TOKYO: A delinquent group comprising mainly teens who are fans of the Japanese anime series “Hunter Hunter” is becoming a social issue across Russia.
The group starts brawls in various places, leading to arrests of several hundred people by security forces at large commercial facilities in Moscow and elsewhere late last month.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that the Russian government is monitoring the situation. Some in Russia even have started to call for a ban on Japanese anime.
A member of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, said that the government should investigate whether unfriendly countries are behind the group. There are fears that Western nations and Japan will be made the target of blame.
Members call their group “private military company ryodan,” apparently naming it after Genei Ryodan, a group of thieves that appears in Hunter Hunter, and the Wagner private military company, which participates in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
They wear black clothes with designs of spiders, the symbol of Genei Ryodan, also known as the Phantom Troupe, and have a social media following of some 200,000 people.
Group members have been reportedly arrested all over Russia, including in its Far East. Some are said to be active in Ukraine.
The Hunter Hunter influence is believed to have emerged from online interactions among fans, following the spread of dubbed versions of the anime in former Soviet countries.
Russia has seen the rises of delinquent groups during past economic crises. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, it experienced a wave of attacks on foreigners by neo-Nazi skinheads. It also saw the emergence of hooligans, mainly among soccer fans.
The growth of the anime-inspired group is believed to have been fueled by social anxiety due to the COVID-19 crisis and the start of the war in Ukraine last year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has promoted patriotic education similar to that conducted by Soviet-era youth organizations. But the increase in youths engaging in antisocial behavior seems to indicate that state control has its limits.