At approximately 10:30 AM JST on Thursday morning, Kyoto Animation's first studio was set ablaze. NHK, Japan's primary broadcasting network, reported that a man heard an explosion on the first floor of the building, while nearby neighbors gave similar testimonies.
Kyoto police have already apprehended the suspect, a 41-year-old male by the name of Shinji Aoba. Officials found an ID on his person and a backpack with several knives was also found near the building, reportedly belonging to the arsonist. The Mainichi Shimbun reported yesterday that he confessed by 12:15 PM. According to a woman's televised account, Shinji set fire to the building because Kyoto Anime had stolen his ideas.
With 74 staff workers in the building at the time of the fire, 33 have been confirmed dead and 41 have been seriously injured.
The fire was so powerful that many could not escape the building on time. Some workers jumped from the second and third floor windows but were left with bone fractures. It took firefighters 5 long hours to quell the blaze.
Kyoto Animation, more commonly known as "KyoAni," is located in Uji City, Kyoto. This is where main-line production occurs, whereas the company's head office is in Tokyo. An outpouring of grief and support has been trending across Twitter with #prayforkyoani going viral.
The company was established in 1981 by Yoko Hatta, along with her husband, Hideaka Hatta, who is sitting president. The anime studio has worked on a myriad of projects, some of the best anime in Japan, including "Lucky Star," "K-On!," and "A Silent Voice." Hideaka stated in NHK that a number of death threats had been sent to the company for several years.
At 12:33 PM, Suguru Yamaguchi, music producer on "Tamako Market" and "Tamako Love Story," posted on Twitter that director Naoko Yamada was not harmed in the fire. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also posted on Twitter to wish for all a safe return: "I would like to express my sympathies to the injured people and pray for a quick recovery."
With one of the lowest murder rates in the world, Japan remains in deep mourning. To the country, it's a reminder of the 1995 Tokyo subway massacre, wherein a doomsday cult used sarin nerve gas to kill 13 people.
Thankfully the Kyoto Anime arsonist is in custody. At this time he remains in the hospital for burns, along with his victims. For the families and friends of the 33 dead, we pray for them. With fans spread across the globe sending love and support, it's wonderful to watch the world come together in the face of this hardship.
A fundraiser has been set up by Sentai Filmworks. Kyoto Anime has also postponed its announcements for the upcoming film "Free!," a swimming anime series set for release this month.