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My Hero Academia to Change “Maruta” Character Name Due to Alleged Unit 731 Reference

My Hero Academia

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.

Shueisha and Kohei Horikoshi have announced they will be changing the name of Maruta Shiga in My Hero Academia, due to associations with the Unit 731 experiments of World War 2.

In My Hero Academia Chapter 259 (released February 3rd), a character revealed their real name was Maruta Shiga [1, 2]. The character is associated with using experimental science for evil purposes, creating monsters, and granting new powers to those with evil intent.

The kanji that make up the character’s name also describe them somewhat, and the pseudonym they used is also contained within their real name.

Shortly after this, it seems the character’s name caused some outrage. For those unfamiliar, Unit 731 was 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, and even those living in the nearby area of their base. 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.

When the war ended, some staff attempted to destroy the evidence and take their own lives. Later, the US Government would grant immunity to those who conducted the experiments, in exchange for the data they had discovered (much like with Nazi scientists and Operation Paperclip).

In April 2018, the National Archives of Japan released the names of the 3,607 members of Unit 731. This was due to a request by a professor of Shiga University of Medical Science.

Another possible inspiration for the name Shiga is the Shiga Toxin, a family of toxins produced by diseases such as E. coli, and the cause of dysentery from Shigella dysenteriae. Others have also claimed Shiga Toxin was used in Unit 731’s experiments, and deployed onto civilians in China.

Shueisha (by way of Weekly Shonen Jump’s official Twitter accounts) released a statement [1, 2, 3], apologizing for the name, and that it would be changed in the future.

“It was pointed out in the latest My Hero Academia chapter that the character ‘Maruta’ had a name that recalled ‘past historical facts’. There was no intention behind the naming from the author or editorial department. However, since it’s not our intention to overlap work with unrelated historical facts, after consulting with the author, we have decided to change the name when chapters are compilated in future volumes.”

Kohei Horikoshi also issued a statement, echoing the same sentiments:

“Many have heard that the name Shiga Maruta, which appeared in the jump this week, reminds us of a historic event. I didn’t mean that in the naming. We take your comments very seriously and will replace your name in the future.”

Translation: Twitter translation.

In spite of this, some users still demand a greater apology from both Horikoshi and Shueisha [1, 2, 3]. Others have stated no such apology or change would be necessary, not only to respect the vision of the author, but to educate others who would look up the meaning behind the character’s name.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

Image: My Hero Academia Chapter 246 (via My Hero Academia Wikia)

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Ryan Pearson

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Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.