Viz Media Brings Back Wendee Lee As Yoruichi For ‘Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War’, Claims “Misunderstanding” Over Schedules Led To Recasting Role With Anairis Quiñones

Yoruichi Shihouin (Wendee Lee) unveils her latest weapon in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 22 "Marching Out The Zombies" (2023), Pierrot
Yoruichi Shihouin (Wendee Lee) unveils her latest weapon in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 22 "Marching Out The Zombies" (2023), Pierrot

In a surprising move given the Western anime industry’s current obsession with ‘authentic casting’, Viz Media has announced that they will be reversing course on their decision to cast voice actress Anairis Quiñones as the new voice of Yoruichi Shihouin in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War and will instead be giving the role back to the woman who provided her initial English-language portrayal, Wendee Lee.

Yoruichi Shihoin

Yoruichi Shihoin (Wendee Lee) recalls the Soul King in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 24 “Too Early to Win, Too Late to Know” (2023), Pierrot

RELATED: Western Voice Actors Accuse Crunchyroll Of Bigotry For Casting White Actress As Suletta In English Dub Of ‘Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury’

Fans first discovered that Viz Media had recast the Soul Society’s resident ninja on October 7th, courtesy of Quiñones herself.

Announcing her new role via her personal Twitter account, the the English-language voice of My Hero Academia’s Mirko Anairis Quiñones excitedly informed her followers, “I’m the English voice of Yoruichi in Bleach – Thousand Year Blood War!!”

bleach yoruichi

Archive Link: Anairis Quiñones Twitter

However, fans were taken aback by this news, as not only had Viz thus far done their due diligence in bringing back as many cast members from their original Bleach dub as possible, but Lee had also expressed explicit interest in reprising the role.

Speaking to the topic during an August interview with YouTuber Chris Mayek, Lee asserted,”I have not been a big part of it yet. I have a very small role as Menoly, who showed up early in the first few episodes, so I got to come in and do that, but I’m like, ‘So when do we get to Yoruichi?’ That’s the one I’m really waiting for.”

[Time Stamp: 46:03]

RELATED: ‘Bleach’ Dub Voice Actor Jamieson Price Reveals He Declined To Return As Chad In ‘Thousand-Year Blood War’ Because He “No Longer Auditions For Roles Of People Of Color”

Following this discovery, upset fans took to social media to voice their frustrations with the decision, with many presuming, in light of any communication from Viz Media, that the recasting was based entirely on the races of the voice actresses involved.

Among the first to do so was Twitter user @PlatinumEquinox, who shared an image of both Yoruichi and Lee herself and lamented, “I’m quite saddened that Wendee Lee wasn’t given the opportunity to make a return as Yoruichi for the TYBW Dub. It is what it is I guess.”

yoruichi dub

@PlatinumEquinox via Twitter

Offering their read of the situation, @J_Bird7620 retweeted @PlatinumEquinox’s initial tweet and asserted, “Because they’d rather have a black woman play an Asian woman for a ANIME show to be inclusive”.

“And that means a lady working hard for this character got fired for no reason”, he added, “Westernisation of things are silly ‘because she’s a darker cartoon she needs to be played by a dark person’.”

yoruichi dub

@J_bird7620 via Twitter

Likewise, @JasonTheTodds noted, “They think matching skin color to VA is what fans want or even care about. Truly a sad day in dub.”


@JasonTheTodds via Twitter

“The voice actor doesn’t need to be the same ethnicity as the character they’re voicing,” argued@Ywatch3. “The new Dub is suffering because of this stupid mindset.”

yoruichi dub

@Ywatch3 via Twitter

And while most fans were ready to accept that their feedback would be, as usual, dismissed, in a shocking turn of events, it was revealed that Viz Media had decided to reverse course on Yoruichi’s casting.

Just two weeks after initially announcing that she had received the role, Quiñones informed her fans, “The [dubbing] studio [Studiopolis] & client [Viz Media] decided to go in a different direction, so I am no longer voicing Yoruichi in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War and my recordings will be replaced.”

“It meant a lot to take on such an iconic [Woman of Color],” she added. “I appreciate all the love!! I’ll still be voicing Hiyori.”

bleach yoruichi

Archive Link Anairis Quiñones via Twitter

In a follow-up tweet, Quiñones further thanked “@VizMedia and Studiopolis for letting me play [her] even just a little bit.”


Archive Link Anairis Quiñones via Twitter

Following Quiñones’ tweets, Studiopolis provided the first official statement on the entire situation to Anime News Network.

“We would like to address the ‘Yoruichi Shihoin’ in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War episode #22,” wrote the dubbing studio. “It was always Studiopolis’ intent to keep as many of the established cast members as possible from the original Bleach anime.”

“There was a misunderstanding that ‘Yoruichi Shihoin’ was part of the list of the original cast members who were unavailable to participate in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War,” they explained. “In error, our casting coordinator offered Anairis Quiñones the role. By the time this error came to our attention, it was too late to correct before episode 22 was released. We would like to take this opportunity to apologize once again, and express how much we appreciate their talents, and enjoy working with Anairis and Wendee who will both continue to add their voice work to Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War with Wendee as ‘Yoruichi Shihoin’ and Anairis as ‘Hiyori Sarugaki'”.


Yoruichi Shihouin (Wendee Lee) in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 22 “Marching Out The Zombies” (2023), Pierrot

NEXT: Western Voice Actor SungWon ‘ProZD’ Cho Unhappy Reaping What He Sowed,  Complains That Industry Is Now Segregating Roles By Race