In the city of Kyoto, Japan, the hearts of many were broken after an act of arson killed 34 people in the famous animation studio of Kyoto Animation. This is reportedly the worst mass killing in Japan since 2001.
Being well known for its big hits around the world, Kyoto Animation is an animation studio that has influenced the lives of many through its record-setting anime. Among the visual spectacles, heartwarming stories are told in popular shows like K-On! alongside critically acclaimed films like the 2016 hit A Silent Voice. Innovating in entertainment, Kyoto Animation is a fan favorite for its well-received adaptations of light novels.
At 10:30 a.m. on July 17, 2019, a fire began to engulf Kyoto Animation’s studio. Carrying containers of flammable liquid, a 41-year-old man had entered the building, dowsing individuals and the furniture with the chemical, then setting fire to it. Survivors of the fire stated that the man shouted, “You die!” in Japanese while committing the act of terror.
Covered by the Japan news network NHK WORLD-JAPAN, a witness interviewed under the condition of anonymity stated, “I couldn’t see anything. It was as if somebody had splashed black ink or paint all over the place. The smell was terrible. I felt that even taking one breath might kill me.” The man said he fled to the balcony of the second floor and described the smoke as “a blast of hot air.” He adds, “I couldn’t bear it anymore. I had to choose between jumping and getting hurt or letting the smoke kill me. It was a choice between life or death.”
Originally reported to be 16 killed, the number grew and stands currently at 34 casualties. Among the deaths, some employees’ remains have yet to be found.
Covered by KomoNews, a witness said that the man who was eventually apprehended had burns all over his limbs and was shouting that his work was stolen. On Saturday, July 20, the media was allowed near the once standing building after it was considered a controlled situation.
Confronting the questions to whether the man was an employee, Studio President Hideaki Hatta joined the police at the site. In an interview with NHK, he stated, “We’ve never heard his name before… we would have recognized him immediately if he had contacted us before.” Waiting for the recovery of the suspect, police anticipate his release from the hospital before conducting an interrogation.
Honoring the studio, fans visited the scene to grieve the heartbreaking loss of many talented employees at Kyoto Animation. One heart-broken fan stated, “I was really quiet in high school, but thanks to Kyoto Animation, I was able to make friends. I owe them so much.” Sobbing, another fan commented, “Works by Kyoto Animation have encouraged me a lot. I couldn’t help but come here today to pay my respects.” As of now, a GoFundMe page created by Sentai Filmworks titled “Help KyoAni Heal” has reached $2,045,956, well over the $750,000 goal. According to the GoFundMe website, 100% of all the donations will go to the Kyoto Animation employees and their families who were affected by the tragedy.