On March 29, the website for the upcoming Tokyo Babylon anime posted a somber announcement, due to issues with plagiarism during production, they were cancelling the current production and were planning to start from scratch with a new company.
The original Tokyo Babylon manga ran for seven volumes between 1990 and 1993 and has seen lasting popularity both in Japan and abroad. It had already been made into a live action movie but fans were eager for an anime based on it, which was slated to be released in April of this year.
However, in December of 2020, it was announced that the film would be delayed. The reason was that, after the film uploaded to some teaser images to the internet in November, fans noticed that some of the costume designs were extremely similar to earlier works, including the Korean girl band Red Velvet and a Volks doll design.
However, according to the production committee for the film, they completed an internal audit and found that “there are many other imitation plagiarisms in addition to the two character costume settings that were pointed out to us.”
As such, they’ve decided to part ways with the current production company, GoHands, and are looking to relaunch the project soon with a new production process.
All the current online presences for the anime will go offline on April 30, including its Twitter, Instagram and website.
Drastic Measures, Repairing Trust
The story is noteworthy due to the extreme measures the production committee is taking to resolve the situation. While there is no way for us to know what they discovered as part of their internal audit, it’s clear that the production committee for the film decided that it could not be resolved through any lesser means.
Often times, when such copying is discovered in a film under production, an effort is made to either remove/edit the content, license it from the owners or otherwise work to avoid the copyright issues that would almost certainly come with it.
However, that’s not the approach that was taken here. Either because the plagiarism was simply too much or too core to the work, they felt the only way to address it was to scrap everything that had been done until now and start over with a new company.
One factor that likely weighed heavy on that decision is fans of manga, anime and related items tend to take plagiarism issues very seriously. We saw this first hand in January as the anime-themed game Geshin Impact revoked a fan art prize over plagiarism allegations, in May 2020, a Korean video game was shuttered after fans accused it of copying a popular anime and manga and the list goes on.
No matter how popular the original manga is, without the support of the fans, the anime will never be successful. More than copyright issues, it’s likely that the production committee feared fan backlash and rejection of the film, especially as it became clear that the plagiarism was much more widespread than previously thought.
To that end, it was likely not just the best move that they could make, but the only move. Releasing a film with significant plagiarism issues not only risked making this film a failure but harming the long-running franchise in its entirety.
To that end, the production committee is doing the best they can to repair trust with their fans. They are being honest about the problems that exist, distancing themselves from the production company that seems to have been the source of those problems and is making great sacrifices to deliver a product that is plagiarism-free.
Most importantly of all, they are doing this after an internal audit. Though the first two allegations were discovered by fans, they took them seriously enough to delay the production, perform an internal audit and then pull the trigger on cancelling the project.
It’s a lesson a large number of publishers, record labels and movie studios could learn from when dealing with plagiarism allegations. While this is bad for fans that they will have to wait much longer for the anime they want, a delayed work can eventually be good. However, a plagiarized work is always plagiarized.
Clearly, this was not a light decision and whatever they found in their internal audit caused them to lose faith in the production company. An abrupt parting of ways is a drastic step, but likely a necessary one.
In the end, this story isn’t newsworthy because a film was cancelled but because the producers of the film went to such great lengths to avoid releasing a plagiarized film. While we can’t known what was discovered in their audit, the outcomes do not paint a good picture.
Still, when you’re dealing with drastic plagiarism a drastic response is needed and that is what they are providing. Hopefully, the fans will support this move and will continue to be excited about the project as it starts over.
It may be rough to have to wait for a new production to begin, but at least the project will be in better hands.