical girl character she is, doesn’t bother learning how to play and only wants to play cute monsters like Happy Lover. She duels the same way, basically, but at least she roughly knows how Duel Monsters works and gives a crap about it.

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Téa: “I suppose that means your soldier guy is going to fight my flying guy?” Soldier gu—That’s Celtic Guardian. You know Celtic Guardian. You’ve seen that monster tons of times.

Tristan shows up followed soon after by a super excited Joey who explains that he won three tickets for a special trip for all of them…..All four of them. I guess it’s possible that he was showing off the tickets he was offering to the others and withholding his, but why would he do that?

As they walk along, Téa thinks to herself that she has a bad feeling about their trip because whenever they go places terrible and usually supernatural things tend to happen. Well, I mean….yeah, she has a point.

She’s snapped out of her concerns by the voice of Yami, and they oddly note his sudden appearance with a chime like “Oh who cares about all those supernatural threats that tend to follow us? I have my hunky pharaoh now!”

It’s only here, right before they’re about to get on the plane, that we learn this is a six-day trip to India. Before, all he said was they were “tickets to paradise” and literally all the tickets showed were vague images of fields with stone walls with a statue in the foreground.

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As they’re flying, the plane starts shaking violently and the first thing Tristan says in response to this is;

“Hey! You messed up my photo, man!”

Either he has nerves of steel, or he’s an idiot.

Their engines fail, and the plane crashes into the water below. We cut to the group, sans the pilots, on shore. Joey complains he lost all of his stuff, but uh…..how? He has a backpack, and it looks like you can still access the plane no problem. Go back and get it? I guess it’s possible that it’s all waterlogged, but if that’s the case then how were all of their backpacks left dry? Why do they even have backpacks? It sounded they were planning on a vacation not a backpacking trip.

Téa says that the pilot, who is never shown again, sent out a distress signal, but it could be hours before they’re rescued. Joey and Tristan immediately decide to leave and wander in the unknown wilderness so their trip won’t be wasted. You guys are going on a six day trip. They said it would take a few hours to get rescued. I’m sure they’d still take you to your destination. Just stay still. But of course they don’t, and I guess it’s made okay because they point out how stupid they’re being.

They stumble upon a man in black robes passed out on the ground. They give him some water and help him out when Yugi notices a black bandanna fall out of his pocket that looks identical to his grandpa’s.

Shocked, the man, Dr. Alex Brisbane, reveals that he was on an expedition with Yugi’s grandpa in the area, but he went missing….I just realized Yugi flippantly went on a six-day trip to India right after he became suspicious because his grandpa hadn’t returned home yet. He DOES have an off-screen mom, and he had to have gone home and packed. Didn’t he learn any more about grandpa’s trip or anything during that time? Was the trip literally immediately after Joey won the tickets?

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As they travel with Alex to help find Solomon, Yami tells Yugi that this all seems way too suspicious. They randomly win a trip, they randomly crash, they just so happen to stumble upon the last person to see Solomon before he went missing right in the area they ‘randomly’ crashed in – it’s all too weird. Very good point, Yami. Although it’s so obvious that you really wonder why no one else has gotten suspicious before now. I mean, yeah, weird things do tend to happen to them……I was going to continue, but then I started listing all of the weird things that happen to them in my head, and realized this is probably one of the easier things to accept.

They reach a pyramid, and Alex explains that they were exploring and analyzing this weird Egyptian pyramid that somehow is in India (I assume they’re in India) when Solomon went missing. According to him, this pyramid is the tomb of Alexander the Great who was briefly crowned a pharaoh in Egypt, which is why he supposedly has a pyramid, but the mystery is why the pyramid is in the middle of the jungle instead of in Egypt.

Alexander the Great was indeed a pharaoh, and the Egyptians even named Alexandria after him and hailed him as a god after he died. However, he was mummified and buried in a tomb in Alexandria. No one knows where exactly in Alexandria the tomb is as of now, but they’re fairly certain it’s in Alexandria because several people who claimed to have visited the pyramid in the past stated it was in Alexandria.

There was a recent report in 2021 claiming the tomb had been found in Siwa, Egypt, but it hasn’t been verified, and there hasn’t been any updates on that report as of this writing.

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Anyway, is anyone going to ask why two professional archaeologists went in the middle of nowhere to investigate an incredibly fascinating out-of-place pyramid that they’re theorizing is the resting place of one of the most famous historical figures ever whose tomb is so mysterious that people have referred to it as the ‘Holy grail’ of archaeological discoveries, should it be found, and went to this place entirely alone and without proper emergency equipment or communication with emergency services?

No? Okay. Moving on.

Actually, while I’m at it, why did none of them go back to the plane and notify the pilots who have radios and stuff? Yugi’s grandpa is missing and possibly hurt or worse. Can someone please make an intelligent decision?

As they wander the halls of the pyramid, Joey accidentally sets off a spike trap that nearly kills him, and Alex, whose name totally isn’t suspicious, by the way, just ignore that, remembers to mention that there are deadly traps around every corner in this place. To avoid them, they have to hang from ledges 50 feet above more spikes and scoot across the chasm as well as crawl in tunnels.

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Téa is only now getting suspicious, but not of anything I’ve mentioned. She gets suspicious because Alex seems to know an awful lot about a pyramid he’s only been in once before. Yes, the one thing that’s not all that suspicious is the thing she gets suspicious about.

They reach a fork in the path – one leading up and one leading down. Alex explains that he and Solomon, being the incredibly dumb people we’ve already established them as being, decided to split up at this point. Alex would explore upstairs while Solomon explored downstairs. It’s stupid enough to split up in an unexplored tomb in the middle of the jungle, but they already knew at this point that the place was covered in lethal traps. Why the hell did they split up?

Alex eventually reached a sealed door, so he went back, but Solomon wasn’t there. He took the path down and reached a dead end where only Solomon’s bandanna lay on the floor.

They’re all adamant that Solomon has to be there somewhere, so they all head downstairs. They reach a massive room with a giant map on the floor – a detail Alex omitted from his story. They all believe, for some reason, that the room is so big that Solomon probably got lost in it, so they head off to find him……*lip smack*….The room isn’t THAT big, guys. Is it big? Yes? Is it so big someone would get lost in it? No. There are no walls, and you can clearly see the other side of the room. It’s about as big as a hockey rink. Even if, for some reason and somehow, Solomon did get lost in this room, you’d be able to see him and vice versa.

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Joey rushes off to find him, but the instant his feet hit the map on the floor, it glows and Joey is sucked into it. Yugi, Téa and Tristan run off to investigate what happened, only slightly weirded out by the fact that their friend just vanished in a magical floor. Again, though, given their lives at the moment, it’s understandable that this doesn’t surprise them much. They realize that there’s an odd pattern to the map. It’s a mixture of multiple environments such as mountains, jungles and deserts. Yugi thinks that it looks familiar somehow. Alex mentions that this tomb is also said to house some sort of game. Yugi believes that it now makes perfect sense why his grandpa would come on this trip – he loves games. I think him just being an archaeologist would justify him being here, but okay.

Yugi proclaims that he’s going to enter the floor map and find his grandpa and Joey. Téa and Tristan offer to go as well, but Yugi tries to convince them not to go.

Yugi: “Thanks a lot. But I’ve been leading you guys into danger week after week for way too long.” Haha, it’s funny because Yu-Gi-Oh! used to air weekly.

Also, it’s not really your place to act like this is purely your responsibility anymore, Yugi. Joey’s lost too. Besides, if anything, it’s your grandpa’s fault. He’s a very bad archaeologist.

When they jump into the map, they wind up back in the forest, but now they have weird contraptions on their arms and belts that look like they’re meant to hold things.

They also notice strange stone pods around them, and Yugi tells Yami that he thinks something might be inside.

Before Yugi can investigate further, they’re suddenly attacked by three monsters.

Yugi: “I recognize those things!” Yeah, you should. They’re Gokibore, some of the most common monsters in Duel Mons– “They’re from the Capsule Monsters board game!”

Uh, well…yes, that is accurate, I guess. They are in that game too.

*Kamakiriman appears* “That looks familiar too!”

Yeah, it’s a very basic insect card from Duel Monsters. You know, that game you incessantly play every single day of your life?

….Uhm…anyway, Téa and Tristan wind up getting separated from Yugi. They’re being chased by the Gokibore while Yugi gets chased by Kamakiriman. Téa and Tristan manage to escape the Gokibore by sliding into a very small cave that leads down a deep hole and lands them onto a beach. Behind them, they see that a Happy Lover and Thunder Kid have followed them, but they’re posing no threat. If anything, they seem very friendly to them. Téa recognizes Happy Lover from the Capsule Monsters game. I’ll accept this because, as far as I remember, despite Tea having a fairy themed deck, I’ve never seen her use or witness the use of a Happy Lover card.

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Briefly back with Joey, who somehow got to the top of a cliff, he’s suddenly taken away by a giant crow-like monster I can’t really identify because I can’t see it very well.

Back with Yugi, he escapes the Kamakiriman by diving into the water, but it follows him when he reaches shore. Just as he’s about to be attacked, Yami shifts into action and jumps away, accidentally touching one of the weird pods. In response, it glows and reveals Celtic Guardian, who leaps into action against Kamakiriman.

Yami: “Why does this all seem so familiar?” Because it’s Celtic Guardian. He’s been in your Duel Monsters deck for age–

*flashback to Yugi and Téa playing Capsule Monsters*

Uh…..are you guys okay? You all collectively seem to have Duel Monsters amnesia. I mean, I get that he touched the capsule which summoned Celtic Guardian, but that is the only factor that would lead back to the board game. You can’t even argue for the map being strictly Capsule Monsters related because that’s just bumming off of Field Spells from Duel Monsters, particular in season one where Duelist Kingdom pre-made their field spells based off of the environment.

Also, I’d like to point out that this is the exact same shot they used earlier (the one I used as the header image), but the one they used in the flashback has an animation error where the capsule to the far right is on the wrong layer, so it looks like it’s floating beside the desk.

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Once Celtic Guardian defeats Kamakiriman, he speaks to Yami, which is trippy as hell, and tells him that, for the duration of the game, he shall protect his new master, Yami/Yugi. In a glow of light, he’s sucked into the device on Yami’s arm, which then ejects a capsule just like the ones from the Capsule Monsters board game. This would have been a much more appropriate time to make that connection. Like, have them think this is all Duel Monsters related like normal but then when they see the capsule that’s when they say “No….this is….Capsule Monsters!” But, hey, I’m not the director.

With his new Capsule in hand, Yami proclaims that they’ve found themselves in the world of Capsule Monsters. Just to really drive it home that it’s Capsule Monsters, when they do a big zoom out, they overlay grid lines and Celtic Guard to make the area look like a game board.

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And that was the first episode of Capsule Monsters…….it was bad.

The animation and art are noticeably jankier than the regular series is, and that’s already not that good. I kept getting distracted by how cheap it all looks. The story, which, again, is something you’d typically give leeway to anyway because it’s Yu-Gi-Oh!, is somehow even sloppier than the writing tends to be. No one is acting or thinking the way I’d think they would be or should be.

Téa is nervous about the trip before they even go, and for no other reason besides terrible shit just seems to follow them, but then she sees absolutely none of the major red flags raised by Alex. The one she does see is barely a red flag. Like “Hm, this archaeologist certainly does know a lot about this place he was researching and has explored before.”

Everyone has Duel Monsters amnesia, which, given how much of their lives revolve around that game, even if half of them don’t really play it, is really, really weird to the point where it’s kinda unsettling. It would be one thing if this was an entirely different game from the ground up. I wouldn’t be as preoccupied wondering why they’re not thinking of Duel Monsters. However, as far as I’ve seen, it’s just Duel Monsters in pods with a weird crystal involved.

In the manga, they had entirely different monsters than the Duel Monsters game so it felt more unique. This just feels like it’s piggy backing off of Duel Monsters.

What’s even worse is that they explain almost nothing about this new game besides you have to play strong monsters and you need to capture your opponent’s symbol thingy, if that ever comes into play. That is a pretty big sin for a gaming anime to commit. You can’t just throw your audience into this completely blind. They don’t even show them playing a full game. They just show Téa gushing about her cute monster while Yugi passively explains two facts about the game.

The only real hook I see from this series is that they have ‘real’ monsters in a ‘real’ environment, but that’s something they’ve already done before several times. Specifically, this feels awfully reminiscent of the Legendary Heroes and the Virtual World (Noah’s) arc. Hell, anytime they have a Shadow Game the monsters are technically real.

But let’s see how the story unfolds further next time.


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AniManga Clash! Yu-Gi-Oh! Season Zero Episode 16 (Placeholder) Sudden Turnaround! Threat of the Doctor’s Gown Review

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Plot: Jonouchi visits his little sister, Shizuka, in the hospital on her birthday. He soon develops a crush on a nurse at the hospital, Miyuki. A slimy and extremely negligent doctor, Gouyuu, harasses Miyuki to try to get her to date him, much to her clear annoyance. When it gets so bad that Gouyuu gets her fired as a punishment for refusing to date him, Jonouchi takes matters into his own hands to protect the newfound target of his affections.

Breakdown: Something we never get in the manga, at least during the original run, is Jonouchi’s sister, Shizuka. Meaning this is technically where Shizuka originated and technically one of few things that originated exclusively from Season Zero and carried over into the 2000 series/Duelist manga. Their backstories are still roughly the same except in Season Zero she had typical girl-in-an-anime syndrome of having some vague weakness/sickness that keeps her in and out of hospitals for most of her life instead of her future ailment of having her vision slowly fail since childhood and requires surgery to fix it.

Jonouchi goes to buy a big pink stuffed bear for Shizuka’s birthday and bumps into Yugi, who had no idea Jonouchi had a sister until now. Yugi accidentally gets some ice cream on an evil thug because this is Yu-Gi-Oh Season Zero where everyone’s an evil thug. Jonouchi beats up the thug and his friends to protect Yugi, but the bear gets ruined as a result. He has no more money for a new gift, so he asks Yugi to come with him as he visits Shizuka.

They do a cute little comedy routine when they enter Shizuka’s hospital room as a means of a makeshift gift, which Shizuka enjoys. Soon enough, Jonouchi finds himself quickly infatuated with a kind nurse named Miyuki, who tends to his wounds from the fight.

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He must have such a bad hair wound.

A doctor at the hospital, Dr. Gouyuu, is an evil asshole because Season Zero. He has an inordinate amount of patients die in his care because he just doesn’t….well….care. He acts like he does and then later shows that he cares more about his golf game than anything. He can easily walk away from another lost patient and gleefully go on about his golf game, even swinging a golf club around the halls of the hospital almost every time he’s on screen.

If that’s not enough, he also sexually harasses Miyuki and low-key threatens to fire her if she doesn’t quit rejecting him. Lovely.

The next day, Jonouchi arrives at the hospital again to surprise Shizuka, this time with Yugi, Anzu, Miho and Honda in tow as well because Yugi couldn’t help but spill the beans about Shizuka to the others and they wanted to meet her. Soon enough, the others catch onto Jonouchi’s crush on Miyuki and encourage him to go after her.

Honda then does the worst thing I’ve ever seen him do. He offers Jonouchi a bag containing a gift he can give to Miyuki to ‘help her on the night shift.’ I was immediately suspicious, but I had no idea he would do what he was about to do.

Jonouchi gives her the gift, mentioning the part about how it will help her on the night shift, and it turns out to be a frickin’ bra. Miyuki is pissed off, Jonouchi is appalled and all Honda has to say is “Give it up. There’s no chance.”

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Honda, what the actual fuck? Jonouchi is visiting his sick sister and has an innocent crush on a nurse and you make him look like a harassing perv to her? Jonouchi did nothing to you. Why are you such an asshole right now?

The pervy doctor skeevs on Miyuki again, though this time Jonouchi confronts him. As he and Gouyuu argue, Miyuki slaps Gouyuu and chews him out for being so disrespectful and uncaring about his patients. She demands he never speak to her ever again and walks away while Jonouchi chases after her.

A woman standing up for herself to an evil incel with power? I only expect positive outcomes from this.

The next day at school, Jonouchi is extremely depressed over Miyuki. His friends are observing him from afar, but for some reason aren’t chastising Honda for clearly being responsible for this mess. Do I believe a nurse probably in her mid twenties at the very least would be interested in a 16-17 year old ex-bully? No. I love ya bunches, Jonouchi, but not only is that unlikely, it’s also pretty inappropriate. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still enjoy her company and have a simple crush – both of which Honda completely destroyed with his moronic prank. She liked Jonouchi just fine before this, and now she thinks he’s a juvenile pervert.

Yugi, being the superior Jonouchi best friend, confronts him and tells him something Jonouchi used to tell him all the time, “You’re not being manly!” Jonouchi laughs and agrees, stating he has a newfound resolve to do his best with Miyuki.

He buys some flowers for her, but when he gets to the hospital Shizuka tells him that Miyuki was fired. From what Gouyuu said, she put a patient in danger by ignoring or forgetting orders that he gave her, but Miyuki doesn’t remember getting the orders, and Shizuka doesn’t believe Miyuki would get such important orders and not fulfill them.

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As Jonouchi explores the halls of the hospital, he remembers what happened right after they walked away from Gouyuu. Jonouchi apologized to Miyuki, and she decided to forgive him and change his bandages. As we see Miyuki caring for Jonouchi, we also see Gouyuu outside the door with a smirk.

In present time, Jonouchi confronts Gouyuu, proclaiming that he was with Miyuki when he supposedly gave this order and didn’t hear a thing. He threatens to rat him out, but Gouyuu, being an evil slimeball, counters by saying, if Jonouchi rats him out, he’ll have Shizuka removed from the hospital’s care. The hospital has some of the best treatment in the area and it might be a huge problem if she’s sent away.

Jonouchi begrudgingly agrees to keep his mouth shut, but I don’t quite get why. Sure the hospital may be good, but if he has the power to kick her out, surely he’s her actual doctor, right? Why would Jonouchi want this disgusting negligent homiciding sack of lawsuits caring for his sister at all?

Outside with Yugi, Jonouchi is clearly hurting a lot by this. He has no choice but to protect Shizuka, but it means having to sacrifice saving Miyuki’s job. Seeing Jonouchi’s tears, Yugi immediately summons Yami complete with a foreboding massive shadow on the ground that has the Millennium symbol shining at the top and glowing eyes, which is just the sweetest thing. I know this is a serious and pretty badass moment too, but really the instant he sees Jonouchi crying, Yugi calls Yami out to kick ass in his name. I love these two (or three?) so much.

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…..Screw you, Honda.

Yami (and Yugi) are so colossally pissed that we don’t follow Yami through the hospital as he looks for Gouyuu – we follow his pissed off looking glowing eyed and Millennium symbol’d shadow as it rushes around the halls. The effects are, admittedly, kinda janky. They’re pulling some really low-budget old CGI work here or something, but who cares? Yami Yugi is out for blood to protect his baby boy—I mean Jonouchi, and I am HERE for that.

Gouyuu is talking on the phone with someone about putting off another surgery to go golfing (I get the stereotype, but what exactly is Gouyuu’s deal with golf? It’s all he thinks about besides perving on nurses.) and brags to this person about how they had Miyuki fired for turning him down and that’s a ‘natural penalty’ for that. Dude….tone it down. If Captain Planet had villains centered on sexual harassment and malpractice, you’d easily be one.

I really can’t understand how he’s in the position he is, let alone that he might get promoted to head of the hospital. Everyone comments about how he loses a lot of patients, notably way more than other doctors, he’s constantly pushing surgeries back, not caring for patients properly, ignoring them most of the time, harassing the nurses, and he doesn’t seem to be good at keeping his mouth shut about this shit – how is he even employed?

Yami records him saying those things on a tape recorder and plays it back for him in the doorway before challenging him to a game.

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Meanwhile, Shizuka tells Jonouchi that Miyuki is leaving the city, presumably to never return, so Shizuka tells him to go to the train station and talk to her. She doesn’t want Jonouchi to have any regrets about her.

Shadow Game

Yami sets up today’s Shadow Game to be Gouyuu’s beloved golf. The twist is that they’re playing in the empty halls of the hospital. The stakes are, if Yami loses, Gouyuu gets the incriminating tape. If Gouyuu loses, Yami keeps the tape and Gouyuu gets a punishment game.

Gouyuu chooses his club and asks what Yami will be using for a club. He grabs Gouyuu’s stethoscope and says he’ll use that. Gouyuu laughs at his choice of a ‘club’ and claims he’s won before the match even starts.

…..Is there no one in this hospital? Why are the halls all empty?

The goal is the Nurse’s Center on the floor directly below them. Gouyuu goes first and manages to cleanly hit the ball down the hall. Yami, using the stethoscope as a slingshot, whacks the ball, causing it to bounce around the walls of the hall before ending up in some room.

With a laugh, Gouyuu goes on ahead while Yami is supposedly left to figure out how to get his ball out of the room and down to the Nurse’s Center.

With a few more strokes, Gouyuu is able to get down to the Nurse’s Center quite easily. As he’s about to hit his ball into the room, Yami’s ball suddenly emerges. He explains that the room he hit his ball into has a neat system – a mail drop. He hit his ball into the chute, and it fell directly into the Nurse’s Center. Hole-in-one.

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Uhh…..Is it just me….or does this make no sense? I can understand having a chute system for mail, but why does the mail chute wind up in the Nurse’s Center? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the mail to go to an administration office or, I dunno, a mail room?

Yami smirks and mocks Gouyuu because he knows golf courses very well, but he obviously doesn’t know his own hospital.

Gouyuu tries to attack Yami, causing him to break his precious club and fall over. Yami opens the door to darkness, and Gouyuu is suddenly haunted by the frightening spirits of all the patients that he let die in his care. Yami walks away, leaving a screaming Gouyuu behind.

Meanwhile, Jonouchi finally reaches the train station with the flowers. He gives them to Miyuki only to find that all of the petals fell off as he was running. She smiles and thanks him for them anyway. Jonouchi begs her to come back to the hospital, but Miyuki reveals that she had been planning on leaving for a while. A man approaches, and Miyuki explains that she decided to go to work at a clinic on a small remote island with this man, the doctor who runs the place. It’s implied that they’re interested in each other romantically. She bids Jonouchi farewell, telling him to bring Shizuka by for a visit sometime.

Jonouchi is rightfully shocked and devastated.

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The next day, we see Gouyuu on the floor of the hospital surrounded by patients and doctors. He prattles on in a crazy state about how he cares more about golf than his patients while a boom box plays the tape of him confessing to his unethical behavior behind him.

At the hospital, Jonouchi is greeted by his friends who shoot confetti at him and try to make him feel better by openly sharing his pain with them. Honda approaches him and says he understands how he feels, which I thought might lead to a legitimately nice moment and redeem the shit he did earlier a little, because Honda does know how it feels to pine after someone he’ll never have. But no. He goes on telling Jonouchi that he can cry into his chest if he wants, and Jonouchi points out that Honda has a huge grin on his face, seemingly happy that Jonouchi got rejected and is taking delight in his pain.

Again, screw Honda. Please just write him out of this show and take Miho with him.

———————————–

This episode was pretty good. It was adorable seeing Jonouchi have a crush, even if I knew it was going to end in heartbreak. At least Miyuki was fairly nice about it instead of making her the villain or just a jerk or something. I wish we got more focus on Shizuka because, at the end of the day, we learned nothing about her besides she’s nice, loves her brother and is sick. Unlike in the 2000 anime, where we learn she’s……nice…..loves her brother….and is sick….

The Yugi and Jonouchi moments in this episode were sweet as pie, and that scene where Yami charges off in a shadow form to hunt down Gouyuu in vengeance because he saw Jonouchi crying is mwah perfect.

Gouyuu was as over-the-top as any Yu-Gi-Oh! villain, but he was built on a very real type of person. There are more sick misogynist guys in power who are more than willing to fire women for the horrific crime of turning them down for a date than I care to think about.

The one truly bad spot in this episode was Honda. What the heck was up with Honda today? Why was he so cruel to poor Jonouchi all because he had a crush on a nurse? The only good thing he did in this episode was loan Jonouchi the money to get Shizuka a teddy bear, which he didn’t even know was the intention of the money, but screw him entirely otherwise in this episode.

Next time, Kaiba’s third Shitennou shows up – a supermodel who can seemingly predict all of Yami’s moves.


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 24: Everything Changes (Conclusion)

So, class, what have we learned over the past 24 blog posts and 100 pages besides the fact that I desperately need a life?

All joking aside, this wasn’t really a passion project or anything, more of a long-standing curiosity that I wanted to explore, thought would just take a few days to research and write, not two months (even as all the parts were sitting in my scheduled posts queue for weeks after finishing the entire thing, I still went back and edited them many times), and wound up finding so many rabbit holes that I think I literally am a rabbit now.

However, I am very glad that I decided to write this up because it helped me understand a lot about why 4Kids was the way it was, a lot of their business practices, what was happening behind the scenes, why they truly died, and I even got to do some sleuthing and maybe clear up some rumors. Maybe you even learned something and had some fun. I hope so.

I think a big takeaway here, though, is that 4Kids, at the end of the day, wasn’t this big boogeyman of anime, when you get down to it. They were mostly just….grossly incompetent. I know it seems weird to say that of such a big name as 4Kids, but, they pretty much were. They propped up their business on a few big titles with no plan as to what they would do should those titles be taken away, they lucked out with a few huge licenses, especially Pokemon at the start, they greatly overestimated their skills and knowledge in the industry, and then whined that Japan didn’t consistently come up with more merchandisable cash cows for them to license on a regular basis as if that was in their control.

They disrespected their audience, which earned them ire, they disrespected anime and manga as a whole, which earned them ire, they disrespected their peers in the anime (and manga) industry, which earned them ire, they didn’t bother to do proper research on their own licenses before obtaining them or research into Japan and how their economy and content works despite working with their properties for years, which earned them ire, and they constantly wanted a pat on the back for doing so much for anime while also desperately not wanting their audience to know what they were consuming was anime….which earned them ire.

Even their production of merchandise and marketing, two things you’d think a licensing company that has existed for over four decades and has had several massive properties under its belt would be able to do quite well consistently, wasn’t all that good at times. From not properly advertising certain shows to supposedly not getting a toy deal for Mew Mew Power to their ridiculously spotty and frustrating release schedule for DVD and VHS releases, especially in regards to ‘uncut’ releases, to making a deal with Miramax and Harvey Weinstein for the Pokemon movies to the disaster that was Toonzaki. It’s amazing how they were both very good at marketing and advertising while also making some incredibly baffling and poor business decisions.

Some things were out of their control, of course, especially the financial crisis and the overall death of Saturday morning cartoon blocks, but many aspects of their downfall were their own doing. If you want to look at the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit from a different perspective, the fact that they said they’d do anything to keep the Yu-Gi-Oh! license, including go bankrupt, was a little on the insane side. I get that Yu-Gi-Oh! was their top earner and losing the license would have been the death of them anyway, but it seems very immature and backwards to basically stamp their feet and say they’d rather kill themselves than let someone else do it. Even if they did rightfully win the lawsuit in the end, they didn’t get anything substantial from it, and they had to have known that.

I won’t really hold Chaotic’s situation against 4Kids because that was also largely out of their hands. It was just a financial gamble that failed in a time of economic turmoil. Again, even without the financial crisis at the time, Chaotic likely would have just been a fairly beneficial property to them through the rest of their years. I sincerely doubt revenue from it would have saved them from their eventual fate. They probably would have just sold it back to CUSA or someone else in the bankruptcy auction. Looking back, maybe one of the reasons 4Kids didn’t want to give up the license to CUSA was because they had injected so much of their own money into it that any offer CUSA gave probably didn’t seem like it was worth it, even though, ya know, it doesn’t make them ANY money by latching onto it forever.

I do think they also had a big issue with their all-or-nothing attitude. They were constantly dead set on finding the next huge thing – the things that would rake in insane profits and make them the top of their field – but they were very bad at long-term strategies. Let me be completely fair and clear – I don’t have a mind for business, much of it goes over my head, but even I can tell that they had a big problem with this. Even when they did say this property or another would be a big earner for years, they either dropped them early because they weren’t being massively successful immediately or they would keep the property but give up on it in spirit, so to speak, by just letting the license rot in their hands.

This reflected very well in their aforementioned attitudes towards Japan in which Al Kahn said anime and manga in Japan were dying because they hadn’t had any generation-defining merchandisable hits in over a decade, which was objectively wrong in a lot of ways. If he thinks an entire country is “over” just because their anime and manga sales were down for a bit, even to the point where he gave up on licensing anime for three years as a result, then it’s not surprising that he views his company in the same way.

This was even reflected when they tried to branch out a bit into female-oriented shows. Winx Club did well, but they had it taken from them because the creator didn’t like what they were doing with it. They gave it another go with Mew Mew Power, which also did well, but dropped it halfway through because they couldn’t get a toy deal for it. Magical DoReMi was good, but it wasn’t good enough so they dropped it. And they didn’t even dub Precure because they likely thought ‘Why bother? If there’s one thing we’ve learned here it’s that there’s no money with girl stuff.’ And then there was whatever the hell they were trying to achieve with Capsule Monsters, which comes off like they gave up on that idea almost immediately while also having no real direction on what they wanted it to be in the first place.

I do concede that a large amount of 4Kids’ edits, as with other child-demographic anime dubs at the time, were a result of FCC constraints and regulations, but I’ll only concede so far with that assessment. Yes, certain edits were necessary to meet broadcast standards, but many of their edits, such as their localization efforts, changing entire soundtracks and removal of all things text, were squarely on 4Kids. As far as I know, the FCC has no regulations about changing foreign content to better suit young American audiences. The only entity that really benefits is 4Kids. In their eyes, it made them more marketable and appealing, and the only people getting offended were the pre-existing fans who knew better, and most of those people weren’t in 4Kids’ target demo, so they didn’t care. Also, let’s not overlook the fact that some of their edits were just entirely nonsensical, and many of their content edits were still commonly present in their movies, which are not controlled by the FCC.

Let’s also not forget that many of their practices were a result of just being terribly condescending to their audience. From making things way too obvious through dialogue changes/additions, editing scenes around or even having new animation created to drive certain points home to thinking every single second of a show needed to have music or talking in it to keep kids’ attention to making mistakes in their dubs and not fixing them on purpose just because they didn’t care and then later claiming it was on purpose as a little weird Easter egg thing.

4Kids, as much as it sucks to say, weren’t entirely wrong when it came to those views, either. Looking back as fully grown anime fans, yeah, we see how bungled the dubs were for a variety of reasons, and we feel rightfully disrespected as fans, but, back when we were kids, most of us didn’t care. The fact that 4Kids, by design, made their shows to trick viewers into not thinking they were watching anime (which failed after a while) definitely had a hand there, but I can’t honestly say that my experiences looking back at enjoying these shows is in any way tarnished knowing what I know now because 4Kids, despite their backwards best efforts, helped make me an anime fan, and they wound up being a significant part of the anime boom in the late 90s and early 2000s.

I don’t attribute my being an anime fan to 4Kids because other shows dubbed by other companies, such as Sailor Moon (DiC), Digimon (Saban) and Dragon Ball and DBZ (Ocean/Funimation) and a slue of others certainly helped push me there too, but they were a big part of it. Plus, many of the shows that they dubbed are now available in high definition subbed versions (not all of them, admittedly), the ones that aren’t weren’t made unavailable or obscure because of 4Kids (It’s likely some people only know of a few obscure shows because 4Kids dubbed them once upon a time) and they also helped pioneer anime streaming options with 4Kids.tv, Toonzaki and even their Youtube channel.

4Kids isn’t even really special when it comes to them mangling their properties. As I’ve already covered in my Sub/Dub Comparison series, companies like DiC, Saban and Nelvana were awful in their own rights with similarly awful and confusing changes, but what makes 4Kids special was that they were the best damn manglers who left a trail of shows and movies in their wake. All of those other dubbing companies had rather limited libraries of anime compared to 4Kids. They wanted that kid anime market cornered, and they cornered it as much as they could. They were the kings of mangling, and I say that with legit praise because they were so much better at digital paint and editing magic than any of the aforementioned dubbing companies.

Even on Cartoon Network where they were more lax on that stuff because their anime was geared towards older kids and teens, and adults with Adult Swim, they had to make edits to suit airing. Some famous examples include Naruto and Yu Yu Hakusho. I specifically remember sloppy paint edits on Yu Yu Hakusho where you’d see the digital paint very obviously shaking as it was covering up wounds and middle fingers. And obviously there were awkward edits to replace Yusuke’s swearing. Even on Adult Swim there was some instances of editing for content. I remember Blue Gender had a sex scene hinted at in the next episode preview with a few clips between Marlene and Yuji, and it just wasn’t there in the episode on Adult Swim where it is there in the Japanese version.

This stuff happens. Sometimes, their dubs were just legitimately entertaining because the cast and writers were having a ball with the show. Their music could even be legitimately good. It was a crap shoot with them sometimes.

Speaking of the cast and crew of their shows, I really do want to emphasize that, in my opinion, they were the best parts of 4Kids. I poke fun at some 4Kids actors’ acting abilities and even just their voices sometimes, and I make fun of a lot of writing choices, but as far as I’ve seen the regular 4Kids cast and crews typically had a blast doing what they did and were proud of their work. For many of them, 4Kids productions were their first foray into mainstream voice acting work, and for some of them it was their first venture into voice acting period. They also seem to be good with the fans, happy to talk about their experiences and were understandably upset whenever a project they were working on fell through, especially in the situation with Pokemon where the rug was pulled out from under them from all angles. The main problem in 4Kids’ wheelhouse were almost always the executives, especially, yes, Al Kahn.

That being said…..there’s a reason 4Kids died when many other dubbing or licensing companies went through similar hardships and came out on the other side with their feet on the ground. As I just mentioned, 4Kids was terribly pigeon-holed. They were exclusively, well, for kids. Older kids and even teens and adults may have had a place in their audience, but their demographic was kids.

When you’re dealing with a kid demographic, you have to work in a landscape that is probably the fastest changing landscape in media. Kids grow up super fast. They outgrow Kids WB and move on to Toonami. They outgrow Toonami and move on to Adult Swim. They may not move on to other anime at all. Within a few years you have an entirely new audience of kids you have to impress with things that are new and exciting, and in the world of licensing, especially when you’re primarily licensing imported shows, you’re chained to whatever is being offered/is available in other countries.

It’s true that trying to make certain properties more fitting for newer audiences helps keep properties alive for years, just look at some of the American kids’ properties that have existed for decades without changing a whole lot, but when you’re dealing with licensing other properties that you don’t have a whole lot of creative control over, you need to find different avenues to evolve.

The thing is that they recognized this. Their problems with having few big properties holding them up and focusing on a demographic that practically demands constant change was in nearly every single financial document as concerns about their company, but they very rarely presented anything that would help solve that issue.

They did create 4Sight, which would’ve been a fantastic move to branch out into older audiences and get a more stable income stream, but, as all-or-nothing attitudes go, they pretty much went the ‘nothing’ route with 4Sight. They didn’t make any big moves with it. They barely made any small moves with it. It pretty much just sat in a corner collecting cobwebs for half a decade.

Toonzaki was a weird outlier in this regard because it’s almost like they went too far in the other direction by having a streaming site where a lot of graphic titles were offered alongside uncut 4Kids properties with no parental controls or age confirmation that I could see. This would have been the perfect project for 4Sight, but they didn’t give it to them. It was entirely a 4Kids website.

Localization is an issue too, but not fully. Yes, some references and jokes need to be changed because they just don’t translate well in English, but that usually not the problem. They were worried their audience would be put off by foreign things. Or, for some reason, an American audience would never be able to connect with Japanese characters and settings. But then again, you’ll never know if the localization is what killed it in the States either. It was largely a matter of gambling with pretty much any property 4Kids acquired.

They were also largely stuck on broadcast TV. They had trouble with releasing movies after a point, and their DVD production and sales were incredibly inconsistent and lacking, something that got exponentially worse when they attempted to release uncut DVDs. Other companies also took to TV a lot, but they tended to be better about releasing uncut DVDs. For example, people complained a lot about Naruto’s censored airing on Cartoon Network, but the uncut version was made readily available as the series aired, starting when the series premiered and completing the DVD releases when Naruto ended its run on TV.

By the time 4Kids broke out into streaming, they just handled it badly. Streaming their edited shows on 4Kids.tv? That’s great. Streaming those and some uncut stuff on their Youtube channel? Awesome. Toonzaki, however, was a great idea that was also somehow a massive mess in practice. As I mentioned, it’s just weird to have a 4Kids streaming service that had so many graphic titles with seemingly no parental blocks or age confirmations. If they were comfortable streaming uncut Yu-Gi-Oh! titles on their Youtube channel, why did they feel the need to use that as a tentpole for Toonzaki? Why not just release the episodes on 4Kids.tv, maybe with a warning or something, and keep all non-4Kids stuff on Toonzaki?

Their official promotions, few of them as there were, didn’t push it as the place to get uncut Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes, just anime in general, but literally everywhere online that’s what it was being hyped as because the little information available, again, mostly from Mark Kirk’s interview, was that it was a 4Kids website for their uncut shows for general audiences. When you don’t have any other frame of reference, that’s what people are going to run with.

They also didn’t seem to realize that just being an aggregate site for anime sourced from other websites with only Yu-Gi-Oh! titles being unique wasn’t a good long-term plan. They acted as if they’d host more stuff directly on their website in the future, but they never did. Everything was hosted from Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation, Viz or other places for the entirety of its life.

That’s not entirely on them since the landscape for streaming was in its infancy back then, especially when it came to licensed properties, but still. It was a decent idea sitting on a bad execution. And while it came during a time when 4Kids really needed that opportunity to grow, it also came at the worst time because this was just a year before the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit. If they had a longer lifespan, maybe they could have ironed out the kinks with Toonzaki, but I really doubt it.

A part of their downfall was also the death of Saturday morning cartoons. Animated shows were no longer something only available on Saturday mornings, making their inconvenience a bother. Why would I wake up early on a weekend to catch an anime that I can watch anytime streaming? Or get on DVD later? Or catch on syndication on another network? Or why watch those shows when cartoons are constantly on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon? Or why watch those cherry-picked kidified anime when I can watch a big variety of less edited shows on Toonami or Adult Swim, or, hell, even blocks like Anime Unleashed on G4 Tech TV?

They were also prisoners of their merchandise. They treated every property as a merchandise machine. Al Kahn and Mark Kirk said it straight out – if they can’t merchandise it, they’re not interested in it. A large portion of their money came from toys and other kids merchandise, which was also evolving at a breakneck speed as Al Kahn pointed out several times. The problem there was evaluating it improperly a good chunk of the time. I don’t really think they allowed a lot of these shows to have enough time to secure an audience before they decided the merchandise wasn’t worth it. They dropped so many shows because of merchandise when they barely had a few episodes to a full season under their belts.

Honestly, the lawsuit really was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. 4Kids was already on the ropes, they were teetering on the edge, and that lawsuit pushed them over and they couldn’t recover. If it wasn’t the lawsuit, it would have been something else very shortly, I guarantee it. It may seem overly pessimistic, but I just didn’t see 4Kids having a significant future anymore. They were consistently going down for years and could barely even glance up a few times. Either they would have died shortly on their own anyway or they would have stumbled into some miracle property that would save them from the Shadow Realm (and Tai Chi Chasers was not going to be it), and even then I can imagine that would only eek out a few more years for them. They just didn’t have the steam to go on.

At the end of the day, when everything is said and done, 4Kids was and still is an icon….an icon of what, is up to you, but it’s still an icon. Let’s be honest, we still have a blast with 4Kids shows just in poking fun at their ridiculousness, and some still enjoy them legitimately. I won’t deny for a second that, even though doing my SDCs of 4Kids shows chips away at my soul sometimes, the shows still commonly wind up being fun either because I’m legitimately enjoying it or I’m just laughing at the 4Kidsisms.

I’m not going to dance on 4Kids’ grave, but I’m also not going to mourn it. 4Kids was, somewhat fittingly, a product of its time. There’s just no way a company like 4Kids could survive today. There are too many sources of good, loyal dubbed anime, and there are plenty of kids anime that are dubbed just fine and made readily available to children because many dubbing companies today will dub a wide range of anime for a nearly endless demographic from kids to adults to every gender and across every genre. And if you don’t like dubs, subtitled anime, official or fansubs, are readily available at thousands of sources.

Maybe we could have seen an entirely different 4Kids over time, but I doubt it. Also, there was a certain charm with shows being on Saturday morning lineups that you really can’t get anymore, and I think 4Kids thrived on that one very specific area that we can’t replicate now. 4Kids cut out a niche for itself and dominated in that one area, and there just wasn’t a place for it once that niche was gone.

It’s an entirely new world for kids, and it’s not a world for 4Kids.

4Kids will always have a special place in my heart for helping me discover some of my favorite shows and helping spark my love of anime. I won’t excuse what they’re guilty of, and I won’t overexaggerate any good they did. I’ll just say “Thank you, 4Kids. As much for dying as for living.”

Part 23: Where in the World is Kahnmen Sandiego?


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 21: It’s Time to S-S-S-S-S-S-SUE! (2011-2012)

Yes, everyone, we’re finally here. It’s the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit – the thing that finally killed 4Kids…..Kinda.

On March 24, 2011, TV Tokyo and NAS terminated their licensing agreement with 4Kids after an audit reportedly showed that 4Kids was making several millions of dollars in secret on their properties by making agreements with Cartoon Network, Majesco and Funimation and hiding much of the money they got from the “kickbacks.” (It should be noted that none of the mentioned companies are being accused in this lawsuit) TV Tokyo and NAS had a clear-cut 50/50 split for any revenue involving Yu-Gi-Oh!, and their audit allegedly revealed that they weren’t being given their full share as a result of these under the table dealings. 4Kids also reportedly improperly claimed numerous deductions amounting to over approximately $3mil including insurance coverage, the cost of the audit and the cost of dubbing the series, when they had a contract that stated 4Kids would accept the responsibility of all of those costs.

In the lawsuit, TV Tokyo and NAS requested $4,792,460.36 in damages.

According to the abstract of the legal proceedings, the audit occurred sometime in Q1 of 2010. A letter outlining the accused offenses was delivered to 4Kids on June 25, 2010. 4Kids would respond with their own letter disputing the allegations on June 29.

On December 20, ADK sent another letter finalizing the audit’s findings, claiming 4Kids owed them $4,819,000 in total. Again, 4Kids sent a letter back disputing the allegations.

On March 24, 2011, 4Kids received a letter from NAS on behalf of its parent company, ADK, to terminate their agreement from July 1, 2008 to claim the rights to Yu-Gi-Oh!. 4Kids disputed the termination, calling it “wrongful and devoid of any legal basis” because the termination notification did not meet the ten business day notice agreement made in their initial contract. TV Tokyo and ADK didn’t agree and sent another letter asserting that their termination was legal and final. That same day, they’d file a lawsuit for the alleged owed amount.

They had tried to settle this issue outside of court immediately following the audit. TV Tokyo and ADK made an undisclosed offer to settle the matter. 4Kids refused. At the request of ADK and TV Tokyo, 4Kids wired $1mil as a gesture of good faith in order to get negotiations started to settle the matter entirely. In response, TV Tokyo and ADK reps met with 4Kids in the US to work things out, but “4Kids abruptly terminated this meeting without a resolution to any of the outstanding issues.” Less than two weeks later, the lawsuit would be filed.

And Al Kahn would respond by…….

Not being there.

Mysteriously, on January 11, 2011, Al Kahn would retire from his role as chairman and CEO of 4Kids Entertainment one year after the audit and two months before the termination and lawsuit would go down, handing down the reins temporarily to Director Michael Goldstein.

“After almost 25 years, I have reached the point in my career where I want to relinquish my responsibilities at 4Kids. The last several years have been particularly difficult and demanding with the business of 4Kids being buffeted by the financial crisis. After helping steer the company through challenging times, I have decided that it is the right moment for me to retire. I believe that going forward, Michael Goldstein and the team of experienced 4Kids executives will do an excellent job for our clients and for our shareholders.”

Of course Al Kahn had to pat himself on the back for getting them through the financial crisis, when, ya know….they didn’t. They survived it, but they didn’t “steer through (it).”

Poor Michael Goldstein. Kahn just made him conductor of the train a few seconds after they passed a “Bridge Out Ahead” sign. What I find especially funny is that Michael Goldstein was actually older than Al Kahn was at this point – Goldstein was 69 while Kahn was 64. This will only get even funnier once I cover where Al went once he ‘retired’.

I know I can’t prove it, and I know anyone who went through the recession leading any company would probably want to retire, but you can’t tell me this is a coincidence. This is way too close to when all this shit went down for me to believe that Kahn didn’t know a storm was coming and he needed to grab a lifeboat and dip out of there before the situation got even worse for them.

On April 1, 2011, 4Kids made a statement claiming they would do whatever it took to retain Yu-Gi-Oh! and their business, including filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Five days later, after an unsuccessful settlement proposal to TV Tokyo and ADK, they would do just that. 4Kids Entertainment and 11 affiliated companies went bankrupt, listing $23,372,000 in assets and $16,526,000 in liabilities, and they would list several creditors to whom they owed money, such as The CW ($1,987,000) ADK ($4,221,626 – I would imagine this is an unrelated debt as it wouldn’t make sense to be the same money being requested from the audit.), the previously mentioned TPC ($4,700,000), and, strangely, figurehead of Chaotic, Bryan Gannon to whom they owed $80,000 for some reason.

In previous reports, they did keep owing Gannon, CUSA and Apex money for expenses involving Chaotic’s productions, so maybe that was due to some leftover outstanding payments, but they don’t note exactly what it was for. From a note in the 2010 annual financial report, it’s also possible they still owed Gannon a little bit of severance pay or some other fees in regards to shutting down TC Digital Games and TC Websites and subsequently laying him off.

The bankruptcy hearings would put the lawsuit on hold until the bankruptcy court allowed them to proceed. The judge also ordered a hold on the Yu-Gi-Oh! termination, meaning 4Kids could still use the license until the lawsuit proceedings restarted and they made a decision about the validity of the termination. This was done as a means to prevent Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL from being sold to any other companies in the meantime, considering 4Kids had already started working on the series and teasing its release and would suffer financially if TV Tokyo and NAS sold it during the litigation.

On June 10, 4Kids filed countersuit against TV Tokyo and ADK for wrongful termination of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s license citing the aforementioned failure to notify them at least ten business days in advance of the termination.

No one really had any faith that 4Kids would win this lawsuit, mostly because a lot of people either just really wanted 4Kids to die as a result of the litigation because of their disdain for the company and its practices or no one believed that they didn’t deal under the table and steal from the Japanese companies because 4Kids bad.

However….4Kids believed in the heart of the cards.

Yes, 4Kids won this lawsuit. On December 29, 2011, the bankruptcy court (to which the suit had been moved as per the agreement of both parties) ruled in favor of 4Kids, agreeing that TV Tokyo and NAS did not give at least ten business days of notice before termination of the contract, so the termination was void and the rights to Yu-Gi-Oh! belonged with 4Kids.

Many people believe that 4Kids purely lucked out and weaseled their way out of punishment for shady business practices on technicality, myself included when I first started writing this article, but it seems that’s not true either. The judge ruled that, in response to the claims that 4Kids owed TV Tokyo and ADK/NAS money as per the audit, the findings were “99% meritless.

According to the judge in the lawsuit,

“Even if it were the case that Licensor had properly complied with the formal notice of breach and termination requirements in the 2008 Agreement, the termination was nonetheless ineffective because the notice sent by Licensor was substantively defective. Plaintiffs’ purported basis for termination – 4Kids’ failure to promptly pay the royalty underpayment reflected in the audit – was improper because the amount owed to Plaintiffs, if any, was nowhere near the $4.819 million amount asserted in the termination letter and the purported notices of breach.”

As for that 1% that was given merit, one that 4Kids did not dispute, they only owed $48,000, which was largely offset by the $800,000 credit that they got on March 24, 2011. The court was so firmly in favor of 4Kids, that they criticized the Japanese companies’ mention of “good faith”, claiming that “If anyone is the victim of a breach of trust, it is 4Kids.

On February 29, 2012, 4Kids, TV Tokyo and ADK/NAS settled 4Kids’ countersuit. TV Tokyo and ADK/NAS would pay $8,000,000 to 4Kids as a result on March 27, 2012. 4Kids would continue to hold the license for three months until they had a bidding war between 4K Acquisition Corp, a subsidiary of Konami, and Kidsco Media Ventures LLC, an affiliate of Saban, for a variety of 4Kids’ assets including the coveted Yu-Gi-Oh! license. On June 26, 2012, Konami won big.

While Kidsco got some of 4Kids’ assets, like broadcast rights to Dragon Ball Z and Kai, under a new agreement with Toei and Funimation, Cubix, Sonic X and the CW block, Toonzai, which Saban would rename to Vortexx, Konami acquired the full rights and assets to Yu-Gi-Oh! and other titles. This basically made 4Kids ‘victory’ in the lawsuit pretty much moot. They were even able to acquire 4Kids’ production materials such as domain names, music, sound recording rights, any production or recording/editing equipment, office supplies, furniture, computers and more from 4Kids’ offices.

Oh and they would also be taking 4Kids’ offices.

As of the acquisition, Konami would create 4K Media, made in place of 4Kids Productions, which would officially shut down on August 14, 2012. According to an interview with Yumi Hoashi, Konami Digital Entertainment Vice President of Card Business, “Some” of the employees from 4Kids Productions would be retained in order to maintain the same branding and “messaging” but it’s unknown how many of their employees they retained.

As a final note to 2011, 4Kids acquired the South Korean/Japanese series, Tai Chi Chasers on March 22, 2010 and released it on September 17, 2011. It was the first new anime 4Kids had dubbed since Dinosaur King in 2008. According to Al Kahn in his conference call for Q4 of 2009,

“4Kids needs to return to its roots as a licensing and merchandising company [that] specializes in bringing wonderful Japanese programming and merchandising to the rest of the world.”

Quite the turnaround from claiming anime and manga were dying and that profitable shows and franchises for the US couldn’t be found in Japan.

4Kids stopped producing it on June 2, 2012 due to the bankruptcy and loss of 4Kids Productions. Tai Chi Chasers was not acquired by any other licensing company, even with so many of their assets being sold off. 4Kids would retain the rights as 4Licensing until 2017 when the rights expired/4Licensing died, but no one to date has picked up the North American or international rights. It’s now only in the hands of Toei and Iconix Entertainment.

At the end of the year, 4Kids had a net revenue of $12,346,000, down from $14,478,000 in 2010. They had a net loss of $17,084,000.

Next – Part 22: Time 4 Change

Previous – Part 20: It’s Time to Get Your Game Revved Up!


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 20: It’s Time to Get Your Game Revved Up! (2011)

That’s right everyone. It’s time to talk about Yu-Gi-Oh! in 2011.

It’s…..

Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time.

What? What else Yu-Gi-Oh! related happened in 2011?

In the quarterly conference call for Q4 2009, taking place on March 24, 2010, Al Kahn told investors that they were in the process of dubbing the recently released Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D movie, Bonds Beyond Time. 4Kids made a really big deal out of the release, which was both fitting because it was a 10th anniversary event and because 4Kids was in dire straits and needed money. They showed a 20 minute preview at the San Diego ComicCon in July of 2010, and had Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG demonstrations, appearances by the voice actors, a cosplay contest, and a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A new booster pack featuring a selection of nine limited edition cards for the movie would also be available in stores on February 2011.

The full film would have a limited release in Cinedigm 3D theaters on February 26 and 27 2011, a repeat set of viewings would be available on March 5 and 6. Theatergoers would receive a promotional Malefic Red-Eyes Black Dragon card upon ticket purchase. The American version of the release includes over ten minutes of footage recapping events from the three series in order to ensure everyone in the audience is caught up to follow along.

The movie was basically as edited as anything 4Kids would usually release on TV, including editing the cards to once again not show the description, name etc. instead showing the picture, type and attack/defense points like normal – which was incredibly strange because the last Yu-Gi-Oh! movie, the one that was ordered by 4Kids, left the cards alone – and removing instances of text, which, from the Pokemon movie releases, they tended to not do on movies. These edits also included making an entirely new soundtrack, complete with new sound effects, which is another practice people thought 4Kids more or less stopped with the Pokemon movies, but I guess not.

The movie ended with a message saying “”Duelists, thank you for a decade of dueling…and the best is yet to come.””

Need I remind you that this movie was released in March of 2011….

This movie was also ridiculously short at 50 minutes, made to be 60-65 minutes on the American release. Meaning that the preview that was shown at ComicCon was really, not counting the recap, because I doubt they showed that there, nearly half the movie….

Reception for this movie was……uhm…bad. There were some good things to say about it, like how fun it was to see all three main protagonists of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise to date teaming up with each other, that it was intense and the pacing was good…..That was about it. To be fair, people did praise the English version for including the recap because it helped older fans and non-fans go into the movie without being confused. However, the recap seems to be missing from streaming releases, and in the DVD releases the recap was marked as an extra, not part of the actual movie.

Criticisms for the movie ranged from it being too short overall to the final duel being too short to the original Gen (Yugi) not being given enough focus while the most recent Gen, at the time (Yusei), being given too much focus to the animation being mid quality (not really up to snuff for a feature film) to the plot being way too simple and yet still loaded with plot holes that “even kids will see through.” to the villain being a rip-off of either Anubis or Dartz. Overall, it was written off by many as a movie designed purely to sell cards and less of a true celebration of the franchise’s ten year legacy. At best, it was just simple fun that old fans and newer ones could enjoy, but at worst it was a 50 minute long commercial that even fans would have difficulty wanting to watch more than once.

The movie made $2,017,928 in the Japanese box office (Which would be about ¥268,968,614.16) coming at sixth in the Japanese box office that weekend. When it was released on DVD and Blu-Ray, it was the second most popular title of its genre.

Because of the limited release, box office returns of the movie in the US and the UK never surfaced. Worldwide, it had a box office return of $2.6mil but over $2mil of that is attributed to Japan’s theatrical release, and the other $600,000 was attributed to South Korea, so the actual figures seem incomplete to a certain degree.

To make matters even worse, 4Kids never released the movie on DVD. I don’t know if they were really able to at the time. *thunderclap* However, in the UK, Manga Entertainment, which had the distribution rights there, released the movie in theaters on May 14 and 21 in stereoscopic theaters, and then they released a DVD and Blu-Ray of the movie on May 30, 2011. The Blu-Ray would include the special promotional Malefic Red-Eyes Black Dragon card that wasn’t included in the UK theater release as it was in America, and the Japanese track with English subtitles. It had actually reached number two on Manga Entertainment’s best selling DVDs of the year, but Manga Entertainment pretty much spit at the success of the title claiming on their Twitter “I think [it was] because it was available in Asda and Morrisons, came with a free rare card and was stupidly cheap on [the] shelf.”

It wouldn’t be until 2014 when New Video Group would release the Blu-Ray and DVD in America, including the option to play the Japanese track with subtitles.

Honestly, I really feel like this was another instance of Al being a tiny bit delusional with how successful he thinks a title will be, or maybe, much more sadly, he knew how much Yu-Gi-Oh!’s revenues supported 4Kids and how they would likely be more reliant on the property in the future considering Pokemon was gone (but they were still getting residuals from it) so was TMNT, and Chaotic had fallen on its face. He probably really wanted the movie to be a huge success so he could maybe get a boost in sales and a big boost in interest before ZEXAL was released. At the very least, he was doing his damnedest to convince investors that 4Kids would be doing better this year. Maybe he didn’t really analyze the Japanese returns for the movie well enough or overestimated how successful it would be in America, which I can’t imagine how that’s possible considering how badly the first Yu-Gi-Oh! movie did.

But oh how devastatingly wrong he was either way. The call was a few months before the audit, and I feel like Al must’ve known that the hammer was being bought to put the final nail in the coffin…..And the nail would meet that hammer a mere three weeks after the movie had been released…..

Next – Part 21: It’s Time to S-S-S-S-S-S-SUE!

Previous – Part 19: 4Kids Pre-Death Dead Period


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 18: 4Kids is No Longer Foxy (2008)

As 4Kids metaphorically moved back home to take Kids WB’s spot on the newly branded CW, things were falling apart at Fox. The executives at Fox were upset with 4Kids since they reportedly had not been paying their lease for the time slot for an undisclosed amount of time. Likewise, 4Kids was upset with Fox for not upholding their part of the contract in stating that 4Kids TV would air on at least 90% of Fox’s affiliate channels, which is actually why they owed them lease money. Since they were not being aired on 90% of the channels, 4Kids demanded Fox pay them a refund of their lease money by $13mil. Fox responded claiming they owed them nothing.

Reportedly, the issue here was that a sizable amount of their channels simply did not want to air the block, and Fox could not force them to air it due to a Right of First Refusal clause in their contracts. Most of Fox’s channels opted to air 4Kids TV, usually the ones that had already previously aired Fox Kids, however, enough channels opted out that it wasn’t meeting contractual obligations with 4Kids. The disputes resulted in litigation being brought up by 4Kids, allowing them early dismissal from their contract by one year. On November 10, 2008, 4Kids announced that 4Kids TV would be ending, and on December 27, 2008, 4Kids TV had its last airing.

4Kids would focus all of its energies on The CW4Kids, and Fox would choose to officially end its Saturday morning cartoon block practices entirely due to too much competition in the market. Instead, the block would be replaced by a series of infomercials later titled The Weekend Marketplace.

While it seemed like 4Kids may have been heading for greener pastures, the grass wound up being awfully brown.

Less than two weeks before the last airing of 4Kids TV, December 17, 2008, 4Kids would lay off 15% of their workforce, citing financial struggles in light of the global financial crisis. As previously stated, Q4 was a particularly nasty blow to them, and 4Kids’ stock had been going downward since 2006. 2007 was a building period for Chaotic, and they were banking on 2008 being so good that it would help them reach higher peaks once more, but that obviously didn’t happen. Compared to 2007, 4Kids’ stock values were awful for nearly the entire year, maxing out at $14.31 a share in Q1, with a lowest point of $1.80 a share in Q4 compared to 2007’s max of $20.31 and lowest point of $10.72. Its earnings were up, with $63,669,000 compared to $55,609,000 in 2007, but so were its expenses and losses with $95,386,000 compared to $81,378,000 in 2007. Overall, they had a year end loss of $36,819,000 compared to $23,326,000 in 2007.

Despite this, Al Kahn was confident 2009 would bring them profit once more. However, his confidence would prove to be misplaced. Their licensing practices were still basically halted as a result of Al Kahn developing negative views on anime and Japan at this point. Their only remaining anime titles were Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, which would soon suddenly transition to Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds on September 13, 2008, and Dinosaur King. Any other titles that aired on the block had either already ended their run (Cubix, Sonic X), were ending this year (DoReMi, Kirby, Viva Pinata) or were running out of steam (Kirby’s rights were up in 2009, TMNT would end in 2009, Winx Club would have its license revoked in 2009). Cartoon-wise, they still had Chaotic too, but, well, we know what happened there.

4Kids did have a new Russian show to dub called GoGoRiki, originally titled Smeshariki or Kikoriki which would do alright, garnering two seasons, but 4Kids dropped it after that since it was already in dire financial straits. Mark Kirk stated in the 2010 ANN interview that he didn’t really view Gogoriki as a major failure as one person on Twitter accused, because, as he saw it, the show served the purpose of providing the block’s educational and informative requirements.

In terms of purely broadcast rights, 4Kids grandfathered over a lot of titles from Kids WB such as The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Batman, Magi-Nation and Johnny Test. The only show they acquired that year that didn’t also air on Kids WB was Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, which wouldn’t officially premiere until 2009, but had a preview aired on December 13, 2008. However, the show was dropped by the time 2009 was over, due to low ratings, opting to air the final episodes on 4Kids.tv.

Considering Yu-Gi-Oh! was one of their last big earners, there was a lot riding on 5Ds (Hehe, motorcycle puns.) For the first time, 5Ds would introduce an entirely new system to the card game and the anime called Synchro Summoning, hoping that this new mechanic would, again, help breathe new life into the franchise. Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds’ dub was not received well. It’s considered the worst Yu-Gi-Oh! dub done by 4Kids, with numerous rewrites, personality changes, several episodes being skipped, subplots being skipped, and heavily editing the Crash Town arc to the point where they omitted the ending of the final duel.

In a serious case of Deja Vu, 5Ds would also be canceled, leaving its final season undubbed and unaired. There were several reasons for this – none of which I can properly verify, except maybe the last one, so fair warning.

The first was that 5Ds’ ratings were not doing so well, and the new cards were also not selling as well. It wasn’t a failure or anything, but it was performing under what they had predicted.

The second reason was that 4Kids was behind in production again, and Konami was pressuring them to dub Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL.

The third was the

Dun

Dun

DUNNNNNNN

Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit.

We’re not quite around to discussing that in full yet, but, at the time that the fourth season was airing, TV Tokyo and NAS had terminated their deal with 4Kids over Yu-Gi-Oh! and sued them due to “underpayments, wrongful deductions, and unmet obligations.” However, I’m not sure that had a whole lot of bearing on the cancellation. 4Kids seemed like they were already entirely focused on ZEXAL during the lawsuit with no concern over 5Ds or mention of it at all, so I think it’s safe to assume it just suffered the same fate for the same reasons as GX.

Nevertheless, 5Ds ended abruptly and without fanfare. Unlike with GX, fans seem to be grateful for this as they don’t look too kindly on the dub very much, citing the theme songs as being pretty much the only good things to come out of it.

Next – Part 19: 4Kids’ Pre-Death Dead Period

Previous – Part 17: 4Kids TV 2: The Kidsening


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 16: Yu-Gi-Oh No! (2005/2006 cont.)

In October 2005, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX was brought into the fray to replace the void left from the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series as it was ending the same year. However, instead of premiering it on Kids WB or 4Kids TV, 4Kids opted to premiere the show on Cartoon Network (on the programming block, Miguzi, which was basically Toonami if it was less cool and held underwater) for some reason. I’m not complaining, I’m just confused. Not airing it on Kids WB I get a little, but why wouldn’t they want it premiered on 4Kids TV? It would take until September 1, 2007 until it would air in syndication on 4Kids TV.

4Kids hoped GX would breathe new life into the franchise with new characters, new cards and a more casual and fun atmosphere with the new series taking place at a dueling academy. The show did suffer from the typical 4Kidsisms, including story changes, dialogue changes, a lot of visual edits in regards to transitions and splitscreens to make it seem more fast-paced and ‘cool,’ but it wouldn’t really be much more changed than the original Yu-Gi-Oh!.

Unfortunately, in 2008, 4Kids would wind up canceling GX without ever airing (or dubbing?) the final episode of season three or the entirety of season four. This was reportedly due to the fact that Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds had started airing in Japan, 4Kids had already acquired the first season and wanted to focus on releasing that instead.

According to an email response someone got from 4Kids around the time of cancellation;

“Thank you for writing to us about your interest in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Because a lot of our resources are dedicated to dubbing and airing 5Ds, we will not be dubbing season four of GX for this season.

However, this does not mean that we won’t ever dub it, it just means that it is not on the schedule for the near future.

The 4Kids.tv webmaster”

Basically, how this can be interpreted now is that 4Kids didn’t want to lag behind. Considering their dubbing plate wasn’t really all that full at the time either (see: all the shows they lost at this point) they easily could have dubbed GX alongside 5Ds, but I can bet they just didn’t want to bother.

It was also suggested that, since the new wave of 5Ds-based TCG releases was coming and 5Ds would still be around a year or more before release in the States if they decided to finish GX first, they just decided to bump up 5Ds and save some money by ditching GX on the side of the highway.

Other rumors theorize that 4Kids didn’t like the new direction the show was taking in the final season. The show had gotten notably darker and stood in stark contrast to the much lighter casual show it had started out as. Judai/Jaden himself also suffered from a personality change, making him much more brooding and serious than his trademark happy-go-lucky self was in earlier seasons.

It didn’t help that reception for the final season and the tail end of season three in Japan wasn’t nearly as good as it had been, and it was mostly for that very same tonal shift. Ratings for GX also weren’t as good in the west. They weren’t particularly bad, but they seemed to have paled in comparison to the original show. Either fans of the original didn’t like the new cast/vibe/setting in comparison to the original show, they didn’t like the way 4Kids had presented it, particularly in making Jaden this ‘radical’ main character who shouted out “Get your game on!” whenever he started a duel, the fact that many of Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s original fans had aged out of the target demo and the new generation of the demo wasn’t hooking in much yet or the lingering decline of Yu-Gi-Oh! as a whole was keeping it from finding a large audience.

There’s another rumor that Konami and TV Tokyo pressured 4Kids to dub 5Ds in order to capitalize on the new TCG releases, which makes some sense, but it doesn’t answer the question of why they couldn’t have also dubbed and aired GX at the same time.

Also, according to an email exchange from 4K Media, which was the division of Konami that took control of Yu-Gi-Oh! when 4Kids lost the rights after they went bankrupt (and is not, in fact, basically 4Kids in disguise as some people seem to believe), Konami didn’t have any say in 4Kids dumping GX. They claimed that they didn’t even know why 4Kids stopped dubbing GX.

Really, the only one who would suffer for keeping GX out there is 4Kids because they were the ones who would have to devote time, money and other resources to the show. Konami probably did pressure them to dub 5Ds as soon as possible, but how much pressure, I don’t know, and I sincerely doubt they told them to drop GX since that would just be additional advertising, basically, for Yu-Gi-Oh! as a whole.

Despite 4Kids claiming they might dub the rest of the series some day, they never did. They also retained the international license for several years, so no one else could take over at the time. It’s possible Konami could now dub and release the final episode of season three and all of season four, but I sincerely doubt it. It’d be a lot of work and fuss for something that probably wouldn’t be profitable.

You could argue that they just didn’t want two new Yu-Gi-Oh! shows airing at the same time.

Only they totally had two Yu-Gi-Oh! shows airing at the same time.

As Yu-Gi-Oh GX was airing on Cartoon Network, 4Kids also premiered a brand-new Yu-Gi-Oh! show on 4Kids TV….one that 4Kids had made from scratch.

Yu-Gi-Oh Capsule Monsters was a show commissioned from Studio Gallop by 4Kids based on the game, Capsule Monsters – a game introduced in the original pre-soft-reboot version of the manga and in Season Zero, which never aired in America. Because the last time 4Kids commissioned their own Yu-Gi-Oh! feature just went over so well, Twix said sarcastically.

It’s possible that 4Kids was also basing this off of Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monster Coliseum – a PS2 game that released two years prior. Capsule Monster Coliseum was not a successful game. While the very few reviews I can actually find on the game are somewhat positive, they all cite the high learning curve as a big negative, which is understandable considering it’s a game based on a game where even the writers had no idea how the actual hell it really worked.

I can’t even find any sales information on the title (best I could eek out is that it may have sold 220,000 units in America with 440,000 units overall, but I can’t be certain because the website on which I got this information has no information on the Japanese sales.

Basically, the game wasn’t a success. In fact, many extensive lists on Yu-Gi-Oh! video games frequently forget this title exists. People say the same about Dungeon Dice Monsters, but at least Dungeon Dice Monsters was actually explained and prominently featured in the main anime. I loved the Dungeon Dice Monsters GBA game.

I honestly don’t know why Capsule Monsters was created. It was set near the end of the original series, but considering GX was premiering right as the original series was airing its final handful of episodes, it can’t be that they intended for it to be some bridge between the two. The Lost Media Wiki says it was made to promote the toys that 4Kids had made, but one of the links that they cite as a source, an ICv2 article, claims the exact opposite.

“The game will be drawn from the Season 5 12-episode story arc that will begin airing in the States in January 2006.”

And if that’s true then…why was the show created? Was it really just to try and get a new toy line for a property that was literally about to end off the ground? Were they really desperate to milk the series for content considering Pokemon was out the door and Yu-Gi-Oh! was left holding the bag? I guess they could have eventually launched a GX version, but considering GX was already airing, why not just start there?

It’s such an oddity. Capsule Monsters had little promotion, little fanfare, no official announcement as far as I saw, but still spawned its own tabletop game, which was very much unsuccessful. It was canceled after only releasing two starter sets and one booster pack. I honestly wouldn’t have even known there was a Capsule Monsters game if I hadn’t seen it once or twice in stores when I was a kid. Even the IMDB page for the anime has a pitiful one review to its name.

It really didn’t help that they made the game entirely different from the way it was played in the manga/Season Zero and the video game. The game 4Kids made up was just as confusing as the other versions. The game is so confusing that they felt the need to release two versions – one basic and one advanced.

It was also released oddly. The figure game was leaked in December of 2005 on Talkinsportsweb.com, then episodes of the show were airing early on January 30, 2006, without any announcement, on the Irish children’s channel, RTE. In TV listings, it was just noted as Yu-Gi-Oh!, meaning viewers thought they’d be seeing normal Yu-Gi-Oh!, but got Capsule Monsters instead, all seemingly without the knowledge of 4Kids and completely by accident on RTE’s part. RTE would continue accidentally airing these Capsule Monsters episodes until February 2, 2006 when they would shift back to GX and keep Capsule Monsters under wraps until August (Ireland was typically able to air 4Kids shows a tiny bit earlier than the US.)

Viewers were both confused and confused. Confused because there was absolutely no information on this show anywhere, nor any Japanese source material, but the evidence was right there on a LiveJournal post that it existed. Confused because the show just seemed so weird. It was still Yu-Gi-Oh!, the main cast was front and center, but it was focused on an entirely new game that, for some reason, involved what looked like arm cannons.

To make things even more confusing, the show was not presented as a spin-off. The reason I say this is because it has the exact same theme song as Yu-Gi-Oh!, just with a few different background clips and the words “Capsule Monsters” put underneath the title, as if this was a different arc of the Yu-Gi-Oh! series, not a spin-off. In addition, at the start of each episode, Yami would just say “Previously on Yu-Gi-Oh!” not “Capsule Monsters.

Some sources claim it’s a spin-off, others claim it’s just a new arc to the original series that aired some time in the middle of the final season. US TV listings at the time said “Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters” which implies a different series, because a different arc would still be the same series. It’s incredibly confusing.

To make matters even worse…..this series comes off like a huge Pokemon rip-off. I don’t like to throw around that word much anymore, but, at its core, this was damn near plagiarism. They kept these monsters in ‘capsules,’ they could be released outside of ‘games’ and follow them around like fairly sentient (but non-verbal) animals, or they could use them as modes of transportation. They were also recalled and released with beams of light and frequently just battled other monsters with no gameplay enacted besides things like type advantages and whatnot. It was really watered down to just “Monster has a weakness against (x), so we have to do (x)”

They also didn’t have actual Capsule Monster games against other people. Capsule Monsters is supposed to be a rough off-shoot of chess, which is why one of the original names for the game in the manga was Capumon/Capsule Monsters Chess. The real world game follows roughly the same-ish format. However, in the anime, they were always just battling head to head against other wild monsters. A lot of the time, the ‘game’ came off like, well, Pokemon battles. You just command the monsters to attack and strategize based purely on certain advantages. You also collect them. And by “collect them” I mean, most of the time, they just sorta stumble upon the capsules and get monsters for free….A few times, though, they did get monsters after battling them first. And some of them just followed them for no reason, which doesn’t sound familiar at all, no sirree.

I think that’s the main reason they came up with that ‘arm cannon’ gimmick for the series when it’s not present in any form of the game, either in the video game, manga or Season Zero. If they didn’t have the arm cannon thing, they’d either have to throw the capsules or open them to release the monsters, and I can bet even 4Kids thought that imagery would probably be a bit too on-the-nose.

Oh and one of Joey’s monsters is the Baby Dragon….and he’d blow fire on Joey. Baby Dragon looks a lot like a mini-Charizard. You piece that together.

YGCMSCREEN1

Also, fun fact, the rough draft version of Pokemon was called Capsule Monsters, and that was in 1989. I’m not sure I believe the original game in the manga was inspired by/ripped off from Pokemon as Capsule Monsters. The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga originally came out in 1996, and the first Pokemon games were released in Japan in 1996, but the game in the manga and Season Zero is so different that I can’t say anything with any degree of certainty. It is definitely weird is all I’ll say, especially when you take the releases of the video games into consideration.

This specific anime version, however, I’m much more comfortable suspecting as a Pokemon rip-off, especially because 4Kids called for it. Since the completed game was leaked in December of 2005 and the announcement of the license agreement ending was in December of 2005, they likely didn’t know quite yet that they’d be losing Pokemon when they commissioned this series, so I won’t say this was some attempt to fill the void. Maybe it was more like general laziness and mooching off of it, like they were trying to fuse Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! and make some sort of super mutant merchandise baby.

There was only one actual game against a real person in the entire series, (even though it was still just a normal battle) and THAT ended up coming off like a rip-off of the duel against Pegasus because one of the main issues in that battle was that Alexander, the main villain, could read Yami’s mind, allowing him to predict his moves and change his game plan accordingly. And Yami responded by confusing him with the Millennium Puzzle because his mind is literally a labyrinth.

One interesting aspect of the series was the fact that the players were able to merge with their monsters and basically partake in battles themselves. And by “players” I mean Yugi 99% of the time. Joey was able to do it once (With Red-Eyes Black Dragon – and it was pretty sick) and everyone else got wings on one occasion, that was about it. This was not only something the main series had done a few times before, but it was also something that felt very much akin to either Digimon Tamers and Biomerging or Digimon Frontier and Spirit Evolution.

The most damning aspect of the show, however, was that it was flatout boring. Most of the monsters in the show were ones we had already seen in the main series, and there were really no fun strategies or, ya know, GAMEPLAY to hook you in. It was just a watered down series of Pokemon battles.

One of the bigger issues some gaming anime have in properly advertising their real-world games is over-fantasizing it. If you can’t even remotely emulate what’s happening in the show in real-life, the real-life game seems very boring by comparison. Yu-Gi-Oh! may involve a lot of fantasy aspects, magic and drama and whatnot, but, at the end of the day, they play the game like everyone else in real life. Capsule Monsters doesn’t do that. They only barely touch upon the actual game in the first episode.

The aspect of Yami becoming a monster himself (or really just him in various suits of armor) was cool, but it would’ve been cooler if everyone else did it regularly. Or, outside of Joey, literally even once. Not to mention the aspect of Capsule Monsters kinda loses something if the main attraction isn’t really the Capsule Monsters but Yami as the Capsule Monsters.

It probably also wasn’t a good move to make the monsters so real but still keep in the aspect of them being able to pretty much die in any battle. I’m not kidding. Their monster companions die near the end – even the tiny cute ones. Imagine Pokemon if you were worried Pikachu would die in any battle.

In addition, the art and animation were clearly either rushed or suffered a case of budget-fever. I’d wager both.

Capsule Monsters aired for 12 episodes, which did contain a full arc, but it’s obvious that 4Kids intended to build something here, otherwise they wouldn’t have tried to launch a whole game on the title. I don’t know if they planned to make a full series themselves or if they hoped Japan would be so hyped on the idea that Konami would run with it and they could just bank off of their stuff. If they really were trying to build something here, why did they do such an awful job promoting this? Did they just give up before they even started?

To be fair, as far as I saw, Capsule Monsters actually didn’t do too bad for itself in ratings. However, it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t generating much word of mouth outside of ‘What the hell is this?’, and just as quickly as it came into fans’ lives, it vanished. They did rerun the show once on Toonzai in 2012, but that was it.

4Kids technically never released the series on DVD either. By that I mean that they released the series on DVD, but only after it had been recut into two movies. The first movie was released on May 23, 2006 while the second was released on September 12, 2006. 4Kids and Konami offered a full free screening of the first movie on Yugioh.com the day before the DVD was released.

Japan would never air this series, presumably because they didn’t want people to think it was canon. As the Lost Media Wiki explained, it’s even questionable if a Japanese version exists. The series is on Studio Gallop’s website, but it’s labeled as Yu-Gi-Oh! ALEX. As far as fans who actually know about it are concerned, they pretty much see the series as being entirely non-canon.

We’re almost rounding the corner into 2007, so we should probably cover the last development of 2006. The next subsidiary 4Kids launched – 4Sight Licensing Solutions. 4Kids had long since been a company aimed squarely at children, but since their scope was narrow and their business was going down, it was time to expand their horizons as much as possible. 4Sight would be geared towards licensing properties for older kids, tweens, teens and adults.

And….uh….eh….kinda? 4Sight licensed a lot of art, for use in apps, calendars, textiles, home décor, stationary etc. For instance, they licensed The Dog and Friends, which was a puppy photography series out of Japan by Artlist inc. that was known for their use of fish-eye lens. They also licensed the artwork of Japanese artist, Hokusai Katsushika, and they got at least three licenses for Pachanga art by Belen Mena. They handled the American Kennel Club license, which 4Kids had handled itself for many years before this, and Crufts, which is the UK version of the AKK basically. They had an agreement with Celestial Imports Ltd, which was largely centered on the Chicaloca brand fashion in Europe.

They got into other media a little. They released a fashion game based on the Chicaloca brand, which was released on mobile platforms and Facebook. It doesn’t seem like this game was very successful because there’s barely any information online about it. Searching for “Chicaloca game 4Sight” only brings up three pages of Google results, most of which are unrelated, and the ones that are related are just announcements for the game’s release.

Less than four months after 4Kids announced they had made a licensing agreement with Microsoft, 4Sight would reach a new multi-year agreement with Microsoft to “work in partnership with Microsoft’s Franchise Development team, exclusively handling all global brand development and merchandising deals for the XBox and XBox 360.” which, as far as I can see, really only amounted to handling the license to Viva Pinata – an XBox 360 game geared more towards kids as opposed to the more teen and adult audience XBox typically catered to, which is….kinda backwards given 4Kids’ intentions with 4Sight.

4Kids—err, excuse me, 4Sight created a cartoon series for the games (4Kids is credited for it practically everywhere), but as for anything else they did with Microsoft or XBox, that remains unclear. Besides mentioning Viva Pinata a few times in official documents and press releases, no other information regarding other Microsoft or XBox properties in relation to 4Kids/4Sight ever came up. They did have some 4Kids show-based games available on the XBox, but that’s not really the same.

As for Viva Pinata, I don’t remember a single lick of either the game or the cartoon, but both seemed to have enjoyed a good degree of success. The cartoon lasted for 91 episodes and three years. That’s pretty darn good. It also has very high ratings on IMDB, even if there are only five reviews.

It’s frustrating that there is such little information on 4Sight available, but I can only surmise that’s because they wound up not doing much with the subsidiary either because they didn’t really know what to do with it or they were afraid to actually enter waters geared towards older audiences. Even when I combed the financial reports for every year, the only mentions of 4Sight were just pointing out that it existed and was owned by 4Kids. I did find a supposedly insanely detailed business report online on 4Sight, but I could only access it if I paid $300, which, ahem…Lol.

4Sight would stay with 4Kids as a subsidiary until the absolute end of the company in 2017.

Also during this year came one of Al Kahn’s most infamous moments where he garnered quite a bit of backlash from the anime and manga fandom. In an ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference, Al Kahn was quoted as saying;

“I think manga is a problem because we’re in a culture that is not a reading culture. Kid’s today don’t read, they read less today. In every survey, we find that they’re watching more television, they’re on the Internet more, and that content, although being king, is very disposable. Because the way content gets put out now, it gets put out free. We’re streaming most of our shows. The reason why we’re streaming them is we want kids to watch them as much as they can, and get vested in the concept and go out and buy products. The products ain’t free. The content is going to be free. And manga in my mind is trying to put a square peg in a round hole in the U.S. It will never be a big deal here, for the kids that are in the computer or the Internet generation, because they’re not going to read. They haven’t read, and they’re not going to start now.”

To say his comments didn’t go over well is an understatement. According to some sources, people booed and hissed at several of his comments. I mean, I don’t really understand how you can go to a Graphic Novel Convention with over 125 panelists – in New York City – and then go on about how kids don’t read and manga is never going to be popular in America and not expect a bad reception, especially in 2006….ya know….when Harry Potter was exploding in popularity.

Reading rates for fun among children fluctuate quite a lot, and data about this specific query was unclear because of the way the studies were conducted and the fact that there were a surprisingly few amount of studies about it. Believe it or not, at least according to data in the decade in which he said this, children read for fun fairly often when they’re young, not as often when they’re teenagers, but then the rates increase again when they become adults. Reading rates among children for recreation did go down steadily as television and video games became more readily available and appealing (in addition to a variety of other factors we won’t explore here – including a noticeable discernment among the sexes.) but it wasn’t a drastic downturn, and upticks happened regularly for a variety of reasons, including reading online.

…..Oh and by the way, this comment would become especially weird in 2009 when 4Kids would become the licensing agent for WordWorld – a former PBS preschool show that promoted *drum roll* LITERACY.

And, of course, Al Kahn just saw this as little more than a money grab.

“WordWorld’s expertise in the creative and educational domains coupled with 4Kids Entertainment’s proven track record in developing entertainment brands is certain to produce exciting results – from a sales and innovation perspective.”

I also find it funny that one of the episodes of Kirby: Right Back at Ya! was shifted around to mooch off of the release of a new Harry Potter BOOK. Like, yeah, kids don’t read, but we also recognize that there’s a massively popular kids’ book series out now that we need to capitalize on.

As we can see now, he was obviously wrong as manga eventually did become incredibly popular in the west, among children as well, even if reading rates continue to fluctuate throughout the years. As recently as 2020, manga sales hit an all-time high.

He was also making these comments right next to many people who worked in the manga industry in America, including people from TokyoPop, Kodansha, and Viz Media. Al never dipped his toes into that world so he just sounded like someone who had no idea what he was talking about acting is if he was an authority on the matter.

It wasn’t just a commentary on how something like manga would never take off in the US – he was flat out saying kids these days were never interested in reading, they aren’t now and they never will be because of digital media, which is not true for a multitude of reasons. Like I said, you can definitely argue that children reading for fun wasn’t as common, but acting as if reading as a whole was dying among children was too outlandish of a claim.

To be completely fair, though, there was some validity in his statements. 2006 was a bad year for manga in Japan. Manga sales had been declining for over a decade at that point, and 2006 was the first year manga sales had dipped below ¥500bil. Print media as a whole was on the decline in Japan, and, basically, manga had just been as affected. Indeed, all commercial print media was down, and, yes, cell phones and digital media were a part of that decline (There were several reasons why both manga and anime were down in Japan at the time – such as two major financial crises for Japan preceding this, low birth rates and even their strict immigration practices.)

Japan was way ahead of us when it came to mobile technology, and they still are. The practice of spending time on your phone instead of reading a book while you’re on the bus or train was increasing. However, manga was available to consume digitally and had been for about three years at that point. It was a ¥9bil industry, and it was growing like wildfire. Consumers loved the low price point, the convenience and the discretion – considering enjoying manga, particularly hentai titles, was embarrassing in public, and reading on a cellphone allowed customers to read in public without having to worry too much about people seeing what they’re reading. The sales for manga this way, I believe, were not reported in the same manner as their print counterparts, so the manga industry was probably doing better than how it looked back then given the purely print numbers.

The fact that Al Kahn didn’t even bring up the concept of digital manga (he even speaks as though it’s not possible for manga to be digitized?) or even digital means of reading as a whole shows that he didn’t know much about what he was talking about, especially since he later comments on how, if you look at people in America, they’re all using MP3 players and cell phones while walking around, but, in Japan, everyone on the subway has a “3000 page manga.” I don’t know if he was exaggerating or being stupid. Most manga have around, I’ll say, between 150-300 pages. A 3000 page manga would be comically large. It is literally two and a half Bibles.

The digital age seemed like such a hindrance to reading in the eyes of older folks, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. The internet boom and the rise of mobile devices made it much easier for kids to learn how to read and gave them more access to different modes of reading – like ebooks, online articles, web comics and even video games.

And just to drive the point home – the American manga industry was doing very well, especially during the start of a major recession. In 2006, manga sales actually grew 22% from $7.5mil to $9.5mil, with sales jumping from $60mil in 2002 to at least $170mil in 2006, and roughly 44% of all graphic novels in bookstores and comic book stores were reported to be manga. Manga sales would see another rise by 10% in 2007. However, this would obviously go down sharply in 2008-2010 due to the worst of the financial crisis hitting as well as lack of big name titles being released and the closure of the Borders bookstore chain among several other factors, until they finally rebounded in 2013. The industry was also growing, albeit, admittedly, slowly. In fact, one of the ways the Japanese manga industry was helping ends meet was through international manga sales, particularly those in the US.

One of the other reasons his comments garnered backlash was because it made off like children were becoming illiterate and we should just….ya know….let them. There’s no profit in promoting reading to kids, so screw it. It really shines a bright light on why 4Kids does everything in their power to remove any and all text, no matter the language, from their shows. They think if they let kids see too many words their profit margins will go down or something. Obviously, basically outright saying “Don’t invest in books, manga or any other reading materials for American kids because kids here don’t read. Instead, let their brains rot and profit off of that.” is a hot take that will certainly not earn you any favors with pretty much damn near anyone in the anime industry, whether State-side or otherwise, considering basically all of them are tightly woven into the manga industry.

Liza Coppola, Vice President of Viz Media, responded by pointing out that Viz had recently partnered with the literacy campaign, Read for America, and stated that, “Manga is a great medium to bring kids back to reading.” Viz had seen a positive response from librarians and children from their manga, and they continue making partnerships for the sake of literacy campaigns to this day. Likewise, in June 2006, Tokyopop also launched a program with the LA Public Library using their manga to promote reading to kids and teens.

As a final note for this year, 4Kids also acquired the licensing rights to Futari wa Pretty Cure. However, they never seemingly recorded a dub for the series at all, presumably because Mew Mew Power hit a brick wall and Magical DoReMi didn’t take off well enough. They announced that they had the license to Precure and never said much about it again. They held onto the rights for about three years until the license was handed over to Ocean Productions so they could finally dub and release the show in English on Canada’s YTV.

All in all, 2006 was….not awful. It was down from 2005 with $71,787,000 in net revenues compared to $80,607,000 in 2005. Yu-Gi-Oh! was still noted as being their biggest contributing factor, though the show’s domestic broadcast returns were down, along with TMNT and Cabbage Patch Kids, despite the latter two recording lower revenue from last year. Revenue from Viva Pinata and Chaotic were noted as giving them a boost in that regard. However, they did end the year in the red with a net loss of $1,006,000 in comparison to 2005 with a net income of $5,069,000. Their stocks did enjoy a significant bump, though – seeing the first rise since 2002-2003.

Next – Part 17: 4Kids TV 2: The Kidsening

Previous – Part 15: The Chaotic Nature of Rumors


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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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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 5: I Summon Yu-Gi-Oh! in Attack Mode! (2001 cont.)

In 2001, the anime market was quite limited in the US. Despite Pokemon being one of the key reasons behind the biggest anime boom in the west, eventually leading to anime more or less becoming mainstream years later, there still wasn’t a lot of anime being offered on TV at the time. Some anime was being offered on niche cable channels, and others were offered on VHS and DVD, but weren’t really advertised or pushed all that much in stores. There wasn’t much anime that was shown on TV on easily accessible channels, but the titles that were out there had their loyal fans, even if it had been extremely westernized.

One of the most notable examples being Sailor Moon, which debuted in North America back in 1995 by DiC Entertainment. They later got the rights to also show the second iteration, Sailor Moon R, in 1997. However, DiC did not pursue future series because it was not deemed financially viable after the first two series underperformed. DiC also didn’t seem particularly interested in the anime market, having only two other anime dub jobs under their belt after Sailor Moon’s first two series – Speed Racer X in 2002 and Knights of the Zodiac in 2003.

Speed Racer X, originally known in Japan as Mach GoGoGo was a flop in every sense of the word. Not only did it only air on a block on Nickelodeon that was so obscure even I, who was a complete Nickelodeon obsessed nut at the time, don’t remember at all, SLAM!, but it also failed to get an audience because they were only able to air 13 episodes before needing to pull it due to a lawsuit between DiC and the American company Speed Racer Enterprises – a company dedicated entirely to the American licensing and management of Speed Racer.

Knights of the Zodiac, originally known in Japan as Saint Seiya, also didn’t do very well, leading DiC to give up on the series after 40 episodes, despite having the authority to dub at least 60 of the episodes. Knights of the Zodiac and Sailor Moon would contend with 4Kids for having some of the most butchered dubs in existence, and Knights would also go down in history as having what I believe is the most confusing English dub theme song change ever by having Bowling for Soup do the opening theme – a cover of the A Flock of Seagulls song, ‘I Ran.’

In the other corner, you had Nelvana, who had dubbed another beloved shoujo anime in the States – Cardcaptors (Cardcaptor Sakura) – in 2000. Nelvana would fare a bit better with their dubs, despite being similarly butchered, specifically Cardcaptors, and even more specifically the Kids WB airing, which had somehow taken the butchered series and required broadcast edits that made it even worse. The directive in this situation was an effort to do everything in their power to make the series more oriented towards young boys instead of girls.

Nelvana would go on to dub Medabots, almost the entire Beyblade franchise (until 2016 when ADK Emotions NY, Inc. would obtain the rights), and the entirety of Bakugan.

4Kids’ seeming biggest rival in the anime industry, kids’-wise anyway, at the time was Saban Entertainment, who had been dubbing old anime since 1985 – over a decade before 4Kids would throw their hats into the ring. Since 1980, Saban had been making a huge name for itself in children’s media – whether producing it in-house or localizing anime and foreign live-action shows, particularly tokusatsu shows.

Saban had already become quite famous with its breakout hit, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, which was both an in-house live-action production and a localization since a lot of the footage used was from the tokusatsu show, Super Sentai.

In addition, they enjoyed a good degree of success by being the distributor of the first two seasons of Dragon Ball Z, which was being dubbed by Funimation and Ocean Productions, and was supposedly the reason why the Ocean dub was so mangled. Still, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z had staked claims for themselves as being some of the most popular anime series in the west in the late 90s and 2000s and helped make Funimation one of the most successful English dubbing companies around.

Saban had many imported titles that were financially successful. In 1999, Saban launched the English dub of one of Pokemon’s biggest competitors – Digimon – even though the company reported in 1998 that were intending on leaving the children’s television syndication business.

If 4Kids really wanted to reap the full benefits of anime in North America as a whole, and if they really wanted to stake a claim as being the top dog in the world of licensed children’s media, they needed more than Pokemon. Whatever they chose would have to have comparatively similar levels of success locked in. Luckily for them, a new cash cow would wander onto their farm soon enough.

Yu-Gi-Oh! was a manga written and illustrated by Kazuki Takahashi in 1996. While it took quite a while for the manga to find its footing, it skyrocketed in success when it did, especially once it toned down its horror elements and became more geared towards kids while still keeping a darker mystique about it that made it more appealing to slightly older audiences.

Yu-Gi-Oh! already had one anime under its belt in 1998, fan-titled as Season Zero, but that was based more on the stories told when Yu-Gi-Oh! was more horror/older audience oriented. Not only did 4Kids never pick it up, but it and the 1999 movie that was produced from it were never dubbed at all. When the manga had a soft reboot to better fit this lighter-hearted and kid-oriented new direction, titled Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duelist, a new anime series was launched in Japan in 2000 to mirror it, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters.

The series was the perfect target for 4Kids. It was already becoming a major franchise in Japan, it obviously had massive marketing potential for not only toys but also a nearly endless supply of trading cards, and it was geared towards only a slightly older audience than Pokemon’s – meaning that they could keep many of their old Pokemon fans, particularly older boys, hooked into their shows for a while longer if they had started growing out of Pokemon. Likewise, the Japanese consortium who controlled Yu-Gi-Oh! in Japan, TV Tokyo and Asatsu-ADK, the latter of which owning the subsidiary, Nihon Ad Systems, which produced and owned the anime, found 4Kids to be a preferable dubbing company to take the series to North America, considering its good merchandising numbers, general demographic and their success with Pokemon.

And so, on September 29, 2001, already having been primed with a slue of teasers and early access Yu-Gi-Oh! cards in select hobby stores, 4Kids launched the premiere of Yu-Gi-Oh! and a new surge of success for 4Kids started. Yu-Gi-Oh! quickly became an insanely successful hit, especially alongside trading card sales that were only increasing in demand every single day.

The anime required more editing than Pokemon to make it suitable for their intended audiences. They removed darker themes, anything sexually suggestive in the slightest and any instance of implied nudity, even skimpy clothing, instances of violence, gambling, guns and alcohol and any references to death. It was also the dub that spawned the popular meme of saying someone who had died had really just been ‘sent to the Shadow Realm.’ as that was a common method 4Kids used of covering up nearly any death or threat of death in the show.

However, Yu-Gi-Oh! would enjoy a brief and rare stint where they had uncut DVD releases, not only with a full English dubbed version of the uncut and unaltered episodes, but also with an uncut Japanese version with subtitles. The only other 4Kids show to get this treatment was Shaman King.

Even when they did release uncut DVDs, they still tended to be bungled a bit. For example, they changed Katsuya Jonouchi, who was changed to Joey Wheeler in the cut dub, to Katsuya Joey….Yeah, his last name is Joey. What’s even funnier is Serenity. Her name, at least the first, is kept, which begs the question of if her name is Serenity Joey. Also, during her video tape message to Joey, she calls him Joey, which means she’s calling her brother by their last name?

Every other character kept their English names, like Tristan and Tea. Joey’s situation would imply that they changed half the names of characters to be both of the versions’ first names, which might mean Tristan is supposed to be Hiroto Tristan and Tea is Anzu Tea, but as far as I saw Joey’s the only character whose name changed at all. Mai Valentine, Weevil Underwood, Rex Raptor, Maximillion Pegasus – everyone’s names are their Americanized versions, which is quite weird because the uncut dub was also noted as being almost too direct of a translation of the original script, creating some awkward dialogue and speaking patterns, but for some reason they didn’t find it worth it to revert anyone’s names back to their Japanese version, except Joey’s, and that’s only kinda?

According to Mark Kirk, Senior Vice President of Digital Media for 4Kids starting in 2007, the reason they kept the card names as their American versions was for the sake of consistency. It was a business decision, as he put it, so that people could follow along with the duels more easily with their own cards. Fair enough, but why did they keep the character names the same as their cut dubbed versions? Why does that matter? Did they think audiences would get confused?

Sadly, however, while the cut version eventually got a full DVD release, the uncut DVD releases would stop at volume three, ending on episode nine. According to rumors, this was due to 4Kids’ concerns about having the DVD releases clash with the releases of the cut version DVDs. It’s true that Al Kahn at one point said they staggered the DVD releases of the uncut and cut versions to not affect the separate sales, but if that was in place then that would indicate that their sales didn’t clash and wouldn’t be the cause of the eventual cancellation. Even if they didn’t stagger the releases, I wouldn’t see how clashing release dates would affect sales. Anyone who wants the uncut version will buy the uncut version, and anyone who wants the cut version or doesn’t care will just buy the cut version or either one.

I think the real reason they stopped releasing uncut DVDs after a while was because it was expensive to call everyone back to rerecord nearly every line. For the most part, 4Kids was paying to have the same episodes recorded twice while also paying to have the script rewritten. I don’t know how much money the uncut DVDs were bringing in, but I doubt it was enough for them to justify continuing to do that.

This is all speculation on my part, however. The best I can come up with as support for this theory is that the 2005 report does note that television and film production/distribution sales were down 17% partially due to Yu-Gi-Oh!’s domestic home video sales decreasing, but that’s about it.

Lance Heiskell, a representative at Funimation, who was helping 4Kids with the distribution of the DVDs, reportedly said there were legal issues preventing the uncut release (something corroborated by Mark Kirk in 2010, but he wasn’t with the company when this happened so I’m not sure it’s 100%). What these legal issues were, I have no idea. Future fans speculated that there were contract issues with Yugi’s original Japanese voice actor, Shunsuke Kazama, but that doesn’t make much sense.

Yes, it’s true that the Japanese episodes were removed from 4Kids’ Youtube page because Kazama decided not to renew his contract with ADK, and they accidentally caused a bunch of rights issues with the show as a result. However, this went down in 2009. The DVDs were canceled in 2005. They even had two more volumes set to release in April and May of 2005 with cover art and a release date out for volume four, but they just never released them or continued the project.

There was another claim that it was because the relationship between 4Kids and Funimation was dissolving at that point, but why it was dissolving, I don’t know, and why that fully matters, I don’t know. They could just find another company to help with the distribution and whatnot. Maybe it was a combination of all of these factors – they all seem to have a degree of validity to them. We’ll likely never know for certain.

The projected success of Yu-Gi-Oh! coming after the success of Pokemon was not only good for 4Kids in that they had a whole new franchise to piggyback off of for years, but it was also a positive sign that anime was indeed on the rise – meaning they were interested in seeking out more titles to dub.

For instance, in that same year, 4Kids dubbed Tama of Third Street: Have You Seen My Tama?, which they titled Tama and Friends.

Never heard of Tama and Friends? Neither have I.

Part 6: 4Kid—

Oh fine. There really isn’t a lot of information on this show, either original or dub. It’s a show about a bunch of chibi cats and dogs doing random things. In 1999, 4Kids just rather randomly got the rights to dub it, they did, it ran in syndication in the US in 2001, never on Kids WB or anything, never got a home video release, and I never remember seeing it all.

Still, their interest in dubbing new titles would spawn an entire catalog of anime that would impact the world of anime and anime fans….4Ever.

….Get it? Because the next part is 2002, and that’s when…Pokemon……4…..*cough* Nevermind.

Next – Part 6: 4Kids 4Ever

Previous – Part 4: Entering Unown Territory


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