One Piece (stylized as ONE PIECE) is a Japanese anime television series based on Eiichiro Oda's manga series of the same name. The story follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body gained the properties of rubber after unintentionally eating a Devil Fruit. With his crew of pirates, named the Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy explores the Grand Line in search of the world's ultimate treasure known as "One Piece" in order to become the next Pirate King.
In Japan, early episodes of One Piece aired at 7 and 7:30pm. 4Kids reportedly licensed the series based on its merchandising potential and success in Japan without looking at the content of the episodes themselves in detail; when 4Kids staff watched the series, they were shocked at how much unsuitable material they found but had already committed to localizing the series. Their version of the series had to comply with the standards of their demographics of ages 8–13 as well as the rules set by the TV networks airing the series. Part of 4Kid's production process involved sending footage and scripts to American television networks for review, dictating which elements would be altered for the English version.
One of the more noted changes was the skin of a character being changed from black to white in episode 5.
A Funimation representative would later confirmed some of the need for TV censorship when they aired One Piece on TV, stating that toning down the violence and removing cigarette and alcohol consumption was a requirement for the series to be broadcast on Cartoon Network.
Virtually no death scenes are shown, regardless of their importance to the plot, and the deaths of characters such as Bell-mère and Kuina were written out of the story. Initially the concept of death was never directly referenced at all, although later episodes were more lenient. Because blood was removed, the third Luffy vs. Crocodile fight was written so that Luffy uses his sweat to hit Crocodile rather than his blood.
A lot of dialogue was altered to include humor, often pun-based, even during scenes that were entirely serious in the Japanese version. Some scenes which were silent in Japanese had speech added by 4Kids.
Removal of episodes and arcs
The 4Kids dub skipped 20 episodes in their entirety and, by using footage from multiple Japanese episodes in a single English one, cut the series down by 39 episodes in total. As a result, the following story arcs were skipped: Buggy's Crew Adventure Chronicles, the Warship Island Arc, the Reverse Mountain Arc, Diary of Koby-Meppo, the Little Garden Arc and the Goat Island Arc. Individual episodes from the the Arlong Park, Loguetown and Post-Arabasta arcs were also removed.
In some cases this resulted in plot points significant to later story arcs being removed or altered. The removed Warship Island arc explains why the crew must use Reverse Mountain and the removal of Crocus meant that the first references to Laugh Tale were removed with him. To explain the Log Pose, a new dialogue scene was created using existing animation of the crew talking and footage of Yasopp and Zeff from earlier episodes; in this scene, Usopp finds a Log Pose that Yasopp left to him, reminding Sanji of Zeff's lesson to him about Grand Line navigation.
Mr. 3's later appearance in Arabasta was re-written to not reference the cut Little Garden arc. In the 4Kids version, he claims to have been chasing the Straw Hat Pirates since Roguetown, despite Baroque Works not knowing about the crew in either version until they reach Misty Peak. The Straw Hats also refer to Mr. 3 and his partner Ms. April Fool's as if they've already met them. Nami's sickness is rewritten to be "Grand Line Fever", but 4Kids later contradict this when Kureha asks Nami if she had been walking around on a prehistoric island, the origin or her illness in the Japanese version.
Because the storyline is still ongoing, several changes would become issues retroactively. Laboon's removal leaves Brook without reason to join the crew, cutting Dorry and Brogy removes Oimo and Kashii's reason to side with Usopp in the Enies Lobby Arc, the crew's meeting with Crocus is referenced again in Thriller Bark, Sabaody Archipelago and the Zou arcs, and both Elbaf and Laugh Tale are referenced significantly later in the series.
On September 9, 2004, 4Kids answered the problems of Sanji smoking in the show. This was one of the few announced changes made to the series and the first alteration the company spoke of in regard to the dub. Many firearms were changed to look less realistic, and some were edited into other objects; some Marine guns are turned into water guns while the others are simply colored green. Religious references were also modified: Dracule Mihawk's cross dagger was changed to something else, while Miss Merry Christmas' Christmas tree was colored purple and her name was changed to Ms. Groundhog's Day.
A number of animation edits contained inconsistencies. For example, in scenes where Robin's cleavage was originally visible, she would have an undergarment added in some shots but simply have her cleavage lines erased in others within the same scene. When Zoro is tied up in Episode 2, the sky is painted over the top of the cross and this blue area overlaps with Luffy when he moves his head at the end of the shot. In other cases, inappropriate content such as blood was left unaltered for a few moments.