Kyoto, Japan: A suspected arson attack has left 34 dead and 34 injured at Kyoto Animation (KyoAni). According to CNN, the attack is Japan’s worst mass-killing in over 20 years. In 2001, an arsonist killed 44 people in Tokyo.
Among those dead include 12 men, 20 women, and one person whose identity is unknown. Their ages ranged from their 20s and 30s. Six of the victims were in their 40s, while one was at least 60-years old. Many of the victims just joined the animation team. One victim is a South Korean national who is in critical condition.
Kyoto Animation had at least 160 employees; 74 were present at the time of the incident.
KyoAni president, Hideaki Hatta, said that everything in the building was also lost including artwork and reference materials.
“It’s all gone,” Hatta said. “The computers are all gone as well. I don’t know the amount of damage. it’s massive.”
On Thursday July 19, 2019, 41-year-old Shinji Aoba went to the studios for “revenge” according to reports. According to police, Aoba, who was also armed with knives, poured 11 gallons of gasoline around the entrance and first floor of the renowned animation studio. He also doused staff with gasoline before setting the building, staffers, and himself on fire while yelling “YOU DIE!” According to Sankei News, an employee chased Aoba out of the building; he was apprehended by police by a nearby home.
Aoba sustained burn severe burn wounds to his face, legs, and chest and is currently being treated at the hospital.
Hiroyuki Sakai, deputy chief at the local Fushimi Police Station, said, “He’s been anesthetized and can’t talk. We’re waiting for word from the doctors on when we can question him.”
Aoba has not been arrested yet due to be treated at the hospital. However, on July 20, an arrest warrant has been issued.
According to NHK, Aoba had a prior criminal record. In 2012, Aoba spent three years in prison for robbing a convenience store. He was also in treatment for mental health problems. The Associated Press also reports that neighbors in his apartment building had reoccurring issues with Aoba.
Hatta said no one at the studio knew who Aoba was.
“We’ve never heard his name before. I understand he’s 41 years old. We would have recognized him immediately if he had contacted us before,” Hatta said.
Hatta also revealed that the studio received death threats before, but police cannot find a connection between those threats and Aoba.
During a press conference, Hatta said there are plans to tear down the badly burned studio one and replace it with a public park that will be home to a memorial monument.
“…when I consider the staff and the people in this neighborhood, there are people who don’t want to see such a gruesome sight,” Hatta said of the building.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”ja” dir=”ltr”>Kyoto Animation is home to some of the world’s most talented animators and dreamers — the devastating attack today is a tragedy felt far beyond Japan. KyoAni artists spread joy all over the world and across generations with their masterpieces. 心よりご冥福をお祈りいたします。</p>— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) <a href=”https://twitter.com/tim_cook/status/1151875113903542272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>July 18, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
“The criminal who does this seems to have been mentally disturbed, but I can’t forgive him. The young people at Kyoto Animation were beautiful and warm and it is hard to accept they are gone,” Bing Xie, 25, a Chinese student at Kyoto University, told Reuters.
KyoAni is a small animation studio in Japan, but it has a large following. They are known for Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, K-ON, and Violet Evergarden among several other productions.
The investigation into the fire is still ongoing.
Photo credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon