Over the course of their run as a licensing company, 4Kids became famous, or rather infamous, for their editing choices during the dubbing process. Subtle changes to dialogue or animation may have flown under the radar when episodes first aired, but some edits were so jarring that they left a lasting impression on the audience.
While this habit of making drastic changes would eventually lead to the company’s downfall, it’s hard to forget the way 4Kids treated the anime that were trusted with. From wiping out entire lines of dialogue to changing characters eating habits, this is 10 hilarious ways 4Kids tried to make anime more American.
10 Ramen Is Now Pizza
In Pokémon’s second episode “Pokémon Emergency,” Ash calls Professor Oak when Pikachu is being treated for the wounds he sustained during the Spearow attack in the inaugural episode. During the video conversation, a pot of ramen is seen cooking on the bench in front of Oak. Though it is never mentioned, at the end of the call Oak claims that his pizza has arrived.
In the Japanese dub, the ramen is mentioned by Ash and Oak leaves the conversation when his food starts to overcook. 4Kids clearly thought a young Western audience wouldn’t know what ramen was – let alone noodles – and edited it out to be more relatable. This wouldn’t be the last time food was changed in the Pokémon anime.
9 Rice Balls Are Now Donuts
This infamous scene from Primape Goes Bananas didn’t make sense even when it was first aired. What the heck kind of donuts are those? Brock claims that “These donuts are great. Jelly filled are my favorite,” when they are clearly neither jelly-filled nor donuts.
This isn’t the only time 4Kids turned rice balls into something else, but it is probably the most well known among Pokémon and anime fans in general – until they decided to take away the rice ball entirely, that is.
8 A Giant Riceball Is Now A Giant Sandwich
Similar to the previous entry, this is a case of 4Kids expecting their target audience to be completely clueless on foreign cuisine. Instead of leaving the giant rice ball in and trying the donut approach again, they decided that a full animation edit was needed and swapped it out for a giant sandwich instead.
In the same episode, Team Rocket are fighting over the a lone rice ball that needs to be shared among the four of them, and this was changed out for a single Saltine. While hilarious, it also makes the scene way more depressing knowing that a single cracker is all they have to eat. Team Rocket really needs to get a better job!
7 Removing Blackface
This one is less funny and more keeping in line with cultural sensitivity. Let’s get one thing straight: blackface is considered highly offensive throughout America, but significantly less so in other countries. It’s understandable that 4Kids would want to change this.
However, unlike with another case of blackface in Jynx, whose design coloration was changed forever because of the controversy, Mr. Popo from Dragon Ball Z got a different treatment. This edit of his coloration makes it look like he’s been exposed to too much radiation from Kame’s Lookout and is glowing bright blue.
6 Removing Religious Symbols
The original series of Yu-Gi-Oh! is chock full of religious imagery. Cards like Monster Reborn featuring the Egyptian Ankh and Foolish Burial with its crucifix tombstone sparked a few issues with the religiously inclined within 4Kids.
While the changes are more artistic than anything else, it’s funny to consider that 4Kids thought that kids from the United States, which notably has one of the biggest Christian demographics in the world, would take offense to religious iconography in their cartoons.
5 Everything In The First Pokémon Movie
Anyone who has watched the Japanese dub of Mewtwo’s first film appearance will tell you how much better it is than the English dub, and that’s not just due to the multiple instances that characters in the show say the wrong Pokémon’s name. Most of the script was completely reworded to take away any sense of the message the original was trying to convey.
Mew is much less friendly in the Japanese version for one, being the antithesis of Mewtwo and claiming his clones are inferior and deserve to die. This is probably why Mew was made out to be somewhat whimsical and indifferent in the English dub.
4 No Smoking!
If there’s one thing 4Kids really hates more than weapons in One Piece, it’s smoking. Every character who smokes either has the cigar or cigarette removed or replaced with something else entirely. This is particularly evident with one of the main characters, Sanji, who always has a cigarette in his mouth.
So how did 4Kids fix this? They swapped the cigarette out for a lollipop, of course. Sure, that works for one character, but then they leave in the smoke with others so that it looks like they just exhale tobacco whenever they breathe out.
3 Removing Blood & Injuries
One of the many issues 4Kids had with their licenses was the amount of violence shown in their Saturday morning cartoons – even in shows where violence isn’t just front and center, but is the anime’s selling point. This isn’t as big a deal in Japan, where their broadcast rules are a little more lax in the violence department. What makes these edited scenes funny, however, is the complete removal of serious injuries to make it seem like they never existed.
Krillin getting run through by Frieza’s horns? Never happened! Zoro gets slashed across the chest? Not even a scratch! It effectively turns any scene where a characters life should be in danger into bad slapstick.
2 Welcome To HFIL!
In an entire arc centered around the afterlife and Goku’s training, one particular filler episode was too much for 4Kids to take. During his journey, Goku falls off of Snake Way and lands in the underworld where he is greeted by two oni-looking individuals wearing weirdly worded shits.
In the Japanese dub, they simply read “HELL” to let the audience know exactly where Goku had landed. But in the English version, it has been changed to “HFIL,” which apparently stands for “Home For Infinite Losers.” While the message is essentially the same, the only mention of what the acronym means can only be found in the episode’s title.
1 Changing Japanese Names Into American Ones
Probably one of the most noticeable changes between the Japanese and English dubs of many anime 4Kids worked on, is changing the names of the cast to make them less foreign-sounding. In Pokémon, there are very few characters who keep their original names, including the main character himself, Ash Ketchum. Originally, he’s named Satoshi, which is as far from a common American name as one can get.
This isn’t limited to Pokémon though, with many characters in Yu-Gi-Oh! and One Piece also having their names changed. Funnily enough, Dragon Ball Z’s characters were left almost completely untouched with the exception of a few pronunciations. Then again, many of the Z fighters were named after easily pronounced things, like clothes and vegetables.
4Kids has become a punchline in the anime community thanks to the many ways it (and failed) tried to turn anime more American