Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War sparks uproar with surprise recasting

Savannah Howard
Yoruichi, an iconic character from Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War sent shockwaves through the anime community with a last-minute recasting decision that ignited a heated Twitter debate.

Bleach is perhaps one of the most popular anime series of all time. Based on the manga series of the same name by Tite Kubo, the original series aired from 2004 to 2012 and gained a devoted fanbase worldwide. Which is why fans were so excited when the manga’s final story arc, Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War (TYBW), received an anime adaptation of its own.

The second cour is still currently being broadcast in the United States, with fans looking forward to the release of the English dubbed version. However, they will now wait longer than anticipated due to a shock casting announcement on X/Twitter.

But what prompted this sudden change, and why has it stirred such strong reactions within the anime community?

Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War controversy explained

On October 7, 2023, Anairis Quiñones took to X to announce that she had secured the role as the new voice for beloved character Yoruichi. Yoruichi, acknowledged as an iconic character symbolizing diversity in anime, generated immense excitement among fans who eagerly anticipated her portrayal by a woman of color.

However, weeks later on October 21, the actress took to the social media platform to reveal that she had been replaced in the role – a move which triggered waves of anger and disappointment across various social media platforms.

In the October 21 tweet, Quiñones shared, “Hey yall! The studio & client decided to go in a different direction, so I am no longer voicing Yoruichi in Bleach TYBW and my recordings will be replaced. It meant a lot to take on such an iconic WOC. I appreciate all the love!! I’ll still be voicing Hiyori.”

Quiñones had initially stepped in to replace the former Yoruichi voice actor, Wendee Lee, as part of a cast update within the anime. The studios, Viz Media and Studiopolis, implemented similar changes for other characters. For example, Chad – a character of mixed Japanese and Mexican heritage – whose original voice actor, Jamieson Price, made way for Cuban-American actor Alain Mesa. However, the studios since reversed the decision to cast Quiñones as Yoruichi, causing an outpouring of frustration and disappointment on X/Twitter and other platforms.

Original Yoruichi actor responds to uproar

Wendee Lee, a veteran voice actor whose career has spanned over 40-years, has earned recognition for her significant roles in English-dubbed anime, including Faye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop and Kei in Akira. She had formerly voiced Yoruichi in the original English dub of Bleach from 2004 to 2012 and will now reprise the role for the upcoming season.

The decision to reverse this casting choice has ignited a heated online debate about diversity in casting and the representation of characters of color in media. And Bleach’s spot among anime’s “Big Three” alongside One Piece and Naruto makes the recasting of Yoruichi even more contentious.

Many fans are voicing support for Quiñones’s right to the role, and the wider importance of ensuring that voice actors of color have the opportunity to portray a wide range of characters. Others have taken to the Bleach Subreddit to argue that maintaining the character’s original voice is essential for its consistency, regardless of who portrays them.

byu/ijustwannanap from discussion

Lee herself has received significant backlash over her social media reactions to the recasting of her Bleach character. In many of her (now deleted) posts, she actively defended her right to reprise her role as Yoruichi, an stance that many fans interpreted as toxic.

In response to the controversy, she has since offered an apology to Quiñones on X/Twitter and welcomed her to the cast in her role as Hiyori.

However, the reaction to Lee’s comments speaks to a greater controversy around representation among voice actors for characters of color. And despite Quiñones publicly acknowledging that Lee reached out to her, it appears that she hasn’t accepted her apology.

“I haven’t responded to Wendee privately as I have no energy or interest in participating in the situation than I already have,” she tweeted on October 23. “I am not ready to talk. Please respect that.”

As the online debate over representation and diversity in anime continues, Viz Media and Studiopolis – the studios that set all this in motion – have yet to issue official statements regarding the situation.

How to watch Crunchyroll from outside your location in 2023

Crunchyroll is the world’s best hub for streaming anime, whether it’s One PieceAttack on Titan, or Jujutsu Kaisen – and thanks to ExpressVPN, you can access the platform’s full library even if you’re outside the US.

If you’re abroad, here’s what you need to do to access Crunchyroll’s full selection – and it really is this simple:

  1. Sign up for ExpressVPN, which has ultra-fast servers and offers a secure, private connection wherever you are in the world.
  2. Connect to a location anywhere in the US; Express VPN allows you to choose from 24 different spots, from New Jersey to Santa Monica.
  3. Visit Crunchyroll online and start streaming all of your favorite animes – and perhaps some you’ve never watched.

Accessing Crunchyroll’s US roster makes a difference. For example, Hong Kong users only have access to less than 100 titles, while the US has nearly 1,000 movies and TV shows.

You can also stream anime on Crunchyroll for free with an ad-supported plan. Or you can pay for a subscription – there’s even a 14-day free trial if you can’t quite make up your mind.

In the meantime, check out our other anime coverage below:

Beginner’s guide to anime: Shonen, genres & more explained | 10 best horror anime series to watch this Halloween | One Punch Man Season 3: Everything we know | Dragon Ball Daima: Everything we know

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About The Author

Savannah Howard is an Anime Writer at Dexerto. She loves dystopian thrillers, sci-fi and action series. You can email her here: