By: Gregory Weagle
No funnie this time as they say. It was getting pretty silly for the last couple of years. However; it is that time again. It never goes out of style (for me at least) and it always creates great amusement. It is time for the latest reviews of television show from that favorite joke/block of mine: 4Kids TV; formally known as the Smutbox; formally known as the Dirtbox; or in polite terms, the FoxBox. For the last couple of years, this creation from 4Kids Entertainment has put together a block that went from the worst children's block in television history to one of the best children's block in television history. However; this season was the season of unanswered questions. The questions are as follows:
[1.] Will the loss of Shaman King affect the block? [2.] How will G.I. Joe fare in the 9/11 era? [3.] Is Magical DoReMi different enough to be enjoyable? [4.] Is Bratz a write-off or a diamond in the rough that many don't see through? [5.] What's happened to great anime on 4Kids Television?
I'll start with the fifth question because it is an issue that has bothered me for quite some time. According to sources; 4Kids has decided to end MewMew Power and One Piece before the end of their series' run. It does explain a bit why 4Kids is skipping (lots of) episodes of One Piece. However; I thought that anime was popular on that block considering how well done it is in spite of 4Kids dubbing. While this is a dissapointment; however, it's upsetting that anime purists are angry about this because there's no word if 4Kids TV is going to have anymore of their favorite anime. Now wait a second?! I thought for a moment that in the eyes of the anime purists; 4Kids Entertainment was evil and that they would be glad to see that 4Kids Entertainment is no longer damaging any product not made in the Americas with their dirty rotten hands? I mean they are complaining about the dub of Italy's own Winx Club even though there is an english dub available by Rainbow which 4Kids Entertainment both owns and airs on YTV in that form unlike the Fox version which is butchered badly (oops!). Not to mention that they are complaining about 4Kids skipping large sections of One Piece and butchering MewMew Power even though it is a Sailor Moon deadringer (only younger) and Sailor Moon had a better dub and was done better. You can now add being hypocritical as yet another reason why I hate anime purists. That officially makes them worse than the Parents Television Counsil. Geez guys; please take some valium, or some Thai-Chee classes or better still move to Japan. Once again as I stated before: It's one thing to complain about a bad dub (and there are lots of them in America). However; people like anime purists actually make the editing worse because post-production uses the purists as proof (and a tool) that they did the right thing...and quite frankly; I'm fed up about talking to these losers so I will no longer bring up the usual disclaimer when it comes to anime because I have already mentioned it enough as it is. Anime purists have been insulted enough and they don't give a darn about what I say anyway. Let them figure it out for themselves and realize how little they mean to being able to create respect for Japanese animation.
Now that I got that out of my system it is time to answer question number one and the answer is a simple yes. Shaman King's departure has affected the quality of the 4Kids TV block and not for the better. However; the real question should be: How much of a drop in quality? The answer to that is not very much. The drop was not as acute as I thought it was going to be. That's a good sign for this season; however, it can be equally taken as a bad sign for next season if One Piece and MewMew Power head off the rails (along with future anime productions). Not to mention that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will start next season with a more futuristic setting and a whole new direction. I'll talk about that later. However; it's time to review the present shows on the 4Kids Television block and I'll start by answering question number two....
[1.] G.I. Joe: Sigma Six: In all honesty, I'm not going to do the usual recapping of the plotline because I can sum it one phrase: America hates terrorists! That's all you need to know. With that said; the announcement of the return of the _Real American Hero_ was a very intriguing angle for 4Kids Television because Fox was pro-war in their attitudes in the news (for the most part). G.I. Joe was both an allagory for patroitism in American animation (no matter how awful the animation was in the 1980's.) and the allagory for anti-war protestors (war in a children's cartoon is Unamerican even if implied.) and the Gonzo version is the one that was release after 9/11 where both side of the war morality issue is intense. However; I rate on what I see and hear, not on principle. (Curd! I just quoted my own disclaimer...Ah screw it!) and I was pretty impressed with what I saw. It pretty much combines the good parts of the G.I. Joe series in the past: Clean anime animation, good character designs, Cobra is insane, better fights, old favorites appear in cameos (except for Sgt. Slaughter because he played an Iraqi sympatizer for the WWE in 1990/1991), did I mention that Cobra was insane? Those elements were great. However; the biggest flaw is that the story was disjointed in place and it hindered the character development for each episode....Plus; having a kid involved in an indirect way does bother me in a principal sense because people under the age of sixteen shouldn't be involved in these matters. It hurts the creditability of an otherwise good series. *** 1/2. Best G.I. Joe show ever. Now it is time for question number three.
[2.] Magical DoReMi: Well; here is the show that I've been looking forward to since it was first announced late last year because it's an all-girl show and apparently it joins Winx Club as being an E/I show as well. I should point out that there is nothing educational or informative about Winx Club or Magical DoReMi in the _Search For The Truth_ way. It's just put there as an excuse so parents can feel relieved of what their children are watching even though most parents I know never use the ratings or have complete comtempt for them (Read: Me and PTC). TaleSpin is a million times more _believable_ than these two shows put together and doesn't have the E/I rating. I'm surprised it doesn't have a TV-Y7 FV or TV-PG. (Winx Club is TV-Y7 and Magical DoReMi is rated TV-Y). Okay; enough ranting on an unrelated matters, I did enjoy this show because it was different. The characters were colorful and the stories remind me of Hamtaro: Light-hearted and worked within the context of the show. There's not much action in the show; but the pace was a nice change like TaleSpin was to the faster Ducktales and Rescue Rangers. Learning how to be a witch in this show was interesting. The animation and voice dubbing was a bit off and it look disjointed in places however. However; that is the only thing wrong with this series and it has met my expectations. **** 1/2. Too bad it probably won't last long enough to make an impact if 4Kids Entertainment is going to ignore anime from now on. It would be a tragedy; because this is a diamond in the rough show. Finally; there is question number four to answer...
[3.] Bratz: The Animated Series: When this show was announced last summer; there was a collective groan in the animation community. It looked like hell had frozen over and everyone hated it because Bratz is a suggestive doll line for young girls. It's not a pretty sight. However; I decided to see the show with an open mind and the good news is that it is not a goofy suggestive doll commerical show. However; the bad news is that it is a tween drama queen show which is actually worse. It's yet another show about being popular (something Winx Club avoided half the time in Season One and almost none in Season Two) which is already been seen before with Nick shows (like As Told By Ginger and Detention). Now the angle of being popular is not bad or evil in itself. However; it is bad when there is no counter balance to that popularity (unlike Winx Club and Magical DoReMi) where the viewing public can see that there is _MORE_ to life than merely being popular. Bratz fails in that respect. Sadly; nearly every episode is about being popular. The characters are the usual stereotypes that do not have much character development other than their gimmick. The heels seem more inclined to being one-trick gimmicks rather than decent characters. The CGI is however very good and the music is good as well. Which probably means that the whole intention of this show was for eyecandy. So what do I think of this show? It's better than Cubix; but not by much..** This might be the first time that animation has actually hurt a series more than it helped. Sometimes story and plot do count in this animation world (John K. I'm looking at you.)
Well; from a quality standpoint, this season's block is still solid and despite the fact that Shaman King has been relegated to YTV there is still Sonic X, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, One Piece and Winx Club to watch. G.I. Joe: Sigma Six is the best G.I. Joe series ever (like it couldn't be any worse?) and Magical DoReMi is a fun show which gave 4Kids Television a nice refreshing change of pace from the action/drama queen lineup it was before. Bratz is now worth your time (unless the movie is somehow better which can happen before- See Wild Thornberrys and Recess); but it is still better than Trollz, Cubix: Robots For Everyone, Alien Racers and The Cramp Twins of course. In other words; there is little to put into the jokegun this time around. However; while most of my questions have been answered; the biggest one is still unanswered: What does 4Kids TV become without anime to prop themselves up. Next season is uncertain now with the probability that it will be virtually anime-less now that rumors indicate that 4Kids Entertainment doesn't see the worth of dubbing anime anymore. Pokemon is back with the Pokemon Company (and being re-casted with sound-a-likes because Pokemon Company is cheaper than even Nintendo is.) and other shows are being scaled back as I mentioned before. Winx Club is not likely affected because there is already an english dub available and Bratz/Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles are American shows anyway while Chaotix Card is currently the only show that is certain for fall 2006 since 4Kids needs to return an investment on that show. None of these shows are better than anime except for Funky Cops which is no longer airing anywhere (which is tragic) and Chaotix Card hasn't been shown yet (and is facing the prospect of being just another card dealing show which has been done to death). Unless they can find some good American shows that they don't need to edit/dub for the fall 2006 lineup than the anime decision is going to look like a fatal mistake for the 4Kids TV block...and that means the jokegun gets loaded as it will be the worst shows since the first season at least. Now as for the new setting for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Fast Forward which takes place in 2105.) it would be nice if it means it keeps the plotlines fresh. However; taking series in new directions has backfired on series before (See Gargoyles) mostly due to new cast & crew putting their fingerprints on it. It could work if the original cast & crew intended it this way. However; it is a bleak prospect for the series in general if it ends up being like the last season of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That season pretty much put the whole Mikey's grappling hook gimmick into it's proper prespective.
Then again; 4Kids Entertainment may be able to pull this off in spite of the hatred and comtempt that purists have for the company. We shall see when the lineup is announced. However; don't be surprised if the lineup falls faster than CBS Saturday Morning 1995 which was exactly when the last season of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was airing; and it was a new direction season as well. Can you say bad omen? That's my opinion; I welcome yours. See you next time....