KyoAni arson case that killed 36 people: Defendant’s “horrifying motive” and the tragedy that befell his family. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

KyoAni arson case that killed 36 people: Defendant’s “horrifying motive” and the tragedy that befell his family.

The man who burned down Japan's anime culture and took the lives of 36 people has a spark of "resentment" in his heart.

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Immediately after the incident, many people looked up at the blackened crime scene (PHOTO: Kyodo News)

I have no doubt I did what I did. I never thought so many people would die.”

The defendant, who appeared in court in a wheelchair with burn scars on his hands and face, pleaded in a quiet voice, “I never thought so many people would die.

In July 2007, 36 people were killed and 32 others seriously injured in a tragic arson attack at the animation production company Kyoto Animation (Kyoani). The first trial of Shinji Aoba, 45, an unemployed defendant charged with murder, was held on September 5 at the Kyoto District Court. 35 seats were reserved for the general public, but more than 500 people gathered to hear the trial. More than four years after the incident, the trial still attracts a great deal of attention.

Aoba, who appeared in court wearing a blue top and bottom jersey, admitted to the charges against him. The prosecution claimed, ‘He submitted a novel to the KyoAni Grand Prize, but it was not selected, and he felt a one-sided grudge that it (his work) was stolen. It was a revenge for a wrongdoing. He also claimed that he had the ability to take responsibility for his actions. The defense, on the other hand, claimed that Aoba was in a state of insanity at the time of the crime, unable to judge right from wrong, and pleaded not guilty.

In its August 9, 2007 issue, “FRIDAY” reported in detail on the background of the tragedy in which nearly 70 people were victimized. We would like to recount Aoba’s side of the story and the details of the incident (with some corrections).

“You cracked me up! ……”

Aoba, who suffered burns all over his body, was transferred to a hospital. The protection money of about 200 million yen was used for the skin graft treatment (PHOTO: Jiji Press).

When the doorbell rang and I answered the door, I found a man lying on his back. He was wearing a shirt and jeans and was of large build. His hair was burnt, and the skin on both arms was flaking due to burns. The soles of his feet were covered in blood and there was a burning spot on his right shin. ‘Are you okay?’ I asked him, but he didn’t respond, so I used our hose to pour water on his legs.

An officer came running to the scene and asked the man, ‘Why did you do this? How did you do this? and I realized it was the arsonist. The culprit was saying things like, ‘You cracked me up, ……,’ and ‘I set the place on fire. His face was earthy and greenish, a color I had never seen before.

On July 18, 2007, shortly after 10:30 a.m., Aoba set fire to Kyoani’s Studio 1. Because gasoline was also sprayed, the flames and smoke were strong, and the death toll reached 36. Aoba fled and was seized by police near Rokujizo Station in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City, about 100 meters from the scene.

Aoba, who lived in Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture, had been staying in Kyoto City for several days prior to the incident. He had been sleeping in a nearby park.

Around 8 p.m. the night before the incident, I saw a fat man sleeping on both knees on a park bench. At his feet was a cart with luggage on it.

The sleeping man was probably defendant Aoba. It is believed that he carried the gasoline he had bought at a nearby gas station on a dolly and committed the murder.

Aoba spent his childhood in Saitama Prefecture, and one of his junior high school classmates said of him: “I got the impression that he was a kind and gentle man.

Aoba, who spent his youth in Saitama Prefecture, was described by a junior high school classmate as having a “gentle and calm personality. He was very passionate about judo and used to take a bus to a judo school in a neighboring town. His parents were divorced, and he lived with his father, older brother, and younger sister. They lived in an old wooden apartment where the washing machine was outside the house, so they didn’t seem wealthy.”

Aoba defendant’s junior high school graduation album photo. He called himself “Eagle” when he was in junior high school.

After graduating from junior high school, Aoba attended a part-time high school at night and worked part-time at the Documentation Division of Saitama Prefecture during the day to help make ends meet.

His father was a cab driver. He must have had some hardships, but he and his family seemed to get along well. I often saw his father buying prepared foods at a nearby store after work,” said a neighbor of the house where the Aoba family lived at the time.

The Aoba family was poor, but they supported each other. Aoba’s older brother left home, and Aoba was now on his own and began working at the newsstand of a major newspaper company in the prefecture. However, tragedy struck the Aoba family.

One day, I saw my father walking with crutches in the neighborhood. He had been in a car accident in a cab and was unable to work. That made life difficult for him all at once, and I heard his father and sister yelling at each other every night. Shortly thereafter, his father committed suicide by hanging himself, and his remaining sister also evaporated.

Over the next decade, Aoba moved from one job and residence to another. In June 2012, he was arrested for robbing a convenience store in Bando City, Ibaraki Prefecture.

After Aoba’s arrest, I entered his room to find the glass broken and the walls battered to shreds,” said the apartment manager.

More than four years after the arson attack that claimed 36 lives, Aoba’s trial has finally begun. The verdict is scheduled to be handed down on January 25 next year.

The first floor of Kyoani’s Studio 1, which was burnt to the ground. The lighter used in the arson attack was found near the spiral staircase.
Defendant Aoba is seen on a security camera near the scene. A gasoline can bought at a home improvement store was placed on a cart.
Kyoani’s Studio 1 burning. The fire started on the right side of the building and gradually spread to the left (courtesy of Video Factory Kyoto).
  • PHOTO Kei Kato, Kyodo News, Jiji Press

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