Over the years there have been a number of anime related controversies, ranging from various taboos not translating well to the western world to death threats being sent to authors when their favourite character isn’t getting as many scenes as they would like. Granted, this is not an industry specific issue. It is hard to look at a newspaper nowadays without somebody attributing violent behaviour to video games, or gun crime to rap music. Even tracing anime back to its mainstream roots you can find a mass of controversies related to Urotsukidoji and its release in the western world. Recently, there have not been many controversies other than the big School Days scandal of 2007, so it was very odd that an innocent 2012 romantic comedy would spawn one of the biggest internet backlashes in years.
Voice actor Mitsuhiro Ichiki is famous for a number of prominent roles such as Takeyama from Angel Beats! and Yukio Hans Vorarlberna from Bleach. In early 2012 he auditioned for a part in the then upcoming summer series Kokoro Connect, produced by Silver Link. In late June he was asked to attend an early screening of the new anime where to his surprise the staff working on Kokoro Connect offered him the position of ‘Head of Public Relations’. Being a voice actor this came as quite a shock to him, but not quite as much as when he found out from the cast that his audition was nothing more than a hidden camera practical joke. The 31 year old voice actor accepted the position, but it was very clear that he was not expecting this to happen, nor was he overly pleased about the sneering and backhanded jokes being made about him by other participants.
Predictably, fans of Ichiki did not take kindly to one of their favourite voice actors being pushed aside and laughed at, but the extent of the backlash was something to behold. Cast members and staff associated with Kokoro Connect started to receive insulting and threatening comments on their Twitter accounts and bloggers were having a field day slamming them and labelling them all as bullies. Even more expected was the extremely quick response from the studio which assembled the signatures of “The entire staff of Kokoro Connect” on an official statement that apologised for “insufficient consideration regarding performers.”
A comic strip posted online showing Ika Musume laughing at a distraught Ichiki
Statements can only go so far to cover for what went wrong at the Kokoro Connect screening. In the eyes of the enraged fans on the internet, by using a real audition as nothing more than a practical joke, the staff of Kokoro Connect seriously damaged his professional reputation and embarrassed him in front of the world. However, the real question here is, “Is this just fanboy rage gone crazy? Or was Mitsuhiro Ichiki actually mistreated?”
In a statement made by Ichiki in wake of the controversy, he said that he did not feel that any harassment had occurred and that if it had then all of the 20,000 or so people watching at the time would have reacted a lot earlier, and not after a few notable web articles blew it out of proportion. He actually seemed upset that so many of his co-workers and other professionals in the industry had been attacked online. In his own words he felt that a lot of articles and edited videos had “twisted the truth,” which certainly doesn’t leave the impression that he was genuinely mistreated.
Ichiki (Left) joking with Kokoro Connect cast member Takuma Terashima (Right)
Whether Mitsuhiro Ichiki was mistreated or not remains a mystery with both parties trying to put the issue behind them to protect their professional careers. Certainly, Ichiki did not expect the events of June 24th to occur and it is understandable how that could be construed into something comparable to bullying. If this is the case then the staff behind Kokoro Connect should feel ashamed of their unprofessional behaviour (but then again, the next anime that Silver Link produced was OniAi so that should be punishment enough). Certainly, Ichiki has not performed any voice roles since then which is surprising considering he had just voiced a fairly important character in the winter 2012 series Another that should have been able to land him further roles.
We may never know how Ichiki really felt about the whole incident and whether he will ever make a return to voice acting remains to be seen, but there is a lesson to be learned here. If you’re a professional company don’t get professional voice actors to come and audition and record them for a practical joke! And if you do then at the very least don’t invite them to the advanced screening! Let’s hope that everyone learned a lesson and we will never see another controversy upsetting fan’s opinions of a good anime and a good voice actor.
Article Thumbnail and image copyright Silver Link
James is an English anime fan who loves nothing more than sitting around; putting on some anime; and sipping on a cup of Earl Grey with his pet tortoise, Barrel. He writes for Goboiano and Anime Corner where he goes by the tag name, Thayne†.
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