Man charged with murder over 2019 Kyoto anime studio arson attack: Report

Man charged with murder over 2019 Kyoto anime studio arson attack: Report

More than 30 people were injured in the attack on the anime studio that killed 36
More than 30 people were injured in the attack on the anime studio that killed 36. (File photo: AFP/STR)

TOKYO: Japanese prosecutors on Wednesday (Dec 16) charged a man with murder over the 2019 arson attack on Kyoto Animation that killed 36 people, local media said.

The attack was the country's deadliest violent crime in decades.

Shinji Aoba, 42, was detained in the aftermath of the July 2019 attack, but has been hospitalised since then with severe burns sustained in the incident, and reportedly only regained consciousness the following month.

The charges, which the Kyoto Shimbun newspaper said also included attempted murder and arson, came after a psychiatric evaluation of Aoba.

The Kyoto prosecutor's office did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation of the charges.

More than 30 people were also injured in the attack, in which Aoba is accused of breaking into the studio's building, spreading gasoline around the ground floor and setting it alight.

Aoba has reportedly confessed to the arson, and is said to have shouted "drop dead" before starting the fire.

There have been claims that he accused the studio of stealing his work, which Kyoto Animation has denied doing.

Shinji Aoba, pictured here in May, nearly died of the injuries he sustained in the attack, said a
Shinji Aoba, pictured here in May, nearly died of the injuries he sustained in the attack, said a doctor who treated him. (File photo: AFP/STR)

Many of those killed in the blaze were young, including a 21-year-old woman.

Parents of some of those killed said news of the charges did little to ease their pain.

"My feelings don't change," Chieko Takemoto, who lost her son Yasuhiro, told NHK.

"When I'm alone, I want to cry remembering him ... I'm so sad he's gone."

"No matter what (Aoba) says in the court, Yasuhiro won't come back," added his father Yasuo Takemoto.

"This reality won't change no matter what ruling is given."

"JAPANESE JEWELS WERE LOST"

The attack sent shockwaves through the anime industry and its fans in Japan and around the world.

"These are people who carry the Japanese animation industry on their shoulders," Kyoto Animation's president Hideaki Hatta told reporters at the time.

"It's heartbreaking. Japanese jewels were lost."

Aoba nearly died of the injuries he sustained in the attack, a doctor who treated him told the Kyoto Shimbun newspaper recently.

He required 12 surgeries to apply skin grafts, and the hospital opted to use Aoba's own skin rather than a graft bank "to avoid shortages of skin for (his) victims", the doctor said.

Aoba only regained consciousness last August, he added, and apparently sobbed with relief after undergoing a procedure in September that restored his ability to speak.

Kyoto Animation, known by its fans as KyoAni, is well-known both domestically and internationally for its role in producing popular TV anime series including K-On! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

While many animation studios are based in Tokyo, the firm reportedly felt strongly about remaining in the ancient Japanese city of Kyoto.

Its work often features elaborate screenshots described as "KyoAni quality" by enthusiastic fans.

Violent crime and particularly mass casualty incidents are vanishingly rare in Japan, which has strict gun-control laws.

Arson is considered a particularly serious offence in Japan, where many buildings are made of wood and extremely fire-prone.

A 2008 arson attack on a video shop in Osaka killed 16 people, and the attacker is now on death row.

Japan is one of the few developed nations to retain the death penalty, with more than 100 inmates on death row, and support for it remains high.

But many years usually pass between sentencing and execution, which in Japan is always carried out by hanging.

Source: AFP/kg

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