A man howling “You die!” set ablaze the building of an animation studio in Kyoto, Japan, killing 33 people. Another 36 were injured, some critically. The arsonist, a 41-year-old man, is being held in police custody. The Kyoto police provided no immediate information on his motive.
According to reports in the Japanese media, residents living near the offices of Kyoto Animation, one of Japan’s most notable anime studios, called the police around 10am today, July 18, after hearing an explosion and seeing smoke billowing out of the building.
The conflagration erupted in Kyoto Animation’s three-story studio in Kyoto’s Fushimi area after the attacker walked into the building’s front door and sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant, Kyoto police and fire officials said. The suspect, who was injured in the attack, had no connection to the company according to the police.
Most of the victims were employees of Kyoto Animation, a company that produces highly popular anime series and films. According to the Associated Press (AP), workers of the company clamored up the stairs toward the roof in desperate attempts to escape the fire. Survivors emerged out of the building bleeding, charred, and barefoot.
An official at Kyoto’s fire department told AP that 20 of the 33 bodies were found on the third floor, including some on the stairs leading up to the roof. Two workers were found dead on the first floor, 11 others on the second floor.
Kyoto Animation, better known among fans as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio. Its major hits include Lucky Star (2008), K-On! (2011), and Haruhi Suzumiya (2009).
“My heart is in extreme pain. Why on earth did such violence have to be used?” company president Hideaki Hatta said. Hatta told AP that the company had previously received anonymous death threats by email but could not predict Thursday’s attack.
Fans of the company set up a crowdfunding campaign to lend support to the victims. “We’ve known KyoAni through their many works that have inspired, influenced and entertained us over the years,” the campaign’s page says. “They are true masters of their art and one of Japan’s national treasures.”