National / Crime & Legal

Police detail suspect's visits to 'holy sites' from anime series ahead of arson attack on Kyoto studio

JIJI

The suspect in a deadly arson attack against a Kyoto Animation Co. studio in the city of Kyoto visited key sites related to an anime work produced by the company prior to the July 18 fire, it has been learned.

The Kyoto Prefectural Police are looking at Shinji Aoba’s visits to the sites in detail. The 41-year-old man is allegedly responsible for the attack that took 35 lives and injured many others.

According to police investigators, Aoba traveled from his home in the city of Saitama to Kyoto Prefecture by shinkansen on July 15.

He appeared in security camera footage taken that afternoon near Kyoto Animation’s headquarters in the city of Uji in the prefecture and at JR Rokujizo Station near the attacked studio. Aoba stayed at a hotel in the city of Kyoto that night.

On July 16, the suspect was found to have stayed in an internet cafe near Kyoto Station for about two hours from around 10:30 a.m. Around 2 p.m., a man believed to be Aoba was captured by security cameras at locations around JR Uji Station in the city of Uji.

The area around the station is known as the setting for “Sound! Euphonium,” a popular Kyoto Animation series, and several locations are known as “holy sites” among fans. Such sites are shown on a visitor guide map made by the Uji Municipal Government.

On July 17, the day before the attack, Aoba purchased a push cart and containers for gasoline at a store near JR Uji Station. From there, he is thought to have walked some 10 kilometers northward to the scene of the crime.

During his walk he was captured on security cameras near Obaku Station, a “Sound! Euphonium” holy site in Uji, and near Kohata Station, close to the anime producer’s headquarters.

“For Aoba, these visits might have been for inspecting the areas or for sightseeing,” a senior official of the Kyoto Police Department said.

In the attack, Aoba allegedly spread gasoline in the three-story studio of Kyoto Animation and set it on fire. Aoba himself suffered severe burns in the incident and is hospitalized in Osaka Prefecture.

The Kyoto Police Department has obtained an arrest warrant for Aoba and plans to arrest him after he recovers.

The police have confiscated DVDs of Kyoto Animation-related works from Aoba’s home.

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