Well here's a little article I got from the Times in London regarding Raoh's funeral. And for the billionth time, yes it was that big a deal.
The link for the article on their site is here.
I pasted the entire the article in it's entirety here in case it gets archived on the Times site.
"Fantasy funeral brings out thousands of real mourners
Leo Lewis in Tokyo-
A lone temple bell tolled through the Tokyo night. Seven priests chanted the doom-laden lament for the dead. Thousands of black-suited mourners queued solemnly in the rain to offer incense and prayers to their fallen hero, Raoh.
As the tears rolled down the cheeks of the bereaved, few seemed bothered that nobody had actually died.
For although Raoh exists only in the fantasy world of manga comics and anime cartoons, the grief experienced by ordinary Japanese at his funeral yesterday was real.
"He was like a father figure to me," Makoto Sounodai, a 21-year old Tokyo student, said. "I feel about him the way Westerners feel about Elvis."
Roland Kelts, of Tokyo University, an expert on anime, described the scene at the Koyasan Tokyo Betsuin temple last night as "perhaps the most extreme blurring of reality and fantasy that Japanese pop culture has produced". The full Buddhist shokonshiki, or spiritrising ceremony, represented the first time that a Japanese temple had held a funeral for a fictional character.
As the arch villain of one of Japan's best-loved -and most violent -comics, Raoh has as wide a fan base as any music or film star. "Raoh showed us the inner strength of men and showed that power can rule the world as effectively as love," said a sobbing 38-year old fan who called himself Lina, after one of the characters in the story.
As the seating inside the temple overflowed, 2,500 mourners watched the hour long ceremony on giant screens outside. Those with seats at the front, who included the cartoonists and voiceover actors involved in the series, fingered Buddhist juzu beads as Raoh's soul was "sent back to his native star".
In Fist of the Northstar, a manga series that started in the 1980s, Raoh is a vast, merciless tyrant whose cruelty and thirst for power make him supreme in the futuristic, post-apocalyptic wastelands. Raoh's brother and hero of the series, Kenshiro, has struggled to defeat this despot for nearly three decades and, in the latest movie, succeeds.
Although the action in Fist of the Northstar involves severed limbs and blood-soaked executions, many admire the series for its complex plots and moral dilemmas. Keiko Tsurugai, 35, a mother of three, said that her love for the comics arose from the way they tackled the dichotomy of love and hatred between brothers.
The funeral highlights the central role that comics and animation play in the lives of ordinary Japanese. Despite the distractions of text messages and handheld videogames, manga remains the favourite reading material for the very long journeys endured by many commuters. For many, manga comics perform the entertainment functions of comedians, soap stars and film actors.