Fans of the samurai manga Rurouni Kenshin, written by Nobuhiro Watsuki, who is also the author of Buso Renkin and Embalming: The Another Tale of Frankenstein, were thrilled to see him return to his first major success with The Hokkaido Arc in September 2017. The publication of the series was put on hold three months later. Many of those same fans were disgusted that the series was continuing when The Hokkaido Arc started back up in June 2018.
What occurred during that time that caused everyone's opinions to change? Watsuki was detained in November 2017 on suspicion of possessing DVDs containing child pornography. He admitted to being a pedophile who was drawn to girls in elementary and middle school and entered a guilty plea.
Has Manga-ka Nobuhiro Watsuki been imprisoned?
Almost no punishment was meted out for such a horrendous crime. His only statutory penalty was a fine of 200,000 yen, or $1,780. Watsuki's suspension lasted only six months before he was back at Shueisha, the magazine publisher behind the Shonen Jump series, and continuing to write The Hokkaido Arc. Outrage was generated by the fact that he received such a light sentence for a crime that involved the exploitation and abuse of actual children, whereas nonviolent drug crimes in Japan are punished much more harshly under the legal system.
Shueisha, however, has gone about business as usual, publishing and promoting Kenshin as if none of this ever 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, two more live-action Rurouni Kenshin were announced, and Kenshin continues to be heavily merchandised and promoted throughout Japan.
Viz Media, the American publisher of Shonen Jump, has 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 The Hokkaido Arc following Watsuki's arrest, and decided not to continue translating when the series resumed in Japan.
Demand for Rurouni Kenshin Exceeded Shueisha's Moral Hesitation
If judging Watsuki by his work alone, he'd probably be the last manga-ka suspected of such a crime. Rurouni Kenshin was a deeply moral series about atoning for one's sins and didn't contain even a hint of the inappropriate sexuality common in much otherwise-respected manga. Making the situation even more uncomfortable is that Watsuki was a mentor figure at Shonen Jump due to Kenshin's success, and 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.
Shueisha's desire to keep Rurouni Kenshin in the public eye makes sense on some level given how much the series meant to so many people. But the actions of its creator have tainted that meaning. More power to fans who can read their old manga volumes and maintain an appreciation for the work while doing so. Knowing the kinds of materials Watsuki has purchased with his money, they might decide not to keep investing in the series.