To Ikebukuro, where in a modest three-room apartment in a lively Tokyo suburb, an unemployed 36-year-old woman was ordered by her parents to clear a little space. It seems that Millie Manga, as we shall call her, had allowed her comics collection to take over her room, and the “spare” room vacated by her older sister.
Now, with 40-year-old Sis moving back home for unspecified reasons, Millie had a massive row, and claimed that she has been collecting manga since she was a child, and that it would be physically painful for her to be separated with the tiniest part of her collection.
Far be it from Millie to, you know, move out, get a job, or sell off her duplicate editions of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis. Instead, on 7th September 2008 she posted a plea on the 2channel chat forum with murder in mind.
“I wish to kill my snack-bar Mom and her husband near the north exit of Ikebukuro [station],” she wrote. In a cunning move sure to be adopted by super-spies and assassins the world over, Millie blanked out the “bu” of Ikebukuro, to cover her tracks.
Times haven’t changed all that much. The difference, I think, is that the Internet gives literally anyone a forum. They think that they are joking with their friends in private, but actually THEY ARE SHOUTING IN PUBLIC. And every time a knife-wielding Japanese loon or a dour Finnish gun-owner is found to have posted a statement of intent online before running amok, the authorities are liable to treat similar comments with a degree of seriousness. Which is why, in October, the police dragged Millie in for questioning – that missing “bu” clearly didn’t fool them for long!
There are some interesting sociological issues here. The reaction in manga fandom has been a predictable head shaking over what first appears to be the callous self-regard of a spoilt brat – as indeed it might be. But there are two sides to every story, and here’s a theory about this one.
If Mom owns a “snack bar”, then buying manga in bulk may even be part of her business – this may not be an issue of wasting money on comics, but of hoarding dog-eared, grubby anthology magazines long after the customers have drooled on them while slurping their noodles.
Mom was targeted along with “her husband”, implying a broken home and stepfamily tensions. Ikebukuro is pricey, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the manga-crammed apartment is above the snack bar. In which case, if Millie is living at home at 36, could it be that she is working in Mom’s café, and only “unemployed” on paper? And if she is such a manga fan, perhaps her many thousands of comics are not a dissolute obsession, but year upon year of “wages” paid in kind?
In which case, Millie’s manga aren’t pointless clutter, but a lifelong nest egg of virtual money. Maybe the Japanese government will offer a bailout – a garage somewhere, perhaps. It’s cheaper to resolve than everybody else’s financial crisis, after all…
(This article first appeared in Neo #53, 2008)