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Japanese man admits starting deadly anime studio fire: reports

Japanese man admits starting deadly anime studio fire: reports
Source: Video Screenshot

A Japanese man allegedly angry that his ideas had been stolen admitted Tuesday to starting a fire that killed 36 people in an animation studio in 2019, local media said.

The blaze that ripped through the studios of Kyoto Animation in July 2019 shocked Japan as well as the huge anime industry and its fans around the world.

“It’s correct I’ve done” what is in the charges, Shinji Aoba said at the Kyoto District Court as the trial opened, according to the Jiji Press news agency.

“I didn’t think so many people would die and now I think I went too far,” said the 45-year-old.

Aoba, who nearly died from burns he sustained and appeared in court in a wheelchair, faces five charges including murder, attempted murder and arson.

He is accused of breaking into the studio’s building, spreading gasoline around the ground floor and setting it alight before reportedly shouting “drop dead”.

Many of those killed in the blaze were young staff, including a 21-year-old woman. More than 30 others were injured.

Aoba’s lawyers on Tuesday entered a plea of not guilty, saying he “did not have the capacity to distinguish between good and bad and to stop committing the crime due to mental disorder,” public broadcaster NHK said.


Chieko Takemoto, who lost her son, told NHK ahead of the hearing that “the grief over the loss remains the same after four years since the incident.”

“My son will not come back… but I want to know how the defendant feels now and whether he feels guilty about his crime,” she said

On Tuesday, 500 people lined up hoping to secure one of the 35 seats reserved for the public, a court spokesman told AFP.

“I had to come as an anime fan,” one university student from Osaka who lined up told NHK.

“If he’s aware of his guilt, I want him to apologise.”

90-percent burns

Firefighters told reporters at the time that the incident was “unprecedented” and that rescuing people and extinguishing the fire was “extremely difficult”.

More than 90 percent of Aoba’s skin was burned and a doctor who treated him told the Yomiuri newspaper this week that he required 12 operations.

Aoba regained consciousness weeks later and was said to have sobbed with relief after undergoing a procedure that restored his ability to speak.

The charges against him were made after a psychiatric evaluation, and prosecutors told the court the arson attack was “committed out of misplaced resentment.”

Aoba had a “delusion” that the studio stole his ideas, they said, something denied by Kyoto Animation.

The court is scheduled to deliver its verdict on January 25.

Kyoto Animation, known by its fans as KyoAni, is well known domestically and abroad for its role in producing popular TV anime series including “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” and “K-ON!”

Kyoto Animation president Hideaki Hatta said he was “heartbroken for the employees who lost their lives and people who were close to them”, according to NHK.




About the author


Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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