Anime fans shocked by arson attack at famous Kyoto studio

An arson attack at a well-known animation studio in Kyoto that left at least 33 people dead Thursday sent shock waves among avid fans of anime both at home and abroad.

Expressions of sympathy and prayers poured in from fans of works produced by Kyoto Animation Co., known as “KyoAni,” after one of its studios in the western city was torched by a man in the morning.

“(KyoAni’s) works have inspired me,” a vocational school student said, noting that he became an anime fan thanks to one of the studio’s works, “K-On!”

“I hope the damage will be as little as possible,” said the 23-year-old student, who was also visiting the area where countless anime shops are located.

About 70 people are believed to have been working when a 41-year-old man allegedly burst into the three-story studio in the city’s Fushimi Ward, setting the place ablaze around 10:35 a.m.

The man, who is now in the hospital, has admitted to setting fire to the studio, according to the police.

“My thoughts and love are with everyone at Kyoto Animation right now, I can’t believe what they’d be going through,” said Twitter user @DoctorDazza, while @OniiJabroniChan tweeted, “Super sad news about KyoAni and the innocent people affected by the fire. Praying for all of them out in Japan.”

Kyoto Animation has produced popular TV animation series including “K-On!” and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” (“Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu”), which depict the daily lives of high school girls.

Fans visiting locations that inspired anime and manga works have helped boost tourism by going on “pilgrimages,” so officials of local governments have also offered condolences.

“Fans still visit (our city) although a dozen years or so has passed since (the anime) went on air,” said Atsushi Sakata, an official of a commerce association in Kuki, Saitama Prefecture. The city was featured in “Lucky Star” (“Raki Suta”), another KyoAni animation.

“We’re very surprised and worried,” Sakata said.

Naoki Okawa, an official of the town of Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture, said “K-On!” helped the town gain visibility.

“The work has had a big influence on the town,” Okawa said. About 100,000 people visited Toyosato per year during the peak period, he said.

Texas-based animation distributor Sentai Filmworks, which licenses “K-On!” and several other Kyoto Animation works, on its official Twitter account called for crowdfunding donations to support the studio.

The distributor aims to raise $500,000, according to the GoFundMe website. In just seven hours, more than 10,000 people have already donated nearly $400,000.

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