At February’s KidScreen Summit, 4Kids CEO Al Kahn hinted that the next phase of the anime-hunting game might center on girls action-adventure properties. Starting in June, 4Kids’ Saturday morning Fox Box block will relaunch with two estrogen-charged animated series – Winx Club from Italy’s Rainbow and Tokyo-based Studio Pierrot’s Hollywood Mew Mew (working title).
With the original moniker Tokyo Mew Mew, this Japanese import focuses on a group of five young girls whose DNA has been crossed with that of endangered animals by a mysterious ray. Using their new-found animal traits, the girls form a supergroup to help the Earth fight off an evil alien menace called Deep Blue. 4Kids is currently working to localize the 52-ep series’ stories and scripts for a North American audience.
Using Fox Box as a platform to introduce consumer products programs, Kahn says airing girls properties allows 4Kids to hit the other 50% of the U.S. kids population with soft licensing programs including categories such as arts & crafts, as well as more elaborate clothing lines that go beyond the pajamas and T-shirts that characterize boy-targeted programs. Khan says he has also picked up girl-skewing Fortune Dogs from Televix for future broadcast, as well as two more properties, but ‘we’ll see how successful the June shows are to determine how many of our eight half hours will eventually go to girls.’
ShoPro is also taking a girls import for a test drive with Mirmo, about a cute but selfish wish-granting fairy who is supposed to help a tween girl hook up with the class heartthob. But the prince of the muglox world is too busy trying to escape a bounty hunter and his bride-to-be to help Kate.
ShoPro senior VP John Easum says it’s a challenge to convince U.S. partners that girls anime will work because they don’t think girls will jump for classic boys anime merch categories like trading cards and video games. But Easum argues: ‘I’ve seen stats that indicate that more than half of the consumers and readers of manga in the U.S. are female, so I definitely think there’s an opportunity.’
Some broadcasters also fear that boy viewers might be turned off by a female lead in an action series. But Easum and Kahn both maintain that pubescent boys will be drawn to the girl characters’ physical attractiveness, as well as to the unique ways they fight crime (often using spiritual powers rather than sheer brawn). Cartoon Network is one channel that has bought into the argument, havng picked up both Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi and Code Lyoko for 2004.