World shares Japan’s agony over arson attack - GulfToday

World shares Japan’s agony over arson attack

Kyoto Animation

Firefighters work as smoke billows from a three-story building of Kyoto Animation in Kyoto, western Japan. Reuters

The entire world shares Japan’s trauma following the arson attack in the ancient capital of Kyoto, targeting the well-known animation studio, Kyoto Animation, that claimed several innocent lives and injured many others.

It turned out to be the worst mass killing in a country with one of the world’s lowest crime rates since a suspected arson attack in Tokyo killed 44 people in 2001.

The anguish of the art world is especially palpable.

Founded in 1981, Kyoto Animation might lack the name recognition of Japan’s Studio Ghibli, but to anime fans it is a household name, responsible for much adored television series including “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” and “K-ON!”

Anime and manga are among Japan’s best known modern cultural exports, and form a key plank of the country’s plans to grow its tourism industry.

Would-be artists flock to the country hoping to find work in the sector and Japanese anime films are regularly nominated for Oscars.

Most of people killed are believed to be employees of Kyoto Animation and many of the company’s employees are believed to be young.

While many animation studios are based in Tokyo, the firm — known by fans as KyoAni — reportedly felt strongly about remaining in the ancient city of Kyoto.

Its work often featured elaborate shots described as “KyoAni quality” by enthusiastic fans.

So much so that Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted after the attack: “Kyoto Animation is home to some of the world’s most talented animators and dreamers. KyoAni artists spread joy all over the world and across generations with their masterpieces.”

Cook also posted condolences in Japanese, as did Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

Violent crime and particularly mass casualty incidents are rare in Japan, which has strict gun control laws.

However, there have been past instances of arson, including a 2008 attack on a video shop in Osaka that killed 16 people.

Arson is considered a particularly serious offence in Japan, where many buildings are made of wood and extremely fire-prone. The Osaka attacker is on death row.

In 2001, a devastating fire in Tokyo’s Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people. Police investigated the blaze as an arson attack but never charged anyone for deliberately starting the fire.

More recently, there have been mass stabbing attacks, including a 2016 rampage by a knife-wielding man at a care centre for the disabled in suburban Tokyo that killed 19 people.

As per media reports, the suspect had been convicted of robbery and carried out the attack because he believed his novel had been plagiarised.

Public broadcaster NHK, which identified the 41-year-old man as Shinji Aoba, citing police, said he served time in prison for robbing a convenience store east of Tokyo in 2012 and, after his release, lived in facilities for former convicts. He is also said to have  received care for mental illness.

It is stated the fire that tore through the building spread so fast not only because it was fuelled by petrol, but also because it was funneled up a spiral staircase and there were no sprinklers to douse it.

The blaze has hit hard Japan’s anime industry, one of the country’s best known cultural products. An online fundraiser organised by an American anime licencing firm had reportedly raised over one million dollars.

It will be difficult to erase the trauma from memory for a long time to come. It is also hugely distressing that one disgruntled man could cause so much distress among so many families.

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