In July of 2019, residents and anime fans alike were shocked by the news that the world-famous Kyoto Animation studio had been the target of arson. As donations were gathered for victims, police waited to question a man injured by the attack, someone whom they considered a suspect. As other headlines eventually eclipsed the tragic event, Kyoto Animation worked to carry on as well. Just recently, the company announced that the demolition of studio one, the building damaged by the fire, had been demolished.

Kyoto Animation

Kyoto Animation Co. Ltd., as the name suggests, is an animation company located in Uji, Kyoto. Sometimes referred to as KyoAni by fans, it was formed in 1981 by Yoko Hatta and Hideaki Hatta, a married couple. The company specializes in film and television animations as well as short novels.

While the company is renowned for several famous releases as well as its technical prowess, the company has a bit of a progressive streak. The studio payroll is largely female, employing a large number of female directors and writers in comparison to competitors. Main protagonists in its stories, for example K-On! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, are schoolgirl characters as well. As the series have a devoted following, it's not uncommon for fans to make pilgrimages to areas mentioned the stories.

Historically, the studio hasn’t shied away from difficult topics as well, something all too common in the land of the rising sun. A Silent Voice, for example, dealt with several social issues emerging in Japan. The critically acclaimed anime focused on bullying, suicide, and disabilities all modern hot-button issues.

True to form, the company is also regarded as generous to its employees, although animators are notoriously underpaid and overworked in Japan, Kyoto Animation has a reputation for treating artists equitably.

Yet, the company is also well regarded for its influential Kyoto Animation Award. The competition is open to public submissions, and several winners are turned into full-fledged productions. Although the awards were temporarily suspended in 2018, prior winners have gained significant notoriety. The 2014 Violet Evergarden, which had won grand prize, was licensed by Netflix in 2018

Summer Attack

On the morning of July 18th, 2019, a man, who was not an employee, entered the studio and began pouring gasoline. Shouting “You die!” he set fire to Kyoto Animation’s Studio 1 building. He then attempted to light himself on fire but eventually failed. As the man attempted self-emulation, the incident was considered an act of suicidal terrorism.

According to witness accounts, the man was accusing the studio of plagarism. He attempted to flee after failing to light himself on fire but was quickly apprehended by police.

As the blaze spread, employees rushed to hirer floors in an attempt to reach the roof and escape. Others attempted to find other ways out. Firefighters eventually found 33 bodies throughout the burned remains of the building many of which were higher floors. Many had collapsed while attempting to escape.

While the building did not collapse, it was marred by black soot and sectioned off by police. Knives were found nearby, but police could not confirm that they were related to the attack. The suspect was initially held in a hospital to treat injuries before given over to police questioning. In total, 36 people were killed and another 33 were injured in one of the deadliest massacres in modern Japan.


Kyoto Animation’s lawyer recently confirmed that the demolition of the studio, which was planned as early as November 2019, had completed. The empty lot that remains has forced many to wonder what will happen next.

The families of victims have asked for a memorial garden to be erected on the plot. Locals, on the other hand, are resisting the call. The nearby Inaba Higashi neighborhood association are pushing back against a park or any other memorial. They claim that the incident has flooded the area with out-of-town visitors and disrupted their way of life. They fear that any kind of beacon to mourners would only serve to exacerbate the situation.

Either way, fans are clearly saddened by the news. Following the incident, the outcry on social media supporting the studio was understandably intense. A GoFundMe raised millions of dollars bringing as much as $300,000 in one six-hour period. International artists and world leaders were also quick to voice their sympathy.

As the studio has been demolished, fans are again taking to social media to express their condolences:

  • “I live in Kyoto and I’m a huge fan of KyoAni. I really want them to build a memorial monument to what happened. I hate the criminal who did this.”
  • “Wow...It’s actually gone...”
  • “Although the demolition of the studio is complete, the hopes and dreams of those who were lost will never return. We must share the wonderfulness of KyoAni with the rest of the world.”

By - Luke Mahoney.