Violet Evergarden (from the anime TV series)
All of the animation materials (including cels from past and current productions), and all the computers at Kyoto Animation Studio #1, the scene of a devastating fire that killed 34 and seriously injured ten others, were destroyed, leading Kyoto Animation’s President Hideaki Hatta to characterize the damage to his company as “extreme” in an interview with Japanese media.  The fire, the worst incident of arson in Japan since 2001, has claimed its 34th victim, who succumbed a day after the incident.  There were about 70 people working at Kyoto Animation’s Studio #1 when the building was attacked in mid-morning by an arsonist armed with two 20-liter (5 gallon) cans of gasoline and a bag full of knives.

In Tokyo’s Akihabara district, a hot bed of interest in anime, manga, fashion, and other related popular arts, fans were disconsolate.  Kento Omura, told The Mainichi: “I love KyoAni, I am so worried,” said Omura, who was wondering about the fate of the upcoming KyoAni feature film Violet Evergarden, saying, ”I wonder if it will ever be released?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Taiwanese President Tsai-ing Wen, and Apple CEO Tim Cook have all expressed their condolences, according to Japan Times, in addition to others around the world. The American anime company Sentai Filmworks, which has released a number of KyoAni series including K-On, started a “Go Fund Me” page, with a goal of raising $750,000, which has already reached $1.4 million, demonstrating the heart and commitment of U.S. anime fans.

Kyoto Animation, which was founded in 1991, has produced numerous popular anime series including The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kanon, K-On, Clannad, Lucky Star, and the excellent anime film, A Silent Voice.  The studio is also notable for the fact that it puts its animators on salary, rather than the paying them as freelancers (the common practice in Japan), and for the fact that it employed a high percentage of women throughout the animation process. For example Naoko Yamada, who thankfully was not injured in the fire, has directed some of the studio’s most popular productions including K-On and A Silent Voice.  This diversity was evident in the death toll from the fire with women making up at least 20 of the conflagration’s 34 victims.

The arsonist was a 41-year-old man with no direct connection to the studio, but with obvious mental problems.  The suspect, who is in police custody in a Kyoto hospital, reportedly told ambulance drivers that Kyoto Animation had “ripped him off,” by stealing ideas and plots from his novels.