Japan Sega game sales halted after cocaine arrest

Written by on March 13, 2019

Games firm Sega is to stop sales of its video game Judgment in Japan, after actor Pierre Taki, who appears in it, was arrested for alleged drug use.

Mr Taki, who plays a gangster in the game, was arrested on Tuesday night on suspicion of using cocaine.

Judgment had been on sale in Japan since December 2018, and is due to be published worldwide later this year.

As well as halting shipments and digital sales, Sega has said it will delete tweets relating to the game.

The 51-year-old actor, whose real name is Masanori Taki, is reported to have admitted using a small quantity of cocaine in Tokyo, according to the Japan Times.

This followed a search by authorities of Mr Taki’s car and home, and a subsequent arrest after traces of cocaine were found in a urine test.

Japan has strict drug laws, and possession of cocaine can carry a sentence of up to seven years.

The actor is a member of the pop group Denki Groove. He is also the voice of the snowman Olaf in the Japanese version of Disney’s Frozen.

But it is his role in a video game that is attracting the most controversy. Judgment, which is called Judge Eyes: Shinigami no Yuigon in Japan, features the voice and likeness of Mr Taki – who plays a Yakuza gangster called Kyohei Hamura.

“Sega has received the arrest reports and are currently confirming the facts, but for the time being, we will voluntarily refrain from shipments and digital sales of [Judgment], as well as from things like posting the product’s homepage,” the company said in a statement, as translated by the games website Gematsu.

On Twitter, Sega said it would also be deleting marketing tweets about the game.

Yakuza games

Judgment is due to be released in the UK and other countries in June. Sega did not immediately respond to a BBC question about whether the controversy would affect the UK version of the game.

This is not the first time that Sega has changed the course of a game because of an actor’s conduct.

When the company re-released Yakuza 4 for the PlayStation 4 in Japan, one of the game’s main protagonists was recast to be played by a different actor, Toshiki Masuda.

This was because the original actor Hiroki Narimiya had retired in 2016, following allegations of cocaine abuse.

“This game Judgment is a spin-off from the Yakuza games series, so now there have been two actors involved with this game series allegedly involved with cocaine,” said Jake Adelstein, an investigative journalist based in Tokyo.

“In Japan, that’s not a publicity plus.

“The arrest of Taki by Japan’s equivalent of the Drug Enforcement Agency is an embarrassment to Sega. In Japan, getting caught using drugs is a career ender.”

Even if Mr Taki is recast, it may be hard for Sega to erase him entirely from the virtual world of Judgment. “Video game fans are nothing if not diligent, and bootleg translations of foreign games crop up fairly frequently,” says games journalist Elliot Gardner.

“With a final product already in circulation in Japan, I cannot believe Sega will keep the game hidden away from sight for long.”

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