Kirby: Right Back At Ya!, known in Japan as Kirby of the Stars (星のカービィ Hoshi no Kābī?), is an anime series based on Nintendo's Kirby franchise. The series was produced by Warpstar Inc., a company formed between a joint investment between Nintendo and HAL Laboratory, Inc.
The series, which takes place in a village called Cappy Town on the planet Pop Star, focuses on the adventures of the title character Kirby, who fights off constant threats to the village's well-being. The despotic ruler of Cappy Town, King Dedede, who is envious of Kirby's popularity with the village's inhabitants, constantly attempts to destroy Kirby via monsters purchased from NightMare Enterprises, an evil company that has taken control of the universe. Kirby is aided by his power to inhale objects and copy their abilities, as well as his friends, siblings Tiff and Tuff, to defeat the monsters and save Cappy Town from chaos.
In Japan, the series aired on Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting Co., Ltd., and aired in North America on 4Kids TV under the name Kirby: Right Back at Ya! The series has since been released in other languages, including Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Serbian, Korean and Russian.
Tens of thousands of years ago, a being known as Nightmare appeared and created a company called NightMare Enterprises, otherwise known as N.M.E. It was in truth a front for his great armies of monsters , which he used to take over much of the universe. They devastated countless planets. But there were those who stood to combat his evil, in the form of the Star Warriors and the Galaxy Soldier Army. They fought for many thousands of years, but Nightmare's demon beasts outnumbered them, and killed most. However, everyone is quite surprised when Kirby's ship crashes close to Pupupu Village (Cappy Town in the 4kids dub). They find he's tiny, round, pink, and a child. Despite his hardly warrior-like characteristics, he is quick to save anyone who is in danger. He is soon befriended by the siblings Tiff and Tuff, along with their servants Fololo and Falala.
The mean ruler of Dream Land, King Dedede, is jealous and suspicious of Kirby from the start. He and his sidekick Escargoon constantly try to get rid of Kirby with demon beasts provided by the company for a high fee. However, these attempts usually fail because of Kirby's natural abilities. Just as in the games, Kirby can inhale enemies and gain their powers, transforming into forms such as Fire Kirby with the ability to spit flames, or Sword Kirby to literally slice foes into pieces.
Kirby grows and becomes stronger before his final battle with Nightmare. It is slow paced, and mostly light-hearted with some darker themes running throughout. Though it's somewhat episodic, because of some story-arcs it is best to watch in order.
Kirby is only based on the game series, taking characters and concepts rather than copying any of the games word-for-word. It is to be taken as an alternate universe, having no direct connection to the game timeline. Being mainly self-contained, it can be easier for those unfamiliar with the game series to understand it.
Producer Soji Yoshikawa speaks in length about the challenges faced by the creators of the Kirby anime. He expressed worry as most video game to anime adaptations don't go well, but as time went on, he says he began to see a character with strength, and felt it could be successful.
Two of the main challenges were set by Kirby's creator Masahiro Sakurai. He said there were to be no humans, and Kirby must not speak. Yoshikawa says in his interview how difficult it was to have a main character who does not speak, as well as coming up with entirely unique settings and characters. Kirby is unusual in that it has no humans in the cast. He likens it to the Finnish series The Moomins, which was quite popular in Japan.
The series boasts very smooth animation that combines 3DCG with traditional 2D drawings. Because of this, the animators were able to use a much higher framerate than most TV anime, anywhere from 1.5-3X more on average. (About 10,000 frames are used in each episode, compared to the 4000-5000 used by most TV anime.)
The main concern was to have as much movement as possible, as Japanese animation has come to rely on shortcuts to reduce production costs. The success becomes apparent upon watching, as the character animations are fluid and there is a low incidence of stock footage or still frame. Despite being such a long series, there is also no degradation of the animation quality towards the end.
Nintendo had big plans for releasing the series in the US, putting $10 million dollars into an advertising campaign to make Kirby "the next Pikachu". Kirby has enjoyed high levels of popularity and financial success in Japan, selling a wide range of merchandise, but Nintendo's efforts in the US appear to have failed, judging by comparatively lackluster reviews and TV ratings the series received there. The dub as been claimed to be "a stab at educational value, but really all about fighting monsters" and "More pandering kiddy fluff from the Fox Box". The official websites spoke much about Kirby toys and other merchandise, but almost nothing was actually released outside of the DVDs.
To celebrate the release of Kirby Air Ride in Japan, a special Kirby DVD was released with a popular video gaming magazine. It had clips from episodes and different games, and also a short 'pilot anime' that seems to be an early form of the show. No information was given about it, and it was not narrated with any voice acting. It was done in a mix of 3D computer graphics and 2D animation, much like the current series.
It first shows Kirby in space, sleeping on his Warp Star which then crashes down onto a planet (presumably Pop Star). A young, yellow skinned girl in a tiara who resembles Tiff is the first to find him. The two soon become friends, but Dedede, likely to be the princess' angry father, also appears. He tries to get rid of Kirby with a series of weapons and pranks reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote, but each plot fails or backfires, leaving Kirby unharmed. Kirby then gives him a hot dog on a fork, completely unaware of what was going on, causing Dedede to start crying.
At the end, dark clouds appear along with animated versions of many Kirby game enemies, such as Dark Matter, Ice Dragon and Meta Knight. But Kirby quickly goes into battle, inhaling them to gain their powers. Though he doesn't gain his signature hats as with the current anime, he does gain their abilities. This is what happens in games like the original Kirby's Adventure, Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Kirby defeats them all, and he, Dedede, and the girl are happy. All of a sudden, a looming figure similar to Nightmare appears and attacks the trio with an electric shock. Kirby wakes up on his Warp Star, only to find that his adventure was all a dream.
Satire and parody
While a great many video game to anime adaptations are created for the sole purpose of merchandising, the creators of Kirby had a very similar goal as they had when creating the games- to create something that could be enjoyed by anyone. The director described his vision for the show as a 'Life Drama'.
The series is rife with satire and parody, some of it self-referential in nature. Homages to old movies are common, as are references to modern popular culture, politics and news events, so adults as well as children can find aspects they can relate to and enjoy. Many episodes deal with what was current news and politics in Japan, from issues to North Korea to the very common theme of environmental protection. They even poke fun at former American president George W. Bush by having the main villain Dedede make comments about 'Axis of Evil' and 'Weapons of Mass "DeDeDestruction"'.
Old American movies are commonly referenced, from King Kong, Gone with the Wind, Planet of the Apes, Modern Times, newer classics like Jurassic Park, to the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and H.G. Wells, such as Psycho, The Birds, Carrie, Jurassic Park, and The War of the Worlds. Of course classic Japanese movies such as Mothra get their screentime as well, in addition to others that might be more obscure to American audiences.
One episode's plot strongly references a period of history known as the Chinese Cultural Revolution, except the ones revolting are the Waddle Dees.
There has always been a certain amount of argument in the Kirby fandom over how the anime was made to be quite different from the games. It only uses them as a basis, rather than following them exactly - which while a breath of fresh air for many, is an annoyance for others.
However, a little publicized fact is that the anime was closely supervised by the same people who worked on the games - including Kirby's creator Masahiro Sakurai. In an interview with Famitsu Magazine, he is quoted as saying "I was considerably involved with the production of the anime. The aim was to create an anime that could be enjoyed by children and parents the same as the games. At first, 'Kirby' began as a game that even a beginner could enjoy. I believe such a spirit was achieved in the anime."
One of the largest differences from the games is how Kirby is changed to be a legendary Star Warrior fated to save Pop Star. In the games, he isn't described as being any kind of special soldier, nor are there any legends associated with him. (Star Warriors are a concept unique to the anime.)
Although it has always been hinted that Kirby is young, Kirby's age is lowered even more so he is only a baby, likely to act as an explanation for why he doesn't talk as Sakurai mandated. While many characters from the games appear, they are often changed slightly to better fit in.
Another major difference is how Dedede and Meta Knight lose certain abilities in the anime. Meta Knight is never shown with wings (although in the origial test pilot [see above] he was shown as an enemy and has his wings) or flying abilities, and he is never seen without his mask on. Dedede is unable to float or inhale enemies.
The anime is a kodomo anime, which is an anime targeted at young Japanese children from kindergarten to middle school. When adapted by 4Kids Productions and dubbed into English for North America, it was heavily edited: content that was deemed inappropriate for American audiences, including guns, alcohol, violence, religious imagery, and toilet humor, was cut. Any visible text, whether it was English, Japanese, or even gibberish, was digitally removed. However, direct references to Japanese foods or culture (such as onigiri) were not removed, but rewritten for context. However, the Galaxy Soldier Army subplot was removed entirely, and all soldiers are referred to as Star Warriors. The Japanese score was completely replaced with original music (or some music clips were recycled from its other Anime dubs). All sound effects were overwritten with new ones (some of them made from or sounding like the original Japanese sound effects).
The characters' personalities, relationships, and speech patterns were changed for the English dub. For example, Meta Knight has a Spanish accent to compliment his Zorro-like qualities; and King Dedede speaks with a Southern accent with poor grammar, when he originally spoke perfect Japanese (albeit having a verbal tic, ending all sentences with "zoy"). All characters who originally had high-pitched voices were given deep voices for the English dub, and all silent characters were also given speaking parts. Makiko Ōmoto's performance of Kirby is the only voice that was preserved in the English dub.
Some episodes aired differently from their original order, sometimes to put a holiday-themed episode closer to that holiday, or to advertise the latest merchandise products. For example, "A Novel Approach," which parodied the Harry Potter books, was aired in conjunction with one of the real books' release. One large and controversial move took episodes 96 and 97, "Crisis of the Warp Star" from the end of the series and aired them toward the middle to advertise the Kirby Air Ride game for the Nintendo GameCube. The episodes were placed in the proper order on the Kirby: Fright to the Finish!! DVD of the final episodes.
Michael Haigney originally stated in an interview that the Fox Network would not let it air the episode "A Dental Dilemma" because it shows dentists in a bad light and could scare children (although it was meant to encourage children to brush their teeth and go to a dentist if they thought they had a cavity). This applied to all other countries that used the 4Kids dub as well.
In Japan, the series has aired on Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting Co., Ltd. since October 6, 2001. It was licensed in North America by 4Kids Entertainment under the title Kirby: Right Back at Ya! and seen on 4Kids TV (formerly known as FoxBox). The North American version of the anime was distributed by 20th Century Fox, Nelvana Enterprises, and HAL Laboratory, Inc. It ended in Japan in 2003 with 100 episodes, and the series finished airing in 2006 in the US.
The series began rebroadcasting in Japan on June 28, 2007 on the Tokyo Metropolitan Television station, then on June 21, 2008 in the US, Saturday mornings at 11am EST on 4Kids TV, and ended along with all other 4Kids TV shows on December 27, 2008. On June 6, 2009, Kirby, along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward, rebroadcasted in the US Again, and aired at 7:30am EST on The CW4Kids. The series used to be seen on 4Kids's video on demand service and on www.4Kids.tv. However, the show was removed from the 4Kids TV website on October 2009. A moderator on the 4Kids forums states that 4Kids no longer holds the license. Also, after May 21, 2009, the Tokyo MX website has stated that the show has been removed off the air. Currently, it is only available for streaming in Japan via the Everyone's Theater Channel for the Wii; each episode worth 100 Wii Points.
Kirby (カービィ Kābī?) is a young Star Warrior. He is spoken of in legend as Kirby of the Stars, because a Star Warrior's ship is designed to go wherever demon beasts are Kirby's ship detected the creatures Dedede was ordering and he was awakened 200 years before schedule. Due to this early awakening he is still only a child.
Despite this, he readily fights for his friends. During battle he shows great skill, though he needs a little help sometimes.
Otherwise, Kirby is like any other child, though with a much larger appetite. He loves to play and sleep, and can be utterly fascinated by even the most mundane things. He has a strong spirit and loves to help people - sometimes even his enemies. He even demonstrates a maternal side on occasion.
He does not speak much, only saying "poyo". Certain characters such as Kine and Meta Knight have acted as if they understand him and Kirby uses it quite expressively. Occasionally he speaks their language, his favorite word being 'suika' (Japanese for watermelon) or repeating snippets people have said. He also commonly announces his own copy abilities or shouts out his attack names (Of course much of what he says is removed entirely in the English dub). Like Pikachu from Pokémon, Kirby also retains his original Japanese voice for the dubbed version, and is notable for being the only character who does so. However the dubbed version does also include some additional voice work for Kirby which was not present in the original Japanese.
Kirby often shows that he understands language- he simply doesn't have the motivation to reproduce it himself, though he has the ability. It was stated by Meta Knight that Kirby should have slept in his starship for 200 years, and because he was 'born' too early, he lacks knowledge and training.
The official explanation of why Kirby doesn't speak was that his creator Masahiro Sakurai did not want him to. Characters who don't speak are often created that way to be seen as more endearing and easier to relate to. There is also the "window for the gamer" factor- this is expressed more in Link of the Legend of Zelda series, created by Shigeru Miyamoto. Soji Yoshikawa cited examples such as Snoopy and the like, but said it was rather difficult to have a main character who didn't speak.
Tiff and Tuff
Tiff (フーム Fumu?) is daughter of the Cabinet Minister, she has lived in Dedede's castle her entire life. She's very intelligent for her age, with much of her interest being in the environment. Her favorite subject is marine biology. She can also be short-tempered and definitely speaks her mind on things, especially when she thinks King Dedede is up to no good. Tiff is the only one who can summon Kirby's Warp Star when he is in danger. Meta Knight said that Kirby cannot keep it safe himself, so she can control it because she truly cares for him. She was not sure if Kirby was a real hero at first, but he quickly proved her wrong. They have a sort of mother/child or brother/sister relationship, and she's the character who most often treats him like the child he is, carrying him and holding his hand to lead him places. Tiff is voiced by Sayuri Yoshida in the Japanese version and by Kerry Williams in the 4Kids dub.
Tuff (ブン Bun?) is Tiff's little brother. He is in many ways her complete opposite, preferring to play outside rather than read books. He can be quite a troublemaker, even when he's really trying to help. Impetuous and always getting into mischief, he is now friends with Kirby, even though he gets jealous of him sometimes. He is voiced by Rika Komatsu in the Japanese version and by Kayzie Rogers in the 4Kids dub.
Meta Knight (メタナイト Meta Naito?) works for Dedede as well, along with his followers Sword Knight and Blade Knight. However, it is revealed that Meta Knight is a Star Warrior like Kirby, and the only one to survive the war with Nightmare. He is called the pride of the Galaxy Soldier Army, and is greatly respected. He carries the sacred sword Galaxia, which only a select few can wield.
Meta Knight appears as a sort of mentor, helping Kirby and others- though only when he absolutely has to. He is a rather strange person with many odd quirks. He has a habit of stating the obvious and appearing seemingly from nowhere, helping Kirby and his friends in times of need. He commonly stands on top of things: tables, statues, trees, rocks, etc. (Some have theorized he does it to compensate for his height.) In some ways he parodies the usual cliché of stoic, mysterious characters, but still manages to be a serious character with a lot of depth.
In the games, Meta Knight will often have his cape blowing in the wind, but in the anime he generally keeps it firmly wrapped around him.
In the original, his voice actor is serious, with occasional random English thrown in, possibly in reference to Meta Knight being similar to English knights, with honor and valor. In the dub, he has a Spanish accent, possibly as reference to Zorro. He is the second strongest Star Warrior in the universe.
Kirby's archnemesis who seeks to destroy Kirby by any cost. He has ruled Dream Land for 300 years (Or, so he claims), and is still going strong, but is not regarded actually as a King. Despite the fact Dedede was actually a kind soul in the first game, who in fact, wanted to protect the star rod, thinking Kirby was a villian, in the Anime he is greedy, scheming, and even outright sadistic- even going as far as to say that people’s suffering amuses him- despite this, no one has ever tried to dethrone him, despite the fact that he also threatens the children. He's actually harmless for the most part, but his intense dislike of Kirby compels him to purchase demon beasts from HolyNightMare Co. and cause mayhem for the people of Dream Land.
He loves buying new 'toys' and acts like a spoiled child, despite his age. He's jealous of the attention Kirby gets, and while at first he even wanted to kill Kirby (and at one point Tiff, Tuff and the others because they were defending Kirby, which Dedede detests and often threaten them with death), later he focuses more on trying to kick him out or just make him look bad. Of course, he has a kinder, gentler side, but it only shows in the most extreme of circumstances. (Like in the Kirby appreciation day episode where he played a prank on Kirby which blew him up which made Dedede so upset that he thought he actually killed Kirby, and in the episode where the Phantom Star was going to hit Pop Star, so he built a playground to make up for his mistakes.)
Escargoon (エスカルゴン Esukaragon?), an anthropomorphic snail, lived with his mother on a farm before leaving to make it big. But despite the fact Escargoon is well educated, knowing a great deal about chemistry and electronics (even writing a book on botany), he’s been working for Dedede for many years as an assistant and punching bag. But it seems that he truly cares for the king and is always concerned for his welfare, despite the abuse he receives from him on a daily basis.
While Escargoon usually goes along with what Dedede wants and helps him with his schemes, he may actually be a nice guy at heart who only acts mean because he wants Dedede's approval.
Escargoon speaks politely in the original, in a sort of exaggerated way, but the dub made him far more openly sarcastic and with a heavy lisp. His voice in the 4Kids dub is modeled after Paul Lynde.
As the public face of Holy Nightmare, he handles much of the company's sales (and advertising) from the center of Nightmare's Fortress. In both the Japanese and English versions he can be quite sarcastic, and enjoys finding ways to make things difficult for King Dedede, although he much more subtle about it in the original. In the English dub, he went through a drastic personality change; his persona is more that of the stereotypical "slimy used-car salesman," using a large amount of slang. In the original, his image is that of a polite Japanese salesperson, using a large amount of honorific language (even when he insults customers like Dedede). The English dub makes it seem like he wants nothing more but to defraud or swindle Dedede for every money amount he has, rather than actually helping him.
Much like Nightmare, Customer Service's full form is only seen in the final episodes, in which it is revealed that he only has top and a mid-section. His mid-section ends in two round-ish feet, and he is only a bit taller than Kirby. (For the entire series, save for the last episode and the Kirby Quiz Challenge though it's hard to notice, he is only shown from the waist up.)
His name is never mentioned in the dub, but the official English website lists his name as "Salesguy."
The main antagonist of the series and the president of HolyNightMare Co. Nightmare only appears in the shadows for most of the series, his full form only seen in the series finale. Very little is known about him or his origins, but as his name suggests, he is a living dream. He thrives on suffering, creating demon beasts to sell in his company and use in his armies to continue his conquest of the universe in order to bring himself more power. He also gives off the illusion of being invincible, since he can open his cloak and suck all attacks into the area where his stomach and chest should be.
Nightmare is most often referred to in the dub as N.M.E. However, as he first appears in Kirby's Adventure in 1993 with the name Nightmare, this name is the most accurate.
All North American DVD releases of Kirby: Right Back at Ya! were licensed by Funimation Entertainment. All the DVDs are currently out of print worldwide. The show also has yet to be released in season format.
- Kirby: Right Back at Ya! Volume 1: Kirby Comes to Cappytown (November 12, 2002)
- Kirby: Right Back at Ya! Volume 2: A Dark and Stormy Knight (January 7, 2003)
- Kirby: Right Back At Ya! Volume 3: Kirby's Egg-Cellent Adventure (November 4, 2003)
- Kirby: Fright to the Finish!! (June 14, 2005)
- Kirby's Adventures in Cappytown (February 19, 2008)
- Kirby: Cappy New Year & Other Kirby Adventures (December 9, 2008)
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