Monday, April 17, 2006


Internet Detectives

Over at Japundit, I have posted the following:

Despite the success of the drama Densha Otoko in Japan, and the recognition that anime and manga are contributing to Japan's revived economy, the term otaku still has negative connotations in Japan. Why? Because the word got its origin when a serial killer in Japan during the 80s was found to have an obsession with manga and anime.

It entered general use in Japan around 1989, and may have been popularized by Nakamori's publication in that year of "The Age of M" (Mの時代, M no jidai), which applied the term to the (then) recently caught serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, who turned out to be a loner obsessed with pornographic anime and manga (which is often called hentai in the Western hemisphere) and who lived out his rape fantasies on living young girls, attaching a huge taboo to a formerly innocuous term.

This week in the US, a man living in Oklahoma has been charged with murdering a 10 year old girl who was his neighbor. The coverage has been extensive and sensational; this was a fairly intelligent young man, who chronicled his depression and his interests in a Myspace (decommissioned, but you can download it), various blogs and an Amazon shopping list. And, as Huff's Crime Blog points out, the man, named Kevin Underwood, was a fan of anime and manga.

One would ask how he met her—a ready answer may be in his proximity to her home, but he also was a fan of anime and manga, Japanese cartoon art which is popular with people as young as 8 and many older than 26, as well. Unfortunately, pursuits like that are often latched onto by those who would prey on children as well, since they see the hobby as a logical way to get close to children without seeming too suspicious.

Am I drawing a conclusion between serial killers, sexual devience and anime? Of course not. I don't deny, however, that I immediately thought of Tsutomu Miyazaki when I read about Kevin Underwood. Do I think that anime and manga -- like tales of lost puppies and kittens told by a strange men to a child in a park -- are one way that these kinds of social deviants might win the trust of children? Of course. What I think will be interesting from the Japundit perspective, however, is if the anime/manga angle to this terrible story comes to the forefront of the mainstream media's coverage; I suspect it would in Japan.

That's one aspect to this story.

As sick as this whole thing is, I want to talk about something a little bit different here.

The point that I want to emphasize is the aforementioned Huff's Crime Blog. It turns out that there are a number of bloggers who, adept as they are on the Internet, have turned their skills into a crusade, mining the Web for information that will help catch killers. As I read this, I thought, "Well, duh, Marie. It's not just gossip, games and general self-expression that's undergone a revolution because of the Internet." How absolutely fascinating. How long until someone writes a best-selling detective series on this subject?

(Note: Just received an email from another Japundit contributor. It seems that the man accused of murdering the little girl did have an obsession with Japan, or what he thought of as Japanese. He was learning the language online, for one, and had bought a number of strange products from Japan which fueled his obsessions.)

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