In late October, 27-year-old Takahiro Shiraishi was arrested after nine dismembered bodies were found in his apartment. He admitted to luring suicidal victims into his apartment with a suicide pact, rendering them unconscious with laced drinks or strangulation, hanging them, and molesting their dead bodies before sawing them up.
Shiraishi admitted that the victims never intended to commit suicide and only wanted to talk. He chopped up the bodies to make them easier to dispose of and hide from neighbors.
The grisly murders sent shockwaves through Japan and became a talking point on news programs. House of Councillors member Ichita Yamamoto, who is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, appeared on the Shin Hodo 2001 talk show and claim:
“To put it simply, I think Shiraishi did this as though he was playing a video game. He’s become unable to separate reality from fiction. Recently, there have been anime with bizarre, grotesque stories like what he did. I feel he has been heavily influenced by them.”
Yamamoto’s comments drew immediate backlash because Shiraishi was never connected to video games, anime, or any other otaku hobby. The comments were also confusing because Yamamoto is the head of the Cool Japan Committee, which is a government program to fund anime and other forms of Japanese culture for international export.
The lack of evidence that Shiraishi was an anime fan and the constant criticism has led to Yamamoto to issue an apology for his comments:
“As soon as I said those comments, 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 no single concrete connection between the deaths and anime.
“To the people involved in anime productions, 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.
“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 the people involved with and who love anime, I am truly sorry! I will take proper care never to make such baseless comments again.”
Shiraishi is currently in police custody and is awaiting trial. So far, the victims include three women in their 20s, a 19-year-old college student, three teenage high school girls, and a couple.