Smoke and fire billowed from Studio 1 of Kyoto Animation this morning when the building was set on fire by an arsonist. Authorities including 30 firetrucks rushed to the scene where 33 people have been declared dead and three dozen injured. A suspect is in custody and is being hospitalized as well.
The fire started around 10:30 a.m. JST. Kyoto residents near the scene heard an explosion and saw smoke coming from the building. Witnesses claim that the 41 year old suspect who has not been named by authorities was pouring gasoline in the building and screamed "Die!" as he set the building ablaze. The arsonist was captured by studio staff after collapsing on the street outside and hospitalized for burns while in police custody. Authorities say he confessed while being treated and would remain in police custody. Police report finding multiple blades at the scene although at this time it is not certain that they belonged to the suspect. Police are also investigating a report by a clerk at a gas station near the studio of a man in his 30s or 40s wearing a red shirt and backpack buying about 10 gallons of gas and carrying it off on a hand cart shortly before the fire. The suspect's motives are currently unknown; however a witness told Kyodo News that the attacker complained that something had been stolen from him: "He sounded like he had a grudge against the society and he was talking angrily to the policemen too, though he was struggling with pain. He also sounded like he had a grudge against Kyoto Animation."
The president and cofounder of Kyoto Animation, Hideaki Hatta, stated that the studio had received threatening emails: "They were addressed to our office and sales department and told us to 'die.' "
A total of 67 employees were on duty at the time according to police. Of those 10 were discovered in a state of cardiac arrest. An official at the Kyoto City Fire Department stated that among the dead were 20 people who suffocated on the stairway that led from the third floor to the rooftop of the building with most laying atop one another. When rescuers reached the roof, the door was closed but not locked. The compactness of the building as well as the fact that there was only one exit made the building essentially a death trap once the fire started.
Killing 33 people, the incident would be the largest confirmed mass killing in Japan since World War II, and the tragedy is felt worldwide with many fans and others using #PrayForKyoAni on social media to express their grief and condolences. Beyond the tragedy of the people killed, it is also a great cultural loss. Among the grievers, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released a statement on Twitter, "Today, in the arson murder spree in Kyoto, there are a lot of casualties, i.e. i'm speechless. I pray for the souls of those who have passed away. I would like to express my condolences to all of the injured and wish them a speedy recovery."
Kyoto Animation, or KyoAni as it is sometimes called, is a well-known animation studio in the industry. Founded in 1981 by Yoko and Hideaki Hatta, KyoAni distinguished itself in the Japanese animation industry by producing quality work with realistic plotlines as well as paying animators a salary as opposed to assigning piecework and was the first successful studio of its kind outside of Tokyo. Their titles include Full Metal Panic, Dragon Maid, Lucky Star, K-ON, Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Violet Evergarden and many others. Most of the studio's production takes place in the building that was burned with their database of current works being lost to the fire as well.