Anime fans mourn victims of Kyoto Animation arson attack in Japan

KYOTO, JAPAN, Takehiko Kambayashi (dpa)- One month has passed since an arson attack on a Kyoto Animation studio killed 35 people – the biggest mass killing in Japan's modern times.
In a serene residential area of Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto, a stream of people stop to put their hands together and bow towards a burned-out animation studio, the site of the largest mass murder in the nation’s modern history.

The July 18 arson attack on the Kyoto Animation building killed 35 people and injured 34, including eight who are still hospitalized, according to local authorities. When the three-storey studio was set on fire, 70 people were inside, authorities say.
Kyoto Animation – popularly called KyoAni - is the producer of mega hit series such as “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” “Lucky Star” and “K-ON,” and many anime fans from Japan and abroad have come to the site to mourn the victims and lay flowers on a nearby altar.
“I can’t believe this,” said Li Jianan, a graduate student in Shandong province in China, shaking his head looking at the burned-out building.
“Kyoto Animation works are very popular in China. So the incident has been big news since it shocked so many people,” Li said.
“I have been a big fan of Kyoto Animation productions since I was a junior high school student," he said.
Miki Sakamoto, who was holding a bouquet of flowers, said, "I’m so overwhelmed that I’m speechless."
Sakamoto is not an anime fan but came from Ishikawa prefecture, 200 kilometres north of Kyoto, to pay tribute to the victims, she said.
“So many people died,” she said.
On July 18, Shinji Aoba, a suspect, allegedly splashed 10 litres of petrol on the building, screaming “die!” as he entered the building and set it aflame.
The 41-year-old suspect has been hospitalized with severe burns, and police say they are waiting for him to recover from his injuries before formally arresting him.
Aoba may have held a grudge against Kyoto Animation. He alleged the company had stolen his novel, local media reported, citing police.
“Why in the world did the person do that?” asked Misa Kondo, who was participating in a cosplay parade in Nagoya as part of the World Cosplay Summit held earlier this month.
“KyoAni is my most favourite animation company. I love KyoAni characters,” Kondo said. “I could not turn on my TV for a week after the incident. I have been to the studio before. But I can’t visit the site now. I feel I have had my life taken away from me.”
During the parade, Kondo was holding a placard that read, “Let’s support KyoAni!”
She also showed her support for Kyoto Animation by wearing a costume from anime works by the company, she said.
“Today, I am Rikka Takanashi, a character in ‘Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions,’” said Kondo, wearing a checked skirt and black jacket, and putting a bandage over her right eye.
Daisuke Okeda, a lawyer representing Kyoto Animation, said the company “has been very important to young people,” adding that many donations have come from individuals giving 10,000 yen (94 dollars) or less.  
As of Wednesday, nearly 2 billion yen had been donated to a fund set up by Kyoto Animation on July 24, according to Okeda.
Other funds have also been established in Japan to support the company, while a crowdfunding campaign launched by US-based animation distributor Sentai Filmworks raised more than 2.3 million dollars from 69,600 donors.
Aya Hirano, the voice actor of the main characters in “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” and “Lucky Star,” wrote on her blog: “The two works have had the most impact on my life. I would not be here without them.”
“Anime is a part of Japanese culture. We will never allow an irrational animosity to destroy culture and art,” Hirano said.
“An unprecedented atrocity has robbed many of our friends and colleagues of their bright futures and has left many deeply injured,” Kyoto Animation chief executive Hideaki Hatta said in a statement.
But Hatta said the company “will continue to create animation that help people have dreams, hope and impress them.”

Sunday, August 18th 2019
Takehiko Kambayashi (dpa)

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