"One Piece: The Ultimate Opportunity and the Ultimate Blunder" By: "Alan Tse"

People sometimes tell me that I'm too judgmental on English versions of animes. I often formulate opinions or even write entire editorials on the first episode of an English dub anime when I watch it. Oftentimes, the first episode can tell a lot about where the dub company is going with the anime. Things like what type of things they censor, how the voice actors are, what recurring paint edits they make, what dialogue is changed and what new dialogue they use to replace it, and so on, can all give me an idea of what image they are trying to portray with this dub, who the target audience is, and what their aim is for the anime series. For instance, I once wrote an editorial on the premiere episode of the Yu-Gi-Oh!. But in that episode, you could see things like how the dub skipped the first series, had strange line rewrites, had lousy voice actors, had frequent paint edits for the cards, and had this whole "heart of the cards" theme going on. This was ALL apparent in just the first episode, and some of these issues are still
applicable to this day. Naturally, I had a lot to say after watching just the first episode of that series and could make a good prediction of what it means for the rest of the anime, and if this is still considered judgmental, then that's just how I was.

Yes, I said 'was.' I used past tense because I decided to approach the English version of One Piece differently. After I watched the first episode of the One Piece dub, I actually wasn't too displeased. I know that there have been a lot of complaints after the premiere episode (the rap theme song and Luffy's screechy voice, in particular), but I thought it turned out better than I expected, especially when you consider Yu-Gi-Oh! premiere episode, a.k.a. "everything that can go wrong in a dub premiere." First of
all, you need to know this: I absolutely adore One Piece, and I personally consider it, literally, the best anime series ever. For this reason, I really did want One Piece to become a success in America as it is in Japan. And in spite of how critical I was, I still thought the first episode turned out alright. So after the dub premiere of One Piece, I decided to give the dub a chance before I write an editorial on it. My original plan was to write the editorial after the dub has been on the air for a full year so that I can have a year's worth of material to judge instead of just one episode. I really wanted to see One Piece succeed, and the way I see it, I wasn't just giving One Piece a chance, I was also giving 4Kids a chance.
Remember how they once boasted how One Piece will "honor the original," and I wanted to see if they were sincere. As it turns out, this was for the best, because many of the anime's recurring and serious changes weren't in the first episode, like the re-coloring of guns, cutting scenes of character interaction, ending episodes where they aren't supposed to end like in Dragonball Z, etc. But let me tell you, this wasn't easy. Every time I see a tremendous alteration in the anime, I was always tempted to express my
dissatisfaction of it. But each time, I decided to stick with my original intent and hold off a little longer to see how things turn out. It hasn't been a year yet, but after seeing some of the most offensive anime butchery ever in the One Piece dub, I think I can now freely say all the things I wanted to say about it since its premiere last fall, as I believe I have more than enough material to go by. What you're about read is an entire 11 months worth of pent up frustration, held back anger, and even bottled up sadness at the state of things that we are in. So here it is, and I am absolutely not exaggerating when I say this:

I think 4Kids has killed all the potential that One Piece had of becoming a national phenomenon in North America as it is in Japan.

That's right. I don't think 4Kids really "understands" One Piece and what makes it so popular. I don't think 4Kids had the foresight to see all the potential One Piece had and the extent that's its popularity could've reached. I don't think 4Kids saw One Piece as anything more than another "annie may" series that they can reshape to their liking and still profit off of it. When they licensed One Piece, I don't think they understood what a special property they had acquired. 4Kids had such a winning property on their hands, and they treated it with no respect at all. Instead, 4Kids has turned the number one property in the world into a flop, and all its potential into wasted opportunity. That may sound really harsh, but let me
explain why I think this way.

Is One Piece truly that fantastic and popular of a series? Yes, it is, but you wouldn't that by watching the dub that 4Kids made. You would think that One Piece is little more than just an animated version of a children's pirate story of a youngster and his crew sailing from town to town, collecting treasure along the way to reach their goal of finding the ultimate treasure. To keep it age appropriate, there is nothing like the booze-chugging at pubs, the backstabbing, the town-raiding, or anything that you may traditionally expect from stories about pirates that shouldn't be in a children's' story. And to make it more of a cartoon, any kind of themes like death, loss, grief, or anything too "dramatic" or "powerful" or "emotional" for dumb kids to handle should not be included. These are what people watching the dub would think that One Piece is all about.

You see, the stuff that 4Kids censored in One Piece aren't just scenes of obscene violence or adult material, some of what they censor are very important scenes of character development, friendship and camaraderie, parting ways, remembering loved ones, rekindling dreams, and so much more that give the series so much substance. I think the handling of the recent episodes in Cocoyashi has been the worst. In particular, I want to discuss Bellemere. Originally, there was an entire episode devoted to explaining how
Nami and Bellmere's relationship came to be. This episode is a flashback to Nami as a kid, and her interaction with Nojiko and Bellemere and explains how she came to be in that family. You can also think of this episode a Bellemere's introduction episode, and it is meant to show how much she meant
to Nami. This makes Bellemere's death in the next episode that much more shocking and having more impact on the viewer, and it really stirs up incredible emotion in the way the scene plays out. Adult Nami still visits Bellemere's grave frequently to bring flowers, and to talk with her, so to speak. These episodes were meant to develop Nami's past as well as her character, showing her interacting with Nojiko, forming a relationship with Bellemere, showing how deep Nami's love for Bellemere was and what her death has brought. So what happened in the dub? These two episodes were combined into one, so it no longer establishes Nami and Bellemere's relationship in as deep a level as a single episode could, and Bellemere didn't die in the dub, but rather Arlong, Nami's captor, decided to take both of them prisoner
(it was never explained as to what happened to Bellemere aftwards), and all the scenes of Nami visiting Bellemere's grave are left out afterwards. It almost seems as if Bellemere's fate is unimportant to Nami and all the characters in the dub. Not only was the episode that was supposed to introduce Bellemere shortened and her part in Nami's life trivialized, but 4Kids even left her out the last episode in Cocoyashi (more on this later).

There were many more emotional scenes in the following episodes. When the villagers of Cocoyashi leave to challenge Arlong and his crew, Nami was disillusioned. When she sees Arlong's insignia on her arm, she takes out a knife and continuously stabs at it, again and again, screaming Arlong's name with anguish. The purpose of this scene is to show Nami's torment at how Arlong has ruined her life, turned her into a thief, betrayed their deal that Nami has spent that last eight years of her life holding up, and now he was going to kill everyone she ever cared about, everyone she worked so hard for eight years in order to save. It was a very powerful scene, to say the least, and it could leave one speechless. It even made me wince each time she stabbed herself with the thought of how painful that must've been. In a
later episode, when everyone was fighting Arlong and his crew, Usopp decides to play dead to his opponent, Chu, in order to avoid fighting him. The plan worked, but as Usopp got up, he thought how the rest of his comrades were risking their lives and fighting hard for the sake of Nami and Cocoyashi,
and he also thought about how much Kaya believes in him. It is here that Usopp realizes that the time for being a coward is over, so he musters up his courage and calls out to Chu to let him know that he is alive, so that he may fight Chu directly. This is meant to be a scene that showcases Usopp's character development. In yet another episode, when Luffy and Arlong are fighting, they get forced into a room full of maps, surveying tools, and a writing desk. Arlong explains how this is the room that he made Nami stay in to draw maps for him when she was a child, and how he intends to "use" her to keep on making more maps for him for years to come as his "friend."

As he listens to this, Luffy thinks of the look on Nami's face when she stopped stabbing her arm, and he understands how much Nami has suffered because of Arlong. In response to this, he kicks the desk and all of its papers out of this room and continues to destroy all the other maps in the room, all those maps that Nami slaved over, to tell Arlong how he can't keep Nami any longer. The people outside the building wonder what Luffy is doing this for, but Nami understands this act. Luffy was wrecking the room where she was enslaved in, he was destroying all traces of the past that caused Nami so much suffering, and watching all this, Nami sees how much Luffy cares about her, and she begins to cry. After Arlong is dead, Luffy calls out to Nami, calling her his "nakama," or his dear friend, and Nami begins to cry again. What followed was the entire town of Cocoyashi held a celebration for their newfound freedom from Arlong. At Nami's house, Nami has one last conversation with Bellemere, in a way, talking about how she wanted to join Luffy and how she'll accomplish her dream.  In this conversation, we actually see Bellemere's image sitting at the table. And as Nami is about to leave the house, she actually feels Bellemere's hand nudge her from behind, but when she turns around, there was no one there. Yeah, I can't really explain it either, but it was touching nonetheless. When the rest of the crew is about to set sail, Nami runs through a large crowd of people to get to the Going Merry Go, and barely manages to jump onto it when it sails away from shore. Then, when Nami gets onboard, she reveals a whole bunch of wallets under her shirt. It turns the actually picked the pockets of everyone that she ran through to reach the ship! Despite the fact that everyone was mad at Nami for this, they still parted with a smile. This type of hilarious parting was what made this scene so enjoyable and memorable. (I strongly recommend that you read this link for a summary of this skipped episode http://jevin270.tripod.com/id1.html )

Every single one of these scenes that I mentioned in the last paragraph invoke the sense of camaraderie that is so integrated into the One Piece storyline and theme, and all these scenes were either toned down or skipped over entirely. In the dub, after Arlong was beaten and that conflict with the Marine officer taken care of, they don't show the town celebrating, nor do they even mention Bellemere again (which rules out that touching scene at Nami's house). This reinforces my point earlier that Bellemere seems more like an unimportant character in the dub instead of a lasting memory in the original. Her status was reduced to a single episode flashback, and after that, she was never mentioned again. I think the dub only tolerated her existence in order to make the flashback episode coherent, but after that, they just treat her like a character that never existed. (And here's a thought: if Bellemere was imprisoned, as implied in the dub, why didn't they go rescue her? Or even mention her?) This is a real shame, because they pretty much destroy the biggest factor and motivation if Nami's life. What's worse is that they didn't show that hilarious parting scene either, and this, coupled with leaving out Bellemere, definitely makes Nami seem less developed and even less likeable in the dub. A few months later, I bet fans of the dub won't even remember Bellemere, or they will say that her part was trivial. Fans of the original, however, will never forget Bellemere, because her part was major. When 4Kids leaves out so many of "emotional" themes and scenes of character growth, what substance if left in the show? None. The One Piece dub is now little more than a show about some ragtag idiots with little to no substance or character, and no sense of camaraderie between them. At the end of the Cocoa Village dub episodes, Luffy just beats Arlong, gets a bounty put on his head, and he and the rest of the crew just move on to Roguetown. There's no lasting impact in this episode, nor any sense of amazement at the events that took place in remedying Nami life. The dub has no scenes like these that make you think, "Wow. This show is amazing." The dub didn't bother showing how big a deal this was to Cocoa Village or how this changes Nami's life, nor did they show Nami saying goodbye to anyone, not even her sister. Skipping this entire portion of the series feels like it trivializes the entire ordeal in Cocoyashi, and even Nami's character in
general. It just seems like 4Kids was rushing them to forget Cocoa Village and move on. I could practically hear them say, "Yeah, yeah. Arlong is dead. Everyone is free from their eight-year bondage and all that. Whoo-hoo. Now can we get on with it and put them in Rouguetown already?"

But there is another type of scene that 4Kids also frequently cuts: smaller scenes that show character interaction. These are mainly just scenes that show the characters talking with each other and mingling. They often involve Nami acting bossy, Zoro sleeping, Sanji keeping Luffy from taking food, Usopp working on something, Nami reading a book, Zoro working out, Sanji swooning over Nami, or something else entirely, depending on the situation. These scenes are often quite funny, especially those that involve slapstick from Nami being abusive (some edits in recent Pokemon episodes show that 4Kids frown on slapstick nowadays). Each character's individual personality really shines through these scenes of character interaction. The usually don't have much point to them, but these are enjoyable because they show the chemistry between the crewmates. For instance, before the crew discovered that they were wanted by the Marines, there was a short scene showing Nami receiving a newspaper, complaining about its cost to the delivery stork, and Usopp carefully filling a pellet with some hot sauce (ammo for his
slingshot). At some point, Luffy tries to pick a tangerine off on one of the tangerine bushes that they have on the Going Merry Go, until Sanji kicks him off, saying how they are Nami's. Luffy winds falling onto Usopp, causing him to spill some of the hot sauce in his eyes, which causes him to around screaming in pain with his eyes on fire. Nami thanks Sanji for keeping Luffy away from the tangerines, and Zoro snorts at how easily Nami can manipulate Sanji. It was here that the wanted poster slips out of the newspaper that Nami is reading.

Also, in the recent episode, there was a scene cut where the crew has gotten out of the whale (more on this later) and sets a table and some chairs on a nearby rock. This is the scene where Luffy finds that new Log Pose compass and where they get the new information on the Grand Line from the old man they meet in the whale. It was here that Sanji decides to cook the elephant tuna that he won back at Lougetown for everyone to eat, specifically Nami (what does dub Sanji do that fish anyway?). When the old man was explaining how they needed a new compass, the Log Pose, Luffy shows the one that he
found to the old man, and Nami punches Luffy for not showing it earlier (actually, she just said that she felt like punching him). When the old man is finished explaining and Nami is examining her newly acquired Log Pose, Sanji finds out that Luffy has eaten the ENTIRE fish all by himself! This infuriates him and he gives Luffy a very hard kick, but Luffy winds up flying by Nami and shattering the Log Pose! This infuriates her, and she kicks both Sanji and Luffy into the sea! (Sanji seems to have enjoyed this) Yes, there is a LOT of slapstick in this scene. Finally, there is another scene that takes place a little later when the Going Merry Go is sailing through a snowstorm, and Luffy and Usopp are out on the deck making snowmen. Luffy makes a really simple one, while Usopp's snowman is a work of art of a beautiful snow woman. Luffy is amazed, but then he takes off the head of Usopp's snowman when he sends a stick flying towards it. Usopp is angered by this, so he kicks off the head of Luffy's snowman. One thing leads to another, and they eventually wind up getting into a snowball fight. (Zoro is sleeping through all this). But it isn't long until the snowstorm turns into a blizzard, so the crew starts working together to try to get through the blizzard, each one using their own talents to make it through. When they do escape the blizzard, Zoro finally wakes up and sees everyone worn out and exhausted, and he calls them lazy, not realizing what he just slept through!

If these scenes that I've described don't seem like much to you, it's because they really aren't that much. All these scenes show is the characters being themselves. It's in these scenes that we can just watch them relax, converse with one another, have fun, and act casually rather than getting down to serious business. If there is any purpose to these scenes, then it's merely to watch the cast interact with one another, showing off the friendship between them. 4Kids, however, seems really bent on hurrying through the storyline, and just about all of these scenes of character interaction has been cut or significantly shortened. I suppose they just want to leave these scenes out because they are "pointless" to the overall plot. But I don't find them pointless. If you ask me, no other anime has expressed the theme of crewmanship and camaraderie better than One Piece has, and it is very much due to these scenes of character interaction that the crew of the Going Merry Go seems so colorful and full of character.
Without them, as I've said, the One Piece dub is just a show about characters with no substance, who don't interact much, and are really only sailing together from place to place to find One Piece. Really, though, the series is more about the journey itself rather than the goal, as it follows that crew as they build a strong friendship, work together to accomplish goals, and grow closer together. This is what I mean when I say that the themes of brotherhood and fellowship have never been done better in any other anime, and they are central to One Piece's storyline. Without these themes, the show just isn't the same.

If 4Kids were going to alter the very theme of the show and take out everything that made it so enjoyable to begin with, why did they license One Piece at all? Remember that in the latest interview with Al Kahn, he said that 4Kids specifically wants animes that have strong marketing potential. When they were deciding which series to license next, they always look at the ones that sell a lot of merchandise as the first and most major order of business. One Piece's market is *huge* in Japan, and the One Piece anime itself is continuously the highest rated (I know that this is tough to imagine if you've only watched the dub). Al Kahn says that they want successful shows with marketing appeal, and One Piece fits the bill, but he couldn't give a damn about the true "spirit" of the show.  He didn't realize *why* One Piece was so popular in Japan; all he cared about was that it was. It was for that reason alone that 4Kids thought One Piece would be a good endeavor. I wonder if everyone at 4Kids even watched One Piece at all before they licensed it. They may have just licensed it because of its success, then were horrified by how un-4Kids-like One Piece really was, and then got straight to editing. In the process of editing it, in order to make One Piece a huge franchise like Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh!, they tried to make One Piece the least offensive they could, and by "offensive," that includes anything that could stir emotion or be thought provoking, because that would be unappealing to their target audience who, they believe, can't handle anything meaningful or serious. In doing so, they wound up getting rid of everything that gave One Piece so much appeal, everything that made it such a great show.

But that's not all that they did. The One Piece dub is also full of awkward looking edits and some scenes that make little sense in light of new edits. Think of Luffy's flashback scene in episode 4, where Shanks gives Luffy some juice, then says something like, "Only a kid would drink juice!" and has a good laugh at that. That line made sense in the original (where all the adults in the tavern were drinking beer), but doesn't everyone drink juice in the dub? "Zolo," Sanji, the guests at Baratie, and Buggy were ALL shown drinking juice at some point in the dub. And, to make sure that there isn't any doubt, they have to mention that they are drinking juice every single time. Now think about Gold Roger. He's supposed such a tough, fearless, and badass pirate who even smiled as he was executed. This is the image of Gold
Roger that the show conveys to us. So doesn't 4Kids taint that image of Gold Roger when they show him drinking juice? You know, the stuff that only a kid would drink? 4Kids just makes these changes without thinking of the consequences and any harm they could make. Also think of that "juice parlor"
owner that Luffy talks to in "Roguetown." He was obviously upset with"Chaser" for jailing all the pirates because they happened to be the customers for the parlor. Now why would a juice parlor get mostly pirates as customers? Shouldn't its main customers be children? It's should be obvious to anyone that this "juice parlor" is really a tavern that sells alcohol, not juice and milk. Do 4Kids actually think about these things when they make changes? Do they stop to see if what is left over still makes sense after their changes? Is what's left over consistent with the edits in place? Or does 4Kdis assume that their audience won't wonder, or ask questions? And really, pirates drinking juice? Pirates and "Navy" men sticking people up with water and cork guns? (I don't know what's worse, this or the Yu-Gi-Oh! dub where guards stick people up with their index fingers) It seems like everyone in One Piece is a sissy. At least, that's the image of One Piece that you get by watching the dub.

Furthermore, in a recent episode, when the Going Merry Go was sailing down Reverse Mountain, "Zolo" hears the cry of a whale. Then, when they get to the bottom, they find out that it came from a giant. iceberg??? Icebergs don't make whale cries!!! You see, that "iceberg" was originally a giant whale, and because of this edit, 4Kids has skipped the whole getting-swallowed-by-the-whale ordeal that crew goes through next. That's right, you read that correctly. If you didn't know that, then this must sound very surprising to you, as this is the most significant scene change yet in the dub. The scene with "Zolo" hearing the whale is a case where 4Kids absent-mindedly makes one change, but then keeps something else that should also be changed exactly the same, and this creates an illogical scene.

There are also other changes that just look plain weird and create very awkward situations. For instance, when "Zolo" is fighting Mihawk, what happened during that black-and-white sequence that made everyone look shocked? The dub claims that Gold Roger was hung, so why are his executioners holding those spears in the introduction? Why does Mr. Five call himself "the guy who picks his nose?" when never see him do anything like that? How did Don Krig's spikes turn into plungers when they hit Luffy's body? If 4Kids thought that viewers won't scratch their heads after watching scenes like these, then they're mistaken. And why do people get so freaked when they're stuck up with a hammer-with-spring gun and water guns? In that scene when Nojiko was shot by a toy gun, why were Nami and Genzo so
scared? It's not like they actually showed a bullet flying into Nojiko, so what's with all the drama? Awkward-looking edits like these scenes all compromise the drama of the situation in favor of a more kid-friendly world where all this fear and drama makes no sense, and this robs the original version of all its meaningful moments. Finally, do you recall that, in dub episode 32 (I think it's 32), Nami does indeed visit Bellemere's grave (the Cross was changed to a headstone, but it was still Bellemere's grave), but
this is the ONLY time they showed this? It's like 4Kids originally decided to keep Bellemere dying, but then changed their minds halfway through, and didn't bother to go back and redo that scene! Needless to say, this is very, very stupid of them. What's worse about these awkward edits is that, when coupled with what I mentioned in the two paragraphs above, they all make the One Piece dub look like it was really sloppily handled. Really, I say this sloppy dub should never have made it to broadcast. Those who don't know the original will think that One Piece is supposed to be this sloppy and mangled up, and that's just not fair.

In addition to "sloppy," another good way to describe the One Piece dub is"rushed." And I mean rushed in regards to both how 4Kids just left everything sloppy, as well as in regards to the pace of the plot. Whenever 4Kids lets a mistake slip them by or create an awkward-looking edit, it tells me that they might not even bother to watch the final product, and everything is left in a mess when it gets aired. It's like they just translate some lines with the most nonchalant attitude as possible, and this led to some of the lines that clash with the edits being overlooked. The voice acting in the One Piece dub is also about the worst I've ever heard in any 4Kids dub. It almost seems as if they used just the first take and left it at that. Also, as I stated above, it seems like 4Kids is rushing the plot as well. They leave out anything that they consider unimportant (like those character interaction scenes) and get straight to the main plotline. In
fact, they even leave out entire story arcs if they feel they aren't needed, such as the episodes concerning Buggy finding the rest of his body and regrouping with his crew and Alvida. What's really sad is how they recently skipped ALL episode concerning Apis and the Thousand-Year Dragon and how they helped find the Lost Island. It's a shame, because I thought these were very good episodes (and I believe that this side story isn't part of the manga). And doesn't it seem even a little ridiculous to you that the original version reached Whisky Peak on episode 64 while the dub reaches the same spot (renamed Misty Peak) on episode 44? I'm serious, that's how wide the gap is between the two versions of the show. If 4Kids continues to leave out entire episodes and butcher the ones that they do keep, then I expect this gap to get even wider.

I think 4Kids even want to skip some important story arcs if they seem too"emotional," like with the episodes concerning Laboon the whale. When Luffy learns Laboon's tale, about how he was abandoned by his friends but refuses to believe it, Luffy actually fights a short bout with Laboon. After they're done, Luffy makes his own promise to Laboon that he will return to him someday, a promise that he, unlike Laboon's old friends, intends to keep. This is one of those experiences that the crew gets into that gives them motivation and more reason to press on, despite the dangers, and survive them. But, although these episodes were important, 4Kids dodged a bullet here by making up their own explanations in regard to the new item and information they gain in the Laboon episodes. In the dub, prior to reaching Reverse Mountain, Nami already knew about the magnetic field differences beyond the Red Line (she originally learns about this from Crocus, the old man they meet in Laboon), and how they needed a "Grand Compass" (originally called a Log Pose). Here, 4Kids did some clever rearranging and repainting of scenes from various other episodes to make it seem like Nami gets the"Grand Compass" from Usopp, who kind of forgot he had it (she originally gets it from Crocus), and that she gets information about the islands of the Grand Line and Raftel from Sanji (she also originally gets this information from Crocus). When Nami asks them why they didn't present this stuff until now, Usopp and Sanji say that they just forgot, and Luffy thinks that it's awesome (and suspiciously convenient) that they remembered just now. Of course, the real reason why they mention this now is because 4Kids just made it up.

(Be sure to read Dogasu's comparison if you haven't already.
http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1826503#post1826503 )

With all these shortsighted edits and the way they destroy the original theme and image of the show and made it unenjoyable, what made 4Kids think that this slapdash of a dub was worth airing, and why were they so lazy with it in the first place? As I stated, I don't think 4Kids really "gets" One Piece and what makes it so popular. (They must've figured, "I don't see why all these people love show or what they see in it, but hey, as long as it becomes a cash cow, who cares!") And while they were editing the show to
their liking, it never occurred to them that they were also editing out many things that make the show entertaining and enjoyable. 4Kids dumb down on the"emotional" parts of the show, not realizing that these parts are actually central to plot and character development. 4Kids cut out all these seemingly
"pointless" scenes of character interaction just so they can always keep the main plot moving forward (they must think kids will find the character interaction scenes boring), but these scenes are what make the characters so likable, so that you actually care about what happens to them in the main plot at all. 4Kids decided to tone down on all the serious themes to a point that they don't seem nearly as serious. In tons of scenes, 4Kids likes to mince words in the dialogue as to tone down on anything about death or
killing. Just listen to the way Coby describes "Zolo's" reputation in episode 2, the way Nami threatens Usopp in episode 32 and the way she makes him "gone," the way Johnny describes this, the way the shopkeeper describes the curse on the sword in episode 41, and literally hundreds more. Let's also not forget all the bad puns and frown worthy jokes that plague the dialogue and episode titles ("Here We Go A Ghin" and "The Cat's Ninth Life" come to mind), or the horrendously clichéd and elementary-level jokes ("Have a nice trip?" also comes to mind) that you expect to hear in a Disney program. These scenes of minced dialogue and overused jokes and puns take away a lot of suspense from the show and make it seem "kiddy." The original version's opening theme, "We Are!" is one of the most unique and probably most recognizable anime opening songs ever, and it totally fits with One Piece and its pirate theme (and the rest of the series collection of opening and ending songs is nothing short of outstanding). 4Kids replaces all that excellent music for their own rap theme that is completely unfitting for One Piece and everyone seems to hate. What a waste, I say; all that great music could have been translated and gained so much appeal. 4Kids actually made an English version of "We Are!" and while that song gained incredible fame, I doubt 4Kids rap song ever will.

Here's something else you may have realized: the actual title of the dub is"Shonen Jump's One Piece" and you can see this on the title screen and logo. Let's get some things straight. 4Kids have never held those who appreciate unedited anime (the "otaku" crowd) in very high regard. Instead, they see themselves as a company that likes to introduce anime to a younger crowd, only they "Americanize" the anime that they license so that their target audience will supposedly enjoy them more. 4Kids also sees this younger crowd as a good audience for marketing, as it is widely perceived that children are the ones who buy action figures, trading cards, and other such merchandise (at least in the U.S.) relating to their favorite shows. 4Kids know that forms of Japanese entertainment are steadily becoming more and more integrated with American entertainment, anime in particular. But the American crowd that typically enjoys unaltered anime is perceived as both an older and a niche group, and not one that is very outspoken, or one that a company can expect a lot of marketing from. 4Kids sees the younger crowd as people who either don't know much about anime or only have casual interest in anime. This means that the people in 4Kids' target audience are not perceived as "hardcore" anime fans who like to buy unedited anime or read lots of manga, like Shonen Jump. The people who do fall into the "hardcore" camp are not people that 4Kids give much regard to.

So isn't this ironic? 4Kids is using the name of a brand that is recognized by the perceived "otaku" niche. Putting Shonen Jump in the dub's title would certainly attract attention from those who read the manga. But aren't the people who read the manga the ones who are most likely to hate the dub and all its alterations? Aren't Shonen Jump readers the very people who would notice the difference in the theme and image that the dub is giving off as opposed to the unaltered manga? Aren't Shonen Jump readers, who like the"edgy" One Piece manga, the ones who would be turned off by the dub and its"kiddy" vibe? Logic would answer "yes," but I think 4Kids is well aware of this. Surely, Shonen Jump is viewed as a breath of fresh air to American manga fans who have seen little to no official manga publications in America that have done well and were affordable. These people have had very little to rely on for their manga fix before Shonen Jump came about, and Shonen Jump is even getting some casual readers interested in manga. Therefore, the Shonen Jump brand name comes with a lot of praise and is associated with quality work among manga fans and the "otaku" crowd. Giving the dub the name
"Shonen Jump's One Piece" does give 4Kids an advantage before they premiere the dub. You know what they say: There is no such thing as bad publicity. One Piece, being an anime, is going to get noticed by the "otaku" crowd. Because of Shonen Jump, One Piece is already widely recognized in the anime
world, and to associate the dub with a highly praised property like Shonen Jump automatically gives it some footing in the anime world. So even if 4Kids does expect the "non-otaku" children to stay with the dub in the long run, they figured that they might as well capitalize on the fact that the One Piece manga is popular in America thanks to Shonen Jump, so they use Shonen Jump and One Piece's already-established name recognition to broaden the audience (even if the dub is a very, very far cry from the manga). Name recognition can go a long way, especially when it comes to marketing.

So couple the fact that 4Kids may not be aware of the damage that they are doing to the anime, along with how they take advantage of  One Piece's established popularity in the anime world, and you can see how they have no problem with airing the hacked up dub to get the younger crowd to enjoy it (or so they think) and give it attention in the "otaku" world (even if it does become infamous, remember, there is no such thing as bad publicity). Now, up to this point, I've just been saying why I hate the dub, how it makes of mockery of what One Piece is truly like, and mentioned how 4Kids think, but I never explained what I meant about " killing One Piece's potential." But for the rest of this editorial, I'm going to tell you what I meant by that, and why I think 4Kids' decision to dub One Piece this way was a mistake, a big mistake, both in our best interests as well as in 4Kids' best interests.

*I know I described One Piece as being very "un-4Kids-like" because of its level of violence and seriousness. But at times, One Piece can seem like a paradox. It's true that it has some very dark themes and serious moments in it, but at its core, One Piece is actually very a lighthearted and carefree show. I think this paradox is what gives One Piece such a large fanbase. It can act very mature and very goofy at once. Luffy can be on the verge of his life in one scene, and then be laughing jollily and stuffing his face in the next. The cast can be fighting for their lives in one episode, and then partying in the next episode. One can watch the episodes with tons of fighting and label One Piece as a shonen anime. One can also watch the episodes showing the varied and wacky cast of One Piece with outrageous powers and getting into some of the most zany and hysterical situations ever imagined, and then call One Piece a comedy. I think One Piece's dark themes and serious moments of intense action give it the most appeal in the shonen
crowd. At the same time, its high level of comic relief makes it fun to watch by those who just love to be entertained by silliness. Cowboy Bebop this isn't. Even the villains are often of crazy designs who, although being quite evil, offer their own share of comic relief with their often ridiculous powers, which makes them so varied, distinguishable, and memorable. Finally, One Piece's touching moments of friendship can tug at the heart strings of those who admire anime with such "feel good" themes. I say One Piece has all these audiences covered, and it can even get those who are interested in one style but not another to start liking the style that they normally dislike. What I mean by this is that I've heard of people who normally only watch shonen anime and dislike those "weird" kinds to actually start liking "weird" once they got into One Piece. And if all this weren't enough, One Piece also has excellent music. These songs aren't too shonen either, as the ending theme "Free Will" is actually very soothing to listen to, "A to Z" can be very catchy and easily get stuck in your head for hours, and the opening themes are all very upbeat and energetic. In my opinion, One Piece is actually groundbreaking in how many different audiences it can attract and appeal to for such a long time. (Then again, it could be that it's simply an outstanding show.)

Now, 4KidsTV has a rather peculiar lineup. On one end of the spectrum, you have Kirby, Sonic X, and the upcoming "Magical Doremi," which are programs geared towards the very young audience, since they are entirely lighthearted with no serious themes to speak of. On the other end, you have TMNT, a
program that takes itself very seriously and is very dark to boot (but I think TMNT gets lost in the sea of "kiddiness" that is the rest of 4KidsTV, so it doesn't get the same kind of recognition that similar programs do). I don't think 4KidsTV has a show that can be universally appealing, and since the time block features mostly lighthearted programs, it gets a young audience and the reputation of being a children's block (which may have been its intent, what with a name like 4KidsTV, but then what's up with TMNT?). There isn't a program here that can be considered "balanced" in how it sports the right amount of both lightheartedness and seriousness to attract many kinds of fans (some can argue that Shaman actually did fit this bill, but I disagree, I think 4Kids made that dub *way* to lighthearted).

**But you know what? 4Kids actually did acquire One Piece, and, as I illustrated above, it is a supremely universally loved program. With it, 4kids had the potential to air a show that can attract audiences of all ages and backgrounds and tastes. One Piece would be a far cry from all the entirely lighthearted programs that make up the rest of 4KidsTV, but I think the early episodes of One Piece that have little offensive material would be a good transitional process to slowly get kids into the anime. In fact, One Piece's pirate theme may already be more than enough to get 4Kids' target audience interested, because let's face it, we love pirates. (C'mon, you know it's true!) Therefore, I think One Piece would be a great addition to the 4KidsTV lineup, and as they get to the more serious stuff, I think
viewers will be so hooked on the One Piece plot and characters that they will stick with it to see what happens next. And because the One Piece manga is already so recognized by the "otaku" crowd, if 4Kids had been faithful to the original, they could've potentially attracted legions of "otaku" viewers. There are millions of One Piece fans in North America who would love to see their favorite manga made into an animated series, and I think a well-dubbed One Piece could have truly taken off and become a hit. This could also do wonders to 4Kids' reputation as an anime destroyer.

**"But Alan, wouldn't they have to edit out the blood and swearing in order to get it to air on KidsTV?" you may ask. Actually, I would be totally OK with this. We need to face facts that American censors are indeed stricter than Japanese censors; what would be OK for a Japanese 10-year-old may not be OK for an American 10-year-old. But I think that's all 4Kids really needs to do. If they make the bare minimum amount of edits to get it to air and become a big hit with 4KidsTV viewers, I'd say that it would be worth it. 4Kids should be able to keep the rest of the dialogue intact, and, if TMNT is any evidence of, the dark themes can be left intact without any harm being done. Even all those tavern scenes and smoking can be left in and the program will still get an Y7 rating. And, of course, all of One Piece's
humor would be welcomed. I also believe that most people in the "otaku" crowd won't mind these edits if 4Kids would stay true to the original storyline, keep all the original music, air all the episodes, and keep the original "flavor" of One Piece intact. And this way, One Piece would become a program that literally everyone, regardless of their views on anime or their age, can watch and enjoy, and 4Kids can be heralded for bringing such a wonderful property over to us. I believe that One Piece is that "balanced"
show that 4KidsTV needs, and it's the *perfect* anime for 4Kids to license in order to give 4KidsTV greater acclaim, market One Piece to a younger audience, and satisfy the "otaku" crowd all at once, as well as completely turn 4Kids' reputation around. This is the great potential that I saw in One Piece, and I think 4Kids would have saw it too if they were willing to give it that chance.

However, we can see the ugly truth in front of us on the TV monitor every Saturday or Sunday morning. 4Kids decided to play it "safe" and not do anything different with One Piece that they do with their other dubs. Wait, I take that back; they did something different with One Piece. 4Kids butchered it like no other dub in their catalogue. They went crazy with the editing and episode cutting with One Piece, and they did so to a far greater extent than they did with any other dub. They made One Piece their absolute
worst show on the air, both to fans of the original as well as the unknowing children crowd who don't see anything special in One Piece. Making all the edits that I mentioned in the first half of this editorial dash all hope of this dub catching on with the "otaku" audience. And, if the dub's terrible ratings are any indication, One Piece isn't catching on with the usual 4Kids target audience either. 4Kids knew that there are legions of original One Piece manga fans, but they still refused to change, so they used the Shonen
Jump name to advertise the dub in the way that I mentioned above. I think this also kills the One Piece fanbase in how it may actually make those fans of the manga hate the anime, and that's not how it's supposed to be at all. Can you believe this? All that potential to make One Piece a success, anime
more acceptable, and the 4Kids name good again has all been lost.

And when I say that the potential is lost, I mean that it is gone for good."But why so negative?" you may ask. "What if 4Kids releases uncut DVD versions of One Piece?" To that, I say that it won't turn things around or even come close to making up for the lost potential. It's true that 4Kids has been making uncut DVD versions of Shaman King and Yu-Gi-Oh!, even if they are being released at a snail's pace. But understand this: these DVD's are intended to be marketed to the "otaku" crowd, a market that 4Kids
intends to see as separate to the children demographic. Therefore, these DVD's are rarely seen in the common video section of a store like Target, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, etc. (you'll still see a lot of dub DVD's in these stores) Uncut anime DVD's are mostly seen in specialty video stores or places that sell things directly intended for "otakus." If these DVD's do sell, they won't sell nearly as much as in the scenario with 4Kids truly airing a good dub on TV. This good dub would have been popular with the
4KidsTV viewer and the "otaku," and the DVD's would have sold much better.

But here's the thing: I don't think that the hypothetical One Piece DVD's will sell well at all in North America. You see, I think that most people are the type of people who, when they get a first impression on things, will never, ever let go of that first impression, no matter how much things encourage it to change. And I think that the One Piece anime's first impression in America is all wrong thanks to 4Kids. Now, whenever anyone hears the term "One Piece cartoon/anime," the first thing that will pop into their minds is that completely unenjoyable anime that they watched on 4KidsTV one weekend morning. For those who aren't really big on anime, if they happen to see the One Piece uncut DVD in stores, they'll probably think back to what they saw on TV, and ask themselves, "Why would I want to rewatch that?" Therefore, they won't be attentive to the "uncut" part, as the dub is their first impression of One Piece; it is all that they are familiar with, and it made them forever associate the One Piece name as something bad.

For those who are aware of how bad the dub supposedly is but have never watched the original, even they may hesitate when it comes to purchasing the uncut DVD, and if they do watch it, they might not even think some of the early edits are a big deal. This is what first impressions do to people's minds. They stay rooted in your mind and make you continuously compare everything you come to see of a certain property to what your original impression of it was, and this could forever ruin your judgment of that property. I can definitely see someone who cut their teeth on the dub saying that the original voices aren't very good either, or that those scenes of character interaction that were cut were no good to begin with, and I hear that there are already people out there who are defending 4Kids' editing out of the Laboon episodes! Now do you see what I mean when I say that 4Kids has abolished all potential and possibility of One Piece becoming popular here? The first impression that many Americans now have of the One Piece series is that it's a kid's show with no substance, and this is fatal to the One Piece brand name.

Consider all the good things I've said about One Piece in that lengthy eighth paragraph above (the one with the asterisk *). These are all things that gave One Piece so much audience and propelled it popularity to monumental heights. Because of its popularity, the merchandising campaign also became huge. One Piece could have also been popular in America, especially since the pirate theme is more familiar to Americans, and those themes of camaraderie and friendship are universal. But with 4Kids dumbing down on everything that made One Piece good, it lost tits identity, its quality, and its potential to be something more than just a kid's show. But now One Piece has all the wrong image in America and its merchandise has no potential to sell.

Now I know that there must be some people out there who say that I can't blame 4Kids for One Piece's failure in America; they would argue that One Piece never had a chance to be big here because it is just too "weird." Or maybe the term they would use is that it is too "Japanese." You know what? You won't get any argument from me about the weirdness, because I do think that One Piece is a weird show. A VERY weird show. I don't know the terminology to describe it, but One Piece encompasses everything that people in North America have labeled as "Japanese weirdness." I really don't how to describe this brand of weirdness, possibly because of how unexplainable it is. For other examples of animes with "Japanese weirdness," look as shows like Dragonball, Kinniku Man Second Generation (or Ultimate Muscle), and Gasshuberu (or Zatch Bell!). For video game enthusiasts, game series like Gambare Goemon! (or Mystical Ninja), Made in Wario (or Warioware), Disgaea, and Katamari Damacy are all exemplary of "Japanese weirdness." Many people look down on animes with "Japanese weirdness" simply because of how juvenile they seem, or maybe because of the high amounts of "culture shock" that they come with. 4Kids sometimes likes to claim that their editing is meant to decrease culture shock by making their animes seem less Japanese and more American. But did they do this with One Piece? I don't think so, because I don't think it's possible. The weirdness of One Piece is as much a part of it as your skin is part of your body. There is no way anyone can tone down of One Piece's weirdness to reduce culture shock, because the moment you get rid of one weird aspect, another weirder aspect will pop up. That's how One Piece is. The only thing I can think of 4Kids doing what they perceive as
Americanizing to reduce culture shock in One Piece is changing Rika's rice balls into cookies. But do you honestly call this "Americanizing to reduce culture shock?" I just call it "changing rice balls into cookies."

In American, "Japanese weirdness" is often referred to as it is a negative trait, even among some "otakus." Therefore, licensing companies are often hesitant about bringing over animes that seem too "weird." But I don't believe it has to be that way. Look back at what I wrote in the two double
asterisked ** paragraphs above. The way to get 4Kids watchers more used to the themes in One Piece can also be applied to getting them used to, and even liking, the weirdness of One Piece. The way I see it, the children demographic is the perfect audience to show this distinctly "Japanese" brand of weirdness to, as they watch a lot of cartoons and are still very open to various forms of animation. Also, the demographic that doesn't know much about anime or other foreign programs won't be so selective or picky about knowing where these shows come from. They won't refer to these weird animes as being very "weird in a Japanese way"; they'll just say that it's weird, and they won't use the fact that the anime is foreign against it (which is what a lot of anime critics do). Introducing anime to people at a young age
(rather than at an old age when they decide that they hate the "weird" stuff) is the best way to make them more accepting of anime as just another form of cartoon instead of being judgmental on its country of origin. And I think that most children will find One Piece's art style and weirdness to be entertaining. I may not have made this clear, but One Piece's fabulously weird qualities are a big part of what makes it such a riot, and along with its serious moments, it truly is an anime than can be loved by all demographics.

This is another reason why I think One Piece is the perfect anime for 4Kids to acquire. Not only can it attract all sorts of audiences and make 4Kids look good again, but it can also help turn all this prejudice against"Japanese weirdness" around, and make it more accepted in the American anime world. As I stated earlier, I've heard of people, who used to be turned off by "weird" animes, actually start liking them solely because of how much they enjoyed One Piece. And I think this effect can be achieved on a large scale. Of all the weird animes I have watched, I think One Piece happens to be the best of all of them, and that's why I think it has the most potential to turns people's minds. Introducing "Japanese weirdness" to us through such a weird and wonderful show like One Piece would have been perfect. If One Piece became popular, maybe all this prejudice we have against animes being"Japanese," "foreign," and "weird" would begin to die down, and more of those pleasantly weird animes will be brought over here, and they wouldn't seem so "weird" anymore. This is another kind of potential that I saw in One
Piece, another way it could have revolutionized the American anime world forever, and another kind of potential that 4Kids has squelched.

I suppose I can see how anime companies may want to license their properties out to 4Kids, seeing the success they've had with Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. They must think that 4Kids must be geniuses in the field of marketing anime in America. But understand that both Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! weren't just
anime series. They were marketed around other forms of merchandise, specifically video game and CCG. These two properties were already built up around merchandising, and they already came with strong merchandising potential (both properties are very successful, but it is in spite of 4Kids' editing, not because of it). But you cannot expect this same result with One Piece. The One Piece property was built up as a manga and anime series, first and foremost. One Piece wasn't created as a marketing scheme like
Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. Its creators were interested in making a great manga property when they created One Piece.  It's because One Piece is popular that its merchandise campaign is also a success. It became a popular series first, and that's why its merchandising took off afterwards. But, in America, without a good anime series to market off of, there will be no success in One Piece's merchandising.

When I was talking about how the uncut DVD's that may be released will be aimed at the "otaku," it got me thinking about how this means that the"otaku" market and the children's anime market will always be kept separate. The children's anime market consists of those horribly dubbed animes that seem like the localizer was intent on making it as different as possible. The animes on children's televisions networks, like Kids'WB! and Fox Family, are what I mean. It seems like the type of animes that get respectable dubs, or are even uncut, may never be part of mainstream entertainment; they always have to remain a niche market, and the people who watch them are sometimes seen as "geeks." And if you are like 4Kids and want to appeal to one of them more than the other, you would choose the children's anime market, because not only do they get more attention, but they also consist of the demographic that typically buys merchandise. That is what 4Kids have always been about since their inception: merchandising over all else. When they do give attention to the "otaku" crowd, they just halfheartedly make uncut DVD's, but they sell them to stores that specialize in appealing such a crowd, rather than to large chain stores that sell "everyday" videos to the "common" person.

You might have noticed that I put the word otaku in quotes a lot. That's because I really hate the perception of "geekiness" that is associated with that word. Long ago, when anime wasn't really well known in America, being an anime fan was something of a club identity; it was something to be proud
of; you felt like there weren't very many of you, but if you meet someone with the common interest, you could spend days discussing your hobby, and maybe become friends with that person by watching anime together. Nowadays, many people recognize anime, even if they don't get it. In the past few years, anime has gained lots of recognition and acceptance here, and a large part of this movement is, ironically, due to 4Kids and their Pokemon dub, and later their Yu-Gi-Oh! dub. They were a licensing company that directly targeted children with anime series, and since people like to pay attention to what children crave, these two dubs got a lot of attention, and people, for better or worse, became more aware of what anime is.

So 4Kids was a big help in bringing anime into mainstream American entertainment, and they seemed good for a time. It looked like the crowd of anime fans would no longer be niche. But although 4Kids helped make anime more known, they were practitioners of making poor, Americanized dubs to get
a good, profitable merchandising market going. Anime is indeed getting more popular and accepted by the mainstream, but the fact remains that the ones who seek uncut anime are still considered to be in a niche, because it's the poorly dubbed ones that get more attention from the young audience. And this
is where we get the current dichotomy: if an anime is dubbed well, it will also be uncut and sold to the niche otaku audience; if an anime is dubbed poorly, it is to be marketed to children who supposedly won't know any better and will purchase merchandise for it. Being an anime fan is no longer synonymous with bring an otaku, as the term otaku now refers to the rabid side of anime fandom that call for uncut anime and put down bad dubs. The word otaku now carries more ridicule than admiration. And because otakus demand different kinds of anime, the anime they get had to be treated completely differently than the mainstream, mass market ones. These markets now had to be mutually exclusive.

But, as I have outlined in great detail, I think One Piece can help correct things. I think it has the right "balance" of everything to make it big to both the otaku market and the mainstream market. This is yet another potential I saw in One Piece: the potential to create a property that is well dubbed enough to be appreciated by the otaku, as well as entertaining enough to be aired on 4KidsTV and become popular with the mainstream crowd. And 4Kids will get the strong merchandising market that they always wanted
from not one but *both* demographics. This type of success could join the two demographics, as they would now have a common interest: One Piece. And through joining, maybe people could understand the otaku better so that there wouldn't be such a split, and the otaku market could gain more presence in mainstream entertainment. In addition, the mainstream crowd may become more aware and appreciative of real anime. If 4Kids also releases the original soundtrack, even translated it they want, I think this mainstream market will also come to appreciate anime soundtracks, and One Piece has one of the best soundtracks around. Don't you see 4Kids? One Piece was your big chance to change yourselves, your reputation, your business practices, and even the entire anime market, and you blew it.

See here, we have what could be the greatest anime of all time. Not only that, but it also had the potential to make the biggest wave (no pun intended) in the American anime market. One Piece thrived and continues to be the most popular anime in Japan, so how could it have flopped so hard here? That should say a lot about 4Kids handling of the anime series. And One Piece had so, so much potential to it too. It could have made the anime-watching children more aware of real anime if it were well-dubbed. It
had the potential to duplicate the same kind of success that it has in Japan over here. It had the potential to appeal to the otaku crowd, and even change 4Kids' reputation in their eyes. It had the potential to get the"Japanese weird" style more recognition and exposure in America, maybe to a point that people will start to like it more. It had the potential to bridge the gap between the two anime markets in America so that children demographic won't continue to be fooled and insulted by the otaku, and the otaku demographic won't continue to be ridiculed and ignored by the children.

So what happened to all this potential from the number one anime? 4Kids is what happened to it. Thanks to 4Kids and their editing, people's impression of One Piece is that of a children's show about a bunch of odd pirates and is completely unsubstantial and unenjoyable. Thanks to 4Kids, One Piece will never become popular enough to duplicate its Japanese success. Thanks to 4Kids, the weirdness of One Piece will be a reason for ridicule instead of a reason for being more entertaining. Thanks to 4Kids and how they continue to make bad dubs for marketing purposes, people will never be able to watch and enjoy the brilliance that is the original One Piece.

Prior to the One Piece manga's debut in America, what little people knew of One Piece through the Internet or game magazines was considered strange and weird, and people didn't see what the fuss is about (I remember how EGM said how they don't get how One Piece games sell so well in Japan). Thanks to Viz, I once thought that One Piece truly can become popular and accepted in America, instead of being thought of as simply weird. But now 4Kids comes along and ruins all those hope that Viz helped build up.

A few years from now, mentioning One Piece will probably inspire ridicule instead of praise. One Piece is one of the best animes ever, but Americans will only look at its weirdness and kiddiness. They may even use One Piece as an example of "Japanese weirdness" and why it's bad, instead of using One
Piece as an example of how it can be good. 4Kids could have turned this notion around, but instead, they fueled it

A few years from now, the greatly loved and number one anime in Japan will fall into obscurity in America, and maybe even become a joke. This is injustice, because One Piece deserves a much better reputation, and a better chance. Some people who don't understand anime may even use One Piece as a
reason to think "How could this be the most popular program in Japan? Those Japanese are a strange breed." (the dub should not be a representative of how good the original is; if the dub deserves any mention, it should be used to show how NOT to do a dub); think of those soccer moms; This is what 4Kids has done to One Piece; they have turned the greatest anime ever into a joke, and there is nothing anyone can do to undo this. All of both my and 4Kids' hopes that One Piece will become the next big anime property in America are gone. And it's all because 4Kids refuses to change.