International audiences of Japanese anime are often awed by the visuals, setting and storytelling of many such productions. Certain standout anime series and movies are all about action, danger, and probably a large amount of violence, with a possibility that it is all set in that country. It would be unusual considering Japan is one of the most violence-abhorring countries in real life with very restrictive firearms laws almost ensuring only police and the JSDF can carry weapons. So when something violent happens in real-world Japan, the world or at least Asia will notice, like what just happened to a certain anime studio this Thursday.
The Manila Bulletin has it that an unidentified man burst into the three-story offices of Kyoto Animation on the morning of July 17 (Japan time) and set the building on fire. Witnesses interviewed by the Kyoto prefectural police related that the suspect, after yelling “You die!” at employees inside the first floor, sprayed an unknown liquid at his surroundings and ignited it, causing a blaze that quickly consumed the building interior with flame and smoke before firefighters can respond. Authorities estimate that at least 13 Kyoto Animation employees were killed and 36 injured, with a reported 18 more potentially trapped in the building’s third floor.
According to Kyoto Fire Department spokesperson Satoshi Fujiwara, one fatality and 10 wounded were caused by burns from the fire. The other 12 dead found on the first and second floors by firemen were apparently due to acute smoke inhalation. Among the injured was the suspect himself, who was taken to the hospital under police guard. He is already being investigated for charges of arson. Witnesses claim there to be 70 people inside the Kyoto Animation building when the arson attack took place that day.
Founded in 1981, Kyoto Animation, or KyoAni to fans, is both a light novel publication house and anime production studio. Anime circles know it as the producer of hit contemporary series like “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” “K-ON!,” “Clannad,” “Lucky Star” and many more delightful shows that are mostly of the episodic slice-of-life overall genre. The online anime fandom went in force to social media in condolences for KyoAni’s situation. Going further, the studio’s North American distribution partner Sentai Filmworks has opened a GoFundMe online donation campaign called “Help KyoAni Heal,” with the proceeds to be given to help survivors.
Image from Evening Standard UK