Kuroko's Basketball Creator Responds to Arrest in Poison Threat Case
posted on by Marlene First
An official statement from Kuroko's Basketball manga creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki regarding the arrest of 36-year old Hirofumi Watanabe was posted on Shueisha's Shōnen Jump website on December 18. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's 1st Investigation Section arrested the temporary worker on December 15 for allegedly sending threatening letters sent to convenience stores and other establishments linked to Kuroko's Basketball.
Fujimaki responded to the arrest, saying that he was relieved to hear that that the suspect was arrested. He thanked everyone who was involved in the investigation as well as his audience who continued with him through the ordeal. Lastly, he told fans that he would like to create more installments of the series that fans can enjoy.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office indicted Watanabe for "forcible obstruction of business" on Thursday. The indictment accuses Watanabe of leaving a container of hydrogen sulfide and a threatening letter on the second floor of the gymnasium at Sophia University (Fujimaki's alma mater) at around 7:00 p.m. on October 12, 2012. The "forcible obstruction of business" charge applies because Watanabe's alleged actions disrupted the university staff's duties. Police are conducting an ongoing investigation to determine whether Watanabe is linked to further crimes.
Comic City Osaka, a prominent dōjinshi event in Osaka, announced on December 16 that it cancelled the ban on Kuroko's Basketball goods and dōjinshi at the event. Studio You, the company that organizes the Kuroko's Basketball-themed "Shadow Trickster" dōjinshi events across Japan, also announced on December 17 that it will revive those events starting with the "Shadow Trickster Osaka 3" event on February 23.
Suspect Pictured, More Motives Revealed
The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper published a picture of Watanabe (center in below image) on December 17.
A source in the investigation of the threats said on December 17 that Watanabe told police he dropped out of an anime vocational school when he was about 20 years old. Watanabe said, "My goal was to become a creator of manga, anime, or games, but after about a year, I dropped out." In a threat letter Mainichi Shimbun and other news organizations received, the sender wrote, "If I were to live my life over again, I would want to become a manga creator with a serialization in [Weekly Shonen Jump]."
Police searched Watanabe's apartment on December 16 and seized toilet cleaner and a scrap of paper on it with the handwritten words "creating hydrogen sulfide." Police also found and seized copies of the Kuroko's Basketball manga.
Watanabe allegedly sent about 400 letters from 16 post offices in nine prefectures. Police have not detected fingerprints on any of the letters. According to police, Watanabe identified himself as two different perpetrators, one who spoke standard Japanese and one who spoke with a Kansai accent (the letter sent to Tsukuru editor in chief Hiroyuki Shinoda was written in a Kansai dialect).
Watanabe wrote in the letters and online that he was acquainted with original author Tadatoshi Fujimaki, but the suspect is reportedly not acquainted with him. Watanabe posted a message from an Internet café in Chiba Prefecture in October 2012 claiming responsibility for the original threat letter to Sophia University. He also posted other online messages through overseas servers. Watanabe wrote in his letters that he lived in Chiba City when he was acquainted with Fujimaki, and that he lived in Saitama when he first sent that threatening letter to Sophia University last year. He wrote that he was "currently" living in western Tokyo, although the apartment he had been living in for about a year is in Osaka.
BackgroundSince October 2012, locations linked to Fujimaki have received threat letters, including some with powdered and liquid substances. A source in the investigation of the threats said there is a high possibility that the liquid sent to Sophia University on October 12, 2012 could emit a lethal dose of hydrogen sulfide if vaporized. The University initiated heightened security procedures after another round of threat letters were sent in November 2013.
Several Kuroko's Basketball dōjinshi events throughout Japan were cancelled last year in the aftermath of the threats. The "Shadow Trickster 3" event did proceed without incident at the Big Sight last October, shortly after the center received its first threat. The official "Kuroko no Basuke produced by Namco Namja Town" event in Tokyo ended 19 days early as a result of the threats, and Animate Café Tennoji in Osaka cancelled a planned Kuroko's Basketball collaboration event. Comic Market (Comiket), the world's largest dōjinshi event, barred Kuroko's Basketball items and circles last December.
In February, the organizers of the Comic City dōjinshi events barred circles from selling Kuroko's Basketball items at March 17's Haru Comic City 18 event, after they received a request to do so from the management of the Tokyo Big Sight event complex. The same organizers had barred Kuroko's Basketball from the Comic City Osaka 92 event on January 6, and then cancelled February 10's Double Clutch event outright. However, they held the Comic City Tokyo 131 event at Tokyo Big Sight and insisted on allowing Kuroko's Basketball circles. Comic City Tokyo 131 proceeded without incident on January 27.
Major rental chain Tsutaya removed all Kuroko's Basketball DVD and manga rentals from its stores in October but has since brought them back. Japanese bookstore chain Yurindo and Reliable, a Japanese book and stationary store chain in Hokkaido, also removed Kuroko's Basketball merchandise from their shelves. Several other bookstore chains such as Kinokuniya, Sanseido, Junkudo, Miyawaki, and other bookstores, decided to continue carrying the manga despite receiving threat letters.
Television station TBS noted that about 250 threat letters were mailed to various stores and news organizations in October 2013 alone, with at least one letter containing lighter fluid. The sender has been going by the name of "the Fiend with 801 Faces," an apparent reference to an antagonist in Edogawa Rampo's mysteries and the numerical shorthand for "yaoi." According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, the majority of the letters mailed in October were mailed from Saitama Prefecture on October 12.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department reported in November 2013 that a security camera caught a possible suspect on tape last year. Police described him as a thin male dressed in all black.
Shueisha notified ticket holders to its Jump Super Anime Tour event in November 2013 that attendees older than middle school age need to show proof of identification as well as their written invitation to gain entry. Shueisha noted it is had strengthened its security plans to a much greater scale for the event, in order to prioritize the safety of attendees after the Kuroko's Basketball threat letters.
Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is currently investigating if a party had deliberately put the trace amount of nicotine that was discovered in one of Kuroko's Basketball snacks recalled from a 7-Eleven convenience store. According to the investigation, the trace amount of nicotine discovered was 1/100th of a lethal dose.