Article about murder suspects removes reference in headline to the couple’s hobbies
Asahi Shimbun has offered an apology and correction to a September 1 article published on the web media outlet Aera Dot. The article, which profiled the suspects of the murder of a high school girl, was strongly criticized for highlighting the suspects’ anime and Virtual YouTuber hobbies in the headline.
On Thursday, the article’s headline was changed 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.”
(“Babiniku” is the practice of adopting a virtual anime character avatar for livestreams and other visual appearances. It encompasses VRChat, VTubers, and Virtual idols.)
The article also issued a correction note, translated as follows: “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 Virtual Rights Specified Nonprofit Corporation was among the critics of the original article, claiming that “by giving readers the impression that there is a link between anime/babiniku and the crime, we believe that it not only incites discrimination against individuals on the basis of their hobbies, it also infringes on gender diversity as a form of self-expression.” Virtual avatars are often used in Japan to project a feminine character or identity; some use it to explore or expand their gender expression.
The organization, which exists to protect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of internet users and virtual creators, wrote a public Twitter post on September 1 strongly urging the public to submit their opinions on the article.
The independent VTuber Virtual Girl Nem was also a strident critic of the article, writing on her blog 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.”
According to the Aera Dot article, the suspects in the murder of Kana Washino (18) were a married couple: Shо̄hei (27) and Izumi Ōmori (28). Shо̄hei was in contact with the victim through Twitter and LINE, but had never met her in person. Izumi became enraged when she discovered that he was corresponding with Washino after his marriage. She told the police that she was jealous and stabbed the victim.