Man Dressed as Batman Villain The Joker Attacks Train Passengers in Tokyo, Injuring at Least 17

Joel Eisenberg
Passengers evacuating Keio express line in Tokyo, JapanStock

According to Reuters, as passengers on the express Keio line headed to Shinjuku, the Tokyo city center, a 24-year old male dressed as The Joker stabbed multiple passengers, injuring at least 17, before setting the train on fire. The attack was said to have occured at approximately 8 p.m. (1100 GMT).

See The Daily Mail for a collection of photos and videos.

The attacker was arrested on the train. One man, reported to be in his 60s, is in critical condition and has yet to regain consciousness. The train had made an emergency stop when many of the slightly injured and unharmed passengers escaped through windows

According to multiple media accounts, witnesses said the attacker spread lighter fluid before starting the fire. An unidentified witness, speaking to the The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, said: "I thought it was a Halloween stunt. Then, I saw a man walking this way, slowly waving a long knife. There was blood on the knife.”

A video making the rounds on social media shows the attacker seated on the train smoking a cigarette, wearing glasses, and dressed in The Joker’s familiar purple suit and green shirt. He waited calmly in an empty car until law enforcement surrounded him and took him into custody.

See below image for a similar costume, from 2008’s “The Dark Knight” featuring Heath Ledger as The Joker:
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (2008)Warner Brothers

From Reuters: Local media reported later that the suspect told authorities he "wanted to kill people so he could be sentenced to death". Further, said the news outlet: Partial service on the Keio line remained suspended late on Sunday, when Japanese voters went to the polls.

See here for link: in a lower house election.


The incident is the latest in what has become a problematic real-life history based on inspiration attributed to the famed fictional character. See here for Ranker listing.

Perhaps the most well known incident of a Joker-inspired crime involved James Holmes who, dressed as the character at a 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” shot and killed 12 people, and injured 70 others.
James HolmesFile photo

Seven years later, Warner Brothers released the Oscar-winning Joaquin Phoenix starrer, “Joker,” a standalone set apart from the continuity of earlier “Batman” series films. In the weeks preceding the opening, critics and some members of the public vocally worried that the film would spark new violence.
“Joker” one-sheet movie posterWarner Brothers

In some theaters, security was tightened as a precaution.

The film was released, and became Warners top-grossing film ever based on a comic book, earning $1.066 billion globally. Incidents were scant.

For a Wikipedia piece that details the pre-opening fears and controversy, see here.

Though some outlets are reporting today’s incident in Tokyo may have been sparked by that two-plus-year-old release, there is no proof as of yet.

What is being looked at, however, are extended separate sequences of the film featuring the character on a train.


Today’s incident in Tokyo is a tragedy that will likely reignite debate about portrayals of violence in the media. See here for an earlier article I had posted about “Joker.”

In our present culture, it may be prudent to ask pressing questions: Are we not doing enough for our mentally ill? Or, are our mentally ill escalating recent incidents?

These are difficult questions that, based on domestic expectations as posted on social media, may well become political talking points in the near-future.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA

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