2008: AKB MSSCRE

AKB MSSCRE

“I come to Akihabara…” / “I came to Akihabara…”

Sunday, June 8, 2008. A man drives a truck into a crowd of pedestrians in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, killing three. He emerges from his vehicle and goes on a stabbing rampage that leaves four others dead before he is finally apprehended.

He tells police, “I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn’t matter who they were. I came alone.”

The Japanese media attempts to brand the perpetrator as a fan of anime and manga — an otaku. Fuji TV reveals that the killer, an impoverished 25 year old temp worker at an auto components factory, liked to sing anime theme songs at karaoke. A Tokyo newspaper headline blasts the “Evil Deeds of the Akiba Otaku.”

By the June 10th, the story goes worldwide. The Sydney Morning Herald labels the crime to be the work of a “manga enthusiast” and a “comic book killer.”

Yet real evidence is hard to find. The killer had only drawn a single manga style illustration in his high school yearbook. Police recovered a mere handful of items from his small apartment, including an assortment of anime and video games.

They number exactly seven in all, the same number as the “Akihabara Massacre” death toll.

On June 13, the Tokyo Public Safety Council indefinitely suspends the long standing Sunday hokoten tradition in Akihabara. The streets will be reopened to traffic and pedestrians will no longer be permitted free reign of Chuo-dori until further notice. Police presence (and the random bag checks they bring with them), is noticeably increased.

On September 24th, Japan has a new head of government: Asō Tarō. The international fan press is quick to dub him “The Otaku Prime Minister” on account of a widely reported love of manga.

Years earlier, he makes headlines by holding political rallies in Akihabara where he addressed the crowds as “My fellow otaku.”

October 26: the new PM returns triumphantly to the area and says, “I can cheer up when I come to Akihabara.”

He is also quoted as saying, “We’ve got to brighten up Japan. You’ll never pick up girls unless you have a bright attitude. So don’t be having a ‘Japan’s future is looking dim’ look on your face. Have a positive attitude if you wanna pick up girls.”

On December 7th, 2008 the Mainichi Shimbun and the Yomiuri Shimbun report that a 21 year old unemployed man suspected of murdering and dumping the body of a five year old girl in Toganeshi is an anime and manga fan. His room, decorated with posters from anime intended for young girls, also contains bookshelves filled with manga from the series Precure, Saint Seiya, and Bleach.

Only the Anime News Network website follows the story outside of Japan.

“This guy just killed Akihabara the way Charles Manson killed the Sixties. And we’re all under arrest now…” I wrote on my blog earlier this year. I still don’t know what I meant by that.


Finally, three names:

Kato Tomohiro

Asō Tarō

Katsuki Ryo

Patrick MACIAS
December 19, 2008

Patrick Macias is the author of numerous tomes on Japanese pop culture, including Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno, Otaku in USA, and Cruising the Anime City. He blogs at patrickmacias.blogs.com.

16 Responses

  1. Daryl Surat Says:

    Someone may try and leave a comment alleging that Pretty Cure aka Precure is itself a title intended for young girls. I’m just posting to let you know in advance how that person is a liar and a pederast because only creepy would-be child murderer guys watch anything in the magical girl genre these days. It’s true, it’s true.

    It always struck me as a bit of mixed signals that Japan wishes to promote otaku lifestyles while simultaneously lamenting the fact that they’re going extinct. Don’t they realize that the fate of all true otaku is to live and die in total solitude? After all, there just aren’t enough Hermes to go around (mainly because it’s a fairy tale construct).

  2. M-Bone Says:

    Daryl, I’m pretty sure that its the little girls who get the Pretty Cure toys that they include with Kid’s Sets at family restaurant Joyfull. Not that I would ever watch that show or anything….

    Brilliant structure to the piece, BTW. Reflects perfectly the fact that nobody really knows how to interpret any of this yet.

  3. Matt Says:

    a bit of mixed signals

    On that note, did anyone else notice how quick the Japanese media was to jump on Aso’s love for manga the moment he started slipping up? So much for otaku culture saving Japan.

  4. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Before the storm Says:

    […] News from Japan: Anime Vice reports that Shueisha is launching a new manga anthology featuring work by, among others, Range Murata (Robot). They also spotted some new variation of moe (bushido moe!) running around on the internets. Manga Life magazine is going to do a 4-koma “real-time” parody of the American TV show 24. Patrick Macias looks back at Akihabara in 2008. […]

  5. Connor Says:

    One of the things that hasn’t been well-publicized about Obama is that he collects comics. I guess there was enough puff-piece material on him already? At least he and Aso will have something to talk about at G8 besides ZIRP.

  6. Ratiocinational Says:

    I am just curious, and this may or may not pertain to the discussion, but what are weapon ownership laws like in Japan?

  7. wildarmsheero Says:

    Daryl is, of course, completely and totally wrong. Precure, CCS, Shuugo Chara, and the like are all kids cartoons. The otaku market is just a bonus.

  8. LS Says:

    “This guy just killed Akihabara the way Charles Manson killed the Sixties. And we’re all under arrest now…” I wrote on my blog earlier this year. I still don’t know what I meant by that.

    Does Akihabara represent something as meaningful to you as the sixties are?

    I’ve been thinking about this lately: it’s easy to see the negatives and the pathologies of akiba-kei, but what is it that makes it good? I could go on forever about misogyny in anime, but I can’t quite place why I love it as much as I do.

  9. M-Bone Says:

    What is good about Akihabara? It shows the potential for people to be interested in forms of narrative fiction instead of handbags.

    Easy to go on forever about misogyny in anime, but Akihabara is chock full of female otaku creating things for other female readers (many of which are examples of some of the most spectacular misandry anywhere so we can also call Akiba the site of an epic pop cultural payback).

  10. Guest Says:

    What people don’t seem to understand that anime culture has sort of stagnated. It’s stopped evolving. The weird thing is that it just keeps on expanding, not growing, changing or evolving, expanding, regressing and stagnating at the same time. And Akiba I think, is a great example of this theory. Anime rarely offers anything new or exciting, and they just sort of tweak the popular thing and change it. Now I haven’t been to akihabara, but since it is touted as the capital of anime, I assume it too has stagnated.

  11. Durf Says:

    Allow me to totally ignore the meat of the posting and focus on linguistic trivia: Why is the prime minister’s the only one of those three names to get macrons?

  12. W. David MARX Says:

    That was my weird edit.

    Also, Aso’s aristocratic background allows him more privileges on this blog than more plebian types.

  13. M-Bone Says:

    “Also, Aso’s aristocratic background allows him more privileges on this blog than more plebian types.”

    I notice that you left out the macron when you wrote that.

  14. Daniel Says:

    What people don’t seem to understand that anime culture has sort of stagnated. It’s stopped evolving.

    Am I the only one that thinks anime/manga is far to large and diverse to be simplified this way? It’s kind of like saying beverages have stopped evolving because we still drink them.

  15. archie4oz Says:

    “What is good about Akihabara? It shows the potential for people to be interested in forms of narrative fiction instead of handbags.”

    Nakano Broadway would be a better resource for that. To me it seems odd that there’s this fear of Akiba becoming something non-anime/manga mecca that it supposedly is. I’ve personally never considered it that despite it’s rapid growth in that realm. Of course that’s mainly because I remember what it was like before the anime boom from 2000 onward, back when Akihabara was primarily about gadgets and electronics basically being the “Radio Shack” of Tokyo. Sadly a sizeable portion of that has gone with the declining economy of the 90’s and influx of anime/manga and cosplayers.

    Will Akihabara die out? No, it’ll just go on evolving to whatever moves in next..

  16. M-Bone Says:

    “Am I the only one that thinks anime/manga is far to large and diverse to be simplified this way?”

    I agree totally.

    What Guest said is pure nonsense if applied to manga, but you COULD make a case that anime has stagnated. Of course, you could also make a case that anime stagnated in 1996. I wouldn’t be making either case.

    I get the feeling that people like Guest who are down on anime have been disappointed by a few recent series and forget that over the last few years we have had reams of titles – GiTS TV, Mushishi, etc. that would compare well to late 1990s or late 1980s canons(although not, perhaps to 1970s). There have been lots of recent titles that are not based on a boy-girl-bigger super attack or robot-pattern which is a real breath of fresh air.

    Also, if Guest has not been to Akiba (don’t knock it til you try it), I take it that he has not been to Japan (people who post about anime online and have been to Japan have usually gone)and is relying on fansubbers and US companies to organize his anime watching for him…. which raises another problem….

    I mean, we had this same point rasied here a month or so back and someone argued that anime is hitting rock bottom…. if we throw out Miyazaki, Oshii, Kon Satoshi, Shinkai, Anno, etc.