Hirofumi Watanabe, the man convicted Thursday of threatening publishers, stores, universities and basically anyone or anything that had something to do with the popular manga “Kuroko no Basuke (Kuroko’s Basketball),” has enjoyed a peculiar sort of celebrity since he was arrested in December. Prior to his apprehension, he terrorized his targets with letters demanding they remove products or cancel events associated with the series by saying he would cause mayhem otherwise.
One journalist, Hiroyuki Shinoda, was in contact with the 36-year-old suspect for two months before he was caught. Watanabe sent “messages of criminal intent” to around 500 media-related entities, but the letter Shinoda received at the offices of Tsukuru, the monthly he edits, was more direct. As Shinoda explained on his blog, the extortionist said he didn’t necessarily think other media would publish his statement (most did), but he wanted Tsukuru to print it because he considered the magazine special. If Shinoda cooperated, he promised the reporter “a big scoop,” meaning exclusive access to what he was doing and why, including details of his “secret negotiations” with Shueisha, the publisher of “Kuroko.” The suspect admired the way Tsukuru covered two other famous cases, the Wakayama curry poisoning and the arrest and prosecution of singer Masashi Tashiro, and now that another famous investigative magazine, Uwasa no Shinsho, was defunct, he felt only Tsukuru could do justice to his story.