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Finally! Uncut "Yu-Gi-Oh!" DVD's...Right? by Kevin T. Rodriguez

Man, what happened? I thought things were going so well for us all. We finally got uncut DVD's of both "Yu-Gi-Oh!" and "Shaman King," video stores reported that they sold much better then expected (which even forced my local Best Buy to have bought five shipments of the DVD's to date), and more were on there way. Then disaster struck in a big way. "Shaman King Vol. 3" was removed from the release schedule with no future date announced for the DVD. Shortly afterwards "Yu-Gi-Oh! Vol. 3" was released on DVD, and almost immediately after that, volumes 4 and 5 of "Yu-Gi-Oh!" were also pulled from the release schedule too. What is going on here? There's a huge demand for these DVD's, they were selling well, and why was "Shaman King Vol. 3" stopped from hitting store shelves and not "Yu-Gi-Oh!" (especially now that the storyline in the manga has gotten good enough to make "Shaman King's" popularity in "Shonen Jump" shoot up a couple notches)? Is 4Kids frantic because these DVD's made more money then they were supposed to, and ruined their plans for an excuse for why they couldn't release future anime series uncut? Nah, 4Kids isn't that dumb.

Since Al Kahn is a guy who only sees dollar bills, I have a sneaky suspicion that he viewed the stellar sales of these DVD's as a good thing, as all this does is put more money in the companies pocket (and raises the value of their stock). Could these disks have been delayed for technical issues? Possibly, the third DVD of "Yu-Gi-Oh!" definitely had some glitches with it, but none of these issues were enough to cause a delay. Plus if this is the case then why isn't either 4Kids or FUNimation being up-front with this? Why have we not been informed of a new date, and why did "Shaman King" get delayed and "Yu-Gi-Oh!" didn't? None of this makes any sense, although some recent information has come to light that gives me some theories as to why we haven't seen any of our DVD's in quite a while. Several months ago there was a discussion on the Anime on DVD forums, and of course there was speculation about everything I addressed above. Lance Haskell, who is FUNimations Public Relations Guy (A.K.A.: He's the guy who's supposed to make FUNimation look good) revealed that the DVD's are in legal limbo at the moment. He said he knew what the problem was, but he couldn't address what the issue was publically.

This information wasn't very helpful as it just helped fueled the speculation, but it was information none-the-less, and information is information. So what ARE the legal problems exactly?! I'm not completely sure, but I've got an idea. For those of you who don't know, 4Kids and FUNimation are breaking up. Yep, the honeymoon is over, and FUNimation is getting sick and tired of 4Kids abuse. While the edited "Yu-Gi-Oh!" DVD's have made some decent dough for FUNimation, almost none of the other shows have sold very well. FUNimation executives have also expressed frustration that 4Kids wouldn't let them make uncut DVD's for all their shows, and FUNimation (through experience of course) knows how much better uncut DVD's sell compared to edited DVD's. Finally after years of begging, FUNimation gets their chance to make the uncut DVD's they've wanted to make in the first place, and they choose to start with two shows: "Yu-Gi-Oh!" (which has built up a demand for an uncut release over the years) and "Shaman King" (which had a demand for uncut DVD's before the show even aired). So FUNimation gets these two shows there, they produce a new, more accurate dub (with 4Kids help...FUNimation writes the new script, and 4Kids dubs it), there are originally a few issues with the subtitles, but otherwise a fine release. The DVD's sell like hot cakes, and it looks like a good thing has happened for both companies.

Or is it?

Shortly after these DVD's are released it is time for FUNimation to decide whether or not it wants to continue its relationship with 4Kids Entertainment or not. The deal made a lot of money at first, but over time they lost quite a bit of money too. Most of the other DVD's for 4Kids shows don't sell that well, they still are not promised that they can make uncut DVD's out of ALL their shows, and financially the deal doesn't make as much sense as it used to. So FUNimation decides they don't want to distribute 4Kids stuff anymore. Sounds good, but aren't they forgetting something...oh yeah, they've just released these two DVD's that are selling like hot cakes. They can't let go of THOSE though now can they?! Hey wait a minute, why should 4Kids take these babies away from them. Isn't FUNimation the ones who worked on the new scripts, payed for the new dub, pressed the DVD's and released them to stores to great sales? Shouldn't FUNimation keep the rights to at least release THESE shows uncut, and maybe pay 4Kids a fee for the use of their property?! Apparently 4Kids thinks differently. 4Kids wants to own their shows. All of them. Hook, line, and sinker. So either FUNimation resigns with 4Kids to distribute their shows on DVD, or 4Kids walks away with their shows tucked under their belts.

But wait...it's not that simple.

When 4Kids signed their deal with FUNimation they handed over video distribution rights of their shows for a number of years, and this deal may not even end when 4Kids has to leave the building. Not only that, but FUNimation has been lending 4Kids a few of their key voice actors, and that would REALLY sour the dub if they had to go through a process of recasting some actors, re-record hundreds of lines of dialog for these DVD's, JUST for continuities sake!! Okay, so that last part is probably pushing it a bit, but as you can see, this is a real problem for both sides. Both sides have some sort of legal ownership on the DVD's and the content on the DVD's, and neither one is willing to let go unless they get what they want. So why did vol. 3 of "Yu-Gi-Oh!" get released and "Shaman King" didn't? My guess: They both decided they could use the money and let this one release slide by without much notice. But that doesn't solve the problem of what's going to happen with future DVD releases of our favorite shows. So is there anything that we, the fans, can do in this situation. Well actually yes, there is something we can do: We can be patient and hope a resolution comes between the two companies soon.

Yeah, sorry, but that's really all we can do, and as stated before, no one really knows when this will all even be close to being resolved. I also want to make it clear that what I just wrote may not even be 100% true, but there is no doubt that the split-up between the two companies is playing a MAJOR role in this legal battle, so I believe that we'll just have to wait until their contract expires before we see any result come from all this! This is a pretty frustrating situation to be in, as it almost makes you want to go back to bootlegs, but just hang in there folks. I'll keep you up to date about the DVD's as much as I can in the upcoming months. For now though, patience.

NEXT TIME: Aw, who knows what I'll talk about next time. Just tune in and find out.

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