Despite the anime industry experiencing a huge boom these days, fans of anime, as well as VTubers, are still facing discrimination. Generally, Japanese society tends to look down on people with otaku-related hobbies. Unfortunately, a recent murder of a high school girl seems to be strengthening that discrimination.
An article via the web media outlet Aera Dot by well-respected Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun on that matter, published last September 1, profiled the suspects as being huge fans of anime and VTubers. Needless to say, that article strengthened ongoing prejudices against the otaku community, and had some huge pushbacks. This led the newspaper to issue an apology and correction.
The newspaper wrote an article about the murder of an 18-year old high school student by a married couple in their 20’s. Apparently, the newly wed couple used “Babiniku,”the practice of adopting a virtual anime character avatar for livestreams and other visual appearances. The article focused on the fact that the two murder suspects are anime and VTuber fans. Of course, this led to a huge backlash, prompting the Asahi Shimbun to change the title from “The Surprising Motivation Behind the ‘Babiniku’ and Anime-Loving Newlyweds In Their 20s Who Murdered a High School Girl” to “The Surprising Motivation Behind the Newlyweds In Their 20s Who Murdered a High School Girl.”
The article itself also has a note about the correction. It states “The article follows the actions of the suspects of the incident; their hobbies are unrelated to their charge. However, having received feedback that our reporting may cause a misunderstanding to our readers, we have removed “‘Babiniku’ and Anime-Loving” from the headline. We apologize and have corrected the headline accordingly.”
The article garnered much criticism online, as well as the Virtual Rights Specified Nonprofit Corporation, which seeks to protect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of internet users and virtual creators. They stated that the article implied that it gives readers the impression that the suspects using ‘Babiniku’ and being “Anime-Loving” is related to the murder. Independent VTuber Virtual Girl Nem also voiced her opinions on the article. On her blog, she stated that “it was a title of utterly poor taste that hurts everyone in the babiniku sphere by giving off the false impression that it’s a motivation for murder.”
So far, police are still investigating the crime. Unfortunately, articles such as the one posted on the media website does not help in curbing the discrimination against anime fans in Japan.
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