4Kids Entertainment (now known as 4Licensing Corporation) was a company that was known for buying the distribution rights to various Japanese anime shows and editing them for broadcast in the West. It landed a massive hit in the form of Pokémon, which helped it to grow substantially as a company. It would later acquire the rights to other shows that became popular, such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Ultimate Muscle.
It didn't take long for 4Kids to earn a reputation for being overly enthusiastic when it came to editing their shows. The sensibilities between Japan and the West are very different, which means that it often bought the rights to kids' shows which ended up being filled with violence, exposed skin, and realistic guns. The methods that 4Kids used to cover these up are baffling in retrospect.
We are here today to look at the most ridiculous solutions that 4Kids came up with for editing the content in the shows they licensed, from the ban on Japanese food in the world of Pokémon to the cigarette that was turned into a lollipop in One Piece.
Here are the 15 Shocking Ways 4Kids Entertainment Censored Their Shows.
15 Pokémon: Rice = Sandwiches
One of the most common edits made by 4Kids across all of its properties was the removal of Japanese text. This meant that written text on signs and newspapers would often be totally removed. They would occasionally replace the text with sentences written in English, which were shoddily edited onto the screen.
The comapny's war on Japanese culture didn't end there, though. You often see characters in anime eating foods that are a staple in Japan, such as Onigiri, that wouldn't be recognized by your average Westerner. They would sometimes just be referred to as rice, though 4Kids sometimes went to the expense of completely editing the appearance of the food.
Pokémon was the chief victim of this form of censorship. Rice balls were often edited into sandwiches. The most famous incident involved Brock talking about how the donuts he cooked looked great and how he loves the jelly filled ones the best... even though they were clearly balls of rice.
14 Ultimate Muscle: Poo = Aliens
Ultimate Muscle was a surprise hit for 4Kids. The show is actually a sequel to a long running anime/manga series called Kinniukman, which was about pro wrestlers battling aliens.
The Ultimate Muscle anime did poorly in Japan, but it was popular in America to the point where the final story arc of the show (the tournament that concluded with Kid Muscle fighting Kevin Mask) was actually funded by 4Kids and made for the English speaking market.
Ultimate Muscle actually managed to avoid a lot of censorship, as the show was able to sneak in some of the double entendre humor from the original. The main piece of censorship that the show endured happened in the form of stink bugs.
In Ultimate Muscle, one of the villains was a sneaker-themed wrestler called Pumpinator. The thing he was deathly afraid of the most was stepping into feces, which Kid Muscle used to his advantage in their match. The people at 4Kids claimed that the poop was actually an alien creature, called a stink bug, which just happened to look exactly like excrement.
13 Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Shadow Realm
The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga didn't start out with the characters playing Duel Monsters. Yugi/the Pharoah used to go around challenging people to various different games, which usually ended with him inflicting a "penalty game" with his dark magic. These were often ironic punishments that involved illusions.
Yu-Gi-Oh! involved a lot of dark magic and the imprisonment or destruction of people's souls. As such, 4Kids came up with the concept of the Shadow Realm to explain a lot of the edits that were made to the series.
The Shadow Realm was basically limbo, where the souls of the unworthy would be forced to wander for eternity. If a character died in the Japanese version of the show, then 4Kids could edit it away by saying that they were banished to the Shadow Realm. It seems that they were cool with characters suffering for all eternity, so long as we don't see any actual harm inflicted on screen.
12 One Piece: Laboon = Iceberg
The 4Kids dub of One Piece was notoriously horrible and mangled the source material to the point where it became unrecognizable. They made so many edits that they were sometimes forced to patch a couple of episodes together. The company would also sometimes just skip episodes and major story arcs.
In the original version of One Piece, the main characters came across a giant whale named Laboon that has been banging its head for years in an effort to get past a mountain, so that it could be reunited with the pirate crew that saved it when it was a baby.
The 4Kids dub changed Laboon into an iceberg that the main characters avoided. This was likely to avoid showing an animal abusing itself. The lack of Laboon would have become a problem if 4Kids had continued the dub, as the main characters encounter one of the pirates who had been trying to return to Laboon after all those years.
One Piece did poorly in the ratings, which led to 4Kids losing the license before Laboon's absence became an issue.
11 Sonic X: Guns = Lazers
The realistic depiction of guns is usually a huge issue for kids shows in the US. The most common way around this is to show characters using futuristic weapons, such as laser rifles, which stun the people that they hit.
This was commonly seen in the Marvel cartoons in the '90s, like the Spider-Man and X-Men animated series, where police officers and terrorists would fight with gaudy firearms that resembled Nerf guns.
When 4Kids purchased the rights to Sonic X, they quickly realized that the whole show was filled with characters that used realistic looking firearms and ballistic weapons. It would have been impossible for them to edit them all out, so they simply removed the realistic gun firing sounds and replaced them with laser noises that wouldn't sound out of place on Star Trek.
These sounds were even used for the missiles and rockets that were often fired at Sonic.
10 Pokémon: The Lost Episodes
We are lucky that we ever got a chance to experience this Pokémon episode in the West. This is due to the famous incident involving an episode that starred Porygon, which used a flashing effect that caused kids in Japan to experience epileptic seizures. The episode has never been broadcasted again.
Later, 4Kids would add several other episodes to the list of ones that wouldn't be broadcasted. The most famous of these is "The Legend of Dratini", which involved several characters pulling out realistic firearms and pointing them at Ash. The loss of this episode is notable, as it is the one where Ash catches several Tauros.
There were other episodes that were banned for a long time but were returned to rotation after being edited. The infamous "Beauty and the Beach" episode was heavily cut, as it needed to remove the sub plot where James wore a woman's bathing suit with big inflatable breasts.
"The Ice Cave" was also returned to rotation after Jynx's skin color was changed from black to purple.
9 One Piece: Gun = Bizarre Hammer Thing
The world of One Piece is full of characters who carry flintlock pistols and rifles. This makes less sense as the series progresses, as most characters develop the ability to make their skin as hard as iron, so bullets would just bounce off of them. Still, the pirates of the Grand Line are often seen carrying a primitive firearm on their person at all times.
The presence of the flintlock guns in One Piece caused an issue for 4Kids, as they too closely resembled real guns. This meant that all of the firearms in the show were edited to look like water pistols or pop guns.
One of the most notorious examples of One Piece censorship involves the gun that Helmeppo points at Coby's head. The 4Kids version of this scene changed the gun into some kind of hammer on a spring, that was activated by pulling a trigger. This bizarre contraption became infamous among the fan base, with the term "hammer gun" becoming a shorthand reference for a bad edit in a show.
8 Yu-Gi-Oh!: Dark Energy Disks
Fans of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga eagerly anticipated the English version of the duel between Yugi and Arkana. In the manga, the two of them are chained to a machine that is connected to two buzz saws.
When a player's life points reach zero, then the buzz saw will cut their legs off. Yugi manages to win the duel and saves Arkana before the buzz saw can reach him. This duel was retained faithfully in the Japanese version of the anime, so fans eagerly awaited the stupid way in which 4Kids would have to change this episode to make it broadcast-worthy.
The fans weren't disappointed. The 4Kids version of the episode turned the buzzsaws into Dark Energy Discs. These were blades of energy that would banish of the soul of those they touched to the Shadow Realm. The 4Kids editing to the episodes that featured the discs was quite poor, so most fans likely worked out what was really supposed to be going on.
7 Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo's Motivations
Pokémon: The First Movie is a confusing film. This is because the moral of the movie seems to go against the main purpose of the Pokémon franchise. At one point in the film, Ash and his friends realize that Pokémon fighting each other is wrong, as they watch the battle raging between their Pokémon and the clones created by Mewtwo.
This seems like the opposite of what Pokémon is supposed to be about. We are told repeatedly that Pokémon love battling, otherwise all of the trainers in the world would be engaged in glorified cock fighting.
When 4Kids dubbed the movie, they changed Mewtwo's dialogue in order to make him more villainous. The original version of the film made Mewtwo more ambiguous in his goals. He still wanted revenge on humanity for his creation, but he didn't want to wipe out all human life.
Mewtwo was presented as a being that was still learning its place in the world. The English language version changed Mewtwo's dialogue to make him more of an obvious villain.
6 Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Magician Girl's Bosom
Most of the censorship that Yu-Gi-Oh! endured was usually related to violence or firearms. The show was actually pretty violent, to the point where it entered Saw territory at times (like with the Yugi/Arkana duel mentioned above).
Yu-Gi-Oh! didn't have much sexual content, but it did have a few characters with exposed skin that needed covering. The biggest culprit in this regard was the Dark Magician Girl, who was censored in almost all of her appearances.
The Dark Magician Girl had noticeable cleavage which was toned down in all of her TV show appearances. These changes also extended to the English versions of the Dark Magician Girl cards. The five pointed star on her brooch was also edited and turned into a generic jewel that bore no markings.
The Dark Magician Girl ended up becoming a hugely popular character, to the point where she appeared in the later iterations of the show (like in GX), which meant that she had to be censored during each of her returns.
5 Pokémon: The Ghost Stickers
The 20th episode of the Pokémon anime is infamous for featuring another Pokémon that can speak the same language as humans. Ash and his friends encounter a Gastly that can speak English in the same way that Meowth can. This was likely because the series was still in its infancy at this point, as we have seen very few talking Pokémon since this episode aired.
"The Ghost of Maiden's Peak" also became infamous due to the way in which 4Kids decided to edit the o-fuda sold by the old lady in the episode. These are used to protect people from the evil Ghost-type Pokémon that are known to haunt the shrine.
O-fuda are a kind of talisman that are used to keep evil spirits away from the home. The 4Kids episode changed the o-fuda into anti-ghost stickers. That was literally the best thing the writers at 4Kids could come up with. Someone got paid to write the anti-ghost stickers lines.
4 Shaman King: Necromancer = Boneyard Sorcerer
Shaman King had a surprisingly accurate dub considering the fact that it was being localized by 4Kids. They didn't have much choice in the matter, as Shaman King was about people bonding with souls in the afterlife and using their power in battle. They pretty much had to play it straight, which meant that the show received few edits.
One of the most notable changes to Shaman King involved a character named Faust VIII. He was a Shaman who also used necromancy. Faust was a former doctor who was driven mad by the death of his wife. He turned to the shamanic arts in an effort to raise her from the dead. He battled the main character in a graveyard and used his powers to create an army of skeletons.
For whatever reason, the writing staff at 4Kids had a problem with referring to Faust as a Necromancer. They decided to call him a Boneyard Sorcerer instead. We have to give the voice actors credit for not laughing every time they had to say that line.
3 Yu-Gi-Oh!: Guns = Fingers
The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime featured a couple of realistic depictions of guns. Luckily, these became less frequent over time. However, 4Kids was still left with several scenes of guns being pointed at people which it had to change. It did this with the help of pointing fingers and Nerf guns.
Anytime a gun was pointed at someone in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime it had to be removed by 4Kids. This meant that Pegasus' goons who tried to kidnap Kaiba were reduced to angrily pointing their fingers at him. Bandit Keith underwent the same treatment, as the scene where he points a gun at Pegasus' head was changed to him pointing his finger at Pegasus instead.
Bandit Keith's Barrel Dragon originally featured three massive cannons that resembled the barrel of a revolver. These were changed into cartoonish looking weapons that resembled Nerf guns. This change happened in both the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime and card game.
2 Kirby: Right Back At Ya!: The Laser Chainsaw
The embarrassing failure of the Super Mario Bros. movie made Nintendo a lot more cautious about lending out their intellectual properties for screen adaptations. The main exception to this was the Pokémon franchise, as the anime series was a big part in helping the video games grow in popularity.
Nintendo has been a lot more strict with their bigger franchises, like Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. They have been less protective over series like F-Zero and Kirby, which have received anime series.
Kirby: Right Back at Ya! was an anime adaptation of the video game series that ran for a hundred episodes. In the 5th episode of the series, King Dedede threatens to chop Whispy Woods down with a chainsaw.
This was considered too much for the American audience, so it was turned into a laser chainsaw instead. It had the exact same functionality but it used a laser instead of a piece of metal.
1 One Piece: Cigarettes = Lollipops
One of the biggest problems facing 4Kids when they purchased the licensing rights for One Piece was Sanji. He is a member of the main cast who is constantly seen smoking. Sanji has been a chain smoker ever since his first appearance and has kept on smoking for hundreds of episodes now.
The way 4Kids got around Sanji's smoking was by changing his cigarette. The lit part of his cigarette was edited out whenever it was shown close up, and was changed so that it looked like a lollipop instead. Sanji went from being a chain smoker to an obsessive candy addict, who can't go without a lollipop for more than a few seconds.
The horrible 4Kids dub of One Piece is often blamed for holding the series back in the West, as it is massively popular in Japan. Sanji's lollipop has become so infamous that it was actually referenced in the One Piece manga series. Luffy sees a vision of Sanji eating a lollipop during the most recent story arc.
Even the author of the most successful manga in the world couldn't help referencing the biggest blemish on his series' history.
Did you know about this censorship? Can you think of any other shows that 4Kids Entertainment has censored? Let us know in the comments!