Kaguya-Sama and Mahjong Soul collaboration doesn’t include Secretary Chika. Fans speculate “Secretary” is subject to censorship in China [Update]

Written by. Nick Mosier based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-04-26 18:16 JST)

Yostar will hold a collaboration event in their mahjong game Mahjong Soul with the anime series Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War -Ultra Romantic-. However, fans have taken notice that one main character from the series, Chika Fujiwara, is not being included.

Mahjong Soul is a free-to-play online mahjong game from Chinese developer Cat Food Studio. While the studio also published the title in China, the game was published internationally by Yostar.

The Kaguya-Sama anime is based on a manga called Kaguya-Sama: Love is War created by Aka Akasaka. Season 1 aired in 2019 and season 3 has been running since April of this year. The series revolves around the student council at the elite Shuchiin Academy and the love story brewing between Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane, the council’s vice-president and president. The two have a connection but their pride won’t allow either of them to admit their love for the other as the series teases just how one will end up confessing. The original manga has over 17.5 million copies in circulation making it a massive hit.

Starting April 27, the collaboration will see Kaguya-Sama characters Kaguya Shinomiya, Miyuki Shirogane, Ai Hayasaka, and Kei Shirogane appear in Mahjong Soul. There will also be Kaguya-Sama-themed items, making it look like an exciting event for fans. But some have taken notice of the omission of main cast member Chika Fujiwara.

Chika Fujiwara acts as the student council secretary and has been friends with Kaguya since middle school. She’s also very popular with fans, with the outro sequence of the anime featuring her having been viewed over 28 million times on YouTube.

This has caused fans to speculate about the reason for the character’s absence. Since Mahjong Soul is developed by a Chinese studio, some fans have been considering that the character’s role as a “secretary” has been a keyword flagged by Chinese censors, as the Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is referred to as the General Secretary. The theory being that they don’t want the word “secretary” associated with anything besides Xi Jinping.

But is “secretary” really subject to restrictions in China? When we asked staff members within Active Gaming Media (the owner of this website) who are from China and work in the game publishing department about the word, one person stated that in general, it’s a normal word that can be used without issues. However, they also mentioned that its use could be interpreted as making fun of the Chinese Communist Party. This staff member speculates that it’s better to not include the word “secretary” when receiving a game license from the government to be on the safe side.
[Update 2022/04/27 17:11 JST] updated the paragraph above to better clarify where we got the comments from

Another staff member had a different viewpoint on the matter, stating that the word “secretary” refers to the person in China with the most authority, the General Secretary. They also said a General Secretary can be thought of as a faultless figure and associating that with a clumsy character like Chika may pose a risk.

However, Kaguya-Sama is also very popular in China, with the anime even broadcasting officially on bilibili. In this version, Chika’s title is referred to as “书记,” the Chinese word for “secretary,” so in the end, the reason for her absence is still a mystery.

[Update 2022/04/30 14:55 JST]
Yostar replied to an inquiry made by Nlab/Netorabo, stating that they decided on which characters to appear in the collaboration event after long consideration and a strong request made by the developer, with the game’s scenario and plans in mind as well. They refrained from giving concrete details about the selection process, but explained that there was a limit to the number of characters they could implement for the event.