How 'a small quantity of cocaine' derailed Judgment, the latest game from the Yakuza studio

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We're still waiting on Judgment -  the next game from the Yakuza studio - to be released outside of Japan, but that wait may be extended indefinitely after one of its actors was arrested for cocaine use. It's the kind of charge we wouldn't be surprised to see leveled at a celebrity in the US or UK (assuming they were prosecuted at all), but drug possession and use is treated as a much more serious offense in Japan.

Judgment was first released in December 2018 in Japan as Judge Eyes. One of its actors is Pierre Taki, who both voices and lends his likeness to organized crime boss Kyohei Hamura. According to the Japan Times, Taki was arrested in Tokyo on Tuesday and admitted to using a "small quantity of cocaine" earlier in the week. The next day, Sega put out a press release (in Japanese) announcing that it would voluntarily halt distribution and promotion of Judgment in response to Taki's arrest.

According to Wall Street Journal reporter Takashi Mochizuki, Sega is discussing how this will affect plans for Judgment's western release. It was previously planned to arrive on June 25.

Side note: if you aren't from Japan, this probably sounds like a lot of trouble over some fairly routine drug charges. Before you get all judgey over how Sega's handling Judgement - pun intended - and Japan's cultural outlook on drugs overall, just remember that Roman Polanski was still winning Oscars in 2002. The issues of law, morality, and social acceptability as they apply to celebrities are a mess no matter where you are on Earth.

Taki's arrest happened less than a week after Sega localization producer Scott Strichart wrote a PlayStation Blog post about his team's painstaking efforts in bringing the game to Western audiences - breaking convention to write full, separate subtitle scripts for both the English subbed and dubbed versions "because it's the right thing to do". It has to be heartbreaking for everybody involved with creating, localizing, and promoting the game both inside and outside of Japan.

All that said, it's unlikely that Taki's arrest will cause Sega to keep Judgment off of Japanese shelves permanently and outright cancel its western release. A Yakuza 4 actor who played one of the game's main, playable characters was recast for the game's Japanese remaster on PS4 earlier this year, despite being accused of drug use and later cleared of the allegations in the nine-year period between the two versions. Assuming Sega takes a similar approach for Judgment's future, it will likely mean some significant delays.

This is disappointing news all around, but at least it gives you more time to appreciate Yakuza 6.