RIP Toonzaki: 4Kids’ and 4K Media’s Anime Video Streaming Portal ClosesJuly 25, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Konami, Other Stuff | 4 Comments
September 15, 2010 — July 24, 2014
Toonzaki.com, a hub for legal and official streaming anime videos, closed its doors late yesterday night, redirecting all traffic to YUGIOH.com. The website, which was originally owned by 4Kids Entertainment and sold to Konami’s 4K Media after the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit, opened in September 2010 and was intended to be a video portal where casual anime fans and passersby could find the majority of anime titles streaming on the web together in one convenient place. Not only were the titles that 4Kids had licensed included, but so were shows from other licensees and content partners, including uncut, Japanese-language series. The Yu-Gi-Oh! series — and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s in particular, whose new episodes were premiering on TV at the time of Toonzaki’s launch — were centerpieces of the website.
In its early days, Toonzaki was rife with potential as it regularly updated with new programming, engaged with fans on Facebook, and even made a big showing at New York Comic Con. Beginning in mid-2012, after the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit wound down and ownership of the website was in transition, Toonzaki began to see a great deal of neglect, resulting in nonfunctioning videos, broken links, missing images, and a general lack of digital housekeeping. Its last significant update came in April 2013, which patched up those problems and added some new shows. But since then, the website once again fell into disrepair before finally shutting down.
Reps from Toonzaki did not respond in time to comment for this story. Update (July 28): 4K Media has released a brief statement by email: “Toonzaki is no longer available as 4K Media is focused on the Yu-Gi-Oh! brand and the yugioh.com website.”
The Rise and Fall of Toonzaki
At its inception, Toonzaki’s only non-in-house content delivery partner was Hulu, which was the home of many series from FUNimation, the Anime Network, and other anime content owners. Later, Toonzaki also partnered with Crunchyroll to stream many of its titles. At the time, the partnership raised a few eyebrows since Crunchyroll wasn’t known for sharing its ad revenue with just anyone.
Toonzaki made considerable efforts to reach out to fans with Facebook posts, polls, and contests, and often rewarded them with new content for participating. The website only began streaming subtitled episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s after a successful “Facebook Fan Drive,” which reached its goal of 300 fans in a matter of hours.
Toonzaki was well known for promoting its shows on its homepage with witty one-liners, even crowdsourcing new taglines from fans. But few could have predicted that the innocent attempt at fan engagement would result in a legion of Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged fans descending upon Toonzaki’s Facebook page, all calling for CARD GAMES ON MOTORCYCLES to be used to promote Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s. And even fewer could have predicted that 4Kids would indeed adopt the catchphrase as an official promo line.
The first significant sign of trouble for Toonzaki came in late August 2012 when the website abruptly removed all of its Yu-Gi-Oh! videos as part of a transition that involved server changes and that disabled the website for extended periods of time. Nearly three full months would pass before Toonzaki came back online in November 2012, but by then, significant damage had been done. At one point, Toonzaki was among the top results for search engine queries for Yu-Gi-Oh! videos. But no more. Things would never be the same again.
Even after vestiges of the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit were gone and new episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL were being uploaded to Hulu again, Toonzaki still had trouble keeping up with the updates. And although Toonzaki did its best to clean up and stay relevant, it was clear that its best days were behind it.
Toonzaki never became the hub for anime streaming, but today, the landscape of anime availability on the Internet is leaps and bounds beyond that of Toonzaki’s earlier days. Hulu, which was only a minor player in the anime game when Toonzaki launched, is today a dominant force for all things anime. Even the Japanese producers and studios themselves have learned of the potential of anime streaming and have gotten into the game with DAISUKI. There are more options than ever for both the discerning anime otaku and the casual anime viewer to stay entertained in this social and digital age. And still there is no one single entity that has aggregated the videos from all of these options.