Co-written by Rick Babeg
Last year, we decided to watch a show together (sadness is always more fun when it’s communal). After our meeting of the anti-social minds, we decided to watch Kuroko no Basuke aka Kuroko’s Basketball. I’m a firm believer of watching other people, including animated ones, do things that I could do myself. Yay, sports! The idea of watching a shounen sports Anime didn’t really make us jump for joy or foam at the mouth, but it didn’t make our balls shrivel up into raisins either. Everyone else wanted to watch it, so we figured Why the hell not? We’ve got a fridge full of beer and we’re not going anywhere.
Based off of the manga by Tadatoshi Fujimaki and made by Production I.G., the show highlights the inherent flare of basketball, which is an intense sport that has a constantly changing, up-tempo nature. Similar to white people with Vietnamese babies, Japan took a shine to basketball and adopted it as their own. It’s easier to find American basketball on Japanese TV than it is American football, despite the fact that the NFL has a boner for promoting their shit with giant robots.
Kuroko’s Basketball isn’t exactly Japan’s first basketball Anime, with shows like Slam Dunk and Dear Boys preceding it.
Kuroko’s Basketball tells the story of Tetsuya Kuroko, the 6th kid of Teiko Middle School’s “Generation of Miracles” basketball team. According to the Anime, this was Japan’s version of the 1992 USA Dream Team. Like a young Danny DeVito, Tetsuya is short, fast, and has a quiet step. He’s also good at misdirection, which makes him extremely useful to the team. The series follows his growing, totally straight relationship with Taiga Kagami, a freshman power-forward whose dream is to play against and defeat the Generation of Miracles. Kagami is a prodigal son who has returned to Japan after training in the United States due to his dissatisfaction with his country’s inferior skills.
Wait a second. Japan… Inferior to us? I love that it’s kind of like a reverse Gung Ho. Suddenly the Americans have the upper hand on you, Japan (and not just in murders and poor people). If you call yourself “land of the rising sun” long enough, you might just get burnt!
In 2012, Tadatoshi Fujimaki began receiving threatening letters containing suspicious liquids and powdery substances, but not the kind that you want to drink or snort. Some of them even had deadly doses of hydrogen sulfide, a chemical compound that smells of rotten eggs and is incredibly toxic. In the first six months of 2008, over 500 Japanese citizens committed suicide with hydrogen sulfide made from household cleaning products. Et tu, Mr. Clean?
After the media got wind of the letters, multiple Kuroko no Basket events were cancelled in Japan, widespread panic sweeping across the nation. Comic Market (Comiket), the world’s largest event, restricted Kuroko no Basket merch. Doujinshi saakuru (groups of doujinshi artists) weren’t even allowed to form, causing gas prices to skyrocket as parents in mini-vans flocked to pick up their kids. It got to the point where everything Kuroko no Basket related was banned at most conventions.
Shueisha, a large publishing company, bolstered security for their Jump Super Anime Tour even went as far as telling their attendees that they needed to show proof of ID and a written invitation if they were older than the average middle schooler. Multiple large retailers began to remove Kuroko no Basket DVDs and merchandise from their shelves. If Japanese electronics stores are anything like Best Buy, then I’m sure their employees wouldn’t have been able to find that stuff for customers anyways. Many bookstores began receiving letters as well, but continued selling the Kuroko no Basket manga. American bookstores would have been even less worried, because who the fuck reads anymore, am I right?
According to the Japanese television station, TBS (Toyko Broadcast System), over 250 threatening letters were mailed to stores and news organizations in October 2013 alone. After receiving an obviously diabolical letter that read,
“Declaration of Criminal Act. I left food products laced with poison in 7-Eleven.”
Over 1,500 7-Elevens pulled their inventory of Kuroko no Basket snacks. The only thing that would have made that message cuter is if he said “Thank you!” at the end with a picture of Miku holding up a peace sign while winking. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s findings, there were trace amounts of nicotine discovered in the letter… Approximately 1/100th of a lethal dose. That’s it? I don’t see what the big deal is. If anything, I thought that the Japanese would embrace a more effective, yet delicious way of getting their nicotine itch scratched. Toilets that wipe your ass for you are okay, but suddenly having any adorable addiction to vanilla wafer cookies is a crime? If that was the case, I don’t need nicotine to get hooked on them sonsofbitches.
Months after the search for the geeky terrorist began, Japanese newspaper, Mainichi Shinbun, reported that 36-year-old man-child Watanabe Hirofumi, the suspected mastermind behind the whole enchilada, was arrested at 3pm on Sunday, December 15th. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police captured Watanabe as he was trying to send more threatening letters in a mailbox near the Yebisu Garden Place complex in Shibuya.
A resident of Osaka’s Higashinari ward, Watanabe at first tried to give them the old, “I’m only in Tokyo today to send out some mail” slip, but it didn’t work. Upon further investigation, the suspect’s backpack contained nearly 20 threatening letters and one giant crock of shit. One of the letters demanded the cancellation of a Tokyo high school basketball tournament scheduled later in the month. Another contained more threats against Comiket, which was scheduled for December 29th through the 31st. Another contained his thoughts on the series finale of Breaking Bad and how he too thinks that Walter White was just dreaming all along, because he was secretly the dad from Malcolm In The Middle. I haven’t watched it yet, so I’m glad that those spoilers were averted.
Watanabe stated that everything he did to Tadatoshi Fujimaki and others was merely an act of jealousy. He then relented, “I’m sorry. I’ve lost.”
Mainichi reported that the letters sent to news publishers in October contained sentences such as, “Fujimaki, who leads a blessed life, versus me, who has never been loved by anyone” and, “A rebel against the most valuable life in Japan today by the least valuable one.” Despite the fact that Watanabe had written through multiple outlets that he was acquainted with Fujimaki, the author asserted that he didn’t know the suspect, nor did he have the slightest clue as to why he would commit such acts. Now I’m waiting for some American copycat bullshit that’s linked to that LeBron rumor to happen.
With a plot thickening twist, an apartment complex neighbor of Watanabe said this about the madman:
“He moved in upstairs about a year ago. I guessed he was living alone. Almost every day in the predawn hours, I heard footsteps from upstairs as if he was dancing. I warned him three times, but he wouldn’t stop even though he said he was sorry every time. It was spooky.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if it was revealed that Watanabe practiced bowling like Fred Flintstone or moonlighted as a drag version of Jennifer Beal from Flashdance in his apartment.
Hiroyuki Shinoda, the editor-in-chief of the monthly magazine Tsukuru, interviewed him on Tuesday, December 17th, just two days after he was arrested. Shinoda posted the main points of the interview on Yahoo! Japan News afterwards. After the interview, Shinoda made a public announcement that Watanabe directed specifically at the users of 2channel, a Japanese message board.
He told Tsukuru that he assumed that a lot of the users were going to call him a “zainichi,” a racist euphemism for foreigners, particularly Koreans, living in Japan. He then made this bold statement for 2channel users: “I am not a ‘zainichi.'” Wait… That was the most emboldened he could say? Don’t fucking call me Korean?! He could’ve said something grand and metaphorical about what he thinks is wrong with the world or how he’s going to get revenge. He could have even said that he’s an agent of chaos or some shit like that. Man, I’d hate to hear his opinion of Koreans…
Watanabe told police that 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 one of the letters sent to multiple news outlets, 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.” Since his arrest, Watanabe has admitted to mailing over 400 evil letters to anybody that had anything to do with Kuroko’s Basketball. At the time of his arrest, Watanabe felt sorry and apologized for his reign of terror and general dickishness.
You know, Hitler was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna twice. He then went on to become… Hitler. I’m just glad that Watanabe was apprehended before he became the Hitler of Anime. Good job, Tokyo police. You saved the world from NOT-Korean Hitler. Thank you.