Voice actress Ai Kayano is noteworthy for voicing characters like Darkness from KonoSuba and Alice in Sword Art Online: Alicization. Earlier this year back in February, she was met with criticism from Chinese social media after visiting Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial dedicated to the Japanese lives lost during various wars, some of whom are war criminals.
As a result of the backlash, Yostar, a Chinese video game publisher, removed the voice of characters performed by Ai Kayano back in June. This includes the likes of Platinum from Arknights and 7 characters from Azur Lane. In August, Kuro Game followed suit by removing the voice actress’ performance of Liv in Punishing Gray Raven.
Note that these changes only affected the Chinese server of the above games. Kayano’s voice lines are still present in the Global and Japanese versions of Arknights, Azur Lane and Punishing Gray Raven.
This led many to believe that Global and Japanese servers of these games will remain untouched. However, a few weeks ago, Reddit user Yahello posted a screenshot on the Punishing Gray Raven subreddit on 26th August, revealing a message sent to the user by the Punishing Gray Raven Facebook page.
The game’s Facebook page informed Yahello that Liv’s voice will be removed from the Global version, as seen below:
The legitimacy of the above screenshot was brought to question. Yahello posted the following video to further support the claim.
Curious, on 15th September, I messaged the Punishing Gray Raven Facebook page myself. Here is their response:
It appears that Punishing Gray Raven‘s response has changed to a more general answer, rather than the clear affirmation of removal that Yahello obtained.
Granted, if Kuro Game truly had no plans to remove Liv’s voice for Global, they should have made it clear once the question was raised. This is cause for concern as the removal of Liv’s voice in Global (and likely Japan as well) will definitely add pressure towards Yostar, who have left the voices of their characters in Global unaffected since the CN server removal in June.
The future of Chinese gacha games
Other Chinese video game companies, like miHoYo and Netease, opted to secure replacements for the characters voiced by Kayano. The voice of Kyuushou Houraji from Gun Girl Z was changed to Yuki Kanna in July, while the voice of Komatsuru from Onmyoji was changed to Miyuri Shimabukuro back in April. These changes affected not only the Chinese servers, but also the other servers of these games.
The newest Construct that will be added to Punishing Gray Raven CN is a new frame for Liv, who will be voiced by Miku Itō. Thus, it is possible that Itō will be replacing Kayano’s voice lines for Liv’s other frames as well. As a result, Yostar, who likely has to secure a new voice actress to record the voice for their games’ characters, will most definitely implement the changes to the other servers to streamline the games.
China’s crackdown on video games has been extra intense as of late. Earlier this week, characters based on Chinese mythology and history in Fate/Grand Order not only had their voice lines and character art removed, but also had their names altered. Last week, the CCP ordered Chinese game companies to cut down on “effeminate” imagery of male characters. Towards the end of August, it was announced that minors in China were only allowed to play several hours of video games a week.
It’s a turbulent time to be a gacha gamer in China at the moment, and the ripples will definitely spread overseas. Only time will tell how much the characters and games that we know and love will change.