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Japan: Axe Murder, School Days and a Nice Boat

In a bizarre twist of events that is sure to confuse all but the most persistent observer, the shocking story of a 16-year-old girl who killed her father with an axe, believed to be motivated by her interest in manga and anime [Ja], triggered TV networks to cancel airing of the final episode of School Days, a popular anime based on a game of the same name. In place of the anime, which it is speculated must have been a very bloody finale, broadcasters aired a series of slow, meandering shots of castles, mountains, and… (drum-roll please) a nice, nice boat [Ja]. A meme was thus born that has spread like wildfire across bulletin boards [Ja] and blogs [Ja], sparked various creative offshoots, and even inspired conspiracy theories.

School Days
School Days anime (from Wikipedia)

Nice Boat.
A Nice Boat (from Kurogan's Anime Blog)

To untangle this last sequence of events requires a bit of background. A post at new akiba dot com gives a quick rundown of the events:

テレビ神奈川(tvk)でl9月18日に放送を予定されていた「スクールデイズ」最終回が放送されずに、代わりに30分間風景映像が流れることになった。その風景映像の中ではボートが映っていた。

On September 18th, Kanagawa Television (tvk) was scheduled to broadcast the final episode of “School Days”, but instead of broadcasting it, they streamed a 30-minute video of landscape scenery. In that landscape scenery video, there were shots of a boat.

そのときに2ちゃんねるではみんなの怒りが爆発していた。それとは対照的に、海外のアニメファンがそのボートのキャプチャ画像に「Nice boat」とのクールはコメントを寄せる。そのことが起源となって「Nice boat」との言葉が生まれた。

At that point, everybody on 2-channel was exploding with anger. In contrast, when overseas fans wrote “Nice boat” over an image capture of the boat, comments started popping up about how cool it was. That was the beginning, and the word “Nice boat” was born.

その詳細な経緯については「きなこ餅コミック」やはてなダイアリーのキーワード解説記事に掲載されている。「きなこ餅コミック」では「Nice boat」のコラ画像も見られる。また、はてなダイアリーの方では「Nice boat」のアスキーアートが見られる。

More details about the sequence of events are available in background articles posted at “Kinako Mochi Comic (きなこ餅コミック)” and at Hatena Diary Keyword. At “Kinako Mochi Comic”, you can see a “Nice boat” video collage. At Hatena Diary, you can see some ASCII art of the “Nice boat”.

ニコニコ動画の映像では、そのボートが出てくる4分30秒辺りで「Nice boat」のコメントだらけになる。

On Nico Nico Douga, the boat appeared at 4 minutes 30 seconds, and from that point on everything was filled with “Nice boat” comments.

Blogger Minaide! Hazukashi gives a bit more information about Nico Nico Douga, the site where everything started:

For anyone that hasn’t been there, Nico Nico Doga is basically Youtube meets Mystery Science Theater 3000. Youtube has a comment system where people can post well, comments after each video. What makes Nico Nico Doga different is that the comments are linked to a time in the video, and as you watch the video, the comments pop up on the screen. For the School Days replacement, the comments like “What is this, Eva #25?”, “lolololololol”, and of course “nice boat” would scroll across the screen at appropriate times.

ASCII art of a nice boat
Nice ASCII art of a nice boat. (From 2ch.)

While some fans were drawing ASCII art of nice boats on 2-channel, however, many meanwhile questioned the logic of canceling the show. One blogger wrote:

まぁ、なんとも凄惨な事件ですが、そろそろメディアは凶悪事件とサブカルチャーを安易に結びつけるのは止めて欲しいですね。
自分はこの『ひぐらしの〜』はゲームもアニメも観た事の無い門外漢ですが、それでも斧ではなくナタだって事くらいは知ってますし、仮に斧だったとしても、それは犯行の間接的要因でしかなく、直接的な殺意には結びつかないでしょ。

Well, this is nothing less than a dreadful incident, but I wish the media would stop making such simplistic connections between horrible incidents [like this] and subculture.
I am an outsider who has never seen the game or the anime of “Higurashi” myself, and anyway everyone knows that it wasn't an axe, it was a chopper. Even if we assume that it was an axe, it was only an indirect factor in the crime, and you can't draw a connection with an indirect intention to kill.

Another blogger made a slightly different argument:

今回の事件については未だ詳細が明らかになっていないが、百歩譲って、仮に虚構の作品を模倣して犯罪が起きたとしよう。しかし、それで自粛しないといけないなら、そもそも犯罪事件の報道をする時点で、影響を考え自粛するべきではないだろうか。

The details of this incident are not completely clear just yet, but let's assume for argument's sake that the crime was committed emulating the example of a work of fiction. If it is necessary to apply self-censorship [in this case], then from the start, at the point in time when the story was originally reported, shouldn't they have considered the influence [of reporting the story itself] and censored that?

なぜなら虚構の作品だけでなく、事実の報道も模倣されうるからだ。殺人事件だけでなく例えば、「ピッキング」だとか「俺俺詐欺」なども、模倣犯を産む恐れがあるはずだ。しかしおそらく、それに対しては、「自己責任」だとか「報道の自由」がある、と言うだろう。だとすれば、「報道の自由」は「表現の自由」*1なのだから、ニュースは自粛しないがアニメの方は自粛する*2というのは、偏っているだろう。

I ask this because it is not only works of fiction that are emulated, but also the reporting of facts. It is not only murder cases either, but also cases of “lock picking” and “it's me! fraud” [*] that have the potential to spawn copycat crime. I guess, in response to this, they would say that there is “self-responsibility” and “freedom of the press”. But if you make this argument, then since “freedom of the press” is “freedom of expression”, it seems to me biased that news does not have to practice self-censorship but that anime does.

[“it's me” fraud: type of telephone fraud common in Japan]

要するに、ニュースなどに比べればアニメの歴史は浅く、元々は子供向けのメディアで、サブカルチャーの位置付けだから、社会的に肩身が狭いという話*3だろう。それはまあ分かる。しかし、さんざん叩かれて引っ込めるのではなく、その事前に空気を読んで引っ込めておくというのは、敗北ですらない逃走ではないだろうか。

Basically what I'm saying is that, because compared to news, etc., the history of anime is very short, and because anime is a medium originally oriented toward children, with the status of a subculture, it is being treated by society as inferior, that's what this is about. Well, I understand that. However, instead of being bashed a lot and then pulling the program, to read the air before the incident and then pull the program, this is an escape that is not even a defeat.

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