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Nevada-Tan is a character based on a true event, wherein an elementary school girl murdered a classmate in a Japanese school in 2004. The age of the offender and nature of the crime spurred interest in many online communities both domestic and international. Many fan works and homages have been created as a result.
On June 1st 2004, an 11 year old girl, whose name has been withheld by most media outlets, murdered her 12 year old classmate Satomi Mitarai (Japanese: 御手洗 怜美) by slitting her throat with a box cutter. The unnamed girl then came back to her homeroom class with her clothes covered in blood. This tragic event took place at an elementary school in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, thus naming it the “Sasebo Slashing”.
Media Coverage and Name Revealed
The event got worldwide press coverage pretty quickly. The first piece of international coverage appeared on June 3rd 2004 when BBC News article was published regarding the incident.
As per Japanese legal procedures prohibiting the identification of juvenile offenders, the girl’s real name wasn’t released and Japanese police referred to her as “Girl A”. Moreover, The Nagasaki District Legal Affairs Bureau cautioned. Internet community members against their revealing her photos.
Despite efforts to protect the girl’s identity, her real name was revealed a few days after the incident. According to this article, Fuji Television accidentally uncovered her real name while showing some of her drawings. The kanji shown in some of the pictures (辻菜摘) are of the girl signing her own drawings. When the kanji is romanized, it reads: Natsumi Tsuji.
When placed into custody, Tsuji admitted to the crime. The basis for the murder was surrounded around a website Tsuji created, the content based mostly around a horror flash game called The Red Room and fan fiction about the popular Japanese movie Battle Royale. Mitarai reportedly left disparaging comments regarding Tsuji’s physical appearance on her website.
Tsuji was sent to Nagasaki Family Court following failed attempts to try her as an adult and debates regarding age and criminal responsibility. She was then sent to be institutionalized in a Tochigi prefecture juvenile hall. Reportedly, Tsuji is set to be released in 2013 and should be 20 years old upon release, the legal age in Japan to be recognized as an adult.
2channel’s Appeal and Nevada-tan’s Nickname
While there is no real evidence of whether or not 2channel users attempted to seek out Tsuji, she nonetheless became an internet phenomenon, and a cult symbol, on the boards. 2channel users quickly nicknamed her “Nevada-Tan”. “Nevada” because of the sweatshirt she wore during the horrific event, and “-tan” being the way a young child would pronounce the honorific “-chan” suffix.
News outlets brought attention to the unusual nature of a child killing another child based on comments made on the internet. Many articles also had many remarks about Tsuji’s website and it’s themes surrounding gore and death. From that point, an impressive amount of fan art has been made, showing most of the time a cute or “moe” illustration that resembles Tsuji, despite the fact she’s always drawn with blood on her and a box-cutter in her hand. Those illustrations are listed in several websites dedicated to Nevada-tan information.
Appeal in the Western Web
The fan art creation trend wasn’t restricted to the Japanese web. Starting nearly immediately after the incident, numerous websites began talking about the girl, paying some kind of tribute or simply dealing with the uncanny event in itself were created. A Urban Dictionary entry was even created in August 2004. Then, an Encyclopedia Dramatica (ED) entry was created in 2006.
Other Influences and Aftermath
The school Tsuji and Mitarai attended opted to print that year’s yearbook with a blank page where students can print and place their own pictures of either or both girls. Some photos were distributed via CDs which were later destroyed to prevent them getting into the hands of outsiders or the press.
In June 2005, the online store that sold the University of Nevada hooded sweatshirt reported it to be their best-selling item in the site’s online statistics; a few weeks later, the University temporarily removed the sweatshirt from their catalog.
Australian indie rock band Love Outside Andromeda created a song about the incident called Boxcutter, Baby and was released on their debut self-titled album in 2004.
Nevada-Tan has been coplayed many times by Japanese and Westernern convention goers.
An imageboard called iiichan dedicated an entire board to her.
Nevada Tan the German Music Group (2007-2010)
An emerging German band in 2007 named themselves “Nevada Tan” in an homage to the meme in an attempt to highlight social issues regarding social pressures towards students. The band later renamed to Panik in January 2008 after production and managerial disputes and then played their final show in April 2010.
Tribute videos have been made on YouTube, starting in 2006:
While the search curve for Tsuji’s romanized name started in 2006, influenced by "the first ED entry about it starting in 2006, it peaks in 2007. As for the German Music Group, the proper band name is written without the hyphen and Google Insights shows a clear difference when combined with the previous search terms.
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