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Is Japan Over-Reacting To Ai Takabe's Arrest?

by Justin Sevakis,

Dimitri asks:

Today I noticed a huge uproar in regards to Ai Takabe and her arrest for drug possession and potential usage. Now would this not have interested me, was it not for the fact that here whole presence in the anime society got 'erased'. Her credits got removed from the official websites of the respective anime, and Bandai announced their discontinuation of streaming the series she appeared in (Kill Me Baby, Sweet Blue Flowers, Wandering Son). Is it normal for Seiyu's to be 'erased' from the created products they are affiliated with? Did this happen before? Or is this just a random one case where the companies affiliated are overreacting.

In Asia, it is expected that "talent" (singers/actors/show hosts/etc.) should be role models for society at large. When one gets in major criminal trouble (usually for drugs), what happens next is part of a very well-worn ritual.

STEP 1: It's almost unheard of for the talent in question to fight the charge. Things will proceed as if they are completely guilty. If they're famous enough, there may be a press conference, in which they will apologize for letting down all of their fans, and cry a lot.

STEP 2: The talent's management agency, record label(s), and any and all companies contracting that person to do work or appearances will immediately drop them from their rosters. Stores will remove their music, merchandise, and other media bearing their name from their shelves. Their listings will be removed from websites. I've never heard of whole anime series being pulled due to a voice actor getting in trouble, but it's fairly rare that a voice actor in prominent roles gets in trouble like this.

STEP 3: Time passes, usually at least a year. The discs and merchandise that were pulled earlier quietly get put back on store shelves (and, presumably, streaming services). The talent works through the legal system, and once their debt to society is paid (any jail time, house arrest, or probation ends), the artist is free to try and restart their career, or go work at a convenience store. The artist is not re-instated at their old agencies, but is free to try again somewhere else and make a new start.

Incidents of things like this happening are very rare, particularly in the anime world. The only recent events we can compare Takabe's troubles to is the arrest of singer Noriko Sakai back in 2009, after she tested positive for light use of methamphetamine. At the time, Sakai had deals for a clothing line, and was appearing in a Toyota commercial. Both of those were pulled. But in 2012 she returned to the entertainment business, and began performing in a stage play. She's since released new albums, and both it and a few of her older releases are back up on iTunes.

It's also not unusual for fans of that talent to show their support by buying up their CDs, DVDs and other merchandise while they still have a chance. Sakai's music blew up on iTunes after her arrest, before her record label Victor Entertainment pulled them.

Of course, Ryo Aska of Chage and Aska was arrested for drug posession in early 2014, which caused Studio Ghibli to have to pull the music video On Your Mark from its The Collected Works of Director Hayao Miyazaki Blu-ray boxed set. All Chage and Aska websites and social media accounts have either been frozen since then, or taken down, and are not active as of this writing. And cosplay J-rock band Psycho Le Cemu broke up after lead singer Daishi's drug arrest, but has since re-united since his release. Both bands have their CDs still for sale on Amazon Japan.

We can only hope that the future for Takabe will feature a rebound like that.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com.

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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