The recent killing of a 12-year-old Japanese school girl by a fellow 11-year-old student was one of the most extreme in an extraordinary series of youth crimes in Japan — including a number perpetrated by children who did not show unusual behavior beforehand, reports the Washington Post. In many, the children involved seemed to snap without warning, in fits of kireru, sudden acts of rage. The violence has led to calls for a reassessment of the increasingly violent and sexually charged youth culture in Japan, which is exported worldwide through animation, comic strips, and video games. The 11-year-old killer was a fan of “Battle Royale,” a popular teen movie turned Internet game in which students kill one another through blood sport. “What is so scary is that she seemed normal to us in every way,” said a counselor. “She did not seem like a troubled girl; there were no warning signs picked up by her teachers or parents. She could have been any of our children.”
Since 1997, when a 14-year-old boy cut off the head of an 11-year old and left it at the entrance of his school, Japan has experienced a rising tide of serious youth crimes. Violence on school grounds has increased fivefold over the past decade to 29,300 in 2002. Violence by younger children in particular has risen rapidly, with the number of minors under 14 processed for violent crime up 47 percent in 2003 from a year earlier. One study found that as many as 30 percent of high school and middle school students had experienced sudden acts of rage at least once a month. Japan lowered the age for criminal prosecution in 2001 from 16 to 14 and might lower it further.