Anime fans are in shock after a suspected arsonist killed at least 33 people in an attack on one of Japan’s most famous animation studios. In the day since the blaze on Thursday, a crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $1 million for survivors and the families of the unnamed victims since Thursday’s devastating fire at Kyoto Animation.
The 41-year-old suspect, named by police as Shinji Aoba, did not work for the studio, which is housed in a three-story building in Kyoto. He is reported to have ignited flammable liquid in its doorways as he shouted “die!” and claimed that the studio had plagiarized his novels, according to the Guardian.
The attack—the worst mass killing in Japan in decades—has shocked the country, which is considered one of the world’s safest.
Kyoto Animation, also known as KyoAni, became famous not only for its films and comic books featuring cute, “moe-eye” characters, but also as a progressive employer. It promoted women to director roles, which is rare in the Japanese industry, and paid its staff above-average wages, the gaming news website Kotaku notes.
Susan Napier, a professor in the Japanese program at Tufts University, told the New York Times that the company is a better employer than most because it pays its workers salaries, rather than employing them as freelancers. “You’re usually overworked and underpaid,” Napier said, “but Kyoto Animation was trying to be a more humane company.”
The company was founded in 1981 by Yoko Hatta and her husband, Hideaki Hatta. “I am heartbroken,” Hideaki told the Guardian. “It is unbearable that the people who helped carry Japan’s animation industry were hurt and lost their lives in this way.”
Houston-based Sentai Filmworks, which distributes Kyoto Animation’s work, quickly set up a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to support the studio and its staff. In just over one day, the effort has raised $1.4 million from more than 40,000 individual donors. Most of the donations are under $100, many between $5 and $10.
In a statement on Twitter, Sentai Filmworks praised Kyoto Animation’s “impeccable storytelling and beautiful animation that have brought joy immeasurable to the anime community.” The company’s president, John Ledford, described the animation artists as “true masters of their art and one of Japan’s national treasures.”
Seventy-four people are believed to have been working in the building. Many of the victims are reported to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning. At least 35 people are believed to have been injured.
The suspect is now under arrest in the hospital with serious burns and has not been formally interviewed. The BBC reports that CCTV footage at a nearby gas station appears to show him filling up two containers with petrol shortly before the incident.
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