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Dozens dead after Japanese animation studio hit by arson attack

World News | Published:

Kyoto Animation is known for mega-hit stories featuring high school girls.

The Kyoto Animation building after it was struck by arson

A man screaming “you die!” has burst into an animation studio in Japan, doused it with a flammable liquid and set it on fire.

A total of 33 people were killed in the attack in Kyoto that shocked anime fans across Japan and beyond.

Thirty-six others were injured, some of them critically, in a blaze that sent people scrambling up the stairs toward the roof in a desperate attempt to escape.

Smoke billows from the building
Smoke billows from the building (Kyodo News/AP)

The suspect was injured and taken to a hospital. Police identified him only as a 41-year-old man who was not a company employee.

Most of the victims were employees of Kyoto Animation, which does work on feature films and TV productions but is best known for its mega-hit stories featuring high school girls. The stories are so popular that some of the places depicted have become pilgrimage sites for fans.

The blaze started in the three-storey building in Japan’s ancient capital after the attacker sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant.

Japanese media reported the fire might have been set near the front door, forcing people to find other ways out.

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A fire engine stands by near the building of Kyoto Animation
A fire engine stands by near the building of Kyoto Animation (AP/Hiromi Tanoue)

Firefighters found 33 bodies, 20 of them on the third floor and some on the stairs to the roof, where they apparently collapsed. Two were found dead on the first floor, 11 others on the second floor.

A witness who saw the attacker being approached by police told Japanese networks that the man admitted spreading gasoline and setting the fire with a lighter.

She told NHK public television that the man had burns on his arms and legs and was angrily complaining that something of his had been “stolen”, possibly by the company.

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NHK footage also showed sharp knives police had collected from the scene, though it was not clear if they belonged to the attacker.

People injured in the fire are treated near the scene
People injured in the fire are treated near the scene (Kyodo News via AP)

Survivors said he was screaming “you die!” as he dumped the liquid, according to Japanese media. They said some of the survivors got splashed with the liquid.

Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio, and its hits include Lucky Star of 2008, K-On! in 2011 and Haruhi Suzumiya in 2009.

The company does not have a major presence outside Japan, though it was hired to do secondary animation work on a 1998 Pokemon feature that appeared in US theatres and a Winnie The Pooh video.

“My heart is in extreme pain. Why on earth did such violence have to be used?” company president Hideaki Hatta said.

Mr Hatta said the company had received anonymous death threats by email in the past, but he did not link them to the attack.

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