A devastating fire caused by an apparent arson attack on one of Japan’s most prominent animation studios, Kyoto Animation, has left 33 dead, and four still unaccounted for. Among the dead are approximately 20 female employees, and a number of the injured are listed as in critical condition.
On Friday, July 18, At approximately 10:30 AM JST (Thursday, July 17, 9:30 PM EST), an explosion and black smoke coming from the studio, followed by people being carried out of the building, was reported by eyewitnesses. According to a report by the Japan Times, a 41-year-old man was seen entering the studio and began to spread a gasoline-like substance around the building, allegedly shouting “die”. The man is currently in Kyoto Prefectural Police custody and under questioning. A motive for the attack and his connection to the studio have yet to be determined.
Hideaki Hatta, president of Kyoto Animation told the Japan Times, “This has just broken our hearts. What’s the use of resorting to violence?”
Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, released this statement in a Tweet shortly after the disaster took place:
(Quote via Google Translate): “Today, in the arson murder case that occurred in Kyoto, there are a large number of casualties, and I lose a word for much misery. I pray for the happiness of the deceased. I would like to express my sympathies to the injured people and pray for a quick recovery.”
While the names of the victims’ have yet to be released, several people are confirmed safe including Ishihara Tatsuya, who directed Clannad, Taichi Ishidate, who directed Violet Evergarden, and Naoko Yamada, who directed K-On. A number of the 73 people who were reported inside the building at the time are still unaccounted for, including Yasuhiro Takemoto, who directed Amagi Brilliant Park and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
KyoAni, as it is commonly referred to, was established in 1981 by former staff of Mushi Production (Mighty Atom, known commonly in the West as Astro Boy). In an industry that is known for its high-pressure production, KyoAni is known for paying its employees a salaried wage as opposed to a per-frame rate, a mandate that puts the focus on the quality of the frame produced over speedy productions. The studio has produced some of the most memorable and beautiful animes, with an impressive production list that includes A Silent Voice, Tsurune, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, Beyond the Boundary, and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
One of the most devastating arson attacks in the past 20 years, the attack on KyoAni has the highest death toll since the last occurrence in the country in 1989. Anime fans and sympathizers across the globe have come together, flooding Twitter with supportive posts under the hashtag #PrayForKyoani. Some have started a GoFundMe campaign, #HelpKyoAniHeal, to raise funds to help the company, which, at the time of writing this article, has amassed donations from over 21 thousand donors, for a total of $703,370 USD of their $750,000 USD goal in just under 10 hours.