Tencent and Bilibili removed the hit show My Hero Academia after previously pulling the manga. Controversy over the manga started when a new villain’s name was revealed to be an apparent reference to human experimentation conducted by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Tencent Video censored all videos related to the anime by disabling related searches.

The controversy has angered people in both China and South Korea, because of an apparent reference to Japan’s covert Unit 731, which killed more than 3,000 Chinese and Koreans during the war. The manga’s author and publisher released statements saying the reference wasn’t intentional, but it wasn’t enough to appease Chinese fans.

Before this incident, My Hero Academia was a smash-hit in China, amassing millions of views on Tencent and Bilibili. (Picture: Funimation/Shonen Jump)

The hashtag #MyHeroAcademiaInsultsChina is gaining momentum on Weibo, with related posts and comments amassing nearly 35 million views online.

A Weibo user wrote, “How it insulted China has proven to be irrevocable… The author had yet to apologize. But Chinese people actually won’t accept such an apology.”

In the latest chapter of the manga, the name of a mad scientist who experiments on humans is revealed to be Maruta Shiga. It appears to be a reference to when Japan’s biowarfare Unit 731 referred to experimentees as “maruta,” or timber. The experiments were done out of a facility disguised as a lumber mill in China’s then-occupied northeastern city of Harbin. People were purposely infected with diseases such as typhus and cholera and subjected to vivisection, amputation and frostbite.

The character’s surname was later scrutinized, with some questioning whether it’s a reference to Shigella, an E coli.-like germ discovered by Japanese bacteriologist Kiyoshi Shiga.

When the controversy broke, Tencent and Bilibili were quick to remove the manga. They only later doubled down by removing the anime. The villain has already appeared in the anime, but without the controversial name. With backlash growing in China and South Korea, the publisher Shonen Jump and author Kohei Horikoshi promised to change the character’s name in future issues.

The outrage has also extended beyond Weibo. On Twitter, #APOLOGIZE_HORIKOSHI is gaining traction. Many are trying to mobilize netizens in China and South Korea to tweet at Horikoshi to demand an apology.

Both Chinese and Korean netizens are mobilizing to tweet at Horikoshi. (Picture: Twitter)

Many of the angered fans have said online that they don’t trust Horikoshi’s claim of ignorance about the reference because of his tendency to use character names as metaphors in the past.

“Every name the author has so far created is related to that character’s personality. It’s certainly not a coincidence that he uses the term for victims of Unit 731 on a villain and uses a germ reference on his surname,” a Weibo user wrote.