(Updated on July 22, 2019)

Worst confirmed arson incident in postwar Japan

On July 18th, around 10:30 am, black smoke began to billow out of the windows of the Kyoto Animation's Studio One Building in the Fushimi Ward of Kyoto. Kyoto Police apprehended a 41-year-old man who admitted to having poured gasoline on the first floor of the three-story building and ignited it, as he yelled "Die!".

The tragic fire which engulfed the building claimed 34 lives and has left 34 more injured, 9 of them seriously. 75 employees were working there that day. All missing employees have now been accounted for. According to a report this morning from the Asahi Shimbun, in a statement by the Kyoto City Fire Department, the fire was confirmed extinguished at 6:20 am, 20 hours after the blaze began.

This is the worst confirmed arson incident in postwar times. In 2001, 44 people died in a fire in a multiple-tenant building in Kabukicho, Tokyo, but the arsonist was never found.

News helicopter footage in the early moments of the blaze:

The suspect's motives

According to Jiji Press, the suspect was not a former Kyoto Animation employee nor was he affiliated with the company in any way. He has already told investigators that he set fire to the building because he believed Kyoto Animation had "stolen his novel." A report in the Sankei News explains that investigators are waiting for the man, currently hospitalized with severe burns, to recover sufficiently before questioning him further. Questions are expected to initially focus on the man's possible connection to online threats Kyoto Animation had been receiving since last fall.

In addition to gasoline tanks and a dolly which he presumably used to carry them, Kyoto police found a bag, a hammer and several kitchen knives near the scene of the crime. Reports indicate the man was seen bringing in plastic tanks to a gasoline stand and buying gasoline earlier that morning.

Kyoto Animation

Kyoto Animation, known by fans as “KyoAni,” was founded by Yoko Hatta and her husband, Hideaki Hatta, in 1981. The studio is known for producing very high quality animation which has gained international recognition for “slice of life” stories and detailed scenery, which has inspired fans to visit real-world settings for "anime pilgrimages." With popular series such as "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya," "K-On!," "Lucky Star," "Free!," "Hyouka," "Sound! Ephonium" and "Violet Evergarden," Kyoto Animation has made a name for itself in the anime industry, gained countless fans around the world, and helped prove that excellent anime can also be made outside of Tokyo. Moreover, in an industry where working conditions for employees are known to be harsh, Kyoto Animation has a reputation for providing a healthy working environment.

International outpouring of condolences and support

In a testament to the impact of Kyoto Animation and the respect it has earned, and in reaction to the horrible human toll of the crime, messages of sympathy and support have been pouring in from around the world, both within and without the animation industry, many of them with the hashtag #prayforkyoani:

Director Makoto Shinkai (soon after the initial report of the arson came in):

Voice actress Megumi Ogata (Sailor Uranus in "Sailor Moon," Shinji Ikari in "Neon Genesis Evangelion"):

Scott MacDonald, British anime art director living in Japan:

Bill Hagerty, US ambassador to Japan:

Laurent Pic, French ambassador to Japan:

Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan:

Tim Cook, Apple CEO:

Cosplayer and anime YouTuber Akidearest:

A special message board has been set up in the Atre department store in the JR Akihabara Station complex where people can leave messages of sympathy and support:

Emergency Crowdfunding Campaign

Sentai Filmworks, the company responsible for the distribution of Kyoto Animation products in the US, has launched an emergency crowdfunding campaign to support Kyoto Animation, which has already raised over $1.2 million at the time of writing.

If you are interested in contributing, please follow the link here.

By - Ben K.