Fifteen Minutes of Infamy

kurokoOne almost doesn’t want to comment, lest it amount to either feeding the troll or mocking the afflicted. But in the interests of chronicling Japanese popular culture, warts and all, this column reluctantly reports that a Tokyo judge has sentenced Hirofumi Watanabe (36) to the full four-and-a-half year jail sentence called for by the prosecution. The crime: being a colossal douche.

Since 2012, Watanabe had been harassing manga creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki, and anything connected to the artist’s popular manga Kuroko’s Basketball. I say “popular”, although it is bitterly ironic that Kuroko’s Basketball, the tale of a high-school sports team trying to make it to nationals, has barely attracted any foreign attention apart from the hate campaign directed at by Watanabe.

Seemingly jealous that Fujimaki was successful, and determined to drag him into a suicidal vortex of his own making, Watanabe sent poisoned packages, including one containing hydrogen sulphide to Fujimaki’s alma mater, and threatened terror attacks on any convention or event that included coverage of Kuroko’s Basketball. Japanese stores, fearful of some sort of big-eyed al-Qaeda, removed Kuroko’s Basketball from their shelves, and cinemas started demanding ID and proof of invitation from anyone older than 16 trying to get into an anime roadshow.

Why? Because Watanabe was jealous of Fujimaki’s success. Jealous and, frankly, mentally disturbed enough, and idle enough to send 250 threatening letters in a single calendar month, signing himself The Fiend with 801 Faces (a punning reference to 8-0-1 = yaoi). Watanabe was carted off in handcuffs to begin the sentence, still bragging that the whole exercise was a “good revenge” against his parents, and that as soon as he was out of prison, he intended to kill himself.

Stories like this break my heart. In a fandom that crowd-funds artists and has whip-rounds for local charities, in a subculture that welcomes and embraces all lifestyles and all kinds of weirdo, it saddens me that press column inches get expended instead on nutjobs like Watanabe. The Japanese system now has four-and-a-half years to get to the bottom of his problem before he’s out to cause more trouble. Like life isn’t difficult enough. His life, your life, mine…

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO 128, 2014.

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