UPDATE, SAT. JULY 20: Shinji Aoba has been identified by police as the suspect who set a blaze at Kyoto Animation Studio in Kyoto, Japan, resulting in the deaths of 33 people and injuring scores more.
Aoba was captured and held by studio workers and was himself badly burned by his arson.
“I did it because they stole my novel,” he allegedly told police, according to a report from NHK, the public broadcaster. “They plagiarized my work. Call the president. I have something to tell him.”
Aoba, who has not formally been arrested because of his medical condition, is being described by reports citing unnamed police source as a mentally troubled 41-year-old man who had served prison time for robbery. He was undergoing treatment for mental illness at the time of the incident and is now in a burn unit in Osaka, Japan.
Although Kyoto Animation runs an annual novel competition, the company claims Aoba had never submitted anything to the competition.
UPDATE, 6:30 PM PST: The man who set the fire that has now claimed 33 lives at a Kyoto, Japan animation studio claimed that the company had stolen something from him, according to an Associated Press report. Police have yet to confirm any motive in the arson attack.
The 41-year-old man, who is still unidentified but is not a company employee, allegedly screamed “You die!” when he ran into the Kyoto studio, doused it with a flammable liquid, and set it on fire. Police have confirmed 33 deaths, with 36 others injured, some in critical condition. It is believed 70 people were in the building when the fire started.
The victims were all employees at Kyoto Animation, which specializes in stories featuring high school girls.
The blaze started near the front door of the building, blocking an easy escape for many. Firefighters reportedly found 20 bodies on the third floor of the building and some of the stairs to the roof. Two were found dead on the first floor, 11 others on the second floor.
Associated Press reported that an unidentified witness said the man who set the fire had burns on his arms and legs, and was complaining about something being stolen.
Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio.
“My heart is in extreme pain. Why on earth did such violence have to be used?” company president Hideaki Hatta said. He added that the company had received anonymous death threats by email in the past, but did not say they were linked to the arson.
UPDATE 07:22 AM PST: According to local emergency services, the death toll has now risen to 33 in today’s tragic attack on animation studio Kyoto Animation in Japan. Dozens have been injured and the number of fatalities is expected to rise.
No details have been released about the motive behind the atrocity.
More as we have it.
UPDATE 00:57 AM PST July 18: According to local broadcaster NHK, and the BBC, at least 23 people are dead and dozens injured after a suspected arson attack on Thursday morning at animation studio Kyoto Animation in Kyoto, Japan.
Local authorities have said that a man broke into the prolific studio and sprayed an unidentified liquid around before igniting it. Dozens of people still remain unaccounted for. The suspect, an unidentified man, has been detained and was taken to hospital with injuries.
No motive for the attack has been reported, but Japan’s public broadcaster said the perpetrator had shouted “drop dead” as he set the fires.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the incident “horrifying” and said he was “at a loss for words” while offering condolences to the victims.
According to the New York Times, the fire is one of the worst in recent memory in Japan. In 2008, 16 people were killed when a video store burned down in Osaka. Prior to that, in 2001, 44 people died after a fire broke out at a crowded gambling club in Tokyo’s busiest entertainment district.
EARLIER STORY, 21.08 PST July 17: A man entered a major Japanese animation studio and poured gasoline on the floor, sparking a fire that has led to an undetermined number of deaths and at least 30 injuries.
The fire at Kyoto Animation, a company known for producing shows and movies including “Full Metal Panic,” “K-On,” Violet Evergarden: The Movie, A Silent Voice: The Movie and “Clannad,” among other works, is being treated as an arson, Japanese news media are reporting.
The man, believed to be in his 40s, entered the building at 10 AM Japan time. Police have arrested the suspect but have not said how many people have died in the attack, or established a motive.