Kyoto Animation studio hit by an arson attack
July 18, 2019 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Thirtythree dead and thirtysix injured in an arson attack on anime studio Kyoto Animation this Thursday morning. Confirmed as the worst post-war massacre in Japan, the news hit anime fans hard, with #PrayForKyoani trended worldwide on Twitter.

Apart from the intrinsic awfulness of the attack itself, the reason why it hit anime fans so hard is because Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) is one of the most creatively succesfull anime studios of the 21st century, constantly innovating and improving itself.

In the west the studio broke through with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in 2006, partially thanks to the dance craze inspired by its ending song. This was followed by Lucky Star (2007), the Key visual novel melodrama adaptations Air (2005), Kanon (2006) and Clannad (2007) and especially K-On (2009), arguably responsible for the flood of cute girls doing cute things series ever since.

More recently, the studio has moved into doing movies, with A Silent Voice (2016) being both a critical and a commercial hit. It mostly stopped doing adaptations of other people's work, with the occasional exception (Maidragon (2017). Instead it has run a series of story competitions in which it mostly took the runners up into production, also diverging from cute girl shows to cute (swimming) boys shows like Free (2013).

There have been and are other creative anime studios, but KyoAni is unique in the way it's set up and its creative vision:
This desire for independence in all respects, to truly be in charge of the anime they make, is the drive behind many of their decisions. Their self-sufficiency in production matters hasn’t been matched by any other studio in anime history, which makes them the object of envy for other companies and marks the path to follow for others. Studio leaders have come to understand that their attitude towards work isn’t a quirk or them just being nice, but rather an ingredient to their success; the unmatched stability of KyoAni’s quality can’t be explained without their top team of in-betweeners, which features some people who have been doing what’s a criminally underpaid task elsewhere for decades, working alongside newcomers to train. Making animation is a stressful endeavor either way so working at KyoAni is far from a dream job unless you already are hopelessly in love with the art, but it’s comforting to see a successful company that ensures the work you’re seeing wasn’t put together by overworked, underappreciated staff who won’t even be rewarded if it turns out to be successful.
Ever since the news of the attack broke, the #PrayForKyoani hashtag has seen people pour out their memories of KyoAni shows, while Anime News Network has the updating story on the attack.
posted by MartinWisse (64 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by ominous_paws at 12:13 PM on July 18, 2019


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I was wondering sadly at the high death toll -- usually even in arson attacks it takes a combination of that and bad fire safety to get that number of deaths -- but apparently he actually ambushed people and threw gasoline on them.
posted by tavella at 12:22 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


but apparently he actually ambushed people and threw gasoline on them.

Well. Shit.

I read through a few of the links and don't see a motive? Am I missing something in the message or context or is this the level of random that you'd see if someone went ballistic at Pixar's HQ or something?
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:25 PM on July 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


Not only does KyoAni do beautiful work, but they have some of the better labor practices in an industry with borderline slavery issues. Fucking tragic.

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posted by Reyturner at 12:27 PM on July 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


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posted by carrioncomfort at 12:27 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by chapps at 12:29 PM on July 18, 2019


I read through a few of the links and don't see a motive? Am I missing something in the message or context or is this the level of random that you'd see if someone went ballistic at Pixar's HQ or something?

The Wikipedia article on this says he was accusing the studio of plagiarism while being transported to the hospital, and links to a news article, but it's in Japanese which I can't speak so I can't speak to how well-sourced it is.
posted by Copronymus at 12:31 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I read through a few of the links and don't see a motive? Am I missing something in the message or context or is this the level of random that you'd see if someone went ballistic at Pixar's HQ or something?

The only indication of a motive that I have seen reported is that one employee witnessed the suspect say "pakuriyagatte" ("fucking copycats").
posted by J.K. Seazer at 12:31 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I've seen some speculation about the killer's motive on Twitter and Reddit, most of which seems to be based on either questionably-accurate translations or pure guessing. I was hoping we could refrain from that here until more details are publicly known. Likewise, let's not post rumors about the victims' identities until they have been officially confirmed.

Thank you for making this post, MartinWisse.

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posted by teraflop at 12:31 PM on July 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


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posted by Countess Elena at 12:33 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by rude.boy at 12:34 PM on July 18, 2019


Yes, this is a horrible story.

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posted by praemunire at 12:36 PM on July 18, 2019


This is fucking me up - how horrible - it must have been many of these people's dream job, working at a studio like this, and it ends like this for them.
posted by thelonius at 12:42 PM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Those poor people. Nothing but anonymity for the attacker, these assholes always want the notoriety.

All the . for the employees, their friends, and families.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:45 PM on July 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


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posted by Caduceus at 12:48 PM on July 18, 2019


Hadn't refreshed here while I was mid-comment on Fanfare and got distracted by work, so to basically elaborate on what I said there: At this time yesterday if you'd said KyoAni, all I was thinking about was how long we had to wait until the Free boys go to the Olympics. I was still hoping for a second season of Tsurune, which probably wasn't going to happen, but was a gorgeously peaceful show about boys doing archery and one season was absolutely not enough. It feels insane to care about that now, obviously, but at the same time I can't figure out how to process that the people who worked on these things are those same people who are dead. These are my fluffy comfort food shows, one of the places I go back to when everything in my life is terrible or when there's traumatic world news. And now the safe retreat is where this horrifying thing happened, and just... how do you deal with that?
posted by Sequence at 12:50 PM on July 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


:(

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posted by slater at 12:54 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by supermedusa at 12:56 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by HumanComplex at 12:58 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by Quackles at 1:01 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by kinnakeet at 1:23 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by Secret Sparrow at 1:24 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:27 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by briank at 1:29 PM on July 18, 2019


The Sound! Euphonium movie just had a special release in the US a few days ago, and I left feeling just ecstatic that such a magical story about a girl who plays the euphonium of all instruments could even exist. The staff of KyoAni have given so much joy and shared their passion with the world, and it's devastating to see a horrific attack like this. Sentai Filmworks, who have licensed a lot of their works in the US, have set up a GoFundMe to support the studio.

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posted by spbb at 1:36 PM on July 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


Heartbreaking and utterly ghastly. Artwork is of course nothing next to lives lost; that said, this has destroyed a lot of beautiful work that didn't even exist yet. It's difficult to take in.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:52 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


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posted by facesonflags at 1:57 PM on July 18, 2019




Unbelievably horrifying. That the GoFundMe is already nearing $1 million is a small solace.
posted by bz at 2:02 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by suelac at 2:30 PM on July 18, 2019


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It’s hard to fathom how anyone could do something like this, but especially against victims like the staff at KyoAni who bring so much joy into the world.

Their adaptation of Nichijou is a masterpiece and is something I can always turn to when I need a good laugh. Here are a few highlights: posted by robcorr at 2:44 PM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


Apparently it's the worst death toll from a single building fire since World War II. 20 people died trapped in the staircase to the roof because it was locked from the outside. Horrifying.
posted by ardgedee at 2:44 PM on July 18, 2019


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I haven't seen many KyoAni productions, but K-On! has a special place in my heart. It's a wonderful slice-of-life fantasy of the adolescent guitar-playing absolute pitch adventures I wish I had even the chance to dream of in high school, because it's also about finding community and friendship, being better together than apart, and it just kinda hurts even more to know the studio that made something so joyous has suffered this devastation.

K-On! opening theme, featuring Yui's beautifully-animated Gibson Pre-'08 Les Paul Standard heritage cherry sunburst guitar.
posted by rather be jorting at 3:17 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


20 people died trapped in the staircase to the roof because it was locked from the outside.

The New York Times is reporting that rescuers said the roof door was closed but not locked. Is there a source for the locked-from-the-outside report?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 3:31 PM on July 18, 2019


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I've been tracking this since I woke up, just a few hours after the fire started, and I'm simply heartbroken. KyoAni is a terrific studio, and to see that essentially destroyed because of one crazy guy shows just how fragile the things we love can be.

Reyturner mentioned above that "they have some of the better labor practices in an industry with borderline slavery issues." In particular, for those curious, the industry is infamous for using freelancers earning near-starvation wages while working insane hours; by comparison, KyoAni employees were salaried employees with benefits and standardized working schedules.
posted by mystyk at 3:50 PM on July 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


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posted by Tha Contender at 4:33 PM on July 18, 2019


> The New York Times is reporting that rescuers said the roof door was closed but not locked. Is there a source for the locked-from-the-outside report?

I read it in translation in a news report. I can't find it now, so I assume the report was updated for accuracy. Sorry for not keeping up.
posted by ardgedee at 4:41 PM on July 18, 2019


Apparently it's the worst death toll from a single building fire since World War II.

This isn't true. It's a horrible tragedy, but there have been worse arsons.
posted by misozaki at 5:00 PM on July 18, 2019


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Just gutted by this. In shock. On my shelf I have:

- all of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
- Lucky Star
- all of K-On
- Nichijou (probably the pinnacle of anime)
- Hyouka
- all of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions
- Tamako Market and the stellar Tamako Love Story
- Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
- A Silent Voice
- Liz and the Blue Bird

So many amazing hours of joy and wonder created by so many amazing people. I think I'll binge a few shows this weekend in their memory.
posted by ralan at 5:00 PM on July 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


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posted by porn in the woods at 5:07 PM on July 18, 2019


The other noteworthy thing about Kyoto Animation is the large number of women working across all roles, including directors. Perhaps this is due to its roots, starting with "housewives painting anime cels," organized by eventual KyoAni founder Yoko Hatta.

(Link is a comprehensive retrospective of KyoAni's history and animated works)
posted by needled at 5:19 PM on July 18, 2019 [9 favorites]


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posted by p3t3 at 5:20 PM on July 18, 2019


This clip of Free! Road to the World was uploaded just yesterday to KyoAni's YouTube channel.

I was saddened watching the boys growing up from their pre-school years to high school and beyond, thinking of all the animators who labored over the Free! series.
posted by needled at 6:49 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by em at 6:56 PM on July 18, 2019


Unspeakable.
posted by huimangm at 6:58 PM on July 18, 2019


The door wouldn't have to have been locked if it opened inward instead of outward, the effect likely would have been the same, that's a classic crowd crush issue.
posted by tavella at 7:27 PM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


ardgedee: "Apparently it's the worst death toll from a single building fire since World War II."

misozaki: "This isn't true. It's a horrible tragedy, but there have been worse arsons."

I think the confusion is coming from the media wanting to work in the words "最大" or "最悪" ("largest" or "worst") in their articles. The mainstream media seems to be technically correct - calling it "戦後最大級" ("one of the largest since the war"), "平成以降最大" ("the largest since the start of the Heisei Era"), "戦後最悪レベル" ("one of the worst since the war"), and the like. Then filter sites like Buzzfeed or the like get them mixed up, so you get "one of the worst since the war" or "the largest since the start of the Heisei Era war," and then the whole xkcd citogenesis thing kicks in.
posted by Bugbread at 9:23 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is just a horror. They always do such pleasant work- and now this. My mind is reeling from how awful this is.
posted by happyroach at 10:20 PM on July 18, 2019


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posted by Standard Orange at 1:43 AM on July 19, 2019


It was pointed out to me that the death toll from this is nearly 3 times that of the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway. Watching NHK tonight I found out that (in translation, but the interpreters are really good, my Japanese is not that good), the man thought they had plagiarized his novel, he had a previous criminal history with a convenience store robbery and that he used 40 liters of gasoline in the attack, which may explain a bit about the death toll. The man is being depicted as mentally ill, which I'm afraid will be a focus, given the stigma around mental health that appears to be here.

It feels surreal. This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen here. It feels like a US mass shooting.
posted by Hactar at 4:16 AM on July 19, 2019


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posted by filtergik at 5:40 AM on July 19, 2019


In the Google Alert I have long had set up for "Haruhi Suzumiya" came a series of articles from ChannelNewsAsia with some new details. I will summarize:

Police have named the suspect, who "was believed to have bought two 20-litre gasoline cans at a hardware store and prepared the petrol in a park near the studio."

"(He) seemed to be discontented, he seemed to get angry, shouting something about how he had been plagiarised," a woman who saw the man being detained told reporters.

The fire may have spread so quickly because of a open-design three-story spiral staircase that could have acted as a chimney. The building did not have sprinklers, nor indoor fire hydrants, but it was not required to have them under Japan's fire code, a Kyoto Fire Department official said, adding that an inspection of the building in October had found no fire safety problems.
posted by glonous keming at 8:02 AM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of horrified that new commercial buildings in Japan aren't required to have sprinklers. Apparently the building was only 5 years old, yet no sealed-off stairway? No separate emergency exit? Wood interior but sprinklers not required?
posted by tavella at 9:19 AM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


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posted by Gelatin at 10:53 AM on July 19, 2019


Per Robert Allen on Twitter, KyoAni CEO Hideaki Hatta announced today that all of their work was destroyed in the fire, "both physical media and digital."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:33 PM on July 19, 2019


Seriously? Physical I can understand, but no off-site digital backups?
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 1:04 PM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm hoping that's a lost-in-translation, as it's inconceivable to me that a company like that has no offsite in 2019.
posted by glonous keming at 1:17 PM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


I haven't posted anything about my emotional state yet, but I am gutted. I have mostly given up on modern western media and 99% of everything I watch for pleasure is anime. I don't watch current season stuff, preferring to go through shows from previous years that have been filtered a bit more through the test of time.

Only in the last 6 months have I got around to watching Haruhi. I haven't finished the second season yet because I'm watching it with a friend and we can only get together so often. I haven't watched the movie yet. The show has had a notable positive impact on me and I've taken to asking myself "What would Haruhi do?" not in the sense of doing bizarre things to get what I want but more of an inspiration to not take no for an answer regarding my dreams.

Literally just a few days ago I took a notion to try to start learning to play guitar, as I'm currently about 3/4ths of the way through K-on! and it just seemed like they were having so much fun right as I was thinking about finding a new creative hobby. I have a few episodes to go and right now I can't go forward with it. I can't fathom the thought of watching it and thinking about some of the people who made this were murdered. I will try to pick it back up after some time has passed both right now it's just too much for me to deal with.

Watching anime is my primary means of escapism that still works. I've quit drinking and smoking weed all the time. I've lost a ton of interest in playing video games. Watching anime is something I've doubled down on and from which I still derive immeasurable joy, relaxation, and relief from anxiety.

Anime is the thing I use to get away from all the crazy fucked-up shit that is happening in our world today. To have this happen, to lose Kyoto Animation in this sad turn of events is to strike right at my core of one of the pillars that makes my life tolerable.

I will not give up and I will not give in to depression. I will not allow this act of murder to destabilize my sense of being. But right now, right now this fucking hurts.
posted by glonous keming at 2:02 PM on July 19, 2019 [8 favorites]


It's been a few difficult days. Here's a couple news updates.
-Unusual door to roof 'was hard to open,' survivor of fire at Kyoto anime studio says (Japan Times)

-Police will arrest anime studio arson suspect once he regains consciousness (AP via CTV News)
posted by glonous keming at 9:50 AM on July 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


So my first instinct was right -- without his accomplice, bad fire safety, he would have killed only two people on the first floor. What is especially horrible in this case was that it wasn't people chaining safety doors shut or a illicit nightclub, it was built as a deathtrap perfectly legally.

I'd hope this leads to major building code changes in Japan.
posted by tavella at 8:01 PM on July 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


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posted by daybeforetheday at 2:38 AM on July 22, 2019


At 6PM Wednesday, Japan time KyoAni opened a bank account to accept direct wire transfer donations. By Thursday afternoon it had collected 274 million yen ($2.5 million). (Kyodo News)

The account details (Anime Herald):
Bank Name: The Kyoto Shinkin Bank
Swift: KYSBJPJZ
Branch Name: Minami Momoyama Branch
Branch Number: 048
Address: 16-50, Yosai, Momoyama-cho, Hushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-hu, 612-8016, Japan
Account Number: 0002890
Account Holder: Kyoto Animation, Co., Ltd., representative director Hatta Hideaki (Hideaki Hatta)
Original source: KyoAni Twitter (Japanese language. English translation in replies.)
posted by glonous keming at 6:30 PM on July 25, 2019


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posted by redrawturtle at 4:29 AM on July 26, 2019


Saw this tribute in The Guardian this morning. It also provides a good concise overview for readers who might not have known much about the studio, even if they loved the studio's output. It left me feeling the loss even more, so it's kinda bittersweet, but I'm still glad this piece is out there. An excerpt:
Kyoto Animation focuses primarily on slice-of-life settings, largely adaptations of stories about high schoolers, with the occasional bent towards madcap comedy (Nichijou), heart-pounding melodrama (Sound! Euphonium) or the fantastical (Haruhi, Violet Evergarden). Through all of it, there’s a tendency towards the understated, an understanding of the nuances of body language and expression and silence that produces a sense of warmth, deliberateness and belonging that can be found in the most mundane (Hyouka, K-On!!), bizarre (Kobayashi Maid-dragon) or serious (A Silent Voice) of works.

This style is the result of a unique studio culture which has relied heavily on well-salaried, in-house animators, as opposed to industry-standard, paid-by-the-frame freelancers. Best detailed by dedicated industry watchers such as SakugaBlog, the studio has invested heavily in trainee development, with mentorship and its own animation school, job security, maternity leave and policies geared towards reducing Japan’s ubiquitous culture of overwork and nurturing a new generation of animators and directors.

The studio has also had a reputation in particular for focusing on female talent, hiring women in great proportions than industry standard and promoting award-winning in-house directors such as Naoko Yamada (A Silent Voice) or alumni like Nintendo’s Tomoe Aratani – though that’s not to discount their equally-skilled male colleagues like Yasuhiro Takemoto (Hyouka, The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi) or Tatsuya Ishihara (Sound! Euphonium, Chuunibyou).
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They also began taking a larger cut of the resulting merchandising profits, feeding it back into things like regular salaries or childcare initiatives – into policies that meant creators at all levels could simply focus on their art, and into creating an environment where talent and vision could flourish.
posted by rather be jorting at 7:12 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]




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