DMM Games Cancels Controversial Shrine Moe Girl Project, Causes Speculation
DMM Games (Kan Colle, Tōken Ranbu) announced on September 11 that it is canceling development of its “pure Japanese-style simulation RPG” Yashiro ni Hoheto that anthropomorphizes real Shinto shrines in Japan as moe girls. The company said it no longer plans to release the game, and it has destroyed all information related to existing pre-registrations.
The developer announced the game on March 15. DMM Games continued work to improve the game’s quality and correct bugs. The company said it decided to cancel development after considering difficulties with guaranteeing quality and providing stable service. DMM Games apologized to people looking forward to the game and asked fans to continue to support the company in future projects.
DMM Games’ announcement and explanation did not entirely satisfy fans, leading to speculation about other possible reasons the game was canceled.
In the planned game, players would collect moe characters call Shamiko and battle against enemies. The voice cast of the large-scale project was to include Sora Amamiya (KONOSUBA‘s Aqua), Kikuko Inoue (Ikki Tousen‘s Goei), Marina Inoue (Attack on Titan‘s Armin), and Saori ?nishi (Eromanga Sensei‘s Muramasa). They were planned to play shrines such as Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha and Ibaraki’s Kashima Jingū as young female characters.
Shortly after DMM Games announced the project, the concept received heavy criticism from some people who believed it was inappropriate and disrespectful to followers of the Shinto faith. In particular, some people disapproved of the fortune-drawing function in the game that associated particular shrines with good or bad fortunes.
Katsuji Iwahashi, head of International Foreign Relations at the Association of Shinto Shrines, responded to the fortune feature shortly after it was revealed. He said, “I’ve never seen anything like this. As someone with religious faith, this isn’t something that evokes good feelings. What on Earth was their basis for doing something like this?” Iwahashi also said:
People with a shallow understanding of shrines and Japan’s deities may be able to genuinely enjoy this game. However, my fear is that such people will come to shrines thinking of them just as a setting or character and will act disrespectfully while others are trying to visit the shrines.
DMM Games responded at the time that the game was fictional and was only using the images of Shinto shrines. The company maintained that the game had no connection to real people, places, or organizations. Therefore, the results of the fortunes had no relation to the actual shrines.
Around the end of April, the project reportedly went into “urgent maintenance.” DMM Games stopped promoting the project and accepting pre-registrations. Blogs and social media sites spread the criticisms of the game and the Association of Shinto Shrines’ objections. Internet users pointed out that images of the game’s characters could be used for fan art and merchandising, causing controversial associations for religious institutions. Some commenters also believe a dispute over who holds the rights to use shrines’ names adds to the controversy.
In light of such concerns, some people believe the controversy over disrespect to Shintoism, ethical gray areas, and possible copyright infringement could be the real reason DMM Games canceled Yashiro ni Hoheto. The cancelation may have more to do with people’s reactions to the project than the officially announced quality-control problems.
The anthropomorphization craze is still gaining strength in Japan, but the fate of Yashiro ni Hoheto may lead developers to reconsider plans to launch their own unique takes on the trend.