Thursday, December 14, 2006

:anime: One Piece Production Goes to Pieces...

Ever so fashionablly late, here's something on 4Kids' dropping of One Piece, which was supposed to be posted a day after the news, but then work got in the way...

One Piece was, and still is, one of the hottest titles in Japan, and has held a dedicated U.S. fanbase, grown from the manga and fansubbed anime. Of course, when the anime series was announced to have a licensor, the collective of fans let out one gigantic sigh, as it would mean that many groups would be dropping it. However, that "sigh" was closer to a "massive roar of anger and rage" when that licensor happened to be 4Kids Entertainment, perhaps the most infamous anime company in recent years. Well-known for making extensive changes to not only the script, but sometimes to the actual composition of various anime themselves, 4Kids was the last company fans wanted the show end up with. In the end, One Piece would be no different from any other one they handled.

Well, what a difference two-and-a-half years make. 4Kids has announced that it will no longer adapt the anime, which it has only covered a fraction of (to date, 104 episodes, 78 of which has actually aired in the US, to 289+ episodes). Though the exact reason is unknown, a few notes do arise. One Piece has not been a ratings or commercial darling, most likely due to the alienation of its already-established audience (the lack of a subtitled or uncut version on DVD certainly didn't help), the bad publicity and reviews surrounding the dub, and the kiddified style that defined it underlines a recent trend seen in other similar offerings from the company. A number of these type of shows have not seen much success in the children's market, yet 4Kids and a few others insist on pressing forward with it. In the past, Escaflowne (Bandai Ent.), Cardcaptor Sakura (Nelvana), and Saint Seiya (DiC), popular shows in their own rights, saw changes made to make them more palpable to specific audiences in America (mostly children, or in other cases, to the opposite gender group), and yet, they all failed miserably.

However, this practice has seen a reversal of sorts as of recent. Naruto and BLEACH, two show of grand popularity prior to U.S. releasal, have been faithfully adapated and have garnered good ratings. Viz Media could have easily skewed both shows, Inu Yasha included, towards a preteen or younger crowd. Instead, they allowed the shows themselves to do the "attraction" work for them and have gained significant ground in pulling in new fans in turn, all the while pleasing and inticing the current fanbase to purchase the DVDs. The three previously mentioned series have also seen uncut releases, though with the mixed results produced, one has to wonder the impact a faithful adaptation on television would have made on their sales.

The cancellation of One Piece and the success of non-alterated anime should serve as growing signal for 4Kids to reconsider its current policies. They may wish to make the changes for marketing purposes, but much of the decisions made have been poor ones that fail to benefit the product. The company should either lessen the amount of material they alter or they should at least try to release a show untouched (save for inappropriate/questionable content) and give it a chance to see how successful it could be. Lastly, it would be in their best interest to release uncut DVDs of major shows like One Piece. If what they're after is profit, a rabid fanbase can surely provide them that.

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