THE SILVER CASE: What Is Uehara Kamui?

Format Kamui, yes, but also the savior Kamui assassinate corrupt political and business figures. The lionization of assassination has concerning connotations in Japan specifically. In the real world, on 31 January 1932—in winter, like Kamui’s killings—terrorists in a loosely organized group retroactively deemed the Ketsumeidan (in English usually called the Blood Brotherhood) assassinated the business leader Dan Takuma and the progressive politician Inoue Junnosuke (Large 534–545). Like Kamui Net’s heroic Format Kamui and the popular image of Fujiwara, the killers were arrested on the spot (Large 540). Other members of the Ketsumeidan group went on to collaborate with far-right Imperial Navy officers to gun down Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi. These crimes are known, respectively, as the Ketsumeidan Incident (血盟団事件) and the May 15 Incident (五・一五事件).

The arrest of Hishinuma Gorō after his assassination of Dan Takuma. Source.

Similar to the religious veneration associated with Kamui/Ayame and their transformative violence, the Ketsumeidan assassins understood their violence in not just political but supernatural and religious terms. “My act was a mystical assassination,” said Hishinuma Gorō, the man who shot Dan Takuma (Large 540). In place of Kamui/Ayame, their cult centered on a very real unsanctioned Nichiren priest, Inoue Nisshō.

At the highly publicized trial, the terrorists, like Format Kamui, received public sympathy. In particular, there was widespread identification with Inoue, who seized on the opportunity to turn the trial into a political platform for his mystical assassination politics. In his version of the “truth,” Inoue portrayed himself as a passionate seeker of knowledge who aimed to perfect Japan by excising the liberal capitalist order through the killing of “evil” officials. “By November 1934, […] desks in the Tokyo District Court, where the Ketsumeidan trial was held, were piled high with petitions from all over Japan demanding leniency for the defendants” (Large 557).

(Fun fact: if Google Translate is correct, the man who assassinated Dan later became a member of the Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly.)

Similar to how The Silver Case frames Kamui’s assassinations with talk of revolution and defiance of corrupt syndicates and the rage of the people, Inoue presented his cause as one of social liberation from powerful men who betrayed the people to feed their personal greed. “[F]ew Japanese would have approved of their terrorist methods, but many would have understood the political rage that led to the Ketsumeidan Incident. […] The multitude of the rural and urban poor, and people everywhere who were better off but who still felt threatened by the Depression, could identify with the Ketsumeidan’s condemnation of elites who appeared to care only about preserving their own wealth and power” (559).

In the way that Format Kamui inspires imitators, Large contends several other terrorist plots were inspired at least in part by the Ketsumeidan Incident. This includes the more consequential February 26 Incident (二・二六事件) of 1936, when over a thousand fascist army officers assassinated various government officials. After this last plot, one of the ringleaders stated, “What is destruction? What is construction? . . . To destroy the wicked is to reveal the path of righteousness” (556). He echoed Inoue, who stated at his trial, “Without destruction there can be no construction. Since ultimate denial is the same as genuine affirmation, destruction is itself construction, and the two are one and inseparable” (545). This disturbingly parallels Kamui’s embodiment of creative destruction.

Inoue opposed the existing imperialist ruling class, wanted to abolish the Tokkō and Kempeitai (545), and appealed to oppressed social classes and young people (his followers were in their early twenties). However, these anti-establishment features hardly mean his ideology was productive or leftist. He wanted communism and anarchism wiped out as much as capitalism, and in this battle was on the same side as the police. The ultimate aim of Inoue’s cult was not to establish a more democratic society but for unilateral autocratic power for the emperor (544–545). The issue for Inoue was that even imperial Japan was too free. The disaffected Ibaraki youths who followed him had formed a justified skepticism of the liberal capitalist system whose Great Depression had plunged their communities into poverty. But Inoue perverted these feelings into devotion to his personal brand of fascism, as various other figures did their own.