AKB48‘s Rina Kawaei was just 19 years old when an anti-fan targeted her and fellow member Anna Iriyama, 18, in a fanmeeting.
The two girls were part of the lineup of a “handshake event” that was held in Takizawa. In the middle of the program, 24-year old Satoru Umeta lunged at the two girls and slashed at them with a foldable handsaw modified with boxcutter blades on the side.
Rina reportedly fractured and cut her right thumb and sustained head injuries on top of this. She announced her graduation from the group a year later, citing her fear of handshake events sprouting from this incident as the reason she could not fulfill her role as an idol.
A New Life
Though the chainsaw incident was a traumatizing one, it did not stop Rina from pursuing her dream of becoming an actress.
She transitioned to TV dramas and acting in films, landing a big role as Sakura Aoi in the live-action dramas Death Note: Light Up the New World and Death Note: New Generation.
In August, she was chosen to play main character Chihiro in the stage play version of Studio Ghibli‘s masterpiece Spirited Away.
She expressed her awe at being chosen for the coveted role, saying that she “never expected” that she would land it. Considering how meaningful the movie is to her, she will treasure this experience forever.
I never expected that I would be chosen to play Chihiro. I remember my older brother and I, when we were four and three years old, pestering our mom to take us to see the ‘Spirited Away’ anime movie on opening day at a theater in Shibuya, and lining up to get in. Spirited Away felt to mysterious to me, but even as a child I remember feeling how strong of a movie it was.
— Rina Kawaei