Kyoto Animation arson attack

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Kyoto Animation arson attack
Kyoto animation arson attack 1 20190721.jpg
Kyoto Animation's Studio 1 after the arson attack
Native name京都アニメーション放火事件
Location15-1 Inaba, Momoyama-cho, Fushimi, Kyoto
Coordinates34°55′59.0″N 135°47′34.6″E / 34.933056°N 135.792944°E / 34.933056; 135.792944Coordinates: 34°55′59.0″N 135°47′34.6″E / 34.933056°N 135.792944°E / 34.933056; 135.792944
Date18 July 2019 (2019-07-18)
10:35 a.m. JST (UTC+09:00)
TargetKyoto Animation Studio 1
Attack type
Arson
WeaponGasoline (40 L), lighter, five knives, hammer
Deaths35
Injuries
34 (including the suspect)
MotiveUnknown (possible revenge attack, mental illness)

The Kyoto Animation arson attack (Japanese: 京都アニメーション放火事件, Hepburn: Kyōto Animēshon hōka jiken) occurred at Kyoto Animation's Studio 1 building in the Fushimi ward of Kyoto, Japan, on the morning of 18 July 2019. The arson killed at least 35 people, injured an additional 33, and destroyed most of the materials and computers in Studio 1. It is one of the deadliest massacres in Japan since the end of World War II and the deadliest building fire in Japan since the 2001 Myojo 56 building fire.

The suspect, who did not work for the studio, entered the front door and doused the area and several employees with gasoline before igniting it. He attempted to flee but was apprehended by police about 100 metres (330 ft) from the building. Witnesses stated they heard him accusing the studio of plagiarism. The police have not yet interviewed him.

In addition to condolences and messages of support from world and national leaders, fans and businesses have raised over US$5.7 million to help the studio and its employees recover. As a result of the incident, some works and collaborations by the studio have been delayed, and several events being cancelled or suspended.

Background[edit]

Studio 1 prior to the arson attack, May 2015

Kyoto Animation is one of Japan's most acclaimed anime studios, known for titles such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-On! and Clannad.[1] It has several different locations in Kyoto: Studio 1 was located in Fushimi; Studio 2 (head office), Studio 5, and the merchandise development division are located in Uji, one train station away from Studio 1, which was mostly used by the animation directing.[2][3] The building was constructed in 2007.[4]

A few weeks prior to the attack, Kyoto Animation had received a number of death threats. Company president Hideaki Hatta said that they did not know whether the threats were related to the incident, as they were sent anonymously,[5] but he had informed police and lawyers about them.

Incident[edit]

The fire began with an explosion[6] at around 10:30 a.m.[7][8] (01:30 UTC) when the perpetrator walked into Studio 1 and set the building on fire with 40 litres (8.8 imp gal; 11 US gal) of gasoline.[9][10] The perpetrator bought the gasoline 10 km (6.2 mi) away from the building, and it was believed that he walked to the building with the gasoline being carried on a platform trolley.[11] The police believed that the gasoline planted on site mixed with the air, thus causing the explosion at the start.[12] He is reported to have been shouting "die!" (Japanese: 死ね, Hepburn: shine) as he carried out the attack. The perpetrator also poured gasoline over some individuals before setting them alight, causing them to run out into the street in flames.[9][13]

As the fire grew by the entrance, staff members were trapped inside the building. Nineteen bodies were found on the third floor near the stairs to the roof, evidently indicating that the victims were attempting to escape.[14] The perpetrator fled the scene but was chased by a Kyoto Animation employee and soon collapsed on the street, where he was apprehended by police.[15] Multiple unused knives were found lying by the scene.[16]

The fire was extinguished at 3:19 p.m. (06:19 UTC).[7] Once the rescue efforts had ended, it was confirmed that all people in the studio had been accounted for.[17] At 10 p.m. (13:00 UTC), the Fire and Disaster Management Agency published a report stating that the fire had completely destroyed the building. The building did not have fire sprinklers, nor indoor fire hydrants due to its classification as a small office building,[18] but had no deficiencies in fire safety compliance during its last inspection on 17 October 2018.[7] Police have started investigating at the building site.[19] It was initially reported that the studio's entrance required employee pass-cards, but the door was unlocked as the studio was expecting visitors from NHK at 11 a.m. (02:00 UTC).[20][21]

The arson attack destroyed most of Kyoto Animation's materials and computers in Studio 1,[22][23] though a small portion of keyframes were on exhibition in Tokushima and hence spared from destruction.[24] On 29 July, Kyoto Animation reported that it successfully recovered digitized original drawings from a server that survived the fire.[25]

It is reported to be one of the deadliest massacres in Japan's history since the end of World War II[26] and the deadliest building fire in the country since the Myojo 56 building fire in 2001.[27][28]

Victims[edit]

There were at least 74 people inside the building at the time of the fire. A total of 35 people were killed, including two who later died at a hospital.[12][29][30][31][32][33][34] Some victims were difficult to identify, according to the Kyoto police, because they had been burned so badly.[35] Autopsy results released on 22 July 2019 revealed that a majority of victims had succumbed to burns (rather than carbon monoxide poisoning) due to the quick spreading fire.[36][37] DNA testing was done to aid in identifications, which lasted up to a week after the arson attack.[38] It was reported that two-thirds of the victims (at least 20) were women, as the studio was known for hiring female animators.[39]

The president of Kyoto Animation asked the media through the police not to release the names of the victims out of respect for their families, stating that "releasing their names does nothing to serve the public good."[40] On 25 July, the Kyoto police said they had identified all 34 victims and have started to return the bodies of the victims to their relatives. Discussions are ongoing with Kyoto Animation whether, when and how to reveal the identities of the deceased.[41] Some of the families have since released their own findings to the media regarding the status of their loved ones, including the family of color designer Naomi Ishida, who confirmed her death on 24 July.[42] On 26 July, the family of animator, scriptwriter, and director Yasuhiro Takemoto confirmed his death through DNA testing.[43][44] On 2 August, the Kyoto Police released the names of ten victims whose funerals have finished and relatives' consents obtained, and it was confirmed on the same day that animation directors Yoshiji Kigami and Futoshi Nishiya were among the dead.[45][46]

It was initially reported that 36 people were injured; this figure was later dropped to 34, when two people later died at the hospital.[7][47][48] Ten of the injured were initially reported to be in serious condition, one of whom had to have their legs amputated.[49] Those who were reported safe include animation director Naoko Yamada, who directed K-On! and A Silent Voice.[39] According to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the injured victims was a South Korean woman.[50][51]

Suspect[edit]

Shinji Aoba (Japanese: 青葉 真司, Hepburn: Aoba Shinji), a 41-year-old man, has been identified as the suspect by police and a warrant issued for his arrest.[52][53]

The suspect fled the scene but was apprehended by the Kyoto Prefectural Police near Keihan Railway Rokujizō Station, about 100 metres (330 ft) from the studio;[54] Aoba was then taken to hospital with severe burns to the legs, chest, and face.[20][17] During his transport to the hospital, he admitted to having started the fire,[55] possibly for revenge,[56] accusing the studio of "ripping off" or "plagiarising" (Japanese: パクリやがって, Hepburn: pakuri yagatte) his novels.[15][27][57][58][59][60] In spite of this, Hatta had initially stated that there is no record of anyone submitting work to their annual writing contest under his name.[49] Subsequently, Kyoto Animation revealed that they had received a draft novel from the suspect; however, it did not pass the first-stage assessment and was forgotten, and its contents were confirmed to have no similarities to any of their published works.[61][62]

Authorities are unable to question him further as his injuries are currently being treated at the hospital, and he is under sedation. His questioning by police will commence when he awakens.[63][60][64] Aoba has since been transferred to a university hospital in Osaka for further treatment due to serious burns sustained during the incident.[53][65] There are indications that Aoba suffers from a mental illness, a fact which may limit the maximum penalty to life imprisonment.[66]

According to locals, a man who resembled Aoba was spotted near the studio days before the incident.[67][68][69] He was also reported to have visited several places of interest related to Sound! Euphonium around the city in days prior to the attack.[69][11]

Aoba was reported to have suffered from a mental illness and held a criminal history prior to the incident. In 2012, he reportedly robbed a convenience store with a knife in Ibaraki and was subsequently jailed for 3.5 years.[70][71]

Reactions and impact[edit]

The entrance to the studio after the arson attack. Bouquets and beverages are placed in memorial.
Donation box at Animate Akihabara.

Kyoto Animation began accepting direct donations to help the victims of the attack on 23 July 2019.[72][73] It had since accepted more than US$10.8 million from fans and businesses through the bank account and planned to allocate the donation to the victims and the bereaved families.[74] Among the donations included separate ¥10 million donations from Japanese musician Yoshiki and game developer Key.[75][76][77] It is estimated that the company would require as much as ¥10 billion to cover the cost of supporting the victims and affected families and company-related business operating recovery expenses.[74]

Impact on productions[edit]

In response to this incident, a publicity event for the upcoming 2020 Free! movie was cancelled. Kyoto Animation's Sound! Euphonium collaboration with Keihan Main Line was delayed, as was episode 4 of BEM.[78] The third episode of David Production's Fire Force, an anime series about firefighters and people dying from spontaneous combustion, was delayed for a week and released with the colours of the fires modified and narration in the anime modified.[79][80][81][82] Subsequent episodes of Fire Force will be dealt with in a similar manner.[82] The studio has decided to push on with premiering Violet Evergarden Gaiden on 3 August 2019 at Germany's AnimagiC convention as originally scheduled.[83]

Kyoto Animation's president Hideaki Hatta stated in an interview that he is considering demolishing Studio 1 and replace the building with a public park and a monument.[49][84] The company has issued an official statement, requesting respect for the victims and their family members, and also stating that all future statements will be either through the police or their lawyers.[85]

Due to recovery efforts, Kyoto Animation had suspended the 11th Kyoto Animation Awards, an annual award to discover new stories.[86]

Domestic[edit]

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe expressed his condolences and stated that he was "speechless" at the scale of the incident.[87][88] The Chinese, French, Philippine, and Belgian embassies in Japan provided their own words of condolence.[89][90][91][92][93]

Numerous people and organisations related to the industry expressed concern and support, such as anime directors Makoto Shinkai and Tatsuki, K-On! voice actress Aki Toyosaki, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya voice actresses Aya Hirano, Minori Chihara, and Yuko Goto, Hyōka author Honobu Yonezawa, Clannad developer company Key, and media company Kadokawa Corporation.[9][94][93][95][96][97][98] Animation studios such as SHAFT, Sunrise, Bandai Namco Pictures, Toei Animation, Bones, Khara, Trigger, Walt Disney Japan, and Madhouse also all offered their support.[99][100][101][93][102][103][104][105][106]

Animate, a major Japanese retailer of anime, video games, and manga, is taking donations at all of their stores to support the victims.[107]

Foreign[edit]

Several foreign dignitaries, including Justin Trudeau, Tsai Ing-wen, António Guterres, and others, offered their own messages of support for the victims.[87][88]

In the wake of the fire, a GoFundMe appeal was launched by American anime licensor Sentai Filmworks.[59] With a target of US$750,000, it surpassed the US$1 million donation mark within the first 24 hours.[108][109][110] It had received US$2.3 million at the end of the appeal.[111] Fans have also taken to Kyoto Animation's Japanese digital store to directly contribute by purchasing high-resolution downloadable images as they do not require staff to ship them.[112] American licensing companies Aniplex of America, Funimation and Crunchyroll, and Nickelodeon Animation Studio, all offered their support.[93] Cartoon Network’s anime-oriented Toonami block started their 20 July broadcast asking viewers to donate to the GoFundMe set up by Sentai Filmworks.[113]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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