Japanese Man Sentenced to Death for Arson Attack on Anime Studio

Japanese Man Sentenced to Death for Arson Attack on Anime Studio

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In a verdict delivered on Thursday, a Japanese court condemned a 45-year-old man to death for orchestrating an arson attack that resulted in the deaths of 36 people at a Kyoto Animation studio in 2019.

The deadly blaze, which occurred four-and-a-half years ago, marked Japan’s deadliest crime in decades and sent shockwaves throughout the global anime community. Shinji Aoba, the convicted individual, reportedly broke into the Kyoto Animation building, doused the ground floor with gasoline, ignited it, and shouted “drop dead” on the morning of July 18, 2019, as recounted by survivors.

Presiding judge Keisuke Masuda, in delivering the verdict, stated, “The act of pouring an enormous amount of gasoline and setting it ablaze is extremely likely to be fatal, and immolating people is truly cruel and inhumane.” The victims, many of whom were young, faced an agonizing death as the studio swiftly transformed into a scene of horror.

The court heard that Aoba faced five charges, including murder, attempted murder, and arson. Prosecutors sought capital punishment, arguing that Aoba believed the studio, known as KyoAni, had stolen his ideas—an assertion the company vehemently denied. Aoba’s defense claimed he had a ‘mental disorder,’ but the judge rejected this plea.

Aoba, who sustained burns on 90 percent of his body, regained consciousness weeks after the fire and regained the ability to speak later. He underwent 12 operations for his injuries.

Kyoto Animation, founded in 1981, is a prominent name in the anime world, responsible for beloved series such as ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’ and ‘K-ON!’. The attack prompted expressions of grief and support worldwide, with a crowdfunding campaign raising $2.4 million to aid the studio.

Company president Hideaki Hatta welcomed the verdict but expressed heartbreak over the loss of employees. Inside the courtroom, family members of the victims witnessed the emotional proceedings, with one person reportedly crying and covering their eyes.

Despite the tragedy, KyoAni fans gathered outside the courthouse, enduring snowfall, expressing hope that the studio would continue creating vibrant animations. Renji Kiriyama, a fan, stated, “I hope this will expose more people to KyoAni. If this spreads the name of KyoAni and brings its works to more people, I would be happy.”

Kentaro Hatanaka, another fan, voiced his hopes for the future, saying, “I hope KyoAni will again bring to the world kinds of animations that are filled with life as they did before this happened.”

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