is the name commonly used to describe an 11-year-old Japanese
schoolgirl who was charged with murdering her classmate Satomi
Mitarai. The murder occurred on June 1, 2004 at an elementary
school in Sasebo, Japan and involved the slitting of Mitarai's throat
and arms with a box cutter. It has come to be known as the "Sasebo
Slashing". The un-named killer has since become an Internet meme
The cartoon began to
appear on the Internet shortly after images of the suspected murderer
were published showing her wearing a pullover hooded sweatshirt with
the word "NEVADA" emblazoned across the chest (the "-tan" suffix is a
variation on "-chan", a children's honorific, while the sweatshirt is
commonly worn by fans of the University of Nevada and its sports
Her real name has
not been released to the press, as per Japanese legal procedures
prohibiting the identification of juvenile offenders, and she is
officially referred to as "Girl A" in Japanese legal
documentation. However, members of Japanese internet community
2channel made public her real name on June 18, 2004 based on analysis
of a picture broadcast on Japanese television; the broadcaster, Fuji
Television, may have inadvertently done this as well.
schoolgirl murdered her 12-year-old classmate, Satomi Mitarai, in an
empty classroom during the lunch hour at Okubo Elementary School in
Sasebo. "Girl A" left Mitarai's body at the murder scene and returned
to her own classroom, her clothes covered in blood. The girls'
teacher, who had noticed that both were missing, found the body and
called the police.
After being taken
into custody, "Girl A" was reported as confessing to the crime, saying
"I have done a bad thing" and "I am sorry, I am sorry" to police,
though she initially gave no motive for the killing. Shortly
afterward, "Girl A" confessed to police that she and Mitarai had
fallen out as a result of messages left on the Internet.
On September 15,
2004, a Japanese Family Court ruled to institutionalize "Girl A",
putting aside her young age because of the severity of the crime.
"Girl A" was sent to a reformatory in Tochigi prefecture;
coincidentally, six months before, the same reformatory had released
the (at the time) teenage killer known as Sakakibara.
Analysis of "Girl A"
While news reports
state that there were negative comments left on "Girl A"'s website by
Mitarai (specifically that she was "heavy," i.e. overweight) which may
have been the immediate motive for the murder, investigation has shed
more light on the issue. A police psychologist stated that "Girl A"
was not mentally ill, and already had a history of violent incidents,
from punching and kicking other classmates, to an issue with a knife
the month before the murder.
There is some public
speculation that "Girl A" may be suffering from (and does fit some of
the classic symptoms of) hikikomori syndrome, but as of the
present, no medical examiners have declared such. "Girl A" was also
showing signs of withdrawing from social life, including quitting
clubs, although she continued to play physical sports, particularly
basketball, until shortly before the incident.
It appears that
"Girl A" was heavily influenced by some of the more visceral aspects
of Internet culture. An analysis of the case states that she "was a
girl fascinated with urban legend, internet subculture, even going as
far as guro. From her site she had linked shock flash movies and
bizarre ASCII movies that would unnerve even the most hardened
internet warriors." Her website showcased her interests, which
included fanfiction about her favourite film, Battle Royale,
and strange "recipes" (with names like "Curse of the Purple Skull" and
"Demonic Art"). A particularly strong influence was the "Red Room"
horror flash video, around which she based the site's design.
Aftermath of the "Girl A" incident
The murder sparked
an ongoing debate in Japan about whether the age of criminal
responsibility, shifted from 16 to 14 in 2000 due to the 1997
Sakakibara murders in Kobe, needed to be shifted again. It also raised
questions regarding the exposure of young children to the Internet,
and the effect of the Internet and hikikomori subculture on youth in
Members of the
Japanese Diet came under heavy criticism for comments made in the wake
of the killing, such as then-Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki
claiming that the throat cutting was a "manly" crime.
A Battle Royale
fansite Battleroyalefilm.net reported that the creators of the sequel
postponed the release of the DVD (originally scheduled for June 9,
2004, a week after the killing) to later that year due to "current
In the March 18,
2005 Okubo Elementary graduation, students were given a graduation
album with a blank page, should the students decide to place pictures
of Mitarai and "Girl A," or class pictures containing both, on them.
The school announced that photos would be made available upon request.
The photos were taken securely to the school, and destroyed after
prints were made; there was some speculation that this was due to
"Girl A"'s Internet fame as Nevada.
For reasons not
fully determined, the Japanese web communities, primarily Futaba
Channel and 2channel, fixated on this story and "adopted" the girl.
Her personal website's popularity suddenly rocketed, and when it was
taken down, mirrors were established. Copies of her artwork began
circulating around the web, with other artists creating variations on
the originals. Fan songs, such as "Cutie NeVaDa" appeared.
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. Cosplayers created "Girl A" costumes.
Artists on 2channel soon turned "Girl A" into a cute "chibified"
character dubbed "Nevada-tan."
character is often depicted with short brown hair, the trademark
pullover, and a crazed, murderous smile. She is rarely seen without a
box cutter or other sharp implement nearby. A common representation of
Nevada-tan is as ASCII art, similar to Giko, Mona, etc. She is often
depicted as slashing idiotic posters on the 2channel boards.
Inevitably, this spilled over into 4chan and from there to other
English language imageboards, introducing Nevada-tan to the United
States and the rest of the world.
It does not appear
as though the existence of Nevada-tan or other aspects of the
subculture surrounding the "Girl A" incident is intended to condone or
lend support to the real girl's actions; it is simply another meme,
albeit one with a basis in real life. It could also simply be an
expression of morbid public fascination about a shocking and grisly
event, just like the continuing interest in the English Jack the
Ripper killings of 1888.
The "Sasebo slashing"
Sasebo shōroku joji dōkyūsei satsugai jiken) refers to
the murder of a 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl, Satomi Mitarai
Mitarai Satomi), by an 11-year-old female classmate. The
murder occurred on June 1, 2004 at an elementary school in Sasebo,
Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, and involved the slitting of Mitarai's
throat and arms with a utility knife.
The killer's real name has not been released to the
press, as per Japanese legal procedures prohibiting the identification
of juvenile offenders, and Japanese police referred to her as "Girl
A". The Nagasaki District Legal Affairs Bureau cautioned internet
community members against their revealing her photos.
The killer became the subject of an Internet meme
on Japanese web communities such as 2channel. Users nicknamed her
"Nevada-tan" because a class photograph showed a girl believed to be
her wearing a University of Nevada, Reno sweatshirt.
On June 1, 2004, the 11-year-old schoolgirl
murdered her 12-year-old classmate, Satomi Mitarai, in an otherwise
empty classroom during the lunch hour at Okubo Elementary School in
Sasebo. She left Mitarai's body at the murder scene and returned to
her own classroom, her clothes covered in blood. The girls' teacher,
who had noticed that both were missing, found the body and called the
After being taken into custody, she was reported as
confessing to the crime, saying "I am sorry, I am sorry" to police.
She spent the night at the police station, often crying at times, and
refused to eat anything. She was offered snacks, but refused to eat
them. Eventually, she ate bread and drank juice. However, she
initially mentioned no motive. Shortly afterward, she confessed to
police that she and Mitarai had fallen out as a result of messages
left on the Internet. She claimed that Mitarai slandered her by
commenting on her weight and calling her a "goody-goody."
On September 15, 2004, a Japanese Family Court
ruled to institutionalize her, putting aside her young age because of
the severity of the crime. She was sent to a reformatory in Tochigi
prefecture. The Nagasaki family court in 2004 originally sentenced her
to two years of involuntary commitment, but it sentenced her to an
additional two years of involuntary commitment in September 2006. On
May 29, 2008, local authorities announced that they did not seek her
The murder sparked an ongoing debate in Japan about
whether the age of criminal responsibility, shifted from 16 to 14 in
2000 due to the 1997 Kobe child murders, needed to be shifted again.
The killer was considered to be normal before the incident, which made
the public more anxious.
Members of the Japanese Diet, such as Kiichi Inoue
and Sadakazu Tanigaki, came under heavy criticism for comments made in
the wake of the killing. Inoue was criticized for referring to Girl A
as genki (vigorous, lively) due to the word's usual positive
connotations. Sadakazu Tanigaki was criticized for referring to the
method of killing, slitting of the throat, as a "manly" crime.
Akio Mori cited this case in support of his
controversial "game brain" theory, which has been criticized as
"superstition". The killer was reported to be a fan of the
death-themed flash animation "Red Room", an assertion used in support
of the theory.
At the March 18, 2005 Okubo Elementary graduation,
students were given a graduation album with a blank page on which they
could place pictures of Mitarai, the killer, or class pictures
containing both in honor of Mitarai's death. Mitarai was posthumously
awarded a graduation certificate, which her father accepted on her
behalf. The killer was also awarded a certificate, as one is required
in Japan in order to enter junior high, and the school believed it
would assist in her "reintegration into society".