Japanese Horror and Stalker Psychology
The Stalker Psychology
Stalker psychology is in a way a paradox: it is both complex and very simple. Usually the person engaged in the stalking activities tends to be a male in his mid to late thirties, in possession of a high-school diploma and some sort of a higher education: one such as college or university degree. The typical stalker tends to be intelligent and crafty, they are usually willing to wait for extensive periods of time in order to achieve their goals, which usually is gaining some sort of unity with their object of desire.
Further more the stalker will eventually use violence if their “love” will be reciprocated. The stalking itself might be the result of a childhood trauma such as the loss of a parent, feeling alienated early on in life, or having a hard time dealing with rejection. It is hard to say exactly what will trigger the desire to stalk in a subject: it might be some sort of a childhood association, a combination of various simple factors such as environment or mood… Either way once the stalker has set their eyes on a target they will not stop until their plans are finalized, or until the victim successfully “escapes” by physical means with or without the help of law enforcement.
Stalking is a universal phenomena, however, most cases are usually being reported in the western countries: either because stalking is not being taken seriously in the less developed countries, or because it is less practiced over there. Japan has been one of the latest countries enforcing anti-stalking laws, not because stalking was not “practiced” in Japan before, but simply because it was not taken as an austere crime.
The tragic case of Shiori Ino and anti-stalking law enforcement
All this changed in 1999 when the Saitama Prefectural Police created a media charade as a cover up for down right police negligence: the case was only brought to light and the criminals to justice as a result of a persistent journalist by the name Kiyoshi Shimizu.
One of the most notorious cases in Japan’s stalking crime history was the case of the 21 year old Shiori Ino. Ino met Kazuhito Komatsu, 26, in January 1999. Komatsu operated several businesses ranging from real estate to car sales. After a few dates he started presenting Ino with lavish gifts including brand name handbags and expensive clothes. For whichever reason Ino refused to accept the gifts, which Komatsu bestowed on her in public. This resulted in Komatsu snapping and shouting profanities at the woman for the whole world to witness. Later on he called and apologized pleading the young girl to go back dating him, when Ino refused Komatsu proceeded with threatening her primary school aged brother and got a hold of her phone home number, calling her relentlessly.
Ino and her family turned to the police with the recordings of Komatsu’s threats – made when he showed up at the house and threatened Ino’s entire family. The police dismissed her claims saying that she doesn’t have a case, and the lawyer the family turned to for legal advice simply said that Komatsu bought Ino fancy gifts, thus she shouldn’t complain. Ino was murdered on October 26 by a hit man hired by Komatsu for 20 million yen, approximately 160,000 US dollars. Ino was stabbed to death on her way to afternoon classes at her university. Soon after her murder the Saitama Prefectural Police began falsifying evidence and portraying Ino as flirt and a gold-digger.
Kazuhito Komatsu committed suicide in the early 2000s, his suicide note revealing that he planned on killing himself shortly after Ino’s assassination. The only good thing that came out of Ino’s heartbreaking case is the enforcement of stalker regulations laws on November 2000 in Japan. Similar incidents took place all over Japan, the pattern was almost always the same: after a couple broke up and the female refused getting back together with the male, the male would actively stalk the female, threaten her and/or her family members, and eventually kill the victim in cold blood.
The Japanese cinema makes a bold move
The topic never seems to loose its relevance, primarily because in nine out of ten cases it ends fatally for the victim.
So what is it that unnerves us so much when it comes to stalkers? Primarily it will be the loss of the feeling of safety one usually has in their private sphere. The stalker would call their victim, send threatening letters, show up at their work place or school: all usually building up to their final act of “execution”. It is not just the act of threatening that frightens the victim, but also the act of violation of the personal. The stalker does not shy away form applying psychological pressure on the victim in an attempt to “corner” and isolate them.
The Japanese, who are considered to be masters of horror in their own right, made successful and psychologically disturbing cinematic, graphic, and animated adaptations of the stalking phenomena perfectly capturing pop-idol cult, urban legends, isolation in modern society, mental illness, and abusive relationships.
Audition, parental negligence, love, and obsession
One of the more notable and infamous Japanese movies to explore the themes of sexual abuse, stalking, and the fear of abandonment is Takashi Miike’s 1999 movie Audition, based on the same title novel by Ryu Murakami. The plot centres around a middle aged widower Shigeharu Aoyama, played by Ryo Ishibashi. After a comment made by his teenage son, and the marriage of his secretary with whom he has an affair of sorts, Ishibashi decides to find himself a wife. By recruiting his best friend for the job, Ishibashi holds an audition for women under the pretence of finding a lead for an upcoming movie. In truth, what he is looked for is the future miss Ishibashi.
One of the females to audition is the fragile and enigmatic ex-ballerina Asami Yamazaki. Upon his meeting of Yamazaki, Ishibashi becomes nearly entranced and fixated on the mysterious girl. Despite the warnings of his friend Ishibashi cannot get the young woman out of his mind and is forever caught between thinking about her and actually initiating a meeting with the girl. This fairy tale style romance is brought to an abrupt stop when the viewer realizes all is not quite right with Yamazaki, whose resume is made up of places that either do no exist, or have owners that disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The movie than resumes in showing Yamazaki sitting perfectly still for four days next to the phone in her apartment, waiting for a call from Ishibashi.
As their relationship deepens Yamazaki confides in Ishibashi confessing that she was neglected as a child, endured physical abuse, and lived an unhappy and lonely life, her sole reason for existing was ballet. Ishibashi is deeply moved, professing his love to Yamazaki. The girl, however, is not satisfied and is enraged when she realizes Ishibashi does not love only her: it is also his son that she must share his love with. Yamazkai finds out Ishibashi’s address, follows him to his house, drugs him, and after a neatly planned out torture session she resumes to cutting off his feet, saying that he cannot leave her if he cannot walk. Miraculously Ishibahsi gets rescued by his son, who, by pushing Yamazaki down the stairs breaks her neck.
It is evident from the movie that Yamazaki bears deep psychological scars, nonetheless, there is never an assurance of a happy ending with her since it is deductible that she is a deeply disturbed individual – either her childhood experience affected her, or it was something internal she was born with. Either way Yamazaki engages in passive stalking that escalates from obsession to physical abuse. On top of that we are given a glimpse into Ishibashi’s head who supposedly has sexual fantasies about every female in his life he finds remotely attractive. Yamazaki calls him a pervert and a liar who takes advantage of women, and despite how hard it might be, it is not impossible to sympathize with the young woman on some level.
The ‘celebrity cult’ and Perfect Blue
Another example with perhaps deeper and more vivid psychological roots is that of celebrity stalkings, with one of the more famous cases involved the actress Jodie Foster. It is no wonder then that Japan, a country that is next to over flowing with idols and has a thriving celebrity culture, gave birth to one of the more disturbing modern animations titled Perfect Blue — an anime based on a novel written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.
Perfect Blue is a high tension psychological thriller capturing a period in the life of Mima Kirigoe from a fictional Japanese pop band called “CHAM!”. Mima, feeling that the group will not make her move up in her career, decides to quit and pursue an acting career instead. Sadly, the only “big” part Mima is able to get is that of a rape victim in a club. She decides to take the role despite the warnings of her manager and ex-pop star, Rumi Hidaka.
Participation in the scene inflicts deep psychological wounds on Mima, making her mental state slowly degenerates. To make matters worse Mima keeps receiving anonymous faxes from her fans, calling her a traitor, her band seems to be soaring with her out of the picture, and she find a hidden camera in her room — planted there without her knowledge. Mima feels even more distressed as the people involved in the shooting of the rape scene get brutally murdered one after the other, making her the main suspect.
As it eventually turns out a stalker named Me-Mania does pursue Mima, however, it is her manager Rumi who is responsible for the murders, blaming Mima for soiling her own image; clearly Rumi has gone insane with jealousy as she is shown chasing Mima around dressed as a pop idol. Perfect Blue is a masterpiece able not only to deliver captivating animation with a gripping and intense plot, but it also explores the darker and more sordid side of show business and the complicated relationship between fans and idols. It is easy to see how the lines between adoration and obsession of idols can be blurred, especially when the idols are required to engage in something called ‘fan-service’; giving the fans what they want/expect.
Groups that are particularly susceptible to such laps are young adults, a group with a not yet fully developed brain that is easy to manipulate and is prone to highly exaggerated reactions, and mentally disturbed individuals who often feel alienated from society, usually finding solace in unattainable individuals who are “unable” to reject them. Despite the craze and tears teens are shedding during concerts of their favourite singers it is the insane adults who commit the majority of the stalking crimes, some with devastating consequences.
It is clear to see that stalking and psychological disturbances tend to go hand in hand: that is the noticeable pattern in both, fiction and reality.
Myth brought into life with the disturbing manga Zashiki Onna
The final example of stalking mixed with the supernatural is Zashiki Onna – A knock at my door by Minetrao Mochizuki. ZO is a manga, in a sense a meta one as it depicts the creation of a myth within a myth. The central protagonist of the story is the unassuming and rather insignificant in his existence Hiroshi Mori.
Mori is a college student living alone, he is dating a pretty and popular high schooler, and has an average and typical social life. Mori’s peaceful existence is forever disturbed one fateful night as he hears frantic banging on his neighbour’s front door. Mori, who all in all means well and his only intention is to help those in need, opens the door to discover an abnormally tall and grimy woman standing at the doorway of his acquaintance and friend, who has been missing for some time.
The woman is clad in an old jacket, carrying filthy looking bags. The pitiful female is looking for the neighbour; desperate that he is absent she requests to use Mori’s phone. Mori, being one to help people out in times of trouble, agrees. From that point onward the woman shifts her obsession to Mori, stalking him, calling him, chasing away his girlfriend, and finally having something to do with his disappearance.
The manga ends without the readers getting any closure or information regarding the woman: who is she? Where did she come from? And lastly, what has happened to Mori? The scariest thing being that neither his friends nor his ex-girlfriend seem to mind that he has gone missing. The manga played out on both: supernatural elements and the alienation in modern society. Mori’s bizarre and unexplained disappearance gave birth to an urban legend — a cautionary tale of sorts not to let strangers into our lives.
It is interesting enough to mention that Mori never turned to the police when the odd occurrences in his life began to take place; either because he was too ashamed to admit that he was intimidated by a woman, or because the whole thing was just too strange for him to grasp.
Stalking is often the result of obsession, psychological damage sustained by the perpetrator during their childhood or teenage years, and finally the desire for closeness. It is easy to see how people can become entrapped in their own made up world, may it be celebrity worship, or the desire to be acknowledged by a love interest. Stalking has become somewhat easier to do in today’s world due social networks, however, more serious measures are being taken against stalkers as in recent decades it has become quite clear it can easily turn into a very serious condition which might result in death. The Japanese managed to capture the phenomena quite well on film, animation, and comic books, sometimes adding supernatural elements to it, while at other times simply making it macabre without much effort. Sadly it took the Japanese government quite some time before the phenomena was acknowledged as dangerous, nonetheless, with the correct application of anti-stalking laws, precious lives of innocent victims will be saved.
The answer might not be just the application of laws, but also the discovery of stalking tendencies before they fully manifest themselves, that is, however, might still be impossible to do in this day and age.
Reid Meloy, J. PhD. “Stalking – An Old Behaviour, A New Crime”. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Forensic psychiatry. Volume 22.1 March 1999. Digital
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