A fire broke out in Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd.’s headquarters in Fushimi-ku district, Kyoto at 8:35 PM (CT), which resulted in at least 33 people dead and dozens injured.
The fire was successfully put out after five hours. Since the company’s studios are located in a residential area, neighboring establishments and private spaces were the ones who called the firefighters after hearing a loud explosion, followed by smoke rising from the building shortly. Local authorities investigated and concluded that the fire was brought upon by arson.
A 41-year-old man, who was identified by multiple witnesses as the suspect, is being treated at the hospital. The police apprehended him before being rushed to the hospital.
The motive of the crime is not yet determined since the police cannot interrogate the suspect due to his extensive injuries. Based on the suspect’s records, there is no direct connection between him and the animation studios. A witness informed authorities that the man shouted “Die!” repeatedly as he carried out his attack.
Reports have shared that the man brought 40 liters of petrol in two containers into the building. He proceeded to douse the lobby of the 1st Studio building using the gasoline he purchased at a nearby gas station.
Aside from petrol, the suspect carried several knives, which were found in the backpack discarded in the aftermath.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent via Twitter his condolences to all casualties and wished those that were injured a speedy recovery. He also stated that the crime has rendered him speechless.
The studio’s president and co-founder Hatta Hideaki spoke to reporters later in the day, in front of the studios’ burned building. He has expressed his disappointment and frustration over the incident. He said, “This has just broken our hearts.”
Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd., also known as KyoAni, estimates that there were 70 people already in the building when the suspect launched his attack. Several members are still in the hospital in critical condition.
Fans worldwide mourn with grief upon hearing the news of the incident.
Fans posted on Twitter with #PrayForKyoAni, expressing their grief and support to the affected. Most of the Twitter users posted artworks from KyoAni’s anime series and movies and shared how much the company’s art has touched them.
Others called for support by asking fans to purchase merchandise from the company’s site to help KyoAni financially. Another hashtag, #HelpKyoAniHeal, is trending on Twitter.
Sentai Filmworks, an American licensing company that brings Japanese animation and film into the American Market, has set up a GoFundMe account, titled as Help KyoAni Heal, as a response to the incident. GoFundMe’s target goal is $750,000. Within 10 hours, the fundraiser has already raised $724,000.
The President of Sentai Filmworks, John Ledford, shared his thoughts about the incident in the GoFundMe page’s website. He wrote, “Although the situation is still developing, it is clear that our friends at Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) have suffered greatly. In addition to the loss of life, many lives will be forever changed. Like all of you, we wanted to take action to help; however, we can.”
Ledford goes on, stating that many of KyoAni’s works have “inspired, influenced, and entertained us over the years.” Sentai Filmworks is already coordinating with their counterparts in the Japanese anime industry to ensure that the funds they have collected will reach KyoAni and its employees.
KyoAni was founded by couple Yoko and Hideaki Hatta in 1981. Instead of establishing a studio in Tokyo, as most animation studios do, the couple made Kyoto their business’ home.
The company is considered one of the highly-competitive and employee-friendly animation studios. Unlike others, the studio does not pay its animators per frame, but rather as an employee with a monthly salary. KyoAni has indeed embodied its philosophy, such as “Keep our corporation a humanitarian one” and “Do our best.”
Fans have known KyoAni for their high-quality animation pieces. The studio has brought life to A Silent Voice: The Movie and Violet Evergarden. The latter can be streamed on Netflix. Other works, such as K-On!, Sound! Euphonium, and Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu gained popularity and have reached worldwide success.
Fans also noted that KyoAni’s films and TV series often spread the message of love, helpfulness, and hope. In KyoAni’s time of need, many have responded to give back to the beloved animation studio.