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
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.
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!!”
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.”
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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.”
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’.”
Likewise, @JasonTheTodds noted, “They think matching skin color to VA is what fans want or even care about. Truly a sad day in dub.”
“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.”
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.”
In a follow-up tweet, Quiñones further thanked “@VizMedia and Studiopolis for letting me play [her] even just a little bit.”
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'”.