Smiley Kikuchi’s grim crusade began in 1999 when he suddenly fell victim to intense online vitriol over the brutal rape, torture and murder of a high school girl committed 10 years earlier by four teenage boys.

“One day my manager insisted I check out the online bulletin board on the website of the talent agency I belong to,” says the mild-mannered comedian known for delivering acerbic jokes with a deadpan grin.

“There, I found more than 300 comments from anonymous users accusing me of being involved in the horrific crime,” he says. “I had no idea what this was about.”