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Man sentenced to death after deadly Japanese anime studio arson attack

The case centered around the moment a man charged into an animation studio in the city of Kyoto, setting it on fire with about 70 people inside.
Man sentenced to death after deadly Japanese anime studio arson attack
Posted at 4:01 PM, Jan 25, 2024

A man in Japan was convicted of murder after he was accused of charging into an anime studio in the city of Kyoto, setting fire to the building and killing 36 people. 

Over 30 other people were badly hurt, with injuries that included severe burns. Shinji Aoba, 45, was found to be mentally able to face punishment for his crimes by a district court in Kyoto, even though his lawyers tried to argue that he was mentally unfit to be held responsible for the deadly arson.

NHK, TV Asahi and other Japanese media reported Aoba was sentenced to death for the murders. 

In July  2019, Aoba entered a main studio for Kyoto Animation Co. and set the multi-story building on fire while around 70 people were working inside. 

Aoba was also badly burned in the fire and had to be hospitalized for 10 months. He was formally arrested in May 2020. 

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Aoba — appearing in court in a wheelchair — was described in Japanese media as having a reputation as a troublemaker. 

Survivors reported seeing black smoke coming from downstairs along with feeling blazing heat, causing at least one person to jump from an upper window of the three-story structure. 

Aoba was accused in court of carrying out the attack "out of his own will" because of a "grudge" he held against Kyoto Animation Co. studio, NHK reported. 

A news broadcast said reports from inside the courtroom said Aoba avoided making eye contact with others during the trial. 

Judge Keisuke Masuda said Aoba once aspired to be a successful novelist, but was not able to realize that ambition, so he sought out revenge on others due to bitterness. Aoba was said to have accused Kyoto Animation of stealing written works he had submitted to the company as entries in a contest, according to NHK.

Takahiro Ueda, the 52-year-old doctor who treated Aoba for severe burns, told TV Asahi he is relieved that his patient could have his story heard in court, but said he was "concerned" the high-profile trial might not have taught society ways to prevent attacks like this one from happening again. 

Reports said Aoba apologized to the families of the victims, but some believed he didn't appear to be sincere. 

The Associated Press reported the fatal blaze was considered Japan's deadliest since 2001, when a fire broke out in the dense Kabukicho entertainment district in Tokyo, killing 44 people. 

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