Editor’s Note: This article will contain spoilers for My Hero Academia Chapter 259. Attempts have been made to avoid spoilers, but due to the nature of the article it is likely readers of My Hero Academia will know who is being discussed. Citations in this article are also likely to contain spoilers.
Chinese companies Tencent and Bilibili have reportedly pulled the manga and anime of My Hero Academia from their platforms, after a character’s name allegedly referenced Unit 731.
In case you missed our prior report, a character’s name in a recent issue of My Hero Academia a character was revealed to have the name “Maruta Shiga.” Some felt this name was a reference to Unit 731– a covert biological and chemical weapon research and development unit of Imperial Japanese Army during World War 2.
While under the guise of the “Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department” and working out of a lumber mill, the unit began (among other things) live experimentation on prisoners of war.
These were even those living in the nearby area of their bases. Maruta (“丸太”), the Japanese word for log was used as a code name for those experiments.
It was also allegedly used by staff as a euphemism for their subjects, such as asking “how many logs fell?” when asking how many subjects had died. Bodies were also cremated, not only furthering the euphemism, but kept the facilities’ cover as a lumber mill.
Unit 731 were based in the district of Pingfang, the city of Harbin in Manchukuo. While a Japanese puppet state at the time, it is now Northeast China. The unit also had branches throughout China and Southeast Asia.
Due to elements of the character’s history, some felt the reference was intentional. Shueisha, and the manga’s author and creator Kohei Horikoshi both issued public apologies on social media, stating they would change the character’s name in future issues and reprints of that issue in collections.
Now, Yahoo! News Japan (via Anime News Network), and Abacus News reports that digital versions of My Hero Academia had been removed from platforms owned by Tencent and Bilibili. Abacus News reports that Bilibili stated the manga was removed “in accordance with China’s policies.”
While Abacus News claims that episodes of the anime are still available via Bilibili, and that they have been “hit with a deluge of negative reviews,” their link however does not lead to any episode (most likely a 404 page that displays a webcomic instead).
Anime News Network reports the anime episodes were also removed, but prior to that the negative reviews caused the show to drop to a rating of 3.7 out of 10.
Abacus News also reports that on Chinese social media platform Weibo “posts related to the incident have more than 15 million views, with more than 6,000 posts and comments published over 12 hours.”
Anime News Network reports that an upcoming action RPG for smartphones My Hero Academia: Strongest Hero was in development by Chinese studio Xin Yuan (and published by Tencent). However, the game has now been removed from the TapTap studio page.
Xin Yuan has reportedly not announced the game’s cancellation. It seems the official website still exists at this time of writing however.
It should be noted that the Chinese government utilizes a “social credit system“, which much like a financial credit system, dictates who is supposedly trustworthy and “good citizen”. “Good citizens” are rewarded (better terms on bank loans, travel applications approved quicker, etc.), while those who act “poorly” are punished (cannot travel by train, losing access to the best schools, etc.)
In addition, there is strict monitoring of Chinese websites and of Chinese citizens online. In October 2019, Chinese citizens had to verify their identity via facial recognition when applying for a landline or internet connection.
Considering those factors, it is entirely possible some have joined the outrage in order to be seen as a good citizen- condemning something they feel the government would think is bad (an allegedly intentional reference to a war-crime committed against the people of China).
We will keep you informed as we learn more.
Image: My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (via Animation Magazine)