Kyoto – The hospitalized suspect in a deadly arson attack last July on a Kyoto Animation Co. studio was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder and other offenses after being judged to have recovered sufficiently from life-threatening burns, police said.
The arrest of Shinji Aoba, 42, from the city of Saitama, came 10 months after he allegedly set the studio in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, on fire, killing 36 people and injuring 33 others.
Aoba was arrested on suspicion of murder and arson among other crimes. The number of victims makes it one of the nation’s biggest ever murder cases.
The police had planned to arrest Aoba, who is still largely bedridden, around January but arrangements were affected by the spread of the new coronavirus and his unstable condition, according to investigative sources.
Following his arrest, Aoba was transferred from the hospital to a Kyoto police station where he will be questioned. Wearing a mask, he lay on a stretcher during the transfer, serious burn marks visible on his face and arms.
The Kyoto police said Wednesday that Aoba has admitted to attacking the studio, which was known internationally for producing a number of popular animation works. He was quoted as saying there was “no mistake” in the allegations against him.
In response to Aoba’s arrest, Kyoto Animation said in a statement, “We have nothing to say to the suspect … Our fellow workers whose lives were lost will never come back and the wounds of our colleagues will never be healed.”
The company said it expects Aoba to face “maximum criminal responsibility,” according to the statement issued though the studio’s legal representative.
Families of the victims expressed hope that investigators will get to the bottom of the motive for the crime.
Immediately after being detained by police near the scene in July last year, Aoba said he carried out the attack because the company “stole a novel” from him, according to investigative sources.
Kyoto Animation has held public contests in which it accepts draft novels and then makes the winning works into anime. The company has said that someone with the same name as Aoba submitted a draft, but has denied basing any of its anime on the work.
After receiving specialist treatment and undergoing multiple skin grafts at a hospital in Osaka Prefecture, Aoba was sent back to the hospital in Kyoto in November for rehabilitation.
Kyoto Animation’s three-story studio, the center of the firm’s anime production, was set ablaze at about 10:30 a.m. on July 18. Aoba is suspected of igniting gasoline inside the building, where 70 people were working at the time.
Most of the victims were in their 20s and 30s. Unlike many other studios, Kyoto Animation is known to hire young animators and train them in-house rather than rely on skilled freelancers.
The company, often referred to as “KyoAni” by fans at home and abroad, is known for works such as “K-On!” and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.”