Kyoto anime studio fire: Japanese man sentenced to death for arson attack that killed 36

25-01-2024 03:01 PM

Ammon News - A court in Japan has sentenced to death a man convicted of murdering 36 people in an arson attack on an animation studio in 2019.

The attack on Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, sent shock waves through Japan, where violent crime is rare, and stunned fans of the studio’s output around the world.

Shinji Aoba, now 45, broke into the firm’s building in Kyoto, doused the entrance area with petrol and set it alight. He then shouted “drop dead”, according to accounts by survivors of Japan’s deadliest crime in decades. Many of the victims were young people.

The attack also injured 32 others and left Aoba with serious burns that required almost a year of treatment.

He faced five charges, including murder, attempted murder and arson. His lawyers had entered a plea of not guilty, contending that their client had been suffering a mental disorder at the time of the crime that prevented him from distinguishing between good and bad.

But in his ruling on Thursday, the judge ruled that Aoba was “neither insane nor suffering diminished mental capacity at the time of the crime”, the public broadcaster NHK said.

Inside the courtroom, whose public gallery was packed with the families of the victims, one person broke down in tears as the judge delivered his ruling, NHK added.

Later the court handed down the death sentence, local media reported.

Aoba entered court in a wheelchair pushed by a prison officer, the scars from the burns he sustained in the fire visible on his face and neck, the Kyodo news agency said. He declined the opportunity to speak before he was sentenced, it added.

Japan, one of few developed countries to retain the death penalty, usually reserves the punishment for people convicted of multiple murders.

Opinion polls show a majority of Japanese support capital punishment, while the European Union and human rights groups have called for its abolition.

Condemned inmates typically spend years on death row and are informed of their execution just hours before it is carried out, according to campaigners.

Japan carried out its last execution, by hanging, in 2022. As of December, 107 people were on death row.

Media have reported that Aoba held a grudge against the studio, known for the series Violet Evergarden and other popular works, believing that it had plagiarised his novel, an allegation that KyoAni has denied.

Several victims of the fire were found on a spiral stairwell leading to the roof of the KyoAni building, suggesting they were overcome as they tried to escape. Survivors have spoken of their desperate struggle to flee.

“There was a person who jumped from the second floor ... but we couldn’t rush to help because the fire was so strong,” one woman told Japanese media at the time. “It was like I was looking at hell.”

Aoba suffered burns on 90% of his body and underwent 12 operations, including one to restore his speech. He did not regain consciousness until several weeks after the incident.

At the first hearing in his trial last September, he told the court that he had not expected the fire to kill so many people. “Now I think I went too far,” he said.

Firefighters described the scene at the burning building as “unprecedented”, adding that rescuing people trapped inside was “extremely difficult”.

Founded in 1981 by a married couple, KyoAni became a household name among anime fans thanks to popular TV series such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and K-ON!

The attack drew messages of support from around the world. Apple chief executive Tim Cook tweeted that KyoAni’s artists “spread joy all over the world and across generations with their masterpieces”, while the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, offered his condolences.

A US animation firm raised $2.4m via crowdfunding to help the firm get back on its feet.

The Guardian

  • no comments

All comments are reviewed and posted only if approved.
Ammon News reserves the right to delete any comment at any time, and for any reason, and will not publish any comment containing offense or deviating from the subject at hand, or to include the names of any personalities or to stir up sectarian, sectarian or racial strife, hoping to adhere to a high level of the comments as they express The extent of the progress and culture of Ammon News' visitors, noting that the comments are expressed only by the owners.
name : *
show email
comment : *
Verification code : Refresh
write code :