Japanese police have arrested Shinji Aoba, the man suspected of the arson attack on Kyoyo Animation last July. The arrest came after he was judged sufficiently recovered from his own burn injuries to face scrutiny.
The blaze at the animation production studio killed 36 people and injured another 33.
Aoba was found near the scene and apparently has admitted to setting the fire. “There is no mistake,” the police quoted him as saying. Aoba is said to have accused the studio of stealing his ideas.
In a life-threatening condition for months, Aoba received multiple skin grafts at a hospital in Osaka. He was later sent to a hospital in nearby Kyoto in November for rehabilitation.
Police previously intended to arrest him in January, but he was too ill. He has now been taken to a Kyoto police station for interrogation.
Police in Saitama, near Tokyo, uncovered DVDs from Kyoto Amination when they raided Aoba’s home. They have also investigated Aoba as the source of anonymous threatening messages made against the company in 2018. The sender reportedly used the Tor identity-disguising software.
Despite the tragedy, KyoAni went ahead with the September release of “Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memories Doll,” a “side story” film from the studio’s “Violet Evergarden” franchise.
The main “Violet Evergarden: The Movie ” was originally set for a Jan. 10, 2020 release in Japan. That was rescheduled to April 24. But the release on that date was again delayed, this time because of the coronavirus outbreak which closed cinemas around Japan. Although cinemas in Japan are now re-opening, after the state of emergency has been lifted, no new release date has yet been set.
Most of the victims of the fire were women in their twenties and thirties. Kyoto Animation, familiarly known as KyoAni, was famed as a female-friendly workplace in a mostly male-dominated industry.
A crowdfunding campaign was launched by U.S. animation distributor Sentai Filmworks and quickly raised over $2 million to help the survivors and the families of the victims. Among the contributors was software giant Adobe, which anonymously donated $50,000. The company later confirmed the contribution and said: “Kyoto Animation is a center of the creative community, not only in Japan, but worldwide.”