It’s one thing to play a crime boss in a game, but when the real life actor starts breaking the law, Sega is ready to pull the plug.

On March 12, officials from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s Narcotics Control Department searched the home of veteran actor and musician Pierre Taki. The investigators were acting on information that the 51-year-old Taki (legal name Masanori Taki) was using cocaine. He provided a voluntary urine sample, and the test came back positive for the drug.

Taki has subsequently been placed under arrest, and has admitted “There is no mistake that I used cocaine.” While Japan has a robust domestic show business industry, the country tends to be far less lenient regarding celebrity drug use than many other countries, and whenever a well-known entertainer gets in trouble for narcotics use or possession, media distributors are quick to distance themselves from the figure at the center of the scandal.

While Taki is best known to music fans as one half of synth-pop duo Denki Groove, one of his most recent high-profile roles is in Judge Eyes, a video game from developer Sega that’s scheduled for Western release under the title Judgement. The latest game from the team behind the long-running Yakuza/Ryu ga Gotoku franchise, Judge Eyes is set in the seedy underbelly of real-life Tokyo neighborhood Shinjuku, and its hero is modeled on popular actor/musician/handsome dude Takuya Kimura, previously a member of boy band SMAP. Among the villains the player character goes up against is Kyohei Hamura, leader of the Matsugane-gumi yakuza syndicate, who is voiced by, and looks like, Taki.

▼ Kyohei Hamura (left) and Pierre Taki (right)

Following Taki’s arrest, Sega issued a statement, saying:

“The arrest of Pierre Taki, who is featured in our company’s title Judge Eyes, is something we find deeply regrettable.

We have heard the reports of his arrest, and are currently confirming the facts of the situation, but in the meantime, we have decided to voluntarily halt shipments of physical copies of the game as well as digital sales, and also to remove the game from our company website. We apologize for any trouble this causes our customers or other concerned parties.”

▼ True to Sega’s word, the once lavish website for Judge Eyes, which included extensive character profiles and screenshot collections, is now just a plain white background with the sales suspension statement.

▼ Taki’s character in Judge Eyes

The situation brings to mind the 2014 incident when Studio Ghibli delayed the release of a Blu-ray collection of the works of director Hayao Miyazaki, following the arrest of musician Aska, who’d provided the vocals for a Miyazaki-directed anime music video, on drug possession charges. A year later, copies of anime Kill Me Baby were pulled from circulation when voice actress Ai Takabe was arrested for cocaine possession.

The good news for gamers is that Sega is not currently planning to permanently suspend sales of Judge Eyes, as the statement closes with the company saying it is looking into the specifics of the case, and will make a decision regarding what to do at a later date. It’s not known if the suspension will affect the overseas release of the game, which was scheduled for June 25.

Sega’s decision highlights an emerging aspect of video game production, design, and management. As increasingly sophisticated graphics allow for near exact likenesses of real-world actors, who often go so far as to not only voice the characters, but provide facial motion capture, it becomes harder to separate the fictional character from the human performer, especially when the game’s developer taps into their star power by playing up the celebrity’s involvement in the game in marketing materials and through appearances at promotional events. The more difficult it gets to differentiate between Kyohei Hamura and Pierre Taki, the more likely a nervous decision maker at Sega is to feel like the actor’s actions are a reflection on the game, and by extension, the company.

However, while Sega itself isn’t going to sell you copy of the game, physical copies of Judge Eyes that have already shipped are still available, though their stocks are likely to start dwindling rapidly. On that same note, Taki is also the voice of comic relief snowman Olaf in the Japanese-language dub of Disney’s Frozen, and also reprises the role for Square Enix’s multi-franchise crossover Kingdom Hearts III, and while neither Disney nor Square Enix have said they’ll be suspending sales just yet, if you’ve been thinking about picking up the Japanese release of either, now’s probably the time.

Sources: Sega, NHK News Web
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