Update: Sega has announced that Judgment’s release date in the west is unaltered and that the game is still coming out on June 25. However, the company has noted that the mo-cap and voice performance of the character Kyohei Hamura will be “adjusted.” While it isn’t clear what that means, it definitely suggests Pierre Taki, who was arrested on suspicion of cocaine use, is being replaced. You can read the statement in full here:
Due to unforeseen circumstances, the character model and Japanese voice for the character of Kyohei Hamura will be adjusted for the Western release of Judgment, launching on June 25, 2019. Screenshots and trailers featuring Hamura have been temporarily removed from all of SEGA’s official channels. Updated versions of these materials will be made available at a later date.
Original Story: Last year, Sega revealed Judgment, a new title adjacent to the Yakuza series that features a lot of the same gameplay and takes place in Kamurocho. It was released in December to decent critical acclaim and is scheduled to be released in the west this Summer, but a recent issue with an actor in the game may have totally derailed Sega’s future plans.
Like Yakuza, Judgment uses real film and often well-known actors to play the parts of the characters in the game for both marketing and performance quality reasons. One of the actors used this time around is Pierre Taki, a member of the Japanese synthpop group Denki Groove Band and actor in movies like Attack on Titan and Shin Godzilla, as well as the Japanese dub voice of Olaf in Frozen. Late last night, Japanese police arrested Taki on possession and use of cocaine, setting off a firestorm that has resulted in the entire game being pulled from shelves and digital stores.
On Tuesday night, Taki took a mandated drug test that showed cocaine in his system, prompting an official narcotics investigation by police. While no cocaine was found in his car, police believe the drugs in his system and a South Korean won bill that they allege he used as a straw for the drugs painted enough of a picture to arrest the actor for possession and use of cocaine.
Sega responded swiftly by removing the game for sale. We contacted Sega of America last night to ask if this delays any plans for the western release of the game, they declined to comment on the situation. Meanwhile Sega will not be shipping any more copies of the game, at least until they do whatever it is they are going to do about it.
This is not the first time this specific thing has happened with Sega and the Yakuza studio in particular. The recent release of the Yakuza 4 remaster completely recast one of its four protagonists after accusations of cocaine use. It is unclear if Sega plans to do the same thing for Judgment, especially as that would be a lot of work for the same release of the game.
Disney has also released a statement saying that they are looking into recasting Taki in the upcoming Frozen 2.
For the moment, Judgment is still intended to release in the west on June 21.
This seems like a massive overreaction on basically every level. I don’t think anyone will argue that Taki is virtuous for his drug use, but pulling the game from sale and basically burning his career to the ground over this seems insane. I get that different cultures are going to view drug use differently on societal levels, but considering how possession of cocaine is considered a bigger taboo and career-ender than possession of child pornography, some priorities are absolutely out of whack here.