Western Voice Actors Cry Racism After Viz Media Recasts Anairis Quiñones, Brings Back Wendee Lee As Yoruichi For ‘Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War’
A number of English-language voice actors have accused Viz Media of racism over their decision to have Yoruichi Shinouin’s original voice actress Wendee Lee, rather than her temporary and more diverse successor Anairis Quiñones, portray the ninja in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War.
As previously reported, Quiñones was originally cast as Yoruichi after a purported scheduling snafu left Viz Media and dubbing studio Studiopolis with the belief that Lee was unavailable to reprise the role for Thousand-Year Blood War.
However, after it was brought to the studio’s attention – thanks assumedly in no small part to the fan backlash to her recasting – that the voice actress was not only available for, but also still interested in the role, Viz Media changed course and gave the part back to Lee.
“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,” explained Studiopolis in an official statement provided to Anime News Network. “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’”.
Shortly after this change was announced, some of Lee’s colleagues in the voice acting industry took to social media to express their disagreement with what they saw as Viz Media being convinced by racists to rob a POC voice actor of their duly entitled role.
“Recasting Yoruichi is not a harmless act,” wrote the voice of Terry in The Dragon Prince, Benjamin Callins. “Actions like this set a standard for racist bigots who watch the show. It tells them: “if we scream loud enough, we can get poc uncast!”
“STUDIOS!! Stand behind your POC voice actors!!,” he then stressed. “The fact we have to keep saying this is disgusting!
Vanessa Benoit, the English voice of Yukiko Ikeda in FAISTUDIOS Girls Idol Project, declared Quiñones uncasting was “the reason why POC vos are vocal about accurate representation in casting.”
“Every time we take a step forward, the discriminatory decisions of big companies make us take several steps backward,” she said. “This whole thing is genuinely vile”.
Khoi Dao, who provides the voice of Desuhiko Thunderbolt in the video game Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, passive-aggressively chastised,”generally speaking, it’s cool when productions don’t kowtow to racist losers throwing tantrums about ‘diversity hires’ in their anime dubs”.
Kit Harrison (Eret in How to Train your Dragon) additionally attacked anime fans over Anaris’ uncasting “It’s really noticeable, by the way, that some anime fans will happily rail on dubs as shit for years and then suddenly be extremely invested in their integrity and quality when doing so means a talented black actress can have abuse hurled at her.”