Art is intrinsically tied to controversy, be it literature, movies, video games, or anime. An amazing amount of anime comes out of Japan every year, and the industry has endured a boatload of drama throughout its long, rich history. Some messes are well known, such as the infamous episode of Pokémon that gave children seizures. Others, like the antisemitic comments made by the director of Recovery of an MMO Junkie, aren't as publicized. In the anime industry, the drama goes much deeper than the plots creators are working on, and the biggest controversies shook otaku across the globe.
Life as a Japanese animator is not as glamorous as anime fans might like to believe. Building a career as an animator in Japan can be brutal, as up-and-coming artists face long work hours, insufficient pay, and are often forced to leave their social lives behind in the hopes of moving up the ladder. Shirobako, an anime series about animators, highlights the ugly truth when it shows how little money animators make.
Ironically, P.A. Works, the anime studio behind Shirobako, found itself involved in animated controversy when an inbetweener tweeted about the office's poor working conditions. She brought up her minimal paycheck that mostly went to her basic living expenses, and also the "desk fee" of 6,000 yen (roughly $51) she had to pay every month.
The inbetweener deleted her social media account, but her tweets were archived online, which resulted in a nasty look for P.A. Works. The company released an official statement, claiming they spoke with the inbetweener, apologized, and cleared up the matter. They also claimed they do not charge a desk fee, and the inbetweener is still allegedly employed by the company.
Back in 2012, promotional artwork for Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse was released that depicted the anime's females cast in bikinis. When the artwork became public, several Japanese blogs pointed out the uncanny similarities to the art of other anime series. When word got out about Muv-Luv featuring traced artwork from other series, Sou Miyata — the character designer — was booted off the show.
For the Kokoro Connect staff, a Candid Camera-inspired prank directed at a Japanese voice actor went way overboard, and may have damaged the longevity of the series. During the 2012 production of Kokoro Connect, voice actor Mitsuhiro Ichiki auditioned for a mysterious new role that wasn't present in the original source material. After the audition, Ichiki was told he got the job, and he needed to attend a public promotional event for the TV series.
When the day finally arrived, select members of the staff and voice cast informed Ichiki that it was all a prank. There was no new anime-only character in Kokoro Connect. Worse, footage of Ichiki auditioning for the nonexistent role was played in front of a live audience to further humiliate him.
While the anime staff did offer him a public relations job, the public saw Ichiki's live humiliation as a sick abuse of power. Voice actress Eri Kitamura was forced to delete her Twitter after she received a rash of threatening messages, and a radio show made to promote the anime was canceled as a result of the backlash.
Silver Link, the anime studio behind Kokoro Connect, issued a public apology over the whole ordeal. To his credit, Ichiki bears no ill will towards those involved in the prank. However, the Kokoro Connect anime series has a negative aura surrounding it because of the incident.
Kazuyoshi Yaginuma is a freelancer who provided key animation for many anime series, and who worked as episode director for series such as Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Pokémon Generations, From the New World, and BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. While his resume is impressive, the antisemitic views Yaginuma are insanely problematic and make it difficult to separate the art from the artist.
For years, Yaginuma used Twitter to retweet and like antiemetic statements. However, since 2018, Yaginuma has been tweeting his bigoted opinions in English for international users. He commonly uses "Jew" as a derogatory term, and openly doubts the horrors of the Holocaust. When Yaginuma's hateful views finally received attention, Crunchyroll — which acts as a member of the production committee for Recovery of an MMO Junkie — distanced itself from the anime director.
Ellation, the parent company behind Crunchyroll, issued a statement saying:
We do not support the antisemitic behavior that has been recently reported in relation to Dir. Kazuyoshi Yaginuma. The comments made do not reflect any opinions of Crunchyroll, as we pride ourselves on our diverse, global community that connects through the content they love.
Yaginuma responded to Ellation's statement by calling them Jews. Needless to say, Yaginuma will never be employed by Ellation ever again.