The suspect walked miles around Kyoto, visiting locations related to the company, including some that appear in one of its anime productions.
The death toll in last week’s Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) arson fire reached 35 as another victim succumbed to their injuries over the weekend.
A man in his 20s, believed to be a KyoAni employee, died Saturday from extensive burns across his body, suffered when Shinji Aoba allegedly poured 11 gallons (40 liters) of gasoline around the first floor of the company’s 1st Studio building July 18. The victim was reported to have been on the first floor and got out of the building, but was severely burned.
Fourteen women and 11 men have now died, with 10 more, including the suspect, still hospitalized with burns. An arrest warrant for the suspect has been obtained by police, but he is still reported to be unconscious.
Plotted and Planned
In urban Japan, surveillance cameras are part of how the police keep the peace; it turns out that in the days before the attack, suspected arsonist Shinji Aoba was captured on surveillance cameras visiting locations in Kyoto featured in one of the studio’s anime productions.
Aoba appears to have carefully planned the attack, spending days walking around sites related to the company, including locations featured in one of its popular anime, after arriving in Kyoto on July 15.
He spent two hours at an Internet cafe near Kyoto Station on July 16, where he is understood to have searched for information about the company’s location. He then bought fuel containers and other items, along with a pushcart he was seen using in videos taken by security cameras, at a hardware store. At the studio during the arson investigation, six knives were also found in a bag believed to have belonged to Aoba.
The suspect is estimated to have then walked around six miles (10 km), pushing the cart, walking near KyoAni’s headquarters in Uji and another studio, both a short train ride from the studio he is alleged to have torched July 18.
On Friday, police spent three hours searching the suspect’s apartment in Saitama, just north of Tokyo, where they found KyoAni DVDs and a cellphone.
He also visited locations from the Sound! Euphonium anime series, which is about a girl’s high school band in Uji.
Pilgrimages by fans to these locations from KyoAni’s anime have been popular over the years. Two seasons of Sound! Euphonium were broadcast in Japan in 2015 and 2016, with features released in 2017 and earlier this year.
Aoba was apparently convinced that KyoAni had plagiarized a novel he had written and used parts of it for Hibike! Euphorium. Aoba also has a history of mental illness. He is still hospitalized and police have to wait to arrest him until he recovers from the injuries he sustained during the fire.
The following people are missing and presumed dead:
- Takemoto Yasuhiro Director (Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon?The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya)
- Kawanami Eisaku Director (Free!-Timeless Medley-?Free!-Dive to the Future-)
- Nishiya Futoshi Animation director (A Silent Voice?Liz and the Blue Bird; Nichijou?HYOUKA Character Design)
- Kadowaki Miku Animation director (Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon?Tsurune?Kyoukai no Kanata Character Design)
30 fire engines responded to the fire, and were able to extinguish the fire completely by 3:19 p.m. JST, five hours after the fire started. The fire broke out at the building around 10:30 a.m. JST on Thursday. Kyoto Prefectural Police have already apprehended a 41-year-old man who supposedly used a “gasoline-like liquid” to start the fire.
The suspect accuses KyoAni of plagiarism over Hibike! Euphorium being similar to the suspect’s own work, a novel. The suspect is not an employee of Kyoto Animation.
Kyoto fire department is monitoring firefighters who attended to the fire, including those who found up to 20 bodies of victims who were trying to escape piled on top of each other on a staircase, for signs of trauma.
At least some of the animation work from KyotoAni’s current productions was recovered from the burned out studio. A lawyer representing KyoAni has said that a server recovered from the building after the fire appears to have the work of some of those who died stored on it, though a large amount of work has also been destroyed.
A fund established last week in Japan for victims and their families raised $5.7 million (621 million yen) in 48 hours, in addition to more than $2.2 million raised by a GoFundMe campaign set up by U.S. anime distributor Sentai Filmworks on the day of the arson.