The suspect behind the Kyoto Animation arson attack in July 2019, which saw 36 dead and 32 injured, has been indicted by prosecutors.
42-year-old Shinji Aoba faces charges including murder and attempted murder after pouring gasoline he had purchased and setting fire to the anime studio’s Studio 1 building. Aoba, a convicted robber, had been treated for mental illness in the past but was determined to be mentally fit by medical experts in the case of the arson attack, considered to be one of Japan’s worst mass murders, due to the planning involved.
Aoba was arrested in May and underwent six months of mental evaluation while under confinement. Police had obtained a warrant for the suspect in 2019, but had to wait 10 months for him to be treated for the burns he suffered.
Reports in 2019 said that Aoba had accused Kyoto Animation, or KyoAni, of plagiarizing his submitted novel. The studio has an annual novel competition which has spawned notable anime adaptations like Violet Evergarden and Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, but its attorney said that Aoba’s submission was eliminated in the first round and bore no similarity to KyoAni’s works.
A public memorial service was held in November 2019 at Kyoto’s Miyako Messe event hall, while a July 2020 in-person memorial to mark the first anniversary of the arson attack was substituted with a streamed memorial video due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Studio 1 building was demolished in April. KyoAni president Hideaki Hatta told Crunchyroll in July that neither a replacement or a physical memorial would be built, with the studio requesting fans not to visit the location due to it being in a residential area. At a news conference held that same month, Hatta said, “We want to continue to create works that will provide people with dreams, hopes and inspiration… The most important thing about rebuilding is not to construct a new building but is the heart.”
KyoAni, known for its positive practices and anime like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and K-On!, was founded in 1981 by Hatta and his wife, cel painter Yoko Hatta, and incorporated in 1985. The studio resumed hiring employees in July after postponing recruitment due to COVID-19. In September, it released Violet Evergarden: The Movie, a sequel to the Violet Evergarden series.