Director of MMO Junkie Denies the Holocaust; Let us Not Deny it Ourselves

My earliest school years were spent in Germany, where the country was as much my teacher as instructors in the classroom. My parents drove me throughout the country, to castles, villages, and most permanently in my memory, Dachau. As a six-year-old, I had no idea that more than 6,000,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps (I don’t think my young mind could have comprehended the number at the time—it barely can now), but even then, I understood the gravity of it all.

I remember visiting the crematorium and asking my dad what the structures in front of me—chambers made of brick and wood—were.

“Ovens,” he replied.

Timidly, I responded, “What for?”

“The bodies,” he answered.

After that visit, I knew that my life would somehow, in some way, involve the Holocaust. And though years passed and that visit largely fell out of my memory, the connection remained, and as an adult, I became the director of a state agency that focused on genocide education. I was now directly involved in the story of human dignity, of life, of love and strength, of evil and horror.

It cannot be understated, then, the disappointment I felt when learning that Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, the director of Recovery of an MMO Junkie, a favorite series among our staff (including myself), revealed himself to be an antisemite and Holocaust denier. The Twitter trail of his account shows that Yaginuma has been liking tweets of that persuasion for years, but an excellent piece by Anime News Network lays out more fully his personal thoughts on the topic, which have become more prominent as of late.

Among his recent tweets is this one, questioning the existence of gas chambers used by Nazis during the Holocaust to kill their victims:

I should say I’m shocked by Yaginuma’s tweets, but I’m not. Though I’m far away from hotbeds of antisemitism, my background in history (I still work as a historian) and my time working in genocide education has reminded me how alive this hateful movement still is. I worked with Holocaust and genocide survivors, some of whom still feared for their lives when they went to their home countries. I’ll reiterate that: they feared for their lives when returning home, some of them visiting more than 70 years after the Holocaust ended.

Genocide is still liable to break out at any time. The moments of the past are recorded for us to know, but the evil that caused it remains active in human hearts. I believe all of us are capable of great evil—the evidence being in the small evils we commit, the pain we inflict upon one another, and the trail of human history including the Holocaust, perpetrated by a people that were no less human than you and me.

As such, the Holocaust remains alive now, as do genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan, Bosnia, Iraq, and throughout the world. Some events are literally on-going, and some continue to brew as hatred between people groups bubbles and violence stirs in human hearts. The call after the Holocaust was to “never forget,” but we have forgotten—or maybe it’s more accurate to say that we remember and choose to ignore.

I don’t believe that some of us are called to work in genocide or that some of us simply choose to. Because the impact is so wide, the harm so drastic, and the connections to the human race so immovable, I believe it’s your story, too. It’s the story of all of us. As we stand up for those who don’t have a voice, as we look for opportunities to bring justice to those who have no recourse, and as we sacrifice our time, resources, and energy to rescue the powerless across the world, connecting us not by nationality or culture but by our human race, we fight this great evil. We take power away from the ignorant and cruel, like Yaginuma, and restore the value to the individuals which people like him would strip away. And hopefully we create a world where “never forget” becomes “never again,” a foundation upon which we can build a better life, seated in love and mercy and grace, for us all.


19 thoughts on “Director of MMO Junkie Denies the Holocaust; Let us Not Deny it Ourselves

  1. Thanks, Charles. I wasn’t sure what to write after I heard the news, but I think you’ve said what I wanted to and couldn’t (because I’ve never been to Dachau, for instance).

    Never forget.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I’m not sure, ultimately, what I wanted to really get out, so I’m glad this was helpful!

  2. Unbelievable how people can deny this fact. It’ something I don’t even have words for to describe how truly awful I feel when I read something like that. It may sound strange..and I know it might even sound pretty narrowminded, but I was planning on watching Recovery of an MMO junkie…but now…I am going to avoid. Now that I know this, I can’t in good conscience watch a show that has been directed by someone that makes statements like this.
    I think it’s terrific that you have written a post liked this. Some things can’t and must never be forgotten 😢

    1. Thank you! And I don’t think your decision is narrow minded at all. The reason I didn’t give a call is because we’ll al react differently in response, and all have different convictions (if any at all).

  3. I’m glad you spoke about this, and didn’t go so far as to suggest anime fans avoid Recovery of an MMO Junkie, which involves many other people who hopefully do not share Yaginuma’s beliefs. I was shocked to hear about the news, then surprised at the number of people suddenly turning on his works as if the two were intimately related. I understand where their aversion comes from even if I think condemning shows like MMO Junkie an overreaction.

    I do wish anime would stop writing favorable viewpoints from obviously Nazi characters. If they must cover the era, maybe they could try going with a result meant to convince viewers of the irredeemable results of war, like Tanya the Evil.

    1. It’s an interesting dilemma for fans of his work—at the very least, I’m glad people are thinking a little bit about how to react. I certainly didn’t want to call for viewers to react I’m a certain way, first because there are lots of complexities involved here (even if the director’s viewpoint shows a lack of complexity!) and we all will react and respond differently. My hope, though, is that this will move some of us a little closer to thinking about genocide and just generally of those suffering around the world, and maybe closer to the point of loving those in need through some sort of action.

  4. I’m actually…surprised, and heartened to hear that you are doing work like this, or that you did once do this. It honestly explains quite a bit about your genteel, warm, upright Christian nature. Christ works many wonders in you.

    My first…experience of that kind was much later in time. I was a high school student. The teacher pulled out one of those old-fashioned projectors and showed us a documentary on the Holocaust. I now only have extremely vague memories of that incident, so…I don’t know what video they showed us. What I do know is that I had many nightmares afterward. Whatever I saw chilled me right to my bones, and it plays deep in my mind when I try to think of what The Devil *is.*

    (Continued later)

      1. (continued) Part of the mistake people seem to make with evil (particularly many Christian churches, bizarrely enough) is to generalize it and to speak of “fighting it” in one’s own life…without really grappling with what it is. Anthropomorphizing it and imagining oneself meeting it, and seeing that it *is* within all these terrible things that have happened (rather than just some sort of ‘leader’; I don’t think it works like that— Is not God Love and is He not revealed through His works— i.e. the very beauty of the world?) goes a long way.

        “The moments of the past are recorded for us to know, but the evil that caused it remains active in human hearts. I believe all of us are capable of great evil—the evidence being in the small evils we commit, the pain we inflict upon one another, and the trail of human history including the Holocaust, perpetrated by a people that were no less human than you and me. As such, the Holocaust remains alive now, as do genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan, Bosnia, Iraq, and throughout the world.”

        I came to the same conclusions early, as well. Anime, manga, and video games inspired by Japanese animation seem like trivial things, of little consequence. But I owe my certainty that the Holocaust is not a fluke nor particularly abnormal in the grand scheme of human nature to these things. Tales of Symphonia and indeed *most* of the Tales games deal with human cruelty to sentient human-like beings, racism, prejudice, and their tragic consequences. It was badly acted, but the character Kratos’ line “Feel the pain…of these inferior beings….as you burn in Hell” was both satisfying and utterly resonant in the context of what was happening in the game: the repeated references to humans as “inferior beings,” the cruelties inflicted on them, and Kratos’ peculiar personal status as the rough equivalent of a human-turned-demon. (He does look spectacular with light wings. <__<;;;;) It forced me to see how easily those atrocities could be duplicated and replicated across time, in different contexts, with the involvement of different people.

        We are capable of this, and yet we we are capable of acts of the greatest courage and selflessness imaginable. We are tragic, and we are sacred.

        1. Thank you for sharing—you said it better than I could. While we often dehumanize the “others,” an action which is both an early stage of genocide and that which many of us do in our everyday lives (think politics, race, even the individuals standing on corners asking for money), we are also the ones who reach out and save, sometimes at great personal expense. What great horrors we’re capable of, and what great beauty.

  5. I have a lot of thoughts about this, so here goes:

    To start with, I am definitely very disappointed in Mr. Yaginuma for being so adamant about denying the holocaust, as well as his other anti-Semitic comments (his derogatory comment on anime “becoming Jewish” is just… eugh). You’ve said quite well just what a problem denying the Holocaust is, so I don’t need to say much more on that end.

    I will say, though, that at one point I have been unfortunate enough to come into online contact with a group of Christians who were intent on denying the Holocaust. Though to be fair, they were only denying the scale of the genocide rather than whether it happened at all or not, but it’s still really troubling. These people claimed they were doing it for the sake of “pursuing truth”, but it’s a clear example of pursuing truth without compassion, something I believe is very dangerous. Truth is a powerful thing when it comes to helping people, but when we forego compassion for being right for the sake of being right, it becomes all too easy to only look for the “facts” that support what we want to believe and ignore or explain away anything that says otherwise.

    Now, as for whether or not this makes me think any worse of the MMO Junkie anime, which was one I enjoyed a lot… no, it does not. Generally speaking, I don’t care too much for the beliefs of the people who make the things I use as a consumer, unless they directly impact their products. Since I don’t notice any anti-Semetic elements in MMO Junkie, I can let it slide (though I will definitely be careful of any anti-Semetic elements in this director’s future works).

    Really, if I were to boycott every anime created or directed by someone who believes in something I have a problem with… well, I would probably have to just give up on anime entirely. I’d likewise also have to give up on pretty much all fiction, really. Human beings being as sinful as we are, the chance of any given person believing in something problematic is way too high for me to worry about what the creators of every single work believe in. Besides, I believe that God can use fallen, sinful people to do great things, and that the works they create can be “redeemed” independently of their creators.

    That said, I completely understand if any given person no longer wants to watch this show, or otherwise feels much worse about it, because of this director’s beliefs. The Holocaust is a huge issue that has massively impacted people’s lives, and I hope no one tries to minimize that impact by claiming that someone is “overreacting”. At the same time, I hope no one tries to tear down those who are okay with the show still; we do not need any comments like “if you like MMO Junkie you must be a Nazi!” floating around and lighting more fires than necessary.

    1. I’m glad you brought up these points, Frank, especially the Christian angle. Unfortunately, we as Christians are often the ones to oversimplify situations and to take the “humanness” out of them—for better or worse. The article I wrote a couple months back about whether it’s okay for Christians to watch anime was aimed primarily at that audience, to push forward this idea you discussed that we as the creators of media are all sinners; that doesn’t mean we automatically fun from the product.

      That’s a lesson I’m having to teach myself. I grew up idolizing sports players with a very simple view of good guys and bad guys. Because if that, even today I want to pull for the creator and not just approach the work with an open mind. It’s an adjustment I continuing to make and MMO Junkie is I’m fact a good test of it!

  6. Ignorance is bliss. So why is it a problem for others, when he doesn’t want to see the horror. -In a way is healthier do not believe it. (Except when you live in countries where it is a crime do doubt it).
    HOW and WHY is far more interesting of a question.
    Guidelines for visitors for Dachau:
    “We recommend that children under the age of 12 do not visit the grounds, the museum or the former crematorium”

    1. That’s a dangerously small view of the world. Those who spread this kind of hate, particularly those with a voice and/or with power, have the ability to bring violence upon innocents or at least incite it. An opening stage of genocide is treating people as others; that’s what the director is doing. Never again.

      * I’m assuming you’re not a parent. Come back to me when you’re a parent and understand that not all children are created the same, and that rough guidelines at a historic site don’t direct how parents raise their children.

  7. […] Caitlin Moore at Anime Feminist wrote about the recent revelation that the director for the show Recovery of an MMO Junkie has made wildly anti-Semitic comments. His anti-Semitism is on full display on his Twitter account. She also speaks to how a person deals with a piece of art they love being created by an awful human being. Check out the article and the struggle she’s dealing with about a topic she cares about. Charles (TWWK) at Beneath the Tangles also spoke on the same topic, but more from a perspective of us not ignoring the evils of anti-Semitism in the world around us. Check that one out too. […]

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