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The Mysterious Disappearance of the Detective Prince

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This week on Buzzfeed Unsolved we will be discussing the disappearance of Goro Akechi, who was hailed by some as the second-coming of the Detective Prince.

“Okay, okay, first,” Shane says, “I gotta pull you up right now because did you say second-coming, as in, like, the whole Christ rising from the dead or-”

Ryan splutters. “What? No? Okay just- just listen and I’ll explain.”

“Oh so there’s no rising from the dead? That’s disappointing. It sounded like you were gonna tell me about a zombie solving crimes and honestly? I’d be on board.”

“What?”

“Little zombie guy with his fancy detective cloak, goin’ around with a magnifying glass. He takes a bite out of the murder victim and oh yeah, that tastes like he’s been dead for ohhh about four hours-”

“You know I don’t think he’s a very good detective if he keeps eating the evidence.”

“Well that’s just how it goes with zombies, you can’t fault him for something that’s in his nature.”

Ryan laughs. “Anyway, there will be no zombies in this story, unfortunately. Let’s get to it.

“Goro Akechi was born on June 2nd 1998. The details of his early life are murky at best - I wasn’t able to find any information about his childhood, or even his early teens.”

“Wait, this wasn’t that long ago. There’s nothing? No school photos? Not even an embarrassing birthday message from a great aunt or something?”

“Nothing.”

“Someone must have really scrubbed that social media profile.”

“We’ll get into that. Akechi first starts showing up in the media during his first year of high school - when he’s about 15 years old - because he showed up at a police station one day with all the evidence to solve a crime that the police had deemed unsolvable.”

“Okay, a couple of things. First: can you imagine being that police officer? You’re sitting there like yuuuuup ain’t no way this case is getting solved and then some kid shows up out of nowhere like well gee mister, I think I know who dunnit!”

“Yeah that’s gotta be embarrassing.”

“May as well pack it in and retire at that point. And second: how does this random kid have evidence the police couldn’t find? Were they just not doing their jobs?”

“From the media reports it sounds like the police just didn’t think the evidence was that important when they were doing their investigation-”

“So they’re bad at their jobs.”

“I don’t know, man! This isn’t even the first time something like this has happened, so-.”

“So Japanese children are just out there solving crimes on the regular?”

“No, but-”

“How did we miss that the hot new trend with teens was solving crimes?”

“Yeah when we were teens it was all about committing crimes.”

“We were just getting high on weed. These kids are getting high on… justice.”

Ryan cackles. “So like I said, this wasn’t necessarily as weird as it sounds, because there had already been another teenager working with the police to solve crimes: the Detective Prince, Naoto Shirogane.”

“Oh, okay, so Akechi was the reboot. The new and improved version.”

“I guess you could say that? Although in this case it’s probably better to be the original flavour, since Shirogane is still around as far as I can tell.”

“They’re still out there solving crimes?”

“Probably.”

“Good for them!”

“There’s a lot of comparison between Akechi and Shirogane, for obvious reasons. They both started solving crimes as teenagers, they both started cooperating with the police in order to participate in official investigations, and they were both involved in some rather strange events.”

“Here we go.”

“Akechi quickly became popular with the media due to his pleasant personality and good looks, and he made regular appearances on talk shows.”

“So this guy was a cop and a celebrity?”

“Apparently.”

“And he was a teenager, so was he going to school?”

“Yup.”

“I- that’s three full-time jobs. Did he just not sleep?”

“I dunno.”

“That’s not typical teenage behaviour. Getting out of bed, solving crime… A-and there’s no history of him before this point? Are you sure he wasn’t built in a lab?”

“I mean, if you’re gonna build a celebrity cop in a lab, wouldn’t you just make them an adult? Seems like kind of a hassle to deal with a teenager.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“So Akechi is popular. Like, he’s on primetime TV at least once a week at this point. He’s living the high life. And then the Phantom Thieves appeared.”

“The what?”

“The Phantom Thieves.”

“You know if I didn’t vaguely remember that name going around I’d say you were pulling my leg.”

“I know, it sounds a little-”

“Having a little joke at my expense.”

“Yeah, it’s-”

“The balls on those guys to choose that name though! Yeah, we’re the Phantom Thieves!”

“Have- have you seen the video? All of Japan’s TV networks were hacked and-”

Jesus Christ! Yeah, yeah, I remember hearing about that! I mean the whole ‘stealing hearts’ thing was dumb as hell but-”

“You don’t think they stole hearts?”

“You can’t steal someone’s theoretical heart!”

“But-”

“You can rip the heart out of someone’s chest but I think that’s just murder.”

“You-” Ryan wheezes. “So how would you explain the sudden changes in the targets?”

“Blackmail, obviously.”

“Wha-”

“Listen, if the Phantom Thieves are real, they probably just got evidence of the wrongdoings of their targets and-”

“But that doesn’t-”

“Well how do you explain it?”

“I- I don’t know, but those people changed so drastically that it doesn’t seem normal, so-”

“So the Phantom Thieves stole their literal hearts.”

“Not literal-”

“Right, theoretical. Like their mind, I guess, right? How does one steal something like that?”

“I don’t know! It’s a mystery! And maybe I just like believing that the world can be a little magical sometimes.

“Akechi was a vocal critic of the Phantom Thieves from the beginning, long before most people believed they existed. He was not afraid to respond negatively whenever questioned about them, and he disagreed with their concept of justice on a fundamental level. He continued to criticise them even when public opinion changed to favour the Phantom Thieves, and his popularity suffered as a result.”

“Alright, I’m gonna say it. This kid sounds like a narc.”

Ryan laughs. “I’ll admit, he does sound like a bit of a killjoy.”

“Respect for sticking to his guns in the face of disagreement, but he sounds like he would not be fun at parties.”

“Public opinion swung back in his favour after the Phantom Thieves were accused of murdering Kunikazu Okumura, who was CEO of Okumura Foods at the time.”

“Okumura Foods… What do they own again?”

“Big Bang Burger.”

“Ohh right- so did they really not like fast food or-”

“I think he was targeted because he was exploiting his employees.”

“That’s less fun, I was imagining them assassinating him because they got a bad burger.”

“I told them no pickles.”

Shane wheezes. “This coke is diet! I asked for regular!”

“Glad to see someone taking it out on the CEOs rather than the overworked employees though.”

“Yeah that’s- I mean it’s probably better to just not kill people, but if you’re going to kill someone you may as well go for a dirtbag.”

“The leader of the Phantom Thieves was taken into police custody, largely thanks to Akechi’s work. Public opinion swung against the Thieves, and he was praised for remaining steadfast in the face of opposition. And then, at the height of his fame, and almost immediately appearing on a live television broadcast, he disappeared.”

“Wait. Wait. So he just walked off set and then… poof? Gone?”

“Pretty much.”

“Weird.”

“Yeah, he- he basically said something about having to go check something and then no one ever heard from him again.”

“Can you imagine if I left here like oh I think I left the oven on at home and then-”

“Please don’t do that, I don’t want to be investigated for murder.”

“Yeah you couldn’t handle an interrogation.”

“They’d need to go good cop-good cop.”

“What’s- what’s going on here, little guy? You want a soda?”

“Thanks mister officer, I-”

“WELL YOU CAN’T HAVE ONE!”

Ryan laughs. “Oh god-”

“YOU CAN’T HAVE ONE UNTIL YOU TELL US WHERE SHANE IS!”

“But I don’t know where he is!”

“Well then you don’t get a soda.”

“So let’s talk about the theories here. There are a lot of different ideas floating around on internet message boards so I’m only gonna talk about the four most popular ones. The first theory is: that Akechi was murdered by the Phantom Thieves.”

“Well they did murder that other guy, so-”

“But they didn’t.”

“What?”

“That- that’s the thing. The Phantom Thieves were accused of murdering Okumura, but less than two months later a prominent politician at the time - Masayoshi Shido - confessed that he had Okumura assassinated in order to frame the Thieves.”

“So they they didn’t murder that guy?”

“Apparently not.”

“Well then why would they murder this guy?”

“Some people think Akechi was too close to uncovering the Thieves’ true identities, and so they killed him to prevent that information being leaked.”

“Is that all?”

“Yeah, but-”

“I don’t know, I’m just having a hard time believing they’d kill some inoffensive detective but they wouldn’t kill some asshole exploiting his employees.”

“I’m just giving you the theories.”

“Okay, well, I don’t buy this one. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“The second theory is that, because the politician I mentioned before - Shido - had a whole bunch of scandals come out at that time, that there’s a connection there with Akechi’s disappearance.”

“Because they happened at the same time?”

“Well it’s- people think Shido or someone connected to him might have, uh, dealt with Akechi because he was looking into the Phantom Thieves, and the Thieves were going after Shido, so-”

“Ohh, so the kid bit off more than he could chew and was… silenced.”

“Yeah. It’s hard to get a lot of the information on the scandals themselves because a lot of it’s classified still I think, but it sounds like this Shido guy had his fingers in a lot of pots.”

“A lot of murder-y pots.”

“Exactly. He was on track to become Prime Minister of Japan for a little bit there-”

“What? Oh shit-”

“Yeah! So he’s the kind of guy who definitely had the power to make someone disappear. Of course the evidence against this theory is that Shido later confessed to his crimes and Akechi’s disappearance wasn’t one of them, as far as anyone can tell.”

“But that could just mean that one of his underlings took care of it on the side.”

“Underlings?”

“Dude’s a criminal, he probably has underlings, has some goons walkin’ around doing things for him all sneaky-like.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.”

“This theory isn’t terrible. It’s actually pretty plausible.”

“It’s a stretch but, like, a believable stretch?”

“Politicians probably have people assassinated all the time. I’d buy it.”

Ryan pauses. “The third theory is that Goro Akechi was abducted by aliens.”

“Nope.”

He laughs. “I don’t believe this one, I’m just saying-”

“I can get onboard with government conspiracies but aliens is stupid.”

“Yeah the government thing makes more sense.”

“What, aliens were just flying by and decided to take this one guy? At this exact time?”

“They might have been fans of his media appearances.”

“Oh look, isn’t that that Detective Prince down there? We should take him back to our galaxy so we can watch him solve some crimes!”

“That’s- well at least they’d be looking after him.”

“It’d be like living in a zoo.”

“Little alien children walking past like look, mum, it’s a human! And Akechi is sitting there like I miss crime.”

“There’s not enough murder in this alien zoo. I wanna solve a case!”

“The last theory we’ll discuss is that Akechi isn’t actually dead-”

“Oh, I like that.”

“There’s a decent amount of people who think that he’s actually just working a deep cover investigation for the police.”

“So there’s a chance that he’s out there right now, watching this video?”

“I- I guess?”

“He’s probably real mad at us.”

“You did call him a narc.”

“I’m just saying he doesn’t seem like he’d be fun to hang out with! Do you wanna hang out with a hall monitor?”

“Well he’s probably more fun nowadays since he’d have been undercover for uhh five years.”

“Good point. He’d have lots of good stories.”

“Like, yeah I cut a guy’s finger off one time. It was awesome.”

“I know what it’s like to see the light leave a man’s eyes as he dies.”

“Holy shit-”

“Is it still illegal if you kill someone to keep your cover, or do you get, like,excused?”

“I think it’s still illegal.”

“Well that’s no fun.”

“You can’t just kill people.”

“But what about keeping your cover?”

“I don’t know, I guess it’s probably complicated?”

“But Akechi was pretty popular, right? He’d be recognised.”

“Maybe he got plastic surgery.”

“Got a nose job to fool the mob.”

“That’s-” Ryan laughs. “It’s not the most compelling theory but you also can’t really prove that it’s not true.”

“It would be fun if he were still alive. We don’t get that a lot with these mysteries.

“True. In the same sort of vein he could be in witness protection? We could sort of combine the government conspiracy theory with this one.”

“Oh, like he uncovered information about that politician, handed it over, and the police gave him a new identity to protect him? That’s pretty cool. I like that.”

“They could have moved him to America or something and we’d never know.”

“That’s nice. He was just a kid, so I’d like to think he’s still alive.”

“Yeah, me too. I like having that little spot of hope at the end of the story.”

“It sucks that he solved all those crimes and now he’s kind of… become an unsolved case himself.”

“So the police- did they ever put out a statement, or?”

“I don’t think they ever put out an official statement, but the media-”

“Okay that’s definitely weird.”

“The media commented on it a little at the time, but it sounds like they were told not to speculate too much.”

“Oh?”

“Like it would interfere with any investigation they were doing.”

“Still a little weird, but it makes sense. If he’s undercover they wouldn’t want his picture being broadcast all around the country.”

“Yeah that- that’s actually a good explanation.”

“So maybe he is still out there.”

“Yeah. You know, if he’s not dead. Maybe he’s sippin’ margaritas on the beach in Mexico or something.”

What happened to Goro Akechi? The boy once called the Second-Coming of the Detective Prince disappeared at the height of his fame, with no clues as to where he may have gone. Was he killed by his rivals to preserve their secrets? Was he assassinated by a corrupt politician? Did something stranger still occur, or is he in fact still alive and solving mysteries? Many theories abound but none can be definitively proven, and so the case will remain… Unsolved.