Various Boku no Hero Academia related products have been removed from the Chinese market after the recent character naming controversy.
Boku no Hero Academia is arguably one of the biggest anime and manga stories on the global market today, but it’s hit a fairly large bump in the road due to the recent naming controversy. China has responded to the issue by blocking access to the story on various platforms in Chinese market including the Boku no Hero Academia manga from both Bilibili and Tencent, removal of the anime from online streaming services, and has now expanded the ban to the mobile game.
The naming controversy surrounds a recently named character, Maruta Shiga. The name Maruta (丸太) is the same as the code name of a World War II project that used humans for experiments involving biological and chemical warfare. Many of the people subject to the experiments were Chinese, along with many Koreans, Russians, and Mongolians.
This Twitter thread goes into a lot of great detail of the implications of the name in this context. The thread is extremely graphic, but if you want to understand why this could be a trigger to so many, it’s worth a read.
The character Maruta has, likewise, experimented on humans in the story. This makes the possible reference even more alarming and potentially triggering to fans who were aware of the association.
Author Kohei Horikoshi issued an apology on Monday, and has stated that the name will be immediately changed.
Many have pointed out that the character name ‘Shiga Maruta’ in this week’s Jump chapter has brought up recollections of acts done in the past. I did not intend for that name to be associated as such. I take this matter very seriously and will change the name.
Shonen Jump, which distributes the manga, has also released a statement.
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.
(Translation via Unoffocial Weekly Shonen Jump Account)
Some fans speculate that it’s possible that Horikoshi was ignorant of the implications of the name. As one Japan-based fan noted, many of her Japanese friends were completely unfamiliar with the term, highlighting potential education gaps about the atrocities their country committed during the war.
I’ve been talking to Japanese friends about the word “maruta,” and it’s really interesting that many of them have never heard this term used to refer to WWII victims as a result of Japanese soldier’s gross human experiments.
Goes to show that some things ARE hidden from history.
— ☆オードリーAudrey☆ (@aitaikimochi) February 3, 2020
Many of the defenders also believe it could be completely coincidental, pointing to various alternate meanings of the name.
Looking at the MHA controversy and then seeing Maruta’s name as written, I feel it’s a really unfortunate coincidence
Maru(Round) ta(Fat) is a name calling to his round body shape, and it backwards is read Taruma similar to Daruma which are a doll for luck and granting wishes pic.twitter.com/mITzykuXoy
— Meti「グッドボーイ」 (@MetiNTBG) February 3, 2020
Other fans, however, don’t believe that ignorance in this situation is possible and that the way the name was spelled was very specifically a reference to the experiments.
— 大山雀 (@5mdays) February 3, 2020
What do you mean by “us”？
Don’t pretend to be ignorant.
As a Japanese, as a #ヒロアカ fan, I know the 731 unit ＆ the meaning of the “maruta” in historical context and so do a lot of Japanese.
I humbly apologize for these JP revisionists’ evasions ＆ insincerities. pic.twitter.com/J6yqzixPv8
— J’ Accuse. (@etomm3) February 3, 2020
Ok, for the English-speaking people who are saying it’s ‘just a name’ uh, NO it ISN’T! That ‘Maruta 丸太’ name has a WHOLE negative history behind it! Koreans and Chinese have a RIGHT to be angry at it! https://t.co/2b8sSVq5AW
— 夏ねずみ@I COMPLETED A BIG DRAWING Oh MY GOD?! (@natsunezumi) February 5, 2020
When put into context, it’s easy to see why fans in the countries that were the victims in this situation would react in such a way. It’s even easy to see why it’d be officially pulled from the Chinese market, even though it may feel fairly extreme at first glance to an outsider. This is an extremely triggering topic and that one word brought up a huge amount of trauma for a lot of fans.
This is an enormously tricky situation, however. As one of the most popular stories being produced right now, Boku no Hero Academia has a lot of passionate fans arguing on both sides of the debate. Various Asia-based fans are lashing out and emotions are running extremely high.
As an outsider who was not educated on this particular aspect of World War II prior to the controversy, I couldn’t possibly fault those who are triggered by this for reacting so strongly. There’s a huge historical context that they are reacting to that I will never know as they do. Their feelings should not be dismissed. I don’t necessarily think removing the series from the Chinese market overall is the solution, but I can’t blame fans who are hurt from stepping away from the series.
On the other hand, I’m still a huge fan of the series. It’s one of my biggest fandoms right now and I can’t imagine stepping away from it personally. But my distance from the situation has given me that privilege and I can continue to enjoy it. If I were in their shoes, I may feel the series is permanently tainted and no longer be able to enjoy it.
This was a massive error regardless of how educated Horikoshi was on the project. Someone somewhere along the line should have noticed, but they either didn’t or chose to let it go through without considering the trigger for their overseas fans.
This may be a stumbling block in some markets, but the series will continue to go on for most of the world. It’s an extremely unfortunate situation and I feel for all parties involved. There are no winners here.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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