The Yomiuri ShimbunDozens of people devoted to animation production have had their lives taken away. It is an outrageous and despicable criminal act over which it is difficult to prevent the feeling of anger emerging.
More than 30 people died in a fire caused by arson that broke out at a studio managed by animation production company Kyoto Animation Co. in Kyoto city, with the number of those injured exceeding 30. This was the largest number of casualties in a single incident since the start of the Heisei era (1989-2019).
A 41-year-old man suspected to have started the blaze has been taken into custody. Screaming “Die!” he entered the studio’s first-floor entrance, splashed gasoline around and set it alight. Knives were discarded at the scene of the fire.
The man has never worked at the company. Believed to be a resident of Saitama city, he reportedly had trouble with neighbors over noise. What was the motive of his criminal offense? The Kyoto prefectural police are called on to work toward elucidating it.
The studio that was the scene of the fire is a reinforced concrete three-story building with a circular stairway linking the first through third floors. There is a possibility that flames and smoke reached the upper floors at once through the stairway.
Most of the victims are believed to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Many people were found lying on top of each other on the stairway leading from the third floor to the roof. They likely tried to escape to the roof but failed to find a way out as they were quickly engulfed by flames and smoke.
According to regulations on fire prevention, the building is classified as a type of workplace that is not obliged to install sprinklers and indoor fire hydrants. No legal violation was found in an on-the-spot inspection conducted by the Kyoto City Fire Department.
Boost controls on gasoline
Inspections should be conducted to determine whether the structure of the building and other factors contributed to an increased number of casualties. Concerning similar buildings, it is also necessary to reconfirm evacuation routes and prepare for unexpected incidents.
Arson cases causing many casualties have not ceased to occur. Gasoline has often been abused in these cases. If one carries a designated gasoline can to a manned gas station, it is possible to buy up to 60 liters of gasoline if the can is made of metal. The man is believed to have bought 40 liters of gasoline at a gas station near the scene of the incident.
The National Policy Agency has asked gasoline retailers to provide information if suspicious people try to buy gasoline. But the provision is not mandatory. There is no legal obligation to confirm the identity of a buyer, either. Considering that gasoline could become a deadly weapon, buyer’s identities and the purpose of their purchases should be confirmed.
Kyoto Animation has produced popular anime works one after another, including “Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu” (Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and “K-ON!” Nicknamed Kyo-Ani, the studio is popular among fans. Its high quality drawing and creative direction are said to be some of the best in the industry. Its popularity is high in foreign countries as well.
Amid the situation in which anime production companies are concentrated in Tokyo, Kyo-Ani has served as a driving force in the regional animation industry, its existence coming to symbolize the brand strength of Japanese animation. The incident came as a great shock to fans and inflicted a great loss on the industry. It is hoped the studio can surmount the tragic incident and make a comeback.