On Oct 31, Takahiro Shiraishi was arrested after nine bodies were discovered in his apartment in the town of Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, where the 27-year-old had been living since August. The authorities also found a saw, which Shiraishi admits to using in dismembering the bodies after killing his victims in order to make their remains easier to dispose of.
The incident has sent shockwaves through ordinarily peaceful and safe Japanese society, and has become a major talking point in the mass media. While appearing on broadcaster Fuji TV’s "Shin Hodo 2001" talk show, politician Ichita Yamamoto, a member of Japan’s House of Councilors (the upper house of the National Diet), made the following comment:
“To put it simply, I think [Shiraishi] did this as though he was playing a video game. He’s become unable to differentiate the world of reality from fiction. Recently, there are anime with bizarre, grotesque stories like what he did. I feel he has been heavily influenced by them.”
While some previous serial killers in Japan have been found to be intense anime fans during the course of investigations following their crimes, no connection has been made between Shiraishi and otaku hobbies such as games or animation. The only possible link is an unconfirmed statement from an unidentified woman who claims to be an acquaintance of Shiraishi, and who was interviewed by media organization Bunshunho. When asked what Shiraishi'’s hobbies were, the woman speculated “I think he probably liked to watch anime and stuff. Like 'When They Cry' and 'School Days,'” referring to two series known for their scenes of graphic violence in otherwise mundane settings.
Due to the lack of evidence that Shiraishi was an anime fan or that anime was a contributing factor in the nine deaths, many online commenters have criticized Yamamoto’s remarks as irresponsible. Th politician himself, it turns out, agrees, and has since issued an apology both through his video stream and on his blog, the latter of which includes the statements:
“As soon as I said [my comment on 'Shin Hodo 2001'], I thought, ‘Oh, that’s an extremely inappropriate statement. It will be misinterpreted as my saying that the criminal was influenced, and the murders triggered by, a specific anime. But there’s not a single concrete connection between the deaths and anime.
“To the people involved in anime production, as well as anime fans, I would like to say that my statement was incredibly impolite, and entirely out of line for the head of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Cool Japan Committee [a position Yamamoto holds in which Japanese pop culture is promoted internationally].
“I count myself as an earnest manga and anime fan…I deeply regret my careless words, and all I can say is that I made a huge mistake.
“To all people involved with, and who love, anime I am truly sorry! I will take proper care never to make such baseless comments again.”
Shiraishi remains in police custody, awaiting trial.
Sources: IT Media, Ichita Yamamoto official blog, Japan Times, Jin
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