Yonago, Tottori Pref. – Doctor Takahiro Ueda has made all-out efforts to save the life of the suspect of a deadly arson attack on a Kyoto Animation Co. studio in 2019, as he hoped to help uncover the truth behind the crime.
“All I was thinking about was to save his life,” Ueda, 49, said in a recent interview a year after the arrest of Shinji Aoba, 43, who himself suffered critical burns to his entire body in the alleged attack on the No. 1 studio of the company, better known by anime fans as KyoAni, in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward on July 18, 2019.
Ueda, who led the treatment team, said he thought “it would be difficult” to save Aoba when he first saw the suspect at Kindai University Hospital, located in neighboring Osaka Prefecture.
According to the doctor, now professor at the Emergency and Critical Care Medical Center of Tottori University Hospital in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, Aoba was in mortal danger with 93% of his body burned and his body temperature below 34 degrees Celsius.
Ueda and his team cultured a small portion of Aoba’s skin left unburned under his waist bag and transplanted the cultured skin to other parts of his body repeatedly.
“I wanted to save him so as not to let the case go unsolved,” Ueda said, recalling that he woke up every two hours in the night to check Aoba’s condition, which repeatedly improved and worsened in cycles.
Aoba regained consciousness a month after the attack and was able to speak again in September the same year.
Aoba cried all night long, saying he thought he would never be able to speak.
This strong attachment to life made Ueda believe that the suspect did not intend to die.
As Aoba recovered, he started to speak about his favorite music group and revealed that he liked to have udon noodles, curry and Coca Cola.
Aoba was a picky eater and sometimes refused to eat hospital meals, but he eventually ate everything provided thanks to the dedicated care of nurses in the team.
Ueda also noted he was always polite in his language and often expressed gratitude to the nurses.
“I told him not to run away (from reality) and to confront himself,” the doctor said, adding that he later heard Aoba saying he found a person who treated him with sincerity.
When he was informed that he would be moved to a different hospital after the four months in intensive care, Aoba said he was not emotionally ready. But he gave the nod to the move when Ueda told him not to abandon himself to despair anymore. “I understand. I’m sorry,” Aoba was quoted as saying.
Ueda also remembers Aoba once saying, “I will be sentenced to death anyway.”
“But I really want him to express words of apology and face up seriously to what he did,” the doctor stressed.
In the arson attack, 36 people including many famed anime creators were killed and 32 others were injured.
Aoba was arrested by Kyoto prefectural police on May 27 last year and indicted by local prosecutors on Dec. 16 on murder and other charges.
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