RIP Toonzaki: 4Kids’ and 4K Media’s Anime Video Streaming Portal Closes

July 25, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Konami, Other Stuff | 9 Comments
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A Toonzaki poster and handout from New York Comic Con 2010
RIP Toonzaki
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

Toonzaki was an ambitious undertaking from 4Kids that was unveiled in July 2010 in an episode of Anime News Network’s ANNCast podcast. The site opened for business on September 15, 2010.

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.

Toonzaki.com Updates: The Latest Yu-Gi-Oh! Dubbed, Subbed Episodes, More Anime Shows

April 9, 2013 at 3:05 am | Posted in Duel Monsters, Other Stuff, Saban, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 2 Comments
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Tristan, Joey, and Tea freaking out after Yugi receives a package from Pegasus in episode 148

After months of stagnation, anime video portal Toonzaki.com has finally updated its Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal offerings to include the latest episodes. It’s about time! Uploads of new subbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and dubbed and subbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal had resumed on Hulu back in January, but Toonzaki’s feeds had curiously stopped refreshing to display the latest videos until now.

Toonzaki has also patched up its many missing images and broken links, and has picked up several more shows from Crunchyroll, including Fate/Zero, Polar Bear Cafe, Space Brothers, and Sword Art Online. How many new titles can you spot?

Toonzaki had been heavily neglected since mid-2012 after the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit wound down and 4Kids’ properties were changing hands. The site has even gone completely dark on a few occasions, most recently in late March. On Facebook, the Toonzaki crew remained optimistic and has long talked about improving its services, even mentioning a relaunch. In their most recent posts, they’ve casually discussed a “new Toonzaki” and offering “better functionality and more/new shows.”

With the launch of the Japanese-run anime video portal Daisuki.net right around the corner, the Toonzaki crew has picked a good time to polish their website and make sure it remains in the running to continually draw the attention of casual anime seekers.

Yu-Gi-Oh! on MyVortexx.com

Over on MyVortexx.com, the official website of Saban’s Saturday morning Vortexx block, links to the dedicated pages for Classic Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal were finally set up in late March. When MyVortexx was revamped back in mid-February, both shows were missing from the website’s “Shows” page.

If you had noted my not-so-subtle hint and snooped around however, you would have discovered that pages for both shows had actually already been set up at the time MyVortexx’s new look was unveiled. The other main MyVortexx pages had simply not linked to them, for whatever reason.

So what’s new? Since then, the pages have seen the addition of the shows’ full episodes — most notably the subbed Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal videos. While this might not seem like a big deal to longtime Yu-Gi-Oh! fans, by deciding to post these videos, Saban has taken a momentous step forward. Younger Vortexx viewers, or other Vortexx fans who are browsing the website and who might not be as well-versed about what sorts of Yu-Gi-Oh! media are available out there, now have a chance to stumble upon the Japanese episodes and enlighten themselves with a slew of original uncut videos. Although official Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes have been around for a few years now, they had never previously been included side-by-side with other Saturday morning shows on Toonzai and 4Kids.TV’s websites.

Unfortunately, MyVortexx’s redesign suffers from a usability issue similar to that which plagued 4Kids.TV/Toonzai when that website was revamped in September 2010: its design is simply not suitable for linking to and posting full episodes. The organization of the videos is an absolute mess. Episodes aren’t numbered and aren’t listed in their proper orders, and dubbed and subbed episodes are all jumbled together.

4KidsTV/Toonzai eventually improved its layout to better accommodate its video listings. Will MyVortexx do the same?

The Last Traces of Toonzai Vanish

Speaking of Toonzai, the Facebook page of the former Saturday morning anime block managed by 4Kids was finally shuttered on March 22 — a little over seven months after its final broadcast. The last two wall posts were made on March 11 and directed fans to the official Yu-Gi-Oh! Facebook page and Toonzaki’s Facebook page.

Toonzai’s Facebook page was never very popular or heavily promoted. During its final days, it had a mere 691 Likes. Nevertheless, it was a window to an increasingly disregarded Saturday morning animation haven that many cherished, and it and the lifestyle the block embodied will be missed.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal to Premiere on Nicktoons This Friday

Let’s end on a happier note: Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal will be premiering on Nicktoons this Friday, April 12 at 9:00 pm EDT!

The newest series in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise joins Classic Yu-Gi-Oh!, which premiered on the Viacom-owned cable network on March 11 and now airs seven days a week.

Hulu Yu-Gi-Oh! Episodes Migrate to 4K Media’s Account

March 2, 2013 at 6:39 am | Posted in 4Kids, English dubbed, Konami, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 2 Comments
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The webpage for 4K Media Inc. on Hulu in early March 2013

Konami has completed a bit of housekeeping on Hulu, moving the videos of all four Yu-Gi-Oh! series from 4Kids‘ account to their new home with 4K Media, Konami’s wholly-owned subsidiary that manages the Yu-Gi-Oh! property rights it bought from 4Kids. The links for all of the episodes remain the same, thankfully.

Toonzaki? More Like Toonshabby

Over on Toonzaki.com, which partners with Hulu to embed the Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes published on the popular video streaming platform, the feeds for the Yu-Gi-Oh! series still haven’t been updated since prior to Konami’s new Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Zexal uploads two months ago. Worse yet, the episodes all display an ominous message when one attempts to view the videos: “This content is unavailable for playback.” Ugh, have they been like that for sometime now, or is that a result of the videos’ migration on Hulu? Either way, Toonzaki has really fallen into neglect, with missing images, nonfunctional videos, and a lack of fresh content and homepage updates all plaguing the once promising anime video portal.

Vortexx’s Website Gets a Makeover

On a more positive note, Saban unleashed a brand-new look for MyVortexx.com, the official website for its Saturday morning block Vortexx on The CW, back in mid-February. But wait — dedicated pages for Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal are conspicuously missing from the website. (Or are they?!) Don’t worry, I’m sure something big is coming that will please many fans… Stay tuned!

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Streaming Video Uploads Resume on Hulu

January 4, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Posted in English dubbed, Japanese, Konami, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | Leave a comment
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Missing subbed Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal episodes on Hulu

Surprise. Today, three new Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal episodes unexpectedly appeared on Hulu. Subtitled versions of episodes 22, 23, and 24 are now available, although episodes 20 and 21 are not. Weird.

Why are we only seeing these episodes uploaded today when their English-language counterparts aired back in May 2012? Have the production of their subtitles only just been completed? Or is something amiss behind the scenes?

Since early July 2012 when Konami completed its takeover of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise from 4Kids, uploads of Zexal videos have paused at episode 24 for dubbed episodes and episode 19 for subbed episodes. Prior to today’s update, the last new upload to Hulu came, uncoincidentally, in early July 2012. And while Konami does not allow any platform to exhibit any new Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes for 60 days after their initial broadcast on The CW, it has not discussed the reasons for such an extensive additional delay in uploading new episodes. (n.b. The first new Zexal episode to air following the change in ownership was episode 25 on August 18, 2012.)

C’mon Konami, what’s going on over there?

Assuming today’s new Zexal releases aren’t mistakes and don’t get yanked, expect them to appear on Toonzaki tomorrow once the feed updates.

I’ll continue to update this post with information about new Yu-Gi-Oh! videos, at least until Konami develops some coherence in its uploading decisions.

Update (January 8): Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal episode 25 dubbed was added to Hulu today. Curiously, the previous updates noted above haven’t made their way to Toonzaki yet.

Update (January 10): Ah, there we go. Episodes 20 and 21 of Zexal subbed are now up. Glad to see someone’s paying attention. Now how about episode 13 subbed? That should have gone up months ago!

Update (January 14): More dubbed episodes of Zexal have been added: 26 through 31. Good stuff! Toonzaki’s feed still hasn’t picked up the newest uploads though. I wonder if something’s wrong.

Update (January 15): English-dubbed versions of Zexal episodes 32 through 37 are now available. Additionally, the Toonzaki crew on Facebook has finally addressed the status of episode 13 subbed, noting that it has been stuck in some kind of “Hulu purgatory” for months now. Hopefully, a wise Hulu engineer will be able to dig it out! Toonzaki also confirmed that a few new subbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s will be up soon!

Update (January 16): And here they are: subbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s resumed today with episodes 128 and 129.

Update (January 17): “We are back on a weekly subtitled episode release schedule for Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s until episode 136,” says the most recent wall post on the official Yu-Gi-Oh! Facebook page. Good stuff!

Looks like Konami and Toonzaki have dealt with and/or acknowledged most of the video uploading issues and things are beginning to get back to normal. So, I think this is going to be it from me for this post.

Be sure to subscribe to the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal shows on Hulu to get word of all of the newest updates, and keep your eye on Toonzaki to see if these and other new videos make their way there!

Toonzaki.com, Yu-Gi-Oh! Videos Come Back Online

November 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Posted in 5D's, Duel Monsters, GX, Other Stuff, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 2 Comments
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The Toonzaki homepage on its November 26 return
It’s time to duel!

A belated “Happy Thanksgiving” to everyone! I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend with your family and friends. Earlier today, Toonzaki.com, the anime video streaming portal previously managed by 4Kids (and now by Konami), came back online. Also making their glorious return were Toonzaki’s Hulu embeds of all of the Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes, as well as the videos from the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, 5D’s, and Zexal series. Hooray!

All of the Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes had abruptly been removed in late August. Their disappearance was followed by two brief notices on Facebook about Toonzaki’s transition. The entire Toonzaki website then went offline at the beginning of this month.

The Toonzaki crew notes that the website will be relaunching early next year.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Videos Removed From Toonzaki.com, MyVortexx.com Now Live

August 30, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Konami, Saban, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 2 Comments
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Screenshot of MyVortexx.com

Konami, Saban, and 4Kids are kicking up some dust as the trio continue to sort through the properties that recently changed hands. All Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes, including videos from the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, 5D’s, and Zexal series, have been removed from Toonzaki.com, the anime video hub previously managed by 4Kids (and now by Konami). This is especially unfortunate because the Toonzaki crew had worked to build up the website so that it appeared among the top search engine results for queries of Yu-Gi-Oh! videos.

There’s no need to panic though, as all of the Yu-Gi-Oh! videos are still currently available on Hulu. If you can’t find a former 4Kids show that you’re looking for (Yu-Gi-Oh! or otherwise), do a search on Hulu and you’ll likely find it there. It’s yet to be seen whether any Konami or Saban websites will pick up the Yu-Gi-Oh! feeds on Hulu for distribution. I’ll update my Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters streaming video pages with new links once the dust settles.

In more positive news, MyVortexx.com, the official website of Saban’s Vortexx Saturday morning block, went live earlier this afternoon! It’s still looking a tad empty, but a Vortexx rep noted on Facebook that there’s much more to come, so keep your eyes peeled!

Meanwhile, 4Kids.TV (Toonzai.com) and 4KidsTV.com continue to be disassembled, with former 4Kids properties being removed from both websites.

Update (August 31): “We are transitioning the site,” says a Toonzaki rep on Facebook. “[I]t may be spotty the next few days – shows disappearing/reappearing, site being down etc etc but we’ll be back and better than ever in no time!” Hopefully that includes all of the Yu-Gi-Oh! series!

Saban Unveils Vortexx’s Debut Fall 2012 Lineup

August 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Saban, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | Leave a comment
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MyVortexx.com was updated to display characters from Vortexx's lineup of shows

This morning, Saban Brands announced the full lineup for Vortexx, its upcoming Saturday morning kids’ programming block on The CW. The five-hour block makes its debut with the following mix of old and new shows:

  • 7:00 – Cubix
  • 7:30 – Rescue Heroes
  • 8:00 – Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy
  • 8:30 – Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal
  • 9:00 – Iron Man: Armored Adventures
  • 9:30 – Justice League Unlimited
  • 10:00 – WWE Saturday Morning Slam
  • 10:30 – Dragon Ball Z Kai
  • 11:00 – Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic
  • 11:30 – Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal

Vortexx hits the airwaves on Saturday, August 25. As usual, check your local listings for the exact dates and times. And if you haven’t already done so, check out Vortexx on the web at MyVortexx.com, Facebook, and Twitter!

As previously discussed, the number of Yu-Gi-Oh! broadcasts has been trimmed from four episodes on Toonzai, to just three on Vortexx. One of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal broadcasts will feature a new episode.

You won’t really need to wait until August 25 to catch a new Zexal episode though! On August 18 — the final broadcast of The CW4Kids Toonzai — a new episode will air at 11:00, wrapping up a three-and-a-half hour Zexal marathon. The last episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic (“The Final Duel, Part 4”) will then follow at 11:30. Way to go, Toonzai! That’s how you sign off with a bang!

Saban Acquires Zombie Farm Creator The Playforge

Earlier this month, Saban Brands revealed that it had acquired The Playforge, the makers of the popular mobile game Zombie Farm.

The acquisition opens The Playforge up to a wealth of new licensing and merchandising opportunities, and also provides Saban with the talent and resources to expand solidly into the digital realm with the development of new mobile and online platforms.

Could we see social and mobile gaming playing a significant part in Saban’s Vortexx brand?

YuGiOh.com Closes, Redirects to Toonzaki.com

On July 20, YuGiOh.com shut its doors and automatically redirected all traffic to the anime video portal Toonzaki.com. There’s been no official word on what led to this change.

YuGiOh.com launched in January 2011 and was meant to serve as the international hub for all things Yu-Gi-Oh!, from the TCG, to the anime, to the merchandise.

Earlier in mid-July, a Toonzaki rep noted in a comment on Facebook that Konami was now the owner of Toonzaki, having secured the brand as part of 4Kids and Konami’s $15 million deal.

[4Kids-Hulu] Watch Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Dubbed

October 18, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Posted in 4Kids, English dubbed, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | Leave a comment
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Logo of the 4Kids English-dubbed version of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal

English dub lovers, tonight is your turn to cheer! The dubbed version of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is now streaming on Hulu! Check out episode 1, “Go With the Flow,” right now, or swing by the Toonzaki anime portal tomorrow when the feed updates with this and other new videos.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 on the CW4Kids Toonzai. (Check your local listings to find the exact time your CW affiliate airs the show.)

Previously:
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Subbed Now Streaming

[4Kids-Hulu] Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Subbed Now Streaming

October 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Posted in Japanese, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | Leave a comment
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Episode 1 of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal subbed on Hulu

Rejoice, fans of Japanese-language Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes. Your cries for subtitled Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal episodes have been heard. 4Kids had been teasing fans with plans of speedy releases of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal subbed. There was even a big ad campaign on Anime News Network last weekend that mentioned it. And now, it’s here!

The original, uncut, subbed version of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal episode 1 was made available on Hulu this morning. It will also make its way to Toonzaki tomorrow when the feed updates.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal premiered yesterday in the U.S. on the CW4Kids Toonzai. Earlier this month, 4Kids provided fans with a peek of the English-dubbed version of the show.

Update (October 18): The English-dubbed version of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is now also up. Huzzah!

[4Kids-Hulu] Sonic X, Episodes 1-78 in Japanese, Subbed & Uncut

June 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Japanese, Other Stuff | 6 Comments
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Characters from the Sonic X anime

Today, the final subtitled Japanese episode of Sonic X was released on Hulu, at last completing 4Kids’ project of providing the original, uncut version of the hit anime! All three seasons (78 episodes) of the series are now available in both English-subbed and dubbed formats! Expect Toonzaki to also post the newest Hulu video embeds during its next update cycle.

Sonic X, along with Yu-Gi-Oh!, has always had a vocal fanbase calling for a subtitled release of the original Japanese version. Back in early 2009, when 4Kids first began uploading Japanese episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters to its YouTube channel — manned at the time by the now legendary 4Kids employee, Nameless Cubicle Office Guy — fans of Sonic X tirelessly left comment after comment on the channel, hoping that their anime would get the same royal treatment that Yu-Gi-Oh! had been getting. In July 2009, a preview of the subbed, Japanese version of Sonic X was uploaded. Fans were both anxious and excited, as it was the first of 4Kids’ online subtitling endeavors. Full uncut episodes from season 1 of Sonic X were unleashed in April 2010 and later episodes have slowly and steadily been released since then.

This past Thursday, Sonic turned 20 years old, making this a very momentous and timely update. Happy belated birthday, Sonic!

Congratulations to Save Sonic and all of the Sonic X fandom who called for an uncut and uncensored subtitled release of the show! Your rallying and support have paid off! And congratulations, of course, to 4Kids for completing the massive project!

So rejoice, Sonic fans, and give the series a watch! The subtitles should automatically appear when you launch a video, but if they don’t, click on the “CC” button on the bottom of the video player, then select “English” and choose one of the three styles for the subtitle text.

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