In Brief

Man Sets Japanese Animation Studio Ablaze, Killing 33 and Injuring 36 [UPDATED]

A 41-year-old man howled, “You die!” as he attacked workers at Kyoto Animation this morning by setting the building ablaze. Police are still investigating his motive.

Kyoto Animation (via Thibaut120094’s Flickrstream)

New details are emerging about the deadly arsonist attack in Kyoto, Japan, on Thursday which killed 33 people and injured at least 36. The police have identified Shinji Aoba, a 41-year-old man, as a suspect. Aoba is currently being hospitalized for severe burns and has not been arrested yet.

The conflagration erupted yesterday morning, July 18, in Kyoto Animation’s three-story studio in Kyoto’s Fushimi area after Aoba walked into the building’s front door and sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant, Kyoto police and fire officials said. The suspect was reportedly heard shouting “You die!” as he carried out the attack.

According to reports in the Japanese media, residents living near the offices of Kyoto Animation, one of Japan’s most notable anime studios, called the police around 10am today, July 18, after hearing an explosion and seeing smoke billowing out of the building.

An official at Kyoto’s fire department told the Associated Press (AP) that 20 of the 33 bodies were found on the third floor, including some on the stairs leading up to the roof. Two workers were found dead on the first floor, 11 others on the second floor.

Most of the victims were employees of Kyoto Animation, a company that produces highly popular anime series and films. According to AP, workers of the company clamored up the stairs toward the roof in desperate attempts to escape the fire. Survivors emerged out of the building bleeding, charred, and barefoot.

News reports in the Japanese media shed light on Aoba’s possible motive. Citing unnamed police sources, reports say the suspect had told police officers that Kyoto Animation “stole a novel” from him.

Kyoto authorities have not yet released the names of the victims, but they have indicated that two-thirds of them were women. Kyoto fire officials added that more than half of the workers in the building during the attack were women. Kyoto Animation is known for hiring and advancing women animators, who constitute the majority of workers in the industry.

Kyoto Animation, better known among fans as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio. Its major hits include Lucky Star (2008), K-On! (2011), and Haruhi Suzumiya (2009).

“My heart is in extreme pain. Why on earth did such violence have to be used?” company president Hideaki Hatta said. Hatta told AP that the company had previously received anonymous death threats by email but could not predict Thursday’s attack.

A crowdfunding campaign that anime fans launched yesterday to assist survivors collected almost $1.5 million in one day. “We’ve known KyoAni through their many works that have inspired, influenced and entertained us over the years,” the campaign’s page says. “They are true masters of their art and one of Japan’s national treasures.”

Editors note 7/19/19 12:11pm: This article has been updated to include new information provided by the Japanese police and the status of the crowdfunding campaign.

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