On the final day of last year, AniplexUS posted a trailer to their YouTube page announcing the western release of a new expansion to the popular role-playing mobile game Fate/GrandOrder, titled Epic of Remnant. The expansion had previously been a Japanese exclusive, having been available in Japan since February 24th, 2017.
Following this trailer, some fans noticed that the character of Emiya (Alter) had gone through a slight redesign: his skin had been lightened and his lips were less pronounced than in the original version:
This change, done in an effort to distance Emiya (Alter) from offensive and racist blackface imagery, was made in part due to localizers addressing the potential for controversy and claims of racist designs. During a panel at Anime Weekend Atlanta hosted by Albert Kao, an Aniplex producer responsible for Fate/Go’s localization, Kao took a moment to address why (Emiya) was changed. His address to the audience at Anime Weekend Atlanta was reported by Reddit user Skarthe.
Q5) Has JP ever asked the NA team for input on things for the JP version?
A5) The NA team isn’t considered as important, but NA does give JP feedback though. “When Emiya Alter came out, everybody was like ‘F***, what are you doing, Japan?’ Or when they just cross the line and be like, ‘hey, let’s combine like, loli and tentacles.’ Why, Japan?” For objectionable things, NA will be like “please stop”. Sometimes JP agrees and changes it, sometimes they do it anyway. Which has happened, but he doesn’t have a good example he can talk about right now. Might become a funny story down the line. Speaking of which, he asked if anyone reads Japanese and has read FGO Material V (note: there are translations of a bit of it available on /r/FGOGuide for those wondering); spoiler alert: the creation concept behind Emiya Alter is “what would happen if we put Emiya in prison.” (cue nervous laughter from the room) “No. Exactly. When I saw that – because I got Material V last week – when I saw that line, I screamed in the office.” The Internet exists, that character is out there, and people do fan translations of these things, so people will put two and two together. Sometimes he asks how people feel about Emiya Alter, and it’s generally not a favorable reaction. Even the relatively favorable reactions don’t think he’s ok to, say, post on the side of the Wells Fargo building. So for stuff like that, they have power to say “Japan, please stop, for the love of God.” (Related: Albert got permission to change the “Detroit Emiya” line, so that won’t be as bad…) They don’t want to dishonor artists’ intentions, but…
Fans were divided regarding the alteration of Emiya (Alter)’s design. For some, it was a positive change that aimed to distance the character from racist iconography:
i just noticed that eng fgo changed alter emiya just slightly AND THANKS GOD IT LOOKS MUCH BETTER. i hate jpn version of alter emiya because it is flat out terrible caricature.
this looks more like emiya than “Bob” that we called him when he came out in jpn. pic.twitter.com/DmVt7SNSgX
— Sharkie @ Bonaire 🇧🇶 (@NUT4ISKANDAR) January 3, 2019
This is one of the rare cases where the altered version is better. Alter Emiya does not remember in nothing the original one…
— Allvo, the Paladin (@PaladinAllvo) January 8, 2019
Oh I’m so fucking glad Emiya Alter’s Art for EoR was changed for NA to look less racist
— Raven Cursebreaker 🌙 (@aIucardtepes) January 4, 2019
i’m glad that the localization team were against the casual racism in emiya alter’s design and were able to get those things changes before EoR hits
— ericka @ TC菊地真 (@kireifucker) January 3, 2019
For others, this change was seen as blatant censorship which ignored Emiya (Alter)’s backstory and the original intentions of the artist:
They literally forgot that Emiya Archer became tanned because he used his magecraft so much it burned his skin. Emiya Alter has it worse so his skin is darker.
— The Small Cook (@AmaiDolce2x) January 8, 2019
Archer Emiya doesnt look like a natural tanned person because hes not natural tanned. His skin colour is part of his identity, journey and in Alters case bad decisions and thus it never needed to look natural.
— Raith (@FluffyRaith) January 7, 2019
2019 and we’re still on this shit smh
Also, considering how Emiya Alter is actually tinted a grayish black (to show he’s pale and distorted compared to the normal Emiya), it says a lot that they looked at him and thought “Black people, huh?”
Don’t think about it I guess lol pic.twitter.com/lU6us818Tg
— 「Star☆Gate☆Kaiser」 (@KaiserCrimson_1) January 7, 2019
@FateGO_USA Im so disappointed I spent money on your game, youre never getting another penny from me again, you say “you’ll never disrespect the artists” but them force them to change their vision with Emiya alter
Please be better
— ice birb❄️🐦 🇨🇦 @ CANADA (@aniviasenpai) January 8, 2019
This is not the first time that Fate/Go has made changes due to differing sensibilities across the world. In 2018, the characters of Shuten Doji, Raikou, and Gorgon were censored in China due to the suggestive and risqué natures of their designs. This also occurred in 2017, when Boudica and Mata Hari were censored in China for being ‘too erotic’.