Voice actress Ai Kayano has been removed from Azur Lane, and her credit in Arknights, after outcry from Chinese players of her visit to a controversial memorial.
Kayano’s previous roles in anime have included Darkness in KonoSuba, Shiro in No Game No Life, Saori Takabe in Girls und Panzer, Alice Zuberg in Sword Art Online: Alicization, and many more. In video games, she has voiced Y’shtola in Final Fantasy XIV, Yomi in the Senran Kagura series, Ophilia Clement in Octopath Traveler, and many more.
This also includes several mobile games; such as Granblue Fantasy (Rei, Golden Knight), Pokémon Masters (Erika), Arknights (Platinum), Fate/Grand Order (Murasaki Shikibu), Azur Lane (Kaga, Atago, Renown, Graf Zeppelin), Fire Emblem Heroes (Gunnthrá), and Girls’ Frontline (Kar98k, NTW-20, StG44). It’s these roles that may soon be in danger however.
On February 11th, Kayano had reportedly stated on YouTube that she visited the Yasukuni Shrine, and described it as comfortable, and having plenty of fresh air. The controversy arises from the shrine being dedicated to those who died in service to Japan- from civilians to military.
While this initially included those who died in the Boshin War (1868 to 1869) to the First Indochina War (1946 to 1954), it later included all those who served in defense of Japan; including those later found guilty of war crimes at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.
According to Wikipedia, out of over 2 million contained in the shrine’s Book of Souls, 1,068 were convicted of war crimes from World War 2; 14 of them as Class A war criminals (or those committing “crime against peace”). The enshrinement of a soul at the Shrine is entirely under the purview of the Shinto priesthood at the shrine; and all signs point to it being permanent and irreversible.
Chinese internet users were outraged, with Chinese Tabloid the Global Times reporting (via This Week in Asia) there were demands on Chinese social media to withdraw programs she had appeared or voiced in. The “zero tolerance” over the issue was echoed by one animation fan who spoke to the Global Times
“Political issues cannot be compromised,” they reportedly stated. “How could she still want the Chinese market without respecting Chinese fans?” Others had spoke out in defense of Kayano however, even on Global Times’ own website, suggesting it was an overreaction, or even throwing a “tantrum” over offence that was not intended.
It is worth pointing out some may have objected to Kayano’s actions in order to obtain “social credit.” In short; social credit in China grants perks for “good citizens” (access to better schools for your children), and restrictions on “bad citizens” (publicly named and shamed, or banned from using public transport). Regardless, Kayano later removed her video and tweet on visiting the shrine.
However, it seems anger may still be raging. In discussions gathered on Varis Forum (reader discretion is advised), it seems Kayano has been removed from at least two mobile games; both from Chinese developers.
Users of the Arknights subreddit noticed that her voice credit had been removed from Platinum. An alleged social media post by developer Hypergryph also stated there may even be “negotiating with other servers regarding the change in voice lines.”
The official Arknights Discord moderators allegedly also demanded no discussion on the matter due to it’s “political implications thus breaking rule #10 of the server.” This rule is “Extended discussions on sensitive subjects are not allowed.”
Our own investigation into the official Discord revealed this message was later edited (with only a screenshot confirming what it may have been before); now reading that “you are permitted to have a constructive conversation regarding or inform other people regarding the situation but keep the political aspect of it outside the server. Especially until we get an official stance from the company.”
“Try your best to civil and use common sense. Don’t drag other games or game discord servers and the drama’s around them in our server either. If you attempt to create a situation that’s either polarized or political (Rule #10) or any other stuff that breaks the rules, you will be punished accordingly.”
The Azur Lane subreddit also claimed her voice was removed from the game entirely (affecting her characters and their alternate forms). Users noting while this may come to English and Chinese versions of the game; Japanese fans are likely to “riot” if it occurs with their version.
Previously, 18 ship girls were removed from the Chinese version of Azur Lane along with bunny girl costumes and event from Honkai Impact 3rd; with suspicion that it was due to the crackdown by the Chinese government on lewd content in mobile games.
GOG also announced they would not be selling Chinese-blacklisted horror game Devotion, hours after the developer stated they would. The game is now available via the developer’s website.
Genshin Impact, from Chinese developer miHoYo, also censors mentioning Hong Kong or Taiwan in the in-game chat. Along with then ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the Chinese government’s “One China Policy” refuses to acknowledge either as independent states.
The biggest “Chinese-outcry” story of recent times is the “graduation” of Hololive vtuber Kiryu Coco. Having previously been suspended for several weeks due to referring to Taiwan as a country, harassment continued long after.
The Chinese branch was ultimately dissolved, leading many to believe Cover Corp had sided with Kiryu. However, many still suspect that Kiryu has been ousted to prevent the harassment spreading to other vtubers, and to re-enter the Chinese market.