At least 23 people have died after a man ignited gasoline at a Kyoto Animation studio building today.
According to the Mainichi Shimbun, the man had no known relation (employment or otherwise) with the studio. Witnesses said that before he set fire to the building, he yelled death threats and accused the studio of plagiarism (“パクりやがって”).
The studio’s animation archives and servers could be lost from the fire:
According to this tweet below, the studio’s CEO went on record to say that the studio regularly receives hate mail and death threats:
The New York Times‘ Motoko Rich provides more context about today’s very sad news:
If the authorities’ fears about the death toll are proven correct, the fire would be one of the worst in Japan’s recent history. In 2008, 16 people were killed when a video store burned down in Osaka. In 2001, 44 people died after a fire broke out at a crowded gambling club in Tokyo’s busiest entertainment district.
The blaze on Thursday came less than two months after a man went on a stabbing rampage in a suburb outside Tokyo, attacking 17 schoolgirls, killing one of them as well as an adult. The rampage by the 51-year-old man cast attention to the phenomenon of Japan’s “hikikomori,” adults who are extreme recluses, and their psychological issues.
I can’t claim to be as shocked as the creators, animators, and voiceover artists who personally know people from Kyoto Animation and must be devastated by the news. Kyoto Animation is responsible for some of my favourite anime pieces—A Silent Voice, a film about a deaf girl and her bully (which also never really had a chance against the much less interesting Your Name. #fightme) and Nichijou, one of the best animated comedies I’ve seen. It’s also a studio that treats its employees well, and responsible for empowering women in the animation industry.
Here’s hoping that everyone makes a speedy recovery.