‘Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War’ Yoruichi Casting Snafu Exposes Identity Politics’ Chokehold On The Western Entertainment Industry As Aspiring Voice Actors Rush To Defend Race-Based Casting

Yoruichi (Wendee Lee) finds herself hard-pressed to find an opening against Aizen (Kyle Herbert) in Bleach Episode 300 "Urahara Appears! Stop Aizen!" (2010), Studio Pierrot
Yoruichi (Wendee Lee) finds herself hard-pressed to find an opening against Aizen (Kyle Herbert) in Bleach Episode 300 "Urahara Appears! Stop Aizen!" (2010), Studio Pierrot

Viz Media’s recent kerfuffle surrounding the role of Yoruichi in Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War continues to expose just how deep the ideology of identity politics runs in the Western voice acting business, as not only was the ninja’s recasting met with accusations of racism by established VAs, but it has also prompted those aspiring to one day join the industry to defend their seniors’ race-based ideologies.

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

RELATED: 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

Take, for example, indie voice actor Kiran Kumar.

Taking to Twitter on October 23rd in the wake of Wendee Lee’s being brought back to role of Yoruichi over her replacement Anairis Quiñones, Kumar claimed that “in an IDEAL world, any voice actor could play any character of any race. But we’re not in an ideal world. White voice actors have played both White characters AND characters of other races for years while POC actors just got whatever was left.”

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Archive Link Kiran Kumar via Twitter

Proceeding to pen a lengthy thread in defense of the practice, Kumar would eventually summarize of his argument, “Is ‘X race actor to X race character’ a perfect solution? No. In an imperfect world, it’s an imperfect solution that’s far superior to the previous practice in terms of promoting equity. Even so, implementation has been something patchy.”

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Archive Link Kiran Kumar via Twitter

Kumar then explicitly admitted that race-based casting was rooted in hypocrisy, positing to himself the hypothetical question, “‘But Kiran, shouldn’t POC actors then be barred from playing White characters?'” before answering, “No. Because the goal is equity.”

“And even when, say, a Mexican actor plays a White character, White actors still have the lion’s share of roles proportionally,” he added.

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Archive Link Kiran Kumar via Twitter

“No one is defined solely by their race,” he then asserted. “But race plays a part. And the fact is, all other things being equal, White folks have more opportunities than folks of color (Black folks for instance being systemically oppressed in the US for centuries).”

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Archive Link Kiran Kumar via Twitter

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’

Likewise, Shakyra Dunn angrily espoused, “I’m saying it. I don’t care. Wendee Lee coming back to be Yoruichi and replacing Anairis is a slap in the face to all POC voice actors. It’s a kick in the teeth and it 100% proves people would rather have bigotry and racism, and baseless criticism be better than what’s deserved.”

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Archive Link Shakyra Dunn via Twitter

“It’s bulls–t,” she continued. “And I’m so angry and irritated by it. I don’t believe in the concept of ‘the right talent for the job,’ because you HAD the right talent. You chose correctly letting a POC play a POC. One that suited even more so. And you chose to sink down and cave.”

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Archive Link Shakyra Dunn via Twitter

Echoing their peers and retweeting Dunn, Gale Rivera decried, “For anyone who is out here with the ‘We just want the Legacy cast’ defense, there were so many other recast that happened that you didn’t do this shit for, and you went for the black woman.”

“Realize the ‘Yikes’ you put yourself in'” he added, offering no specific examples of any such similar recastings to back up their argument. “Black people have a right to be pissed.”

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Archive Link Gale Rivera via Twitter

Suffice to say, barring a major cultural shift in the coming years, this self-defeating trend of race-based casting will only continue to flourish within the Western entertainment industry.

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