The following contains sensitive content, including discussion of pedophilia.
In September 2017, fans of the samurai manga Rurouni Kenshin were excited to see manga-ka Nobuhiro Watsuki return to writing with Rurouni Kenshin: Hokkaido Arc; however, publication of the series was suspended three months later, as Watsuki was arrested on charges of possession of child-pornography DVDs in November of that year. He pleaded guilty, and was fined ¥200,000 (approximately US$1,500).
When Rurouni Kenshin: Hokkaido Arc resumed publication in June 2018, many of the same fans had been excited for more content were understandably disgusted that the series was continuing — and that Watsuki himself faced hardly any consequences.
Did Manga-ka Nobuhiro Watsuki Go to Jail?
After paying a negligible fine, Watsuki was suspended for only half a year before he was back to work at Shueisha (the publisher of the Shonen Jump line of magazines). Publishing and promotion of Kenshin continued as though nothing had happened. Jump Square‘s editorial department claimed, “The author spends his days reflecting and with remorse, and think as though it’s our obligation as a publisher as well as his as an author make a way for us to reply through the work to the various opinions we’ve been getting.” Kenshin and Shishio were playable in the Jump Force video game, and two more live-action Rurouni Kenshin films were announced. Kenshin continues to be heavily merchandised and promoted throughout Japan.
Viz Media, the American publisher of Shonen Jump, split the difference between keeping Kenshin around and canceling it entirely. The original manga series is still in print and available through the Shonen Jump website and app; however, Viz ceased translating Rurouni Kenshin: Hokkaido Arc following Watsuki’s arrest, and decided not to continue translation when the series resumed in Japan.
Demand for Rurouni Kenshin Outweighed Shueisha’s Moral Apprehension
The situation is made even more uncomfortable given that Watsuki was a mentor figure at Shonen Jump due to Kenshin‘s success; it seems he’s maintained that standing even in light of his crimes. One Piece‘s Eiichiro Oda and Shaman King‘s Hiroyuki Takei were two of the most famous artists trained by Watsuki, and they still seem to consider him a friend. Oda even interviewed Watsuki for a planned Rurouni Kenshin exhibition in Japan.
On some level, Shueisha’s desire to keep Rurouni Kenshin in the public eye is understandable, as it’s a series that meant a lot to many people. That meaning, however, has been poisoned by its creator’s actions. If fans can read their old manga volumes and separate the art from the artist enough to still enjoy them, more power to them. That said, they might not want to continue spending money on the series, given that Watsuki will financially benefit from the profits.