It’s story may be one of redemption, but the film adaptations of the hit anime/manga aren’t being cut any slack.

The Japanese entertainment world is still reeling from the revelation earlier this week that Nobuhiro Watsuki, creator of manga and anime franchise Rurouni Kenshin, had been collecting child porn. While Watsuki is yet to be formally arrested or convicted, he is presently under investigation on suspicion of violating Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Law, and his admission to ownership of videos of naked minors, plus telling investigators “I liked girls between the ages of upper elementary school students to about the second year of junior high,” has been seen as fairly damning evidence by the general public.

As an extremely law-abiding society, Japan, and by extension its companies, take criminal activity very seriously. Japanese celebrities, in general, don’t enjoy nearly the same lenience for criminal offences that their Western counterparts do, and the incident is already affecting the production and distribution of the Rurouni Kenshin franchise. Almost as soon as news broke about Watsuk’s child pornography collection, published Shueisha announced it would be suspending the serialization of the just-launched, Watsuki-drawn Rurouni Kenshin manga continuation, and now the hammer is dropping again, this time on the live-action Rurouni Kenshin films.

A rare bright spot in the often foolhardy genre of anime-to-live-action category (yes, even Japan itself can drop the ball on such endeavors), the first live-action Rurouni Kenshin movie was released in 2012, and while it wasn’t a smash hit, reactions from existing fans, series newcomers, and film critics were almost universally positive. A pair of successful sequels were released just six weeks apart in 2014, and the sustained popularity of the trilogy had convinced Japanese satellite TV network NECO to broadcast all three films back-to-back-to-back on the evening of November 25, just four days after the Watasuki investigation was publicly announced.

NECO has now decided to cancel the films’ broadcast, replacing the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy with other programming including a documentary on Japanese fishermen and anime crossover Lupan III vs. Detective Conan The Movie. “We take the allegations of illegal activity by the original creator very seriously, and will be substituting other programs,” NECO said in a statement, adding “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but ask you’re your understanding.”

▼ Trailer for the second and third live-action Rurouni Kenshin films

As a live-action venture, the Rurouni Kenshin movie trilogy isn’t quite the direct-from-Watsuki’s-mind product that the manga is. Watsuki’s only credit for the films is as “original creator,” and the on-screen presence of flesh-and-blood performers also helps act as a mental cushion between the films and the franchise’s creator in a way that manga and anime don’t. Still, NECO apparently feels that the association between Watsuki, and his societally reprehensible tastes, is currently too strong for it to air the films. It’s likely this won’t be the last time a Japanese media distributor opts not to handle the franchise, and NECO’s decision to distance itself from the films may indicate that a rumored fourth live-action Rurouni Kenshin movie now faces a very difficult road in getting green-lit.

Source: Livedoor News/J Cast News via Jin
Top image: YouTube/ワーナー ブラザース 公式チャンネル