The founder of the studio that produces the Demon Slayer anime could be facing prison time. Prosecutors in Tokyo are seeking a 20-month sentence for Ufotable founder, representative director, and president Hikaru Kondo, on charges of tax evasion. According to statements from the prosecution this week, Hikaru Kondo is responsible for directing "the company to repeatedly commit accounting fraud when profits were high" and initially "denied the company's responsibility to pay taxes in good faith." A final verdict from the court in the case will be delivered on December 10th; Kondo has already admitted to charges of violating several major tax acts.
In a preliminary hearing for the case back in September, Hikaru Kondo admitted to a Tokyo District Court that he violated both the Corporation Tax Act and Consumption Tax Act and failed to pay the equivalent of about $1.25 million in US dollars (or 138 million Japanese yen). Kondo stated that did not think his financial crimes would "bring trouble" to the studio. However, prosecutors contended that Ufotable and Hikaru Kondo are responsible for hiding the company's income (approximately $4M USD or 441 million yen in total) between 2015 and 2018, as means of buffering against potential future losses for the business.
Kondo allegedly hid up to 30% of the earnings from Ufotable's Tokyo cafes and themed restaurants in a private home safe. Ufotable is suspected of misappropriating charity auction funds for the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. That's a major crime that could carry prison sentences of up to 10 years; however, the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau did not end up filing charges on that alleged crime.
This is all a bizarre turn of events for anime fans, as Ufotable's financial scandal comes at a time when the studio is producing the most popular and record-breaking anime series in the world (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba). It almost feels like Karma at work: Hikaru Kondo founded Ufotable Inc. in 2000; while the studio has had some notable anime, Demon Slayer is, without a doubt, its biggest success ever. The first season of the anime set both critical and viewing records; the first Demon Slayer movie, Mugen Train, was the top-earning movie at the worldwide box office during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The findings in this legal case make it seem like if Kondo (and co.?) had simply stayed the course for a few more years, their money concerns would've been solved by the quality of their work.
...Now, it seems there will be prison time for those behind anime's biggest success story.
Demon Slayer Season 2 is now streaming new episodes on Funimation and Hulu.
Source: Anime News