When it comes to celebrities and drug-use, Japan doesn’t have the same forgiving attitude that many other societies do. Last year, for example, when pop singer Aska was arrested on drug charges, the Studio Ghibli-animated video for the vocalist’s song “On Your Mark” was removed from an upcoming boxed set of Hayao Miyazaki animation.
Now there’s been another intersection of anime, music, and illegal narcotics, as idol singer and voice actress Ai Takabe has been arrested for drug possession, and the anime she most recently performed in has been pulled from online streaming as producers scrub her name from the cast.
The 27-year-old Takabe first stepped into the spotlight in 2004 at the All Japan Beautiful Girl Contest, winning the pageant’s top gurabia (swimsuit modeling) prize at the age of 16. One month later she joined Bishojo Club 31, a 10-member idol singer unit.
Being an idol is as much about having charisma as musical talent, and thanks to her charming smile and newfound fame, Takabe made her debut you as an actress in 2006, appearing in TV dramas, variety programs, and movies (the holy triumvirate of the Japanese acting industry). Three years later, she transitioned from acting in front of a camera to in front of a microphone as a voice actress, with her first role being the lead character in 2009 anime Aoi Hana (also known as Sweet Blue Flowers). Most recently, Takabe lent her voice to Kill Me Baby, an offbeat comedy about a female assassin attending a Japanese high school, in which she played the surrealistically calm ninja Agiri.
With the latest installment of Kill Me Baby having been released in 2013, Takabe doesn’t seem to have had the busiest schedule since then. Still, fans were concerned earlier this month when Takabe’s blog disappeared and her profile was erased from her talent agency’s website.
An explanation came earlier this week, when it was reported that on the morning of October 15, Takabe was arrested by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police on suspicion of violating the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Law. The actress’ home and personal belongings were searched, and according to Japan’s Daily Sports, Takabe admitted to being in possession of a small quantity of cocaine, which she claims she “got from a friend.”
Since her arrest, Takabe has been being held at the Metropolitan Police Women’s Detention Center pending trial, and the fallout from the incident has already begun. On the 26th, Takabe’s talent agency issued a statement saying “We were informed of her detention on the 15th, and regardless of the reasons, we have terminated out contract with her, conforming to the provisions of the agreement.”
Meanwhile, Takabe’s name has been scrubbed from the Kill Me Baby official website. Through the morning of October 28, the website’s character section for Agiri listed the names of both the character (誤識あぎり) and her voice actress, Ai Takabe (高部あい).
As of the afternoon of October 28, however, only Agiri’s name is shown.
Broadcaster TBS, which aired the Kill Me Baby TV series, has likewise removed Takabe’s name from the “Staff and Cast” section of its website for the anime. Whereas before the cast list included “Agiri Gosiki: Ai Takabe,” the website now lists only the voice actresses for characters Yasuna Oribe and Sonya (Chinatsu Akasaki and Mutsumi Tamura, respectively).
Streaming of Kill Me Baby on Amazon Japan, which was offered in cooperation with TBS On-Demand, has also been suspended. While all 13 TV episodes are still listed on the site, each is marked as “unavailable” with the only explanation being “In accordance with the agreement with the rights holder, [this episode] is not currently available.”
▼ Translation: “Nope, sorry.”
Given how quick the Japanese entertainment industry is to drop the hammer in situations such as these, fans of the series have become worried that its continued distribution in its entirety is in jeopardy. In response, collectors have been buying up the Kill Me Baby Blu-ray box set, propelling it to the number 6 slot in Amazon Japan’s top-selling anime at the moment.
While this isn’t the first celebrity drug scandal in Japan, the narcotics in such incidents tend to be methamphetamines. The presence of cocaine is sure to attract even more scrutiny from the authorities, and the police investigation into how exactly Takabe obtained the drugs is still ongoing. Her statement that she received them from a friend is of note, as the night before her arrest Takabe attended a party at the condominium of gurabia Yuri Morishita, where some 50 members of the entertainment industry had gathered. Given the seriousness with which such cases are handled in Japan, all of them can expect a visit from investigators in short order.
Sources: Yahoo! News Japan/Tokyo Sports Web via Jin, Yahoo! News Japan/Daily Sports via Jin, Jin
Top image: Amazon Japan (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert images: TBS, Kill Me Baby official website, Amazon Japan (1, 2)