CULTURE

My Hero Academia Backlash and the Art of the Bad Faith Take

#WeSupportYouHorikoshi is a nice sentiment, but the threat is mostly imaginary.

The My Hero Academia Twitter fandom is up in arms against the evil SJW portion of the My Hero Academia fandom over their brazen attempts to cancel the popular manga series' creator, Kohei Horikoshi...Or at least that's what some bad faith actors want you to believe.

According to Bounding Into Comics––a nerd culture website deemed to have a "Mixed" factual reporting record by Media Bias Fact Check, as well as a strong right-wing bias due to "editorial positions that align with the alt-right"––Horikoshi is experiencing major backlash from "outraged readers" who discovered that a few of the characters have the same birthdays as historic fascist figureheads like Adolf Hitler and WWII Japanese Navy Admiral, Isoroku Yamamoto. Their article proceeds to claim the backlash has "rampant support" before embedding a video titled, "Outrage crowd labels Hero Academia 'My FASCISM Academy', now they're upset over Characters BIRTHDAYS" by a YouTuber whose content includes an endless stream of videos defending a Funimation voice actor who was fired over multiple sexual assault accustions by both co-workers and fans.

Hero Hei "Quality Content"

It should also be noted that this controversy comes right on the heels of a prior backlash over a character's name, "Maruta Shiga," which seemed to potentially reference victims of human experimentation in Japan during WWII. This prior backlash was swift and widespread, resulting in Horikoshi and Shueisha (My Hero Academia's publisher) issuing an apology, clarifying that the name was a play on words and that the reference was unintentional, and they agreed to immediately change the character's name.

Bounding Into Comics didn't seem to like that Horikoshi issued that initial apology, so they highlight this quote from the YouTuber: "...If there is anything they don't like in the show they can now organize together, bombard Horikoshi with hate and attempt to get him to change things because he's done that now. He has changed the content to their demands and apologized to them."

The problem isn't that Bounding Into Comics is outright lying in their article––There is, indeed, a tweet from a Japanese Twitter account, @Object501, which points out the same birthdays and currently has 28,000 likes. The story also seems to have received at least some coverage in Japanese media. The problem is that Bounding Into Comics is skewing the story to fit their own agenda. Their take, as seems to be the trend amongst alt-right media outlets and YouTubers, is intentionally made in bad faith and tailor-made to rile people up.

Because there's one more very important aspect of this story, which Bounding Into Comics only kind of mentions deep into their article: This new backlash is almost entirely limited to Chinese and Korean Twitter accounts, many of which are either brand new or low-follow accounts displaying bot-like behavior, with very little support from Japanese or English-speaking accounts. But why would Bounding Into Comics intentionally obfuscate that fact?

Bounding Into Comics is an American website. They know that the vast majority of their readers hail from Western countries, and when a person from a Western country reads an article about cancel-related backlash, they typically assume that backlash is also coming from a Western audience unless something is explicitly stated to the contrary. Considering their status as a major hub for Comicsgate––an alt-right movement that primarily targets and harasses women, people of color, and LGBT people in the comic book industry––Bounding Into Comics also knows that the majority of their readers are politically right-leaning people with an active grudge against "SJWs." As such, by presenting My Hero Academia's detractors as "fans attempting to find the smallest source of fuel for an outrage mob" instead of "primarily people in China and Korea, many of them almost certainly bots," they can rile up their followers against an imaginary SJW fanbase that doesn't actually exist, without technically lying.

Their tactics work alarmingly well. Western My Hero Academia fans got #WeSupportYouHorikoshi trending on Twitter in the United States, with concerned fans offering support for Horikoshi mixed with targeted outrage at "the My Hero Academia fanbase" and "SJWs" in equal measure. The scariest part is that many of the Tweets express understanding and even agreement about the initial "Maruta Shiga" name complaints, but they have now decided that the fanbase has gone too far. Many of them are even actively expressing fear that this backlash will cause Horikoshi to quit the manga industry...which, no, that's absurd.

Funnily enough, the main My Hero Academia subreddit is entirely unconcerned with any of this manufactured drama and has continued to enjoy the series as usual.

My Hero academia class 1a Shueisha

To be crystal clear, the initial backlash to the "Maruta Shiga" name was entirely real and wholly understandable, considering Japan's atrocities with Unit 731. By being honest about the miscommunication, apologizing, and changing the name, Horikoshi did right by his fans. On the contrary, the birthday backlash, to the extent that it actually exists, is absurd and a complete non-issue. But by purposely conflating the two, and pretending that there's major Western My Hero Academia fan outrage over the latter, Bounding Into Comics has successfully convinced many fans on Twitter that Horikoshi's initial apology was a misstep that opened floodgates to SJWs' influence over their favorite series.

They present themselves as "rational" and "logical," imploring you to look beyond "the mainstream narrative" in order to "draw your own conclusions." But unlike any source with an ounce of integrity, they don't actually give you all the facts from which to draw your own conclusion. They lie through omission and suggestion, providing specific facts in a specific way to lead you to a specific conclusion, while disregarding or burying any facts that might lead you to the full picture. That's the real trick to alt-right bad faith takes.

Oh, and

My Hero Academia Season 4 is currently airing on Crunchyroll. Even better, you can read the entire manga series on VIZ.com. If you haven't checked it out yet, do yourself a favor. It's awesome.

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