KyoAni Arson Suspect Learned from 2001 Attack

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Shinji Aoba is seen being transported in Kyoto after his arrest in May 2020.

Kyoto (Jiji Press)—The suspect in the 2019 arson attack on a Kyoto Animation Co. studio used gasoline to set the fire after using a similar incident as reference, it was learned Thursday.

During questioning in the sixth hearing at Kyoto District Court, Shinji Aoba, 45, facing murder and other charges, said he learned from the arson attack against a branch of consumer finance firm Takefuji Corp., which went bust later, in the city of Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture in 2001.

As for reasons for targeting the No. 1 studio of the animation powerhouse, better known as KyoAni, in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward, he said he “thought many people would die” when the building where many people were working was attacked.

In addition to gasoline, he brought six knives to the crime scene because he was bracing for being attacked after pouring gasoline or stopped by someone, he noted.

Aoba also said he felt sympathy for former death-row inmate Tomohiro Kato, who carried out a stabbing spree in Tokyo’s busy Akihabara district in 2008.

“I couldn’t take the fact that Kato had seen nothing go well for him as someone else’s matter.”

In the KyoAni attack on July 18, 2019, 36 people including leading animators were killed and 32 others were injured. Aoba himself was also severely burned.

Aoba admitted that he felt hesitant at the last minutes because he knew what he was going to do was a bad thing.

“Even a villain like me has a scruple,” he said.

Responding to a defense lawyer’s questions about a motive, Aoba explained that he had malice against the company for “rejecting” his KyoAni Award-seeking novel and “stealing content” of the work.

Aoba has already admitted to the charges, and the focus of the trial is on whether he has criminal liability, and if so, to what extent.

The prosecution insists that he is fully capable of taking responsibility, while the defense argues that he should be acquitted or given a lighter sentence due to his mental incompetence or diminished capacity.