On the morning of July 18th, Kyoto Animation, a world renowned animation studio based in Kyoto, fell victim to the worst mass murder in Japan in decades. Suspect Shinji Aoba was reported filling up containers with gasoline near the studio beforehand, and shouted “Die” before igniting the entrance of the building. Aoba is currently under arrest in the hospital with burns from his attack. The Kyoto Animation arson attack has resulted in the deaths of at least 34 people, injuring many others.
Kyoto Animation- known for such projects as K-On!, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya– was esteemed not only for the products that their studio put out, but also for for offering a workplace that eschewed negative norms of many popular studios. Kyoto was known for it’s largely female staff, an outlier when it comes to traditional anime studios, as well as for its high calibre working environment and salaries for their employees, rather than the common practice of staffing with overworked freelancers. It also stood out in its choice to remain in Kyoto, rather than relocating to Tokyo as the studio grew and grew. Kyoto Animation stayed a cultural keystone of the city, and helped to point audiences eyes and intrigue towards their home by setting their series Sound Euphonium in Kyoto.
The care for the studio’s community was evident in a speech to the press delivered by Hideaki Hatta, president of Kyoto Animation. He spoke of the possibility of tearing down the studio’s building in order to build a park as a memorial, stating “when I consider the staff and the people in this neighbourhood, there are people who don’t want to see such a gruesome sight.” The company, which was started by Hideaki Hatta and his wife Yoko Hatta in the 1980s, has been receiving a large influx of donations the world over, from fans of the studio as well as other staples of the anime industry such as Crunchyroll and Sentai Filmworks.
While early in Kyoto Animation’s career they found themselves assisting production on such anime hits as the action-adventure Inuyasha, from the early 2000s onwards it became geared towards producing adaptations of various visual and light novels. This focus on slice-of-life style content set the path for the studio to hone its feel good style, its flagship series likely being The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Kyoto Animation became synonymous with the idea of “moe”, a Japanese slang term that denotes a feeling of warmth and affection towards characters.
While the driving force behind Shinji Aoba’s actions is still unclear, he is reported as stating that Kyoto Animation plagiarized a novel of his. However, the company claims that they were not familiar with him or his work, and had no record of receiving any of his novels as a potential submission. What is clear about the Kyoto Animation arson attack is that it has left a profoundly negative scar on the city of Kyoto, as well as its preeminent studio that sought only to enrich the lives of its audiences and the lives of its budding artists.