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Recovery of an MMO Junkie Director Causes Controversy With Anti-Semitic Tweets

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge

Recovery of an MMO Junkie director Kazuyoshi Yaginuma has been tweeting, retweeting, and liking anti-Semitism content on Twitter since soon after he joined the social media service in 2011. He recently began to engage with Twitter users posting in English after his activity related to anti-Semitic posts caused a stir online.

Yaginuma, who posts under the handle, @yaginuma_san, has posted and shared content related disparaging Jewish people on the social media service. His posts sometimes reference religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and include content openly sympathetic to Nazis. In a tweet from September 2012, Yaginuma asked why Hitler and the Nazis "had to" carry out the genocide of Jews, questioned whether they did, and asked his readers if they have ever investigated the veracity of Anne Frank's diary.

-Kazuyoshi Yaginuma tweet [September 8, 2012]

Anne Frank, whose home is now a museum in Amsterdam, was a Jewish girl that hid from the invading Nazi forces with her family beginning in 1942. A total of eight people hid in an annex created behind a bookcase for two years before they were discovered, captured, and murdered in a Nazi death camp in Auschwitz. Only Anne Frank's father, Otto, survived the war. Before and during Anne's time in hiding, she kept a diary of her experiences. She was 15 when she was killed.

Yaginuma's likes and posts related to anti-Semitic content gained attention from English-speaking Twitter users last week.

Initially, some Twitter users questioned whether Yaginuma fully understands the English posts he has liked and retweeted. He revealed on Monday that he used Google Translate to assist him in posting at least some of his English tweets. However, Yaginuma's tweets in Japanese continue to mirror the anti-Semitic content of his English posts.

Yaginuma posted a string of tweets on Tuesday related to Nazi use of gas chambers and supposed links between Jews and financial conspiracies. Yaginuma attempted to cast doubt on the Nazis' use of gas chambers for mass execution during World War II because "no one has ever drawn what they look like" or how they work.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum outlines the Nazis' use of gas chambers during World War II. Nazis used carbon monoxide gas from diesel engines funneled into rooms to execute Jews, Roma, and other prisoners. They also gassed prisoners with the cyanide-based pesticide Zyklon B at some of their death camps including Auschwitz.

Due to his beliefs surrounding Judaism, Yaginuma is also critical of Japan's relations with Israel. Additionally, he has received praise from self-identified English-speaking alt-right Twitter users. He has retweeted many of their posts in approval of his apparent anti-Semitism.

While preparing this article for publication, Anime News Network's Lynzee Loveridge received messages from Yaginuma's supporters, including one allegation that Yaginuma would be a figurehead in an upcoming race war.

ANN contacted Yaginuma to question him about whether his tweets reflect his personal views, to confirm that he holds an anti-Semitic bias, as well as to ask whether he really believes the Holocaust didn't exist, if these views affect his work in the industry, and how he thinks Jewish fans of Recovery of an MMO Junkie should feel about his comments. Yaginuma was initially receptive to answering the questions but later simply directed staff to his tweets about the Holocaust where he reiterated that he questions the validity of the evidence-based, historical account of the event and believes the facts are fabricated.

-Rebecca Silverman

Whether Yaginuma perceives his comments as discriminatory or not, they have had a chilling effect on Jewish fans of his work, including Anime News Network senior reviewer Rebecca Silverman. Silverman was a fan of Recovery of an MMO Junkie, even placing it in her top five anime of 2017.

"I feel sick that I named it one of my best shows of the year, and I wish I could take it back," Silverman said. " I know that there are some people who would say that it would be overreacting, because it takes more people than a director to make a show successful, but I can't stomach praising the work of someone who would deny or praise what was done to my culture."

Silverman's extended family attempted to flee Europe during World War II. Some successfully made it to America, Canada, and in one case, South Africa.

"The rest of them died and several of the villages they lived in were fully destroyed," she said. Family members on both Silverman's maternal and paternal sides fought in the war, but when it was over, the sting of being labeled outsiders still remained.

Silverman's paternal great-grandmother, grandmother, and great-aunts circa 1940. The photo was edited by Silverman's sister to also include her great-aunt who died of the flu in the early 1920s, pictured back row right.

"As a kid in Florida, my mother wasn't allowed to join the Girl Scouts because it had a White Christians only clause." When Rebecca's grandfather died, the family had to quit keeping kosher. Her grandmother began working for the city of Miami which gave away hams twice a year. They couldn't afford not to eat them.

Silverman is only one generation removed from the Girl Scouts denying her mother entry, but she's faced anti-Semitic treatment from classmates as a child and from her students in the workplace. When she heard the news of Yaginuma's comments, Silverman found herself unable to separate her intense feelings from the work.

"Plenty of bad people have done and continue to do good work. And there's some debate about whether or not the creator's beliefs should affect our enjoyment of their work. For me, when it's something as personal and egregious as this, I think it has to," she said.

Jewish anime fan and convention panel presenter Reuben Baron agrees that while he doesn't think Yaginuma's comments should turn fans away from the manga, he couldn't recommend the anime series any longer. He added that when industry members express discriminatory views, it worries him about who else might feel the same way.

"[The comments make] me nervous which creator is going to be "milkshake ducked" next. Most everyone I've seen talking about this story is similarly disappointed with the director; I'm sure there are Nazis defending him, but I keep my distance from them," he said. Baron has co-hosted Passover panels focusing on the crossovers between Jewish-Japanese history, Jewish anime characters both established and fan-canon, and Jewish mythos in works like Evangelion, at Anime Boston in 2012 and 2015.

Nazi iconography appears in anime series occasionally, usually without historical context. Baron elaborated that Yaginuma's views are considered extreme in a medium that exhibits anti-Semitism usually out of ignorance instead of genuine malice.

"I know, for instance, when the Protocols of Elders of Zion was translated into Japanese, they took in the 'Jews want to control the world' conspiracy [from it] but without having the whole historical Christian 'Jews killed Jesus/are the Devil' concept, they ironically saw it as an aspirational manual [on Imperialism]," he said.

The Protocols of Elders of Zion is a fabricated anti-Semitic text that originated in Russia in the early 1900s and claims to be meeting minutes of a group of Jewish leaders where they discuss plans for a Jewish world order, overthrowing Christian values, and controlling the world press and economy. The forgery was debunked in the 1920s but nonetheless was translated and spread worldwide with the help of Henry Ford and later, Nazi indoctrination of school children in the 1930s and 40s.

-Rebecca Silverman

Nazi imagery in anime and how it reflects on the staff involved can be hard to pin down. For instance, one of the screenwriters of Angel Cop, an original video anime released between 1989-1994 that mirrors the stereotypes from The Protocols of Elders of Zion, is the same person behind Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie - Conqueror of Shamballa. Baron describes the movie as "the most positive portrayal of a Jewish character I've seen in anime and is all about killing Nazis."

An anime series' choice to use Nazi imagery, whether as a plot focal point or stylistic window dressing, can have an effect on viewers. Silverman describes never feeling really comfortable with how Nazis are shown in anime.

"I've always been uncomfortable with anime's treatment of Nazism, to be honest. Intellectually I am fully aware that they sided with Germany during WWII, so their perspective is going to be pretty different from mine as a Jewish American. But it still makes me uncomfortable when Nazi-style uniforms are used or Nazi themes are heavily drawn upon, such as in Dies irae, the gas chamber scene in Bungo Stray Dogs, or even Gosick's second half."

"I feel like anime doesn't always, or perhaps ever, understand the impact that WWII had on the global Jewish community, and while I don't think that they mean to be insensitive, it does come off that way more often than not. Hands down one of my favorite lines ever is when Benny from Black Lagoon says, 'Fuck the Nazis has always been my family's creed.' I remember thinking, 'Yes, someone gets it!'"

Yaginuma also remarked on Twitter this week about his position in the anime industry in relation to his beliefs. He replied to another Twitter user who identified as a conservative and apparently shares some of Yaginuma's views. The Twitter user advised Yaginuma to be cautious and expressed respect for the anime director.

Yaginuma replied, "Thank you very much. My job is anime, but the Japanese anime industry is thoroughly hopeless. It's being made Jewish." In a related tweet, the director uses the word "goyim," a word widely appropriated by anti-Semitic groups. Yaginuma added that he believes the present period is "humanity's greatest crisis" and wonders if information exchange online may be impossible in a few years.

The Recovery of an MMO Junkie anime premiered in October, and Crunchyroll streamed the series as it aired in Japan. Yaginuma made his directorial debut with the anime adaptation, but the series itself is based on the original manga by Rin Kokuyo. Yagniuma himself is a freelance director, and while he worked with Production I.G's sister studio Signal.MD on the show, he is not formally employed there.

Anime News Network reached out to Signal.MD via its sister studio Production I.G but did not receive a comment by press time. If Anime News Network receives a statement, this article will be updated.

In addition to directing Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Yaginuma provided key animation for many anime and worked as episode director for series such as Pokémon Generations, From the New World, BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, Bokurano, and Rio - Rainbow Gate!.

This article has a follow-up: Crunchyroll Parent Ellation Posts Statement About Recovery of an MMO Junkie Director Kazuyoshi Yaginuma (2018-02-11 04:00)
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