The anime industry is fairly quiet compared to most other entertainment industries. While there is growing awareness about the poor treatment animators face, anime has been fairly clean.
However, when controversy hits, it hits big! Here are some of the events that shook the industry over the past 10 years.
1Aya Hirano – Bandmate Sexcapades
Aya Hirano was HUGE in the mid-2000s thanks to voicing Haruhi Suzumiya and Konata Izumi. Shortly after The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya aired, Hirano voiced her desire to shake off the “otaku queen” image to forge a serious music career.
Hirano’s crusade began during an appearance on “Goût Temps Nouveau,” where she candidly talked about dating older men and that she once dated several partners at once. Everyone in the voice acting community knows how possessive otaku can be, and Hirano intentionally broke free from the “pure and virgin” image to be taken seriously as a musician. But that wasn’t what hurt Hirano’s career.
It was later revealed that Hirano slept with all of her band members – except the bassist. The new controversy caused Hirano to leave agencies Lantis, Space Craft, and Grick in 2011 to join Universal Sigma in 2012.
Ironically, Hirano’s music career has stalled and she hasn’t released a single since 2013. Instead, she has tried to re-enter the anime industry and her only major role has been Lucy Heartfilla in Fairy Tail.
2Emi Nitta – Alleged JAV actress
Emi Nitta is best known for portraying Honoka Kosaka in Love Live!, and her once-promising voice acting career died due to a rumor.
Shortly after the µ’s farewell concert in 2015, Weekly Asahi Geinou ran an article stating that Nitta appeared in an adult video in 2008, two years before her voice acting debut. Despite denials from Niita and her agency, fans latched onto to the rumor.
Sexual rumors are devastating for seiyuu-idols like Nitta, since the industry typically packages their stars as “pure unattainable objects” for otaku to fawn over. The negative backlash has damaged her singing and voice acting career. Niita’s last notable role was voicing Tokoha Anjou in 2016’s Cardfight!! Vanguard G: Stride Gate.
This is a newer controversy and the cards are still falling into place.
Last year, Kemono Friends director Tatsuki took to Twitter to tell fans that he was fired by Kadokawa for no explanation and that his studio Yaoyorozu won’t be working on season two. Kadokawa tried to shift the blame on Tatsuki, saying that he and Yaoyorozu weren’t authorized to produce a handful of commercials and “Episode 12.1.” Their claims were later debunked by producer Yoshita Fukuhara, who said they did have permission.
In the middle of this commotion was a misguided public relations stunt. Kadokawa had some of the anime’s voice actresses apologize for Tatsuki’s firing, even though they weren’t involved at all.
4Ai Takabe – Drug Possession
One thing international fans may not about Japan is that they are tough on illicit drugs. You don’t have to look any further than what happened to voice actress Ai Takabe.
Takabe made her debut in 2009 staring as Fumi Manjoume in Aoi Hana and landed another big role in 2012 as Agiri Goshiki in Kill Me Baby. Her career was cut short after she was arrested allegedly possessing cocaine. Industry backlash was swift as she was condemned on social media and fired by her agency. In fact, her name has been scrubbed from the projects she worked on.
Here is the cruel outcome of Takabe’s arrest: the Tokyo prosecution office decided to drop all of the charges. They cited “the very small amount of narcotics in her possession, as well as the social sanctions she has already received,” as their reasons.
Basically, Takabe turned into an industry pariah but didn’t possess enough drugs to warrant a conviction.
5Takami Akai – Insulting Gurren Lagann Critics
Takami Akai is an icon in the industry, but sometimes his personality can get him into trouble. Just how do you go from co-founding Gainax to being demoted to hosting a personal web series? Turns out, Akai messed with the otaku.
Gurren Lagann didn’t receive a ton of praise in Japan, with many viewers lambasting the series on social media for having bad animation and not making any sense. This prompted Keiko Mimori, a producer, to write a blog in which she said, “stupid, stupid, disgusting otaku should die!!” A few weeks later, she responded to the backlash of a perceived animation quality drop by saying that the production team shouldn’t “listen to amateurs who don’t know better.”
Everything boiled over when Akai wrote that reading 2ch comments, which is a popular anime board in Japan, was akin to “putting my face next to an anus and breathing deeply.” The weeks of controversy led to Akai resigning from Gainax and he hasn’t worked as a producer ever since.
6Kenji Yamamoto – Plagiarising Music
Kenji Yamamoto was once a sought-after music composer, with a career spanning from the ’80s to late 2000s. He was especially known for composing the soundtracks for a handful of Dragon Ball Z movies and video games.
However, Dragon Ball Kai proved to be his doom. Yamamoto was tasked with producing the soundtrack for the revamped series and fans quickly noticed the music was ripping-off other works. A lawsuit was filed and it was discovered that Yamamoto was plagiarizing music since the ’80s. Toei Animation was forced to replace Yamamoto’s Kai soundtrack with the series’ original music, pull all of his composed soundtracks from stores, and replace the music from past entries.
7Li-mei Chiang – The Order of Christ Sophia
Li-mei Chiang inadvertently changed the direction of Yu-Gi-Oh! forever. It’s believed that she’s one of the reasons for the franchise’s shift from the occult to technology.
In 2015, she was removed from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s when she was discovered to be a member of the Roma Sophia cult, which was making headlines for being a dangerous group. Chiang was fired, her character Carly was demoted to an extra, and a story arc involving a cult was suddenly dropped.
8Kazuyoshi Yaginuma – Coming Out as a Neo-Nazi
This one is a real doozy. Kazuyoshi Yaginuma quickly gained attention for directing Recovery of an MMO Junkie, which was his first major project. Naturally, fans took an interest in him and wanted to learn more about the rising star director, only to find out that he is a Neo-Nazi.
Yaginuma joined Twitter in 2011 and has spent a large chunk of his time re-tweeting and sharing anti-Semitic thoughts in Japanese and English. He’s questioned the authenticity of Anne Frank’s diary, wonders if the Holocaust really happened despite Japan having a museum, doubts that Nazis used gas chambers to murder Jews, and believes that “financial Jews” are the cause of anime’s problems.
Animation studio SIGNAL MD quickly denounced Yaginuma’s views and said they will never work with him in the future.