It sounds like the set-up for a silly anime, but the end of the story is soberingly real.

So stop me if you think you’ve heard this scenario in an anime or manga. There’s a guy in his early 20s, who’s not going to college and has no job. Somehow, he meets a junior high school girl, and despite their difference in ages, they team up for adventures connected to an interest in manga, and their capers eventually become so wacky that they land them in trouble with the authorities.

But even though the story combines so many well-worn anime/manga tropes, it’s really hard to pinpoint the specific series that has this precise mix, isn’t it? Well, don’t strain your brain trying to remember the title, because the above tale isn’t from any otaku media, but from real-life Kobe.

On January 30, at about 7;30 in the evening, officers from Kobe’s Higashinada Ward Precinct arrested an unemployed 22-year-old man and a 14-year-old female middle schooler, who were acting as partners in a heist attempting to steal 38 volumes of manga, with a total value of roughly 21,000 yen (US$188). The suspects subsequently admitted to the charges.

The criminal duo might have gotten away with it had they chosen a safer target. Just two days before, images of a man and woman resembling the arrested pair were caught on surveillance cameras in the very same bookstore, stuffing an incredible 100 volumes of manga into paper bags they were carrying before leaving the store without paying for them. When the pair returned on January 30, the store manager recognized them from the footage and contacted the police, who arrived and caught the thieves in the process of trying to pull off their second score.

Oddly enough, the pair showed a lack of variety not only by targeting the same store twice in such rapid succession, but also in that for the attempted second theft, all 38 volumes they were trying to steal were from the same series, which makes one wonder if they were robbing the store in order to resell the pilfered books, or simply because they wanted to read the series themselves. Then there’s the outside chance that they were just worried about any unsold comics ending up as toilet paper.

Although online speculation is leaning towards the 38 volumes as being from Yasuhisa Hara’s epic period piece Kingdom, official reports merely refer to the 38 manga volumes as being from “a series set in China during the Spring and Autumn Warring States Period.” Whether the vagueness on the part of the police is because they find the manga’s exact title to immaterial to the case, don’t want to plant the idea that “This series is so good you should steal three dozen-plus volumes of it right now!” in the minds of other potential shoplifters, or simply prefer mecha or magical girl franchises, is unknown.

Source: Kobe Shimbun Next via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso

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