• Crime & Courts

Trial to Start over 2019 KyoAni Arson Attack Tuesday

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Kyoto District Court

KYOTO (Jiji Press) — A trial will start on Tuesday over the July 2019 arson attack on Kyoto Animation Co.’s No. 1 studio that killed 36 people and injured 32 others.

The focus is what Shinji Aoba, 45, accused of murder and attempted murder, will have to say about his motive for Japan’s worst arson incident since the start of the Heisei era (1989-2019) in terms of the number of victims.

The first hearing of the lay judge trial will take place Tuesday at Kyoto District Court, followed by 22 more sessions before the verdict is released Jan. 25, 2024.

Aoba is expected to be questioned in 11 of the 23 sessions. Many bereaved families and victims are expected to participate and ask him questions directly.

In consideration of bereaved families and victims, some of their names will be kept anonymous. A screen will be set up in the courtroom.

From Thursday, Aoba will be questioned intensively about the background of the incident and the motive. Eyewitnesses and the president of the anime powerhouse, known as KyoAni, will also be questioned.

Starting on Oct. 23, the focus of the trial will shift to whether Aoba is legally competent.

After sessions to hear from doctors who conducted psychiatric examinations before and after his indictment, the prosecution and the defense will make their interim arguments.

The professional and lay judges will then hold their interim deliberations.

From Nov. 27, the key issue will be sentencing. The trial will be concluded Dec. 7 after bereaved families and others state their opinions.

The prosecution will not submit photographs of damaged bodies or other gruesome evidence in consideration of the bereaved families and the lay judges.

The attack occurred in the anime studio in Kyoto around 10:30 a.m. on July 18, 2019.

Aoba poured gasoline over employees and inside the three-story building and set fire, burning a total floor space of 691 square meters. Of the 70 people who were in the building at that time, 36 died.

Aoba himself suffered severe burns and was hospitalized for about 10 months. He was arrested in May 2020 and indicted in December the same year after being detained for a psychiatric examination.

After his arrest, Aoba told investigators, “I set fire because [the content of] my novel was stolen,” and “I targeted the No. 1 studio because I thought many people would be injured.”

In 2021, what appeared a copycat arson attack occurred at a clinic in a multi-tenant building in Osaka, leaving 26 people dead.