The anime world woke up to terrible news on Thursday when the story broke about a devastating fire at Kyoto Animation Co. in Japan. The death toll keeps rising at the anime studio — affectionately called KyoAni by fans — after an alleged arsonist set the location ablaze. At time of writing, at least 33 people have died and more than 36 are injured, but the numbers seem to be rising by the minute.
According to police, a 41 year-old man had a backpack containing several knives as well as gasoline, which he poured around the studio before igniting it. The blaze broke out about 10:30 a.m. local time in the 1st Studio building in Kyoto’s Fushimi-ku district. Reports claim residents and other bystanders heard what sounded like an explosion. The suspect is currently in the hospital with serious burns and police are waiting to question him.
The photos are devastating as thick smoke billows out and 48 fire engines attempt to get the blaze under control. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe tweeted [translated via Twitter], “Today, in the arson murder case that occurred in Kyoto, there are a large number of casualties, and I lose a word for much misery. I pray for the happiness of the deceased. I would like to express my sympathies to the injured people and pray for a quick recovery.”
— 安倍晋三 (@AbeShinzo) July 18, 2019
KyoAni was founded in 1981 and is a top producer of animations, anime novels, comics, and books. The company is known for Free!, K-On!, the anime TV adaptation of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Violet Evergarden picked up by Netflix last year. The beloved anime studio promotes a positive company culture and philosophy, which emphasizes employee freedom to explore their skills and creativity. They are also famous for employing more female directors and writers than most anime studios and making their animators permanent employees with better working conditions than other production companies.
At this point there is no known motive for the attack, but supposedly the suspect admitted to setting the fire on purpose. Sentai Filmworks, a Texas-based distributor which has released KyoAni productions, has set up a GoFundMe campaign, which has already raised almost $440,000 as of Thursday morning.