The My Hero Academia manga series hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of controversy in the past, but the recent reveal of a villain character’s name has put it in a somewhat unfavorable spotlight. The character in question is a scientist who works with the league of villains and performs experiments on human subjects, and his name draws unfortunate parallels to some real-world atrocities.
The name was revealed as Maruta Shiga, which may seem innocuous enough until you put together some connections to the past. One such connection is the word maruta itself, which was also the Japanese term for human test subjects who underwent experimentation in Japanese-occupied Manchuria leading up to and during World War II.
The group in operation in the region was the Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731. The unit forcibly sourced test subjects from civilian and politically dissident local populations, and were accused of experimenting on infants, pregnant women, and mentally handicapped people through methods such as purposeful infection. The unit’s facility was disguised as a lumber mill, hence the dehumanizing term maruta, or “logs.”
As a result, the name Maruta Shiga, particularly in this context, was met with serious backlash online. It even resulted in the series being removed from certain distribution platforms in China, so it warranted a response from both publisher Shueisha and Horikoshi himself.
— 少年ジャンプ編集部 (@jump_henshubu) February 7, 2020
Apologies were offered, and according to the official statement, any connection between the character and the aforementioned atrocities are purely coincidental. The end result is that the character’s name will be changed ahead of the publication of the collected volume in which the reveal takes place.
Here’s what Horikoshi said:
Regarding the name Maruta Shiga, which appears in Chapter 259 of My Hero Academia, I sincerely apologize for the great discomfort this inadvertently caused to many people.
Regarding the name Shiga, the character himself was infatuated with All For One, the previous boss of the League of Villains whose real name was Shigaraki. In order to feel closer to Shigaraki, the character took a part of his last name, and began calling himself “Shiga.” As for “Maruta,” the name was chosen to give a feeling of chubby rotundness. Both are coincidences, and I had no intention whatsoever of causing any emotional pain to readers. I apologize from the bottom of my heart.
Moving forward, I will make efforts so that nothing like this ever happens again.
Hopefully this means that My Hero Academia will once again be available legally in China soon.