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'An attack on all of us': Anime fans reel after deadly Japan fire

'An attack on all of us': Anime fans reel after deadly Japan fire

People walk past images of anime characters in the Akihabara district in Tokyo on Jul 19, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Behrouz Mehri)

TOKYO: A devastating apparent arson attack on a renowned Japanese animation firm has left anime fans and insiders heartbroken, with many likening the fire to a terror attack on their community.

An inferno ripped through Kyoto Animation on Thursday (Jul 18), killing 33 people and injured dozens more at the firm. 

READ: Animation fans lay flowers, pay respects at Japan studio ravaged by arson

"Kyoto Animation is home to some of the world's most talented animators and dreamers - the devastating attack today is a tragedy felt far beyond Japan," Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted on Thursday after the attack.

"KyoAni artists spread joy all over the world and across generations with their masterpieces."

Founded in 1981, Kyoto Animation might lack the name recognition of Japan's Studio Ghibli, but to anime fans it is a household name, responsible for beloved television series including The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and K-ON!

"They made amazing films. I was heartbroken," said James Coleman, a 17-year-old tourist walking in Tokyo's famed anime and gaming district Akihabara on Friday.

"I was really shocked and I was confused as to why anyone would attack a place like Kyoto Animation."

Anime and manga are among Japan's best known modern cultural exports, and form a key plank of the country's plans to grow its tourism industry. (Photo: AFP/Behrouz Mehri)

While many animation studios are based in Tokyo, the firm - known by fans as KyoAni - reportedly felt strongly about remaining in the ancient Japanese city of Kyoto.

Its work often featured elaborate shots described as "KyoAni quality" by enthusiastic fans.

"All we can do is remember the work they created," said French tourist Mederic Theys.

After the fire, anime fans at home and abroad tweeted their support with the hashtag #KyoAniStrong and #PrayForKyoAni.

An aerial view shows smoke and flame rise from the three-story Kyoto Animation building which was torched in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 18, 2019. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

"A KIND OF TERRORISM"

The motive for the attack remained unclear a day after the devastating blaze. Police have detained a 41-year-old man, with reports suggesting he had accused Kyoto Animation of plagiarism.

Initial speculation had focused on whether a disgruntled employee could be involved, in an industry infamous for underpaying and overworking its artists.

"It's like a domestic terrorist attack," said Aaron Law, a tourist from New Zealand, also in Akihabara.

READ: Suspected arsonist planned Japan's worst mass killing in 18 years: Reports

READ: Deadly Kyoto fire: What we know

Manga artist Junichi Inoue, author of Diary of A Chinese Wife, said he feared the trauma from the attack could cripple creativity among artists in the industry, himself included.

"These 33 lives created extraordinary work," he told AFP.

"We must not bend to it. It would be losing in the face of a kind of terrorism," he added.

A man prays next to flowers and tributes laid at the scene where over 30 people died in a fire at the Kyoto Animation company building in Kyoto on July 19, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Buddhika Weerasinghe)

Ryusuke Hikawa, a professor at Tokyo's Meiji University and a specialist in animation, also expressed hope that the attack would not cow the industry, where threats against artists are not uncommon.

"We must not bow in the face of violence," he told AFP.

"Kyoto Animation and others must continue to produce animations with a message."

"FEAR AND TRAUMA"

Founded by a husband-wife couple, Kyoto Animation originally specialised in delicate animation tasks usually done by women, and continued to employ many women among its staff.

And unlike many in the sector, it had a reputation as a generous employer, said Hikawa.

"The working conditions were known to be very good, with the staff very well treated in an industry where we often work late into the night," he said.

READ: Torched Japanese anime studio had received 'death threats'

READ: Kyoto Animation: The studio which created Silent Voice, K-On! and Haruhi Suzumiya

Anime and manga are among Japan's best known modern cultural exports, and form a key plank of the country's plans to grow its tourism industry.

Would-be artists flock to the country hoping to find work in the sector, and Japanese anime films are regularly nominated for Oscars.

Henry Thurlow, an American animator and director in Japan, said he was horrified by the news.

"That this crime happened in Japan, and that this crime happened to this small community of artists, who are among the hardest working people in the world, was quite shocking," he told AFP.

"It's an attack on every person working in this industry. We all know each other," he added.

"The fear and trauma stemming from this attack is going to affect a lot of people for a very long time."

Source: AFP/ga

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