An arson attack on Kyoto Animation in Japan Thursday morning has left 33 dead and many more injured, according to CBS News, in the worst mass killing in Japan since 2001. Authorities said that at approximately 10:35 a.m. local time, a 41-year-old man ignited a flammable liquid at the door of the Kyoto Animation’s Studio 1 building in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, setting off an explosive blaze that consumed the three-story building. This tragic event resulted in the confirmed deaths of 33 people, as well as leaving 36 more people injured, 10 of them critically, said Mikihide Daikoku of the Kyoto fire department.
A witness said the perpetrator, Shinji Aoba, was shouting “You die!” as he splashed the flammable liquid from a bucket before setting it alight. Residents of the Fushimi Ward neighborhood responded to the sound of the explosion, shouting, and cries for help, and assisted in the rescue of victims. Many of the surviving victims emerged from the burning building singed from the fire, shoe-less and bleeding, with some of the survivors leaving bloody footprints on the sidewalk in their wake. According to Kyodo News, most of the 33 people who died were found on the stairs leading to the building’s rooftop. Nineteen victims were found on the stairs connecting the third floor to the rooftop. They were unable to escape the inferno as the door leading to the rooftop was locked from the outside. The cause of their deaths is believed to be carbon monoxide poisoning. 11 people were also found dead on the second floor, two people found dead on the first floor, and one dead on the stairs between the second and third floors.
Aoba has reportedly never worked for Kyoto Animation nor is he even directly connected to the studio, so authorities could not initially determine a motive for this deadly attack, though it wasn’t long until they found out. As they apprehended Aoba, who himself suffered severe burns, police said he spoke about his work being plagiarized by the animation studio. A witness told Asahi Shimbun that she heard Aoba telling police, “They ripped me off,” in response to being asked why he started the fire. Aoba is also quoted as saying, “I started the fire because my novel was stolen [by them],” further supporting his remarks about being ripped off.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his condolences to the victims of the fire in a tweet. “I’m speechless,” Abe said. “I pray for the souls of those who have passed away. I would like to express my condolences to all of the injured and wish them a speedy recovery.” Abe called the attack an “arson murder spree.”
Kyoto Animation, affectionately known as KyoAni by fans, was founded in 1981 and has been responsible for many beloved works, including the acclaimed film A Silent Voice, based on the manga of the same name from Yoshitoki Ōima. KyoAni is also known for anime such as Lucky Star, K-On!, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Free!, and Violet Evergarden, among others. Anime fans around the world are unified in mourning following this tragedy. Fans have been expressing sorrow and offering their condolences on Twitter using the #prayforkyoani hashtag.
(Image: Kyodo / Reuters)