National / Crime & Legal

For families of KyoAni arson victims, grief continues after suspect's arrest

JIJI

Despite the arrest this week of 42-year-old Shinji Aoba, the pain of bereavement continues for relatives of those who died in the arson attack he is suspected of having carried out last July on a studio run by Kyoto Animation Co.

Aoba was arrested Wednesday by the Kyoto Prefectural Police on suspicion of setting fire to the animation company’s No. 1 studio in the city of Kyoto on July 18, 2019, killing the 36 people who were inside the building at the time.

The father and the mother of Naomi Ishida, who selected the colors for anime characters and backgrounds at KyoAni and lost her life in the attack, said they received a phone call at around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday from the police informing them of the arrest.

The suspect was “finally arrested,” Ishida’s mother, 79, told a portrait of her daughter, who died at the age of 49. “The 10 months were really long,” she added, speaking at the family’s home in the city.

“I know, in my head, that she is already gone, but I keep thinking about her over and over,” Ishida’s mother said in tears.

The arrest of Aoba “will allow Naomi’s soul some rest,” said her father, 84, adding that the suspect should get the “ultimate punishment.”

Ishida’s father put his hands together in front of a Buddhist altar, where he places a cup of tea and food for Naomi every day.

Noting that the suspect was arrested shortly before the first anniversary of the incident, the father said it was a milestone for bereaved families.

The suspect himself suffered severe burns all over his body in the attack, and had been hospitalized. His arrest came after the police department determined that he had recovered enough to be put into custody.

“I feel nothing. I’ll leave everything to the justice system,” said Shinichi Tsuda, who lost his daughter, Sachie, then 41, also a coloring professional, at his home in Hyogo Prefecture.

“I’m filled with sadness, and there’s no room for holding a grudge or hatred” against Aoba, the 70-year-old father said.

He added that he cannot stop thinking about his daughter’s last moments. “She must have been so scared. It must have been so painful,” he said, wiping away tears.

“No matter what, Sachie’s suffering won’t change,” the father said.

The parents of a female victim, then 26, who was from Kagoshima Prefecture, released a comment through a lawyer, saying, “The case is not over for us. We still cannot say anything about it, so please leave us alone.”

Fumiyo Tamayama, a 55-year-old corporate worker who lived near the KyoAni studio, visited the attack site after news broke of the Aoba’s arrest.

“Many young people who had dreams and hopes were killed,” Tamayama said. “It’s good for the suspect to face up to what he did.”

Following the attack, many people flocked to the site to place flowers and mourn the victims.

But with the passage of time and the remains of the No. 1 studio having been taken down, few people have attended the site recently.

Tamayama, who has visited the site multiple times, expressed concerns that the incident could be forgotten.

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