• Kyodo, JIJI


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

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

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

About 70 people are believed to have been working at the studio when a 41-year-old man allegedly burst into the three-story studio in the city’s Fushimi Ward, setting the place ablaze at 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. Another user, @OniiJabroniChan, wrote, “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. We’re very surprised and worried” about the attack, said Atsushi Sakata, an official of a commerce association in Kuki, Saitama Prefecture. Washinomiya Shrine, located in the city, was featured in “Lucky Star” (“Raki Suta”), another KyoAni production.

The area continues to attract fans of Raki Suta girls and the local chamber of commerce organizes events and sells goods featuring the characters. A portable shrine decorated with the anime characters and carried by fans has appeared at the shrine’s annual festival for the past decade.

Naoki Okawa, an official with the town of Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture — which is featured in “K-On!” — said the anime 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.

“Our hearts and thoughts are with Kyoto Animation,” Sentai Filmworks said. “Help us help our friends at Kyoto Animation.”

As of Friday morning, the campaign had received over $1 million (about ¥107.5 million) in donations.

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