Japanese retail chains remove basketball manga after threats

In a true-crime story unfolding across Japan, stores are pulling products and venues are canceling events related to the manga and anime Kuroko's Basketball because of a series of threatening letters targeting locations linked to the manga's creator, Tadatoshi Fujimaki, the manga, and doujinshi (fan comic) events related to it.

The first threat letters, at least one of which may have contained deadly poison, were sent more than a year ago, but the pace seems to be accelerating: The sender has hinted he or she may commit a crime on Nov. 4, and a new set of letters has emerged claiming the perpetrator is negotiating with the editors of Japanese Shonen Jump, which serializes the manga.

On Monday, the Japanese manga, video and game rental chain Tsutuya confirmed it has removed all copies Kuroko's Basketball manga and anime. The Yurindo and Reliable bookstore chains are also removing the books. However, a number of bookstores, including Kinokuniya, Sanseido, Junkudo and Miyawaki, say they will continue to carry the manga despite receiving threatening letters demanding its removal.

In addition, the 7-Eleven convenience store chain is removing Kuroko's Basketball-themed snacks from 1,500 locations after receiving a letter that said, "I left food products laced with poison in 7-Eleven." The letter included a photograph of the snacks. Another convenience chain has stopped carrying a line of Kuroko's Basketball tie-ins, including character dolls and plush toys.

Events may be coming to a head: Sophia University, Fujimaki's alma mater and the recipient of an October 2012 letter that may have contained a lethal dose of hydrogen sulfide, has received another letter stating "X-Day will be on the final day of the school festival." The school festival ends on Nov. 4.

Meanwhile, the editor of the monthly magazine Tsukuru has published, and Tumblr user jcminwell has translated, letters from someone claiming to be “The Monster with 801 Faces,"* a member of the group behind the Kuroko's Basketball threat case." The letter states:

The reason we hadn’t made a move for a long while was because we were negotiating behind the scenes with the Jump editors. Those negotiations broke down. Neither the editors nor Fujimaki understands anything. We have no choice but to take serious action. In order to show that we are serious, we have placed poisoned snacks at Seven Eleven.

The letter came in a package that included copies of previous threat letters and one of the Kuroko's Basketball snacks, along with another letter that referenced several earlier extortion and poisoning incidents in Japan.

Kuroko's Basketball is quite popular in Japan; there are 9 million copies of the 25 volumes in circulation, and the second season of the anime just started. The manga hasn't been licensed in the United States, but the anime is available on Crunchyroll. It's also popular fodder for the makers of yaoi doujinshi, which create new relationships between the male characters.

The first threatening letters went out in October 2012 to a number of locations, including Fujimaki's former high school, Toyama High School; his alma mater, Sophia University; the television station that aired the anime; and Tokyo Big Sight, where a Kuroko's Basketball doujinshi event was scheduled to take place. This first set of letters contained powders or liquids, although only the Sophia University letter has been mentioned in the press as containing a hazardous substance.

Despite the threats, Tokyo Big Sight went ahead with its event and there were no problems. Another event that included Kuroko's Basketball doujinshi took place in January, again without incident. However, a number of doujinshi events have been cancelled since then, and Kuroko's Basketball doujinshi creators have been banned from larger comics events. Fujimaki has not responded directly to the threats, although in a note in the Japanese Shonen Jump, he said he will continue to work on the manga "no matter what." Anonymous has threatened to get involved, but nothing seems to have come of that.

While it's not clear who is behind the letters — or even whether it's one person or a handful of copycats — someone claiming to be the perpetrator showed up on the Japanese bulletin board 2chan last November and the posts were translated on the blog Sukikatte. The anonymous poster, who uses the name "The Reaper in Mourning," claims to be upset because Fujimaki destroyed his or her relationships with two people. The poster claims to have had an unhappy childhood, with abusive parents, and to be a basketball uniform fetishist. The threats, he or she claims, came from four triggers: Toyama High School (which Fujimaki attended), Sophia University, basketball, and doujinshi:

If Fujiyama wasn’t a graduate of Toyama, if he hadn’t gone to Sophia, if his manga wasn’t about basketball, if the series wasn’t such a hit with the fujoshi. If one of these factors were missing, I would have committed suicide quietly and left it at that.

If Fujimaki had been born somewhere else, and attended some other school, I wouldn’t have cared.If Fujimaki’s manga was about some other sport, or of another genre, I wouldn’t have cared.If Kuroko no Basket was more popular among the male readership, if it sold as well as One Piece, or was as popular internationally as Naruto, I wouldn’t have cared.

The "Reaper" stated he or she would commit suicide by the end of the year. Nonetheless, the threats have continued, and the thinking on blogs and comment boards seems to be that this is the same person as The Monster with 801 Eyes.

* Cultural Note: "801" is often used a pun on the Japanese word "yaoi," which refers to comics about romantic relationships between two males. "The Monster with 801 Faces" may be a reference to the Glico-Morinaga extortion case, in which the perpetrator called himself "The Monster with 21 faces." That case was the inspiration for the character The Laughing Man in the Ghost in the Shell manga.

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