Japanese Netflix reality show Terrace House has cancelled its current season following the death of cast member and pro-wrestler Hana Kimura.
The 22-year-old had before her death issued a series of social media posts implying she had been cyber-bullied.
News of her death sent shockwaves across Japan, many calling for stricter laws against cyber-bullying.
Terrace House, co-produced by Japan’s FujiTV and distributed by Netflix, is now in its fifth season.
“We would like to express our sincere condolences for the death of Hana Kimura,” the show said on its Twitter account. “We have decided to cancel the production of Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020.”
It is not yet clear if the show will be permanently cancelled, though Netflix confirmed to the BBC that there were “no current plans to take down the latest season of this incredibly loved show”.
It added that its latest episodes featuring Kimura were available only on its Japan service, saying that it had postponed the launch of new episodes indefinitely.
The unscripted reality show follows six young people who live together in one house in Japan but generally go about their daily lives.
A group of panellists provide real-time commentary – analysing conversations and deciphering their body language.
It has in recent years gained a huge following for its authentic interactions between cast members and its relative lack of drama.
Kimura who joined the show last September, was one of six members on the show’s latest season, Tokyo 2019-2020.
She is said to have been the target of hundreds of mean tweets from fans and critics on a daily basis.
Local media reports say this abuse got worse after a particular episode – only screened in Japan so far – which saw her getting into an altercation with a roommate.
She had before her death reportedly post images of self harm on Twitter along with messages that read: “I don’t want to be a human anymore. It was a life I wanted to be loved. Thank you everyone, I love you. Bye.”
Some local media reports say that a suicide note was found in her home, though this has not been confirmed.
A sobering look at Terrace House
Yvette Tan, BBC News
With her pink hair and bubbly personality, Hana was one of the most endearing personas of the show. She said, in between giggles, that she had come to the show to look for love.
And while the audience coo-ed along with her at first, public opinion seemed to turn against her after an episode where she confronted a housemate for accidentally ruining a wrestling costume of hers.
But Hana’s death is a reminder that while Terrace House might not be your typical reality show, it is very much still a reality show. While you think you know the characters, you still just have a 45-minute window each week into their daily lives.
At the end of the day, just like any reality show, the producers of the show chose what storylines to show, what conversations are had.
And while most reality show cast members are filmed in a bubble, in Terrace House they are encouraged to go about their daily lives. That means they are able to see themselves being closely scrutinised after each episode.
At one point this season, cast member Emika Mizukoshi was subject to harsh criticism from the panellists who provide a running commentary on the show.
The criticism was meant to come across as jokey, but its uncomfortable to watch now in light of Hana’s death and makes you think about how much weight these panellists hold.
She was filmed breaking down as she watched the episode, saying she regretted ever going on the show.
If Terrace House does continue filming future seasons, this commentary might be something that changes.
Hundreds of tributes have since poured in for Kimura since her death.
“She was such a refreshing and beautiful soul to see on Terrace House,” said one person on Twitter. “My heart is so sad right now.”
Others said they would not be able to watch Terrace House anymore.
“[Terrace House] was a way for me to try and learn Japanese in a more fun and less academic way. The way social media bullies drove [her] to suicide is so incredibly heartbreaking for us,” said another. “There’s no way we can watch anymore.”
Japan’s communications minister Sanae Takaichi has said the government is planning to revise an existing law that allows cyberbullying victims to request personal information on their abusers.
According to Japan’s NHK, Ms Takaichi says Japan hopes to have a draft of the new bill as soon as possible.