There’s no easy way to start this off, so I’ll just jump right in: Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, the director of Recovery of an MMO Junkie, is a Neo-Nazi. That’s not a term I throw around lightly, but I’m using it here because his twitter is a mixture of Holocaust denial and unapologetic anti-Semitism. His views are blatantly awful, but this whole situation raises the question of whether we should still watch and support his work as separate from the man himself. Now before I go any further, I want to explain the perspective I’m going in with, since reactions to this sort of thing tend to be heavily influenced by our own experiences and backgrounds. I’m Jewish, by heritage if not by belief. Even though I’ve never faced any kind of anti-Semitism, I know my grandfather and his siblings did. This whole controversy isn’t as personal to me as it is to some, but I’m not coming in as a complete outsider either.
Just one of the recent tweets liked by Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, director of MMO Junkie and several episodes of Pokemon: Generations
And there’s much more. pic.twitter.com/384ILL8fLJ
— Canipa – 16 Days Until Japan Move 🐧🐧🐧🐧🐧🐧🐧🐧 (@CanipaShow) February 3, 2018
Part of what makes this such a difficult question is that Yaginuma’s hateful views have no influence on his work. MMO Junkie is an adaptation of a manga that he had nothing to do with. The story itself is just a good-natured rom-com with nothing remotely mean-spirited in it. It would be easy to dismiss it if it did contain Yaginuma’s anti-Semitism, but his views aren’t represented anywhere in the work itself. Compounding the issue is that he was only one person in the production. The director of an anime is important, true, but still only one person. Anime production is a team effort more than anything else: it requires dozens of people with a huge variety of skills. The director is a central part of it, but not the only part and definitely not the creator. I bring this up because it begs the question: where do we draw the line? Would this be such a controversy if it had been one of the animators? What about an animation director? Or a producer? How central does an artist’s role have to be to say a work is theirs? Does that mean we shouldn’t watch any movies Harvey Weinstein was involved in? Should we refuse to watch The Usual Suspects because Kevin Spacey is a pedophile? I’m not asking these rhetorically or to make a point; I genuinely don’t have an answer. There’s no simple way to determine when we should identify a work of art with the artist and when it should stand on its own.
It’s also noteworthy that Yaginuma himself had absolutely nothing to do with Rin Kokuyo’s original manga. There are legitimate questions about whether supporting the anime constitutes supporting Yaginuma as well, but that obviously doesn’t apply to the manga. Although watching/recommending the anime does indirectly give him publicity, it’s definitely not financially supporting him. Anime production staff rarely gets paid in royalties, and is usually hired as freelancers. It’s extremely unlikely that Yaginuma will get any money from people watching or buying MMO Junkie, especially since he isn’t the original creator.
Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer about whether we should still like MMO Junkie. The way we engage with media is just as emotional as logical, so there’s no black and white conclusion. Our perspectives are heavily influenced by our personal experiences, so no two people will have exactly the same reaction to a given piece of media. I still enjoy MMO Junkie as a work separate from Yaginuma’s views, but I also understand why a lot of people can’t anymore. You shouldn’t feel bad if you still like it or look back on it fondly, but you should also understand that not everyone can do the same. This is a difficult situation, and the only thing we can really do is to try to understand that everyone will have a different response to it.