Death toll rises in arson attack on Kyoto animation studio

by Kim Boateng Posted on July 18th, 2019

The arson attack on a Kyoto animation studio on Thursday has resulted in at least 33 deaths in what is Japan’s worst mass murder in two decades.

Public broadcaster NHK said a 41-year-old man shouted “die” as he doused the three-storey Kyoto Animation building with fuel shortly after 10am and set it ablaze.

Some of the victims were found in the studio, some on the third floor and others in a staircase leading up to the roof.

Another 36 were injured, 10 of them seriously.

A Kyoto City Fire Department official said fire engulfed the building as white and black smoke billowed from its charred windows in what was the nation’s worst mass killing since a suspected arson attack on a Tokyo building in 2001.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the attack in the western city “too appalling for words” on Twitter and offered condolences.

The suspected arsonist was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not question him, NHK said.

Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981.

Best known for series Sound! Euphonium and the upcoming film Free! Road to the World – The Dream, it has about 160 staff and offices in Tokyo and Kyoto.

About 70 staff were thought to be in the Kyoto building at the time of the fire.

“I am heartbroken,”the studio’s chief executive Hideaki Hatta said.

“It is unbearable that the people who helped carry Japan’s animation industry were hurt and lost their lives in this way,” he said.

There was an outpouring of support for the studio on Japanese-language social media, with some users posting pictures of animation.

Many posted with the hashtag #PrayForKyoani – using an abbreviation for Kyoto Animation.

The studio has a major influence on Japan’s animation industry that outstrips the list of works it has produced, Tokyo-based film commentator Yuichi Maeda said.

“It has a huge presence in animation here. To have this many people die at once will be a huge blow to the Japanese animation industry,” he said.

The studio gained many avid followers for several popular anime productions in the early 2000s. It’s these animations that have cemented them as a beloved production company in Japan and around the world.

‘Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu’

In 2003, Kyoto Animation hit the ground running with “Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu,” part of the anime adaptation of “Full Metal Panic!” The series focused on a covert private military organization that was tasked with protecting Japanese schoolgirl Kaname Chidori.

The series was short-lived, however, spanning 12 episodes between August and November 2003. But Kyoto Animation and director Yasuhiro Takemoto would bring “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid” to the small screen in 2005.


In 2007, Kyoto Animation was tapped to bring the emotional visual novel of “Clannad” to television. The story focused on high schooler Tomoya Okazaki as he deals with his troubling relationship with his father, and his eventual friendship and budding romance with classmate Nagisa Furukawa. Through the 23-episode run of “Clannad,” Tomoya and Nagisa attempt to reform the school’s drama club.

Not long after the conclusion of “Clannad” in March 2008, the studio announced they would be adapting “Clannad After Story,” a sequel to the original series. This time the story jumped seven years into the future where Tomoya and Nagisa are married and enduring several hardships. Nagisa dies while giving birth to their child, which sparks an emotional look at the trauma parents face in a time of great loss and the path forward with his daughter.

“Clannad After Story” received critical acclaim both in Japan and abroad.


In 2009, Kyoto Animation took on a project unlike anything else they’ve done before. They adapted the four-panel comic strip manga about a group of girls who are trying to save their school’s light music club. The 13-episode anime blended together humour and catchy music. The songs were so popular that by 2011 “K-On!” had gross revenues that reached more than $182 million.

The success of the series prompted the creation of a sequel called “K-On!!” and a movie titled “K-On! Movie.”

The studio would later take what they learned from their time working on “K-On!” and apply it to music anime “Sound! Euphonium.”

‘Free! Iwatobi Swim Club’

Arguably one of the studio’s most successful projects came in 2013 with the release of “Free! Iwatobi Swim Club.” Instead of a music club, this time, Kyoto Animation focus on the story of Haruka Nanase and his high school’s swim club. The studio was praised both at home and abroad for the sleek animation director Hiroko Utsumi and his team were able to create.

The anime was so successful that it spawned two sequels and four movies.

Kyoto Animation’s more recent endeavours include an anime adaptation of a popular novel series called Violet Evergarden, and A Silent Voice, a film that follows a young girl who is hearing impaired. Both were well-received internationally

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