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
What do you think? Leave a comment.
I used to date a guy that got scarily obsessed with me. He was extremely attractive and we had a lot in common. I really liked him a lot…at first. Until he started showing up at my work and waiting all day until my shift was over, completely freaking out on me when male customers spoke to me and then threatening to find out who they were so he could tell them to never come into my store again. I had an ex who I was still friends with and my boyfriend went thru my phone, found his number, and made severe death threats against the poor guy. That was the last draw for me but when I broke up with him, he continued to call me and when I didn’t answer, he’d leave me these long-ass voicemails. When the voicemail time ran out, he’d call back and continue leaving me a message as if he wasn’t interrupted.
Finally he got another gf to harrass and supposedly did the same exact things to her. This was 3 years ago and he’ll occasionally call me to “check-up” on me.
Stalking can be an extremely traumatizing experience, usually the person doing it has something wrong with them on some inherit level. It could be the result of a past trauma, or a chemical imbalance, either way people like that need professional help as they hurt themselves and the ones around them.
I’m glad that your ex-boyfriend moved on (so to speak) although what he should really do is turn to a psychiatrist instead of pending his mental issues on yet another unsuspecting person.
Teenage girls can be scarily obsessive!
True, but it’s mostly due to the fact that their brain hasn’t done maturing yet. Normally, this balances out as we grow-up, but for some people, sadly, this isn’t the case
If Hitchcock had done animation… it might have been something like Perfect Blue.
I strongly agree on that one.
No matter how you see Audition, it’s undoubtedly terrifyingly effective. One of the greatest Japanese horror’s and possibly one of the greatest modern Japanese films of the 21st century.
Yes! I watched it for the first time about half a year ago and it was terrifying on a very high level (and I love watching horror movies and tend not to be easily impressed). There was something highly realistic about the whole thing.
A few years ago I saw some show where directors of horror movies were interviewed about their favorites. Rob Zombie commented that Audition creeped him out. Like you, I’m rarely impressed with, or affected by, scary movies. So, when Rob Zombie said something creeped him out, I thought I’d check it out. I have to say the movie was so good at portraying this type of violence so realistically that I wish I had never watched it. It was so well done that it was a bit traumatizing.
I wholeheartedly agree: Audition was just all too realistic. There are so many ‘damaged’ people out there it’s heart breaking and scary. At the end of the day I believe that this particular movie’s message is not just ‘don’t trust strangers’ but also ‘be kind to one another to prevent monsters from being born’.
When I first started reading the article I kind of expected to read a bit more on the psychological reasons. Things like which experiences as a child or teenager can cause a person to become obsessive and what stalking seems to fulfill in the stalker. This was definitely an interesting article though. Well put together.
Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you liked it.
I was ‘lightly’ stalked once. I haven’t seen him in about three years, so I’m assuming it’s over. He was very nice, but you could tell he wasn’t completely sane. Very intense man, when he saw me, he would focus every bit of attention on me and it was as if his eyes got brighter. He showed up at my house and would sit outside. He would walk by several times until he ‘accidentally’ bumped into me. He was never violent, so I was never scared. I think he just thought persistence was the key to winning me.
The stalker’s voice chosen in the English dub kind of put me out of the tone in perfect blue.
Bunch of whackjobs!
Remember if your gonna stalk someone do it from behind a tree don’t go up to them and tell them your stalking them. Much less legal troubles.
Audition is more disturbing than it is scary.
In South Korea, there is a term called ‘saesang fans’ which describes girls that stalk their favourite celebrities. They give up their everyday lives to stalk the celebrity’s schedule, and continuously bother them to ‘show their love.’ It’s quite obsessive, although I’m unsure if South Korea has made any laws about it, as it’s usually female high schoolers that do the stalking.
Having a stalker is unbearably stressful, once you know about them. It’s even worse when you realize how long you didn’t know they were out there.
I’ve had a few stalkers, for some reason, and I have PTSD from one of them.
Of all the Miike films I’ve seen to date (and I have plenty still to see!), Audition remains a firm favourite!
Having been stalked by an ex-girlfriend many years ago I can somewhat relate to this article.
People suck. It’s one thing to be a fan or have remote feelings for someone, but to take it to a unhealthy level is just beyond me. The police do need to take these cases seriously. It’s sad that someone had to die in order for laws to be put in place. You’d think common sense would win the day.
In Perfect Blue, it’s amazing to see how much seriousness and suspenseful tones were added to a film of animation. My hope is to see more films like it in the future.
Anyone who has the mental instability to become a stalker, either in the real world or on the Internet, needs to be separated from the public and kept away.
I was stalked way back before it was illegal (I know, I’m showing my age.) Luckily, it wasn’t violent and that person eventually either lost interest or found someone else to bother. But even though this was years ago, the creepy feeling NEVER stops. I’m still hypervigilent, still take extreme security measures, still find myself looking over my shoulder, sometimes. I’m glad it’s illegal, now. I just wish the penalities were harsher.
As we can see from the comments a lot of people have been victims of stalking, you were lucky that it didn’t escalate and turn physical… But what you said is true: it’s always very sad that there has to be a death before changes come a foot.
Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that the branch of Japanese Police mentioned tried to cover up their own mistakes. In that respect, they and some similar institutions have the collective judgement of a toddler. When the reports start implying that victim “deserves it,” some skepticism is in order.
I think I was like 16 when I watched Perfect Blue.. and it’s haunted me ever since… especially the music. Shudder…
Nice article and I like how you used Perfect Blue as an example!
Why are you using a picture of the criminal and victim from the 2013 Mitaka Stalker case?????