Japanese prosecutors on Wednesday accused a man of murder in the 2019 Kyoto arson that killed 36 people, the deadliest violent crime in decades.
Shinji Aoba, 42, was detained in the aftermath of the July attack but has since been hospitalized with severe burns from the incident, reportedly regaining consciousness only in August.
The allegations, which also included attempted murder and arson, according to the Kyoto Shimbun newspaper, came after a psychiatric evaluation of Aoba.
More than 30 people were also injured in the attack, with Aoba being accused of breaking into the studio’s building, spreading gasoline over the ground floor and setting it on fire.
Aoba has reportedly confessed to the arson attack, and is said to have shouted “drop dead” before the fire started.
There are allegations that he accused the studio of stealing his work, which Kyoto Animation has denied.
Many of the victims of the fire were young, including a 21-year-old woman.
Parents of some of the dead said the news of the charges did not ease their pain.
“My feelings are not changing,” Chieko Takemoto, who lost her son Yasuhiro, told NHK.
“When I’m alone, I want to cry when I remind him … I’m so sad he’s gone.”
“Whatever (Aoba) says in court, Yasuhiro is not coming back,” added his father Yasuo Takemoto.
“This reality will not change regardless of the statement.”
The attack caused shockwaves from the anime industry and its fans in Japan and around the world.
“These are people who carry the Japanese animation industry on their shoulders,” Kyoto Animation president Hideaki Hatta told reporters at the time.
‘It’s heartbreaking. Japanese jewelry has been lost. ‘
Aoba nearly died from the injuries he sustained in the attack, a doctor who treated him recently told the Kyoto Shimbun newspaper.
He needed 12 surgeries to do skin grafts, and the hospital chose to use Aoba’s own skin instead of a graft couch “to prevent skin deficiencies for (his) victims,” the doctor said.
Aoba only regained consciousness in August, he added, apparently sobbing with relief after undergoing a procedure in September that restored his ability to speak.
Kyoto Animation, known to its fans as KyoAni, is known both nationally and internationally for its role in producing hit TV anime series including “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” and “K-ON!”
While many animation studios are located in Tokyo, the company reportedly felt strongly about staying in the old Japanese city of Kyoto.
His work often included elaborate screenshots which were described by avid fans as “KyoAni quality”.
Violent crime, and particularly incidents involving mass casualties, are extremely rare in Japan, which has strict gun control laws.
Arson is considered a particularly serious crime in Japan, where many buildings are made of wood and are extremely fire risk.
An arson attack in a video store in Osaka in 2008 killed 16 people and the attacker is now on death row.
Japan is one of the few developed countries to enforce the death penalty, with more than 100 prisoners on death row, and support for this remains strong.
But usually many years pass between conviction and execution, which in Japan is always carried out by hanging.
© 2020 AFP