4Kids Entertainment. That’s a name that means different things to different people. For some, it brings back fond memories of Saturday morning cartoons and watching their favorite anime. For others, the name sends chills down their spine remembering the controversial censorship that was rampant with their dubbing practices. For some it is a name that they have heard of, but are not familiar with; the company simply is that of legend, whose influence was vast and towering at one point, but whose power has since faded. Finally, there are some who the name means nothing, to the point where you may never have heard of them.

Whatever your reaction to hearing their name, it can not be denied that 4Kids Entertainment have left their mark on the world of anime. They are as important to the anime industry in America as Funimation and Crunchyroll, and they were important for making anime as mainstream as it is today. The company is so controversial that many don’t want to admit that 4Kids might have been good for anime (and some don’t want to admit that 4Kids might have also been bad for anime in America). Let’s discuss how 4Kids Entertainment became the most polarizing anime company in the world.

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4Kids Hits it Big with Pokemon


The anime that put 4Kids Entertainment on the map was Pokemon. Though the franchise needs no introduction today, at the time nobody knew what this strange little cartoon with fighting monsters was. 4Kids was known for previous successes like the Cabbage Patch Kids, which is what made Nintendo decide to partner with them. Unlike most cartoons, 4Kids premiered the show in local syndication, meaning that the show could be on different networks depending on what region you were in.

Most cartoons sold into syndication do so with low initial fees, but if you are lucky enough to catch a network's attention you can make it big. This is what happened when the series was an unexpected hit and Warner Bros. decided to acquire the franchise for Kids WB. When Pokemon did air on Kids WB it was a runaway success! This started a domino effect of more anime coming to the States.

4Kids Makes Anime Mainstream

sonic the hedgehog

After successfully turning Pokemon mainstream, 4Kids decided to turn to another property: Yu-Gi-Oh! Like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! went mainstream in a way that many could not have predicted. This meant that this niche little thing called anime wasn’t just a fluke, but had the potential to be a multi-million dollar business. Soon, rivals were getting into the mix: Fox Kids, ABC Family, Cartoon Network, and many more. Cartoon Network’s Toonami started to morph from an action animation block to becoming one of the premier destinations for anime in America.

Bolstered by their success on Kids WB, 4Kids eventually acquired the programing block Fox Kids, renamed it Fox Box (and later 4Kids TV) and had more success with Sonic X, Shaman King, and Kirby: Right Back at Ya! This in turn inspired ADV and Funimation to create their own anime channels on cable: The Anime Network and The Funimation Channel. When Pokemon: The First Movie became a box office sensation it seemed like anime had finally made it, and we have 4Kids Entertainment to thank for that!

The Dark Side of Success

Advanced conqueror's haki

Sadly, while 4Kids Entertainment may have brought anime mainstream, so too did they bring along a lot of baggage. While the dub for Pokemon was a largely faithful one, by the time it came to adapt Pokemon: The First Movie 4Kids decided they could make a better film than the Japanese producers had. Despite the huge box office success, the re-written script, heavy editing, and music changes resulted in a movie that made the average moviegoer and critic look at the movie as if it was an abomination, and future theatrical anime movies (including future Pokemon films) would struggle at the box office for years.

4Kids took this (what fans dubbed) ‘Americanization of anime’ to the next level with all their future shows, resulting in dubs that were of questionable quality. Fans of the original shows lamented that 4Kids dubs were changing the heart and soul of the shows, and they were encouraging others to do the same. Fox Kids tried to force a kids version of The Vision of Escaflowne based on 4Kids success as well as a failed attempt to Americanize Detective Conan. Despite anime fans disliking these edited dubs, even well respected companies like Geneon got into the Americanization game with edited dubs of Viewtiful Joe.

The worst offender might have been One Piece though, a show that required such extensive editing that it is not only still viewed with condemnation to this day, but was a product of such poor quality it arguably prevented the franchise from becoming the hit it is in America today for a decade as a result. So bad were these dubs that soon anime fans were turning to fansubs so that they could watch the uncut versions of the shows they were being denied access to. Though, that being said…

Crunchyroll Rises from the Ashes

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As a result of more anime fans going to pirate sites, one sprung up that would become noteworthy down the line: Crunchyroll. Since Crunchyroll was a safe haven for fansubs, it became a favorite among anime fans. Later on the company would become a legitimate site and is now the number one anime company in America! While 4Kids may have tainted anime in many ways during the early 2000s, they did make anime mainstream in ways other companies were never able to. While their poor decisions would eventually take them to bankruptcy, other companies picked up the torch and improved on what they did, and now anime is about as common in America as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut! And we largely have 4Kids Entertainment to thank for that!

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