×

At Least 33 Believed Dead in Arson Attack on Japan’s Kyoto Animation

UPDATED: At least 33 people are believed to have died Thursday in an arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company in Japan, shocking a nation in which extreme violence is very rare.

Citing fire officials, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said Thursday night that 20 women and 12 men were killed in the blaze, as well as another person whose body was burned beyond identification. Although a suspect has been arrested and has reportedly admitted to setting the fire, a motive for the attack has not been disclosed. Japanese media said the man is not known to have any connection with the company.

Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call about 10:35 a.m. local time Thursday reporting an explosion on the first floor of the studio. The blaze quickly spread across the whole of the three-story building.

Local media reports said a man was seen inside the building spraying a flammable liquid, shouting, “Die!” and then igniting the fluid. The man, 41, was injured and is now in police custody. Multiple knives were found at the scene, but it is not known if they were his.

About 70 people were inside the building at the time of the blaze. NHK said that the bodies of 12 people were found on the first and second floors. The fire department said that an additional 10 people found on the third floor and on the stairs were in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest.

Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, has been in operation since 1981 and is known as a producer of high-quality animation. These include TV series “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” and “K-On!” The studio’s series adaptation of the “Tsurune” novel, written by Kotoko Ayano, recently completed airing on NHK.

KyoAni president Hideaki Hatta told reporters that the company had received regular death threats over the years. “These included recent emails sent to the sales department saying that we should die,” he said. The company advised its lawyers in each case.

Japan is used to natural disasters, with both earthquakes and tsunami waves as regular occurrences. But terrorism and extreme violence are very rare. The death toll in Kyoto far exceeds that of the infamous sarin gas attack on the Tokyo Metro in 1995 by members of the Aum Shinrikyo movement. That killed 12 people at the time, with another victim later dying after years of hospitalization.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led an outpouring of public grief and sympathy. “Today, in the arson murder spree in Kyoto, there are many casualties. 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,” he said in Japanese on Twitter.

Apple chief Tim Cook called the attack “a tragedy felt far beyond Japan,” saying that KyoAni’s animators had “spread joy all over the world and across generations with their masterpieces.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Our Mothers Review

    Oscars: Belgium Sends Cannes Prizewinner 'Our Mothers' to International Feature Film Race

    Belgian Guatemalan director Cesar Diaz’s feature debut “Our Mothers” will represent Belgium in the International Feature Film category at the Oscars. Represented in international markets by Pyramide, “Our Mothers” world premiered at Cannes’s Critics Week and won the Golden Camera for best first film. “Our Mothers” is set in today’s Guatemala, a country riveted on [...]

  • La vaca "The Cow"

    Alfredo Castro, Mia Maestro, Leonor Varela Cast in Francisca Alegria’s Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

    SANTIAGO, Chile  —  The much anticipated feature debut of Chilean Francisca Alegria, renowned for her magical short “And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye,” has firmed up its cast and shooting dates. Argentine thesp Mia Maestro (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”), Chile’s Leonor Varela (“Dallas,” “Blade 2”), Alfredo Castro (“From Afar,” “Museum”) [...]

  • 210819 Distribusjonsseminar DNF

    Haugesund: Nordic Distribution Panel Analyzes Recent Success Story 'Queen of Hearts'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  On Wednesday morning, shortly before this year’s New Nordic Films Works in Progress screening was due to begin, a handful of industry veterans sat for a panel that picked up right where last year’s WIP program left off. Presented in collaboration with Europa Distribution, the panel – called “The Value Chain: A [...]

  • L-R Dena Kaplan, Ronny Chieng, Josh

    Rafe Spall Leads Cast of Oscar Nominated Josh Lawson's 'Long Story Short'

    Rafe Spall, whose credits include “The Big Short” and “Shaun of the Dead,” leads the cast of romantic comedy “Long Story Short.” Studiocanal will handle worldwide sales on the film, which starts to shoot on Monday in Sydney, Australia. The movie is written and directed by Josh Lawson, who was Oscar nominated last year for [...]

  • Metro 2033

    Cult Sci-Fi Novel 'Metro 2033' to Be Adapted as Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russia’s TNT-Premier Studios Company, TV-3 Channel and Central Partnership Film Company – all part of Gazprom Media – have come together to produce a movie based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s sci-fi novel “Metro 2033,” which has also been adapted as a video game. Filming is due to start next year. The Russian premiere of the movie [...]

  • Beforeigners

    'Beforeigners'' Anne Bjornstad on HBO's First Norwegian Original Series

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  HBO Europe’s first Norwegian original series, which debuted Aug. 21 exclusively across HBO’s territories, has garnered rave reviews in the Norwegian press. It is also a perfect fit for HBO’s brand and goal to create bold, smart and author-driven shows. Produced by Endemol Shine’s Norwegian prodco Rubicon TV, “Beforeigners” is helmed by [...]

  • Refugees from the besieged Muslim enclave

    Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

    Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years. The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content