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Alleged Japan Arsonist: 'They Ripped Me Off'

Witness overhears his complaint to police as death toll rises to 33
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2019 11:16 AM CDT
Alleged Japan Arsonist: 'They Ripped Me Off'
Firefighters work as smoke billows from a three-story building of Kyoto Animation in a fire in Kyoto, western Japan, Thursday, July 18, 2019.   (Kyodo News via AP)

(Newser) – It's "too appalling even for words," says Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He was referring to the alleged arson at an anime studio in Kyoto that has taken the lives of at least 33 people so far. More than 30 others were injured, some critically. Here is what is currently known about the fire:

  • The suspect: He is identified only as a 41-year-old male. Police say he doused the three-story Kyoto Animation studio with gasoline (or some other accelerant) and set it ablaze, reports the BBC. Authorities say he is not an employee of the studio. The suspect, who suffered burns to his arms and legs in the fire, shouted something like, "You die!" as he dumped the accelerant, say witnesses.
  • The motive: Police have not provided details. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that a woman who lives near the studio heard him telling police, "They ripped me off." She had been helping the injured man, unaware he might have been the arsonist. The AP has something similar, reporting that a woman told a Japanese TV station that he complained something had been "stolen" from him.

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  • Knives: Police also found a backpack of knives, apparently belonging to the suspect, reports CNN. Because of his burn injuries, police do not expect to be able to question him on Thursday.
  • The studio: Known as KyoAni, the studio is well-known in Japan but doesn't have a large presence outside it. One of its biggest hits is the K-On! franchise, which centers around a band formed by high school girls, reports the Guardian. A 2016 film, A Silent Voice, was praised by critics for its treatment of childhood suicide. CNN notes that the studio's Violet Evergarden was picked up by Netflix last year.
  • The victims: Most were apparently employees of the studio. Twenty of the fatalities were found on the third floor or on the stairs to the roof, suggesting they were trying to escape, says a Kyoto fire official. It appears the fire was set near the building's front door, making it impossible to exit from there.
  • Rarity: Arson is rare in Japan, and the New York Times reports that the tragedy has triggered a wide outpouring of support, most notably through the hashtag #prayforKyoAni.
(The fire comes about a month after an attack on schoolgirls in Japan.)

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