Kokoro Connect Staff Issues Statements on Performer's Treatment
posted on by Ko Ransom
On Sunday, the official website for the Kokoro Connect anime issued a statement regarding the treatment of voice actor Mitsuhiro Ichiki at a June 24 advanced screening of the series. Ichiki had auditioned for a character who was not in Sadanatsu Anda's original light novel series, and he was invited to the streamed event, purportedly as a surprise voice cast member.
At the event, the staff and cast informed Ichiki that he would act as the Head of Public Relations for the series, and not as part of the voice cast. The staff and cast revealed to Ichiki that his audition process was fake, in what the news source Netlab reported as a "Candid Camera-style project." (This part of the event can be seen in the event's Ustream archive at the 1:06 mark.)
While Ichiki accepted the position of Public Relations Head, criticism of the event (and the ensuing laughter and teasing he received from other participants) began appearing on online forums. The criticism eventually led an overwhelming flow of comments to the blogs and Twitter accounts of people directly and indirectly involved with the event. That prompted the official statement, signed by "The Entire Staff of Kokoro Connect," which apologizes for "insufficient consideration regarding performers" leading to "widespread discomfort and misunderstanding."
The Kokoro Connect staff's statement goes on, asserting that there was a plan to have Ichiki travel across Japan over the three months of the anime's broadcast. However, the staff asserted that due to "selective alterations" of comments made in events and radio programs related to this campaign, comments "differing from their original intention" were posted to the Internet, causing widespread misunderstanding and confusion, for which the staff apologized.
The statement ended by promising that the entire staff of the series will seriously reflect on the incident in their future work on the program. The staff added that they are investigating the possibility of taking measures against "illegal acts" made in regards to the unauthorized usage, alteration, and uploading of sounds and images related to the series, as well as the leakage of personal information and "human rights violations" of individuals involved in the series.
In the wake of this situation, the official Kokoro Connect Bunken Shimbun online radio program for the show was canceled on Friday. Voice actress Eri Kitamura also announced that her agency deleted her Twitter account, after she received a number of offensive messages regarding an unproven personal involvement with Kokoro Connect's producer Takahiro Yamanaka. Kitamura is not part of the Kokoro Connect's cast.
Also on Sunday, Mitsuhiro Ichiki wrote a post on his official blog regarding the incident. He began by apologizing for the worry caused by the incident, as well as the damage that has occurred as a result of it.
Ichiki then asserted that while news websites are calling the situation involving him a case of "Candid Camera-style bullying and abuse-of-power harassment," he did not feel that either has taken place. Ichiki said that his appointment as a PR head, rather than as a voice actor, was a surprise to him, but he and his talent agency accepted the job after considering the situation.
Ichiki then asserted that he believes that if the situation were a true case of bullying, then the fans present at the June screening in question as well as its over 20,000 online viewers, along with the listeners of the later radio programs in question, would have reacted negatively at an earlier point in time. Ichiki also expressed his feelings of sadness that colleagues he has worked to build relationships with have been "slandered" online as a result of the situation and due to articles online that "twisted the truth" and "edited videos" that "tricked" users.
Ichiki continued that the various acts in the campaign were able to be carried out because of his friendly relationship with the other individuals involved and in the interest of entertaining fans. He also wrote that he has no feelings of ill will toward anyone involved in the series, including the title's producer, Takahiro Yamanaka.
Other voice actors involved in the production of the series and its promotion have also made similar statements regarding the incident, including Hisako Kanemoto (link), Takuma Terashima (link), Asuka Ōgame (link), and Takahiro Mizushima (link).
The Kokoro Connect/Ishiki controversy garnered attention after Hajime Kikuchi (no relation to the voice actor of the same name), a member of the band eufonius, made denigrating comments toward singer Halko Momoi on Twitter. (The band provides Kokoro Connect's opening theme song.) Kikuchi later apologized for his comments, but both Kikuchi and Momoi have stopped using the service since then. Online posters discovered a number of controversial statements in a subsequent search of Kikuchi's Twitter postings, including some that were interpreted to be about the series and the incident in question.
Update: The Kokoro Connect Production Committee posted another statement on Tuesday. The committee members apologized for the further confusion caused by the "insufficient explanation" posted on Sunday.
The committee asserted that the original intent was to appoint Ichiki as the symbol of the anime's promotional campaign on radio, via Ustream, and at events. He would struggle in the beginning, but would overcome difficulties with his bonds with the others during the three-month "Tochi Random" caravan. The staff was also planning to make Ichiki part of the actual voice cast on or after episode 14.
However, the committee members asserted that they could not convey the original intentions of their plan due to their lack of careful direction and execution, which offended many people's feelings. Despite the cooperation of Ichiki, the voice cast, and the staff, this caused confusion and offended the fans of the cast. They said that took this seriously, will reflect on this, and apologized.
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