Japanese Diet member, Kenta Izumi, left, and Buddhist monk, Matsumoto Genkun, pay respects at a makeshift memorial site in front of burned Kyoto Animation Studio building, background left, Friday, July 19, 2019, in Kyoto, Japan.

Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

Arson suspect reportedly had grudge against anime studio

July 19, 2019 - 8:04 am

By Haruka Nuga and Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press

KYOTO, Japan (AP) — Investigators on Friday returned to the skeletonized building where a man raging about theft set a fire that gutted an animation production studio, killed 33 people and crushed the hearts of comic fans in Japan and beyond.

Witness accounts and reports suggested the man had a grudge against Kyoto Animation, but police have not discussed the alleged motive of the suspect, a 41-year-old man who did not work for the studio.

Related: Man shouting 'You die' kills 33, injures 36 at Japan anime studio

The man told police that he set the fire "because (Kyoto Animation) stole novels," according to Japanese media, though it was not known if he had any contact with the studio.

The company founded in 1981 and better known as KyoAni made mega-hit anime series about high school girls and trained aspirants to the craft. The shocking attack drew an outpouring of grief for the dead and injured, most of them workers at the studio.

Construction worker Takumi Yoshida, 23, liked many of the studio's works. "I am shocked and I'm sure for their families it must be very difficult. So with those feelings in my mind, I brought flowers," Yoshida said.

Anime fan and university student Yuki Seki took a day trip to Kyoto after hearing the news.  "After properly recovering while taking their time, I hope Kyoto Animation can once again share their power and energy with us."

On Thursday morning, about 70 employees were inside the three-story Kyoto Animation No. 1 studio in southern Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital.

The arsonist arrived carrying two containers with flammable liquid he was believed to have purchased on the way; shouting "You die!" he entered the studio's unlocked front door, dumped the liquid and set it on fire with a lighter, according to officials and media reports. Police have secured the gasoline tanks, as well as a knapsack containing knives, though it's not known if those items were the attacker's.

The blaze blocked the front door and quickly engulfed the workspace, rising up the stairs to the third floor, sending panicked employees fleeing, some crawling out the windows. The man fled, too, but was chased by studio employees who eventually caught him. He collapsed to the ground outside a house and was quickly surrounded by police.

"They are always stealing. It's their fault," he told policemen bending over and asking him why he set the fire, according to a witness who described the scene outside her house. The man complained bitterly about something that had been stolen from him, the witness told NHK and other networks.

The suspect was considered a troublemaker by neighbors of the apartment believed to be his in Saitama, north of Tokyo.

A neighbor knocked on the man's door earlier this month to ask him to stop banging on the walls, but he was instead yelled at, "I will kill you," according to TBS network. The neighbor alleged the man pulled his hair and grabbed him by the chest.

Thirty-six people were injured in the fire, some critically. The suspect was also injured and remained hospitalized Friday.

Kyoto Animation's hits include "Lucky Star" of 2008, "K-On!" in 2011 and "Haruhi Suzumiya" in 2009. It has an upcoming feature film, "Violet Evergarden," about a woman who professionally writes letters for clients.

It's also done secondary animation work on a 1998 "Pokemon" feature that appeared in U.S. theaters and a "Winnie the Pooh" video.


Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

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