Bullying is a quite unique subject in Japan. Traditionally it’s rampant, where people of power bullies much more weaker people. In workplaces, schools, heck even online like the 2ch boards are not safe from it. And yet it’s like an open secret, something that should not be talked about even if it’s happening in front of you (the recent government of Japan cover up of suicide/bullying incident comes to mind). Thus it’s quite a surprise to see such an reaction over a recent bullying incident revolving around a current anime series, Kokoro Connect
The incident, or “prank” as it’s known was planned by one Yamanaka Takahiro, a bigshot at Kings Record, and the producer for the Kokoro Connect series. The victim was one Mitsuhiro Ichiki (pictured above), an aspiring voice actor. In the spirit of dokkiri (どっきり – practical joke), Ichiki was offered a role of an original character in Kokoro Connect and was asked to come for an audition two months ago. The audition was recorded with variouss hidden camera (Dokkiri itself stems from どっきりカメラ aka Surprise Camera) with Ichiki being told to voice various lines as loudly as he could
During a promo event for Kokoro Connect, Ichiki was invited to come on stage, without being told why. Expecting to hear an announcement of his original character, instead he was shown a spliced, edited video of his audition, told that it was all a prank, and was forced to become Kokoro Connect’s PR. The event was shown live on NicoNico and also Ustream, and throughout, he was ridiculed by the “official” seiyuus, Terashima Takuma, Mizushima Takahiro and Oogame Asuka.
The PR work is also a batsu game (punishment game) and if he fails certain task, he would be punished. If you guys are familiar with “Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende“‘s batsu game, you would realise that it’s quite harmful. He was even electrocuted for failing, live on Nico and Ustream. He was even ridiculed to lengths on the official Kokoro Connect radio show by the other seiyuus.
Ironically, this would have gone quietly under everyone’s radar (honestly, are the people watching the stream and listening to the radio stupid?) if it was not for Kikuchi Hajime (from Eufonius)’s tweet regarding the incident. The tweet lead 2ch to investigate, and pieces the incident together.
So what happened? Kokoro Connect took quite a large hit. The official radio show was canned (as the image above announced). Pre-orders from the Blu-Ray dropped and many went to Amazon and gave bad reviews for the series, meaning much more sale lost. 2ch also started to boycott the anime and won’t stop until Yamanaka resign. Ironically they are bullying the bully as well.
Things are not so well across the Atlantic (or Pacific? I dunno, all seas are the same) when 4chan’s /a/ board overreacted and started spamming Kitamura Eri’s twitter account with pictures of penises. This was due to an unconfirmed rumour that KitaEro is the girlfriend of Yamanaka, and decided to punish her, for some reason.
Due to the unwanted (negative) attention that they are getting, the management even forced Ichiki to say that this was just a staged stunt, something which makes no logic whatsoever. And they also released another apology earlier today, apologising for the earlier apology, and saying that Ichiki WILL be featured in the anime, albeit in an OVA episode which, due to the low sales, hardly would be seen by anyone.