Twenty-one-year-old Yuka Takaoka stabbed a man in an apartment in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district in late May, leaving him in a critical condition.
During questioning, Takaoka reportedly told police that she stabbed the man because she loved him so much she just couldn’t help it.
“After killing him, I also wanted to die,” she reportedly told police, according to the website Tokyo Reporter.
Social media users drew parallels between her actions and that of a “yandere” character, a common trope in anime describing a person who is romantically obsessed with somebody else and the violent lengths they go to in order to fulfill their love.
Netizens were especially drawn to disturbing images of Takaoka online showing her calmly smoking a cigarette while sitting next to her victim’s bloody body (it’s as bad as it sounds, and best not sought out).
There’s also a disconcerting shot of Takaoka grinning as she sits in the back of a police car.
Naturally, it didn’t help that Takaoka’s Instagram account features images of her dressed in cosplay as yandere personalities from popular TV shows.
Social media users started to express an admiration for Takaoka online. Some expressed an interest in her yandere actions on Japanese message boards, while others admitted to being genuinely smitten by her.
Posts even started appearing in English from people who defended her actions, while fan art started to be shared on Twitter — a sure sign you’ve made it on social media.
People have long been interested in what makes a killer tick, and the domestic publishing industry certainly hasn’t shied away from putting such characters in the spotlight.
Books by murderers such as Tatsuya Ichihashi have become bestsellers, while self-confessed cannibal Issei Sagawa even landed appearances on TV shows and in magazines, where he contributed restaurant reviews.
More recently, however, attitudes toward such individuals have changed and outlets are far less willing to give criminals a platform for them to air their views.
Globally, however, news outlets have never devoted as much space to talking about criminals as they do now.
“True crime” podcasts and TV shows have become something of a phenomenon in the English-language world in recent times. “The Last Podcast on the Left” even offered its own take on Takaoka’s case, at least until it dissolved into a discussion about … William Gibson?
In Japan, a couple of domestic true crime podcasts have been created in English, although neither look as if they have been updated recently.
However, true crime stories in Japanese are being published in other formats.
One writer published a comprehensive article on various arson and murder cases in Yamaguchi Prefecture that occurred in 2013 on the website Note, generating enough money to allow them to write a whole book on the subject.
The media, meanwhile, still profiles the lives of killers in an almost exaggerated manner, such as was the case with the man behind the recent stabbing rampage in Kawasaki. This also happened in the media’s coverage of Takaoka’s case.
What’s noticeable, however, is how vocal the backlash has been against Takaoka’s supporters. Multiple YouTube videos have been uploaded that express both shock and anger that people could treat her in the same way as they treat their favorite anime character.
What’s more, all of the above Instagram and YouTube comments from her supporters have now been countered by criticism. Twitter has similarly seen many critical of this interest, with people urging others not to engage in this sort of behavior.
Such a response is becoming the norm for violent incidents that have been broadcast online, which certainly gathered steam following the outcry over the videos of the Christchurch mosque shooting earlier this year.
Online interest in murder and violence isn’t going to go away anytime soon. As the Takaoka incident highlights, however, an increasing number of social media users are prepared to step in and remind people that it’s not fiction, but reality.