Anime studio fire 'an arson attack', Japan police say

accreditation
A resident praying for victims of a fire which hit the Kyoto Animation studio building the day before, killing 33 people, in Kyoto. (Jiji Press, AFP)
A resident praying for victims of a fire which hit the Kyoto Animation studio building the day before, killing 33 people, in Kyoto. (Jiji Press, AFP)

The horrifying fire at a renowned anime firm which killed dozens in Kyoto is being treated as arson and murder, Japanese police have said, with scores of detectives investigating the deadliest violent crime for decades in the famously safe country.

The blaze on Thursday killed 34 people and wounded dozens more at Kyoto Animation - well known among fans across the world for its animations of popular manga works - and left anime fans and insiders shocked and heartbroken.

In a rare move, Kyoto police on Friday identified the 41-year-old man suspected of starting the inferno as Shinji Aoba. Japanese authorities usually wait for the formal arrest of a suspect before releasing such details.

"We have determined that this is an arson attack... and murder," a senior police officer told a press conference.

Aoba is in serious condition and has burns all over his body. He has been moved to a special facility for treatment, a Kyoto police officer told AFP.

As firefighters struggled to control the blaze and locate survivors on Thursday, a man presumed to be Aoba was spotted lying on a bench at a park some 500m from the studio, Jiji Press reported, citing a nearby resident who said the man seemed to be asleep.

Police suspect that Aoba may have stayed at the park for several days to secretly inspect the studio, Jiji added.

Local media said Aoba had served three and a half years in prison for stealing cash from a convenience store. Police have said the suspect's profession was unknown.

People continued to pay tribute to the victims on Saturday, leaving flowers in front of the building that housed Kyoto Animation. Eyewitnesses described the inferno as "hell", and anime fans likened it to a terror attack on their community.

Founded in 1981, Kyoto Animation might lack the name recognition of Studio Ghibli, but to anime fans it is a household name, responsible for beloved television series like "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya".

Some media reports have suggested Aoba believed the company had stolen his work.

But the president of Kyoto Animation said on Saturday the company had never received a submission from him, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

GET THE NEWS at your fingertips and download the News24 app for Android here now. Get it for your iPhone here.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
The EFF has voted with the DA to ensure they now govern Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. Was this:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
A brilliant strategic move by the DA not to make formal coalition agreements
25% - 1638 votes
A brilliant strategic move by the EFF to force the DA to negotiate with them
16% - 1085 votes
A recipe for disaster and five more years of unstable local government
59% - 3949 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.27
-1.9%
Rand - Pound
21.71
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
18.42
+0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.59
+0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.14
+0.2%
Gold
1,792.60
0.0%
Silver
23.13
0.0%
Palladium
1,751.49
0.0%
Platinum
955.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
72.72
-11.6%
Top 40
62,411
-2.6%
All Share
68,615
-2.8%
Resource 10
64,074
-2.5%
Industrial 25
92,909
-1.3%
Financial 15
12,995
-6.8%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE