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‘They Stole My Novel’: Kyoto Animation Arson Suspect Admits To Committing The Crime

In a surprising turn of events, the suspect accused of the 2019 Kyoto Animation arson attack, Shinji Aoba, has admitted to igniting the fire that resulted in the tragic loss of 36 lives.

During the first hearing of his trial on Sep 5, 2023, the accused, a 45-year-old Shinji Aoba, admitted that he indeed was responsible for the fire that ravaged Kyoto Animation’s Studio 1 on the morning of July 18, 2019.

Kyoto Animation Studio One
Kyoto Animation fire

“I felt I had no other option but to do what I did,” Aoba, who was in a wheelchair inside the courtroom, said. “I didn’t think so many people would die. Looking back, I’d gone too far.”

Aoba stated that Kyoto Animation had stolen one of the several novels he had submitted to the studio in a writers’ contest.

Aoba is referring to the public contest held by Kyoto Animation which required participants to send in draft novels, with the winners getting promised that their stories would be turned into anime. This contest was held before the attack.

Despite admitting to the crime, Aoba’s defense team entered a plea of not guilty on the grounds of the accused being mentally incompetent or of diminished mental capacity when he committed the crime. The defense team is aiming to get a reduced punishment.

According to them, Aoba was suffering from delusions and that he was fighting back against a “dark individual” who had manipulated his life. The defense even argued that the number of fatalities only increased because of the studio’s structure.

However, the allegations of plagiarism and the plea made by the defense were denied by Kyoto Animation.

The prosecutors countered Aoba’s claim, saying he wrongly believed that the studio had plagiarized one of his novels. They asserted that he had committed the crime based on “unreasonable grudge”.

Aoba Trail
Aoba’a trial being carried out on Sep 5, 2023 in Kyoto District court (Kyodo)

“He may have had delusions but the criminal acts were not based on that,” the prosecution’s opening statement read “He was completely mentally competent.”

They further argued that Aoba believed a female director at Kyoto Animation, who he had admired, had stolen the novels he submitted. Her success compounded by his own failures fueled a hatred in him, which also played a part in Aoba’s crime.

According to the prosecution, Aoba had initially planned to commit a mass murder at Omiya Station, Saitama City, a month before the Kyoto Animation fire took place. He walked into the station with six knives, but decided against going ahead with the plan.

Aoba is facing murder and attempted murder charges. The verdict of the trial will come out of Jan 25, 2024 after 23 more sessions.

A devastating fire had broken out at KyoAni’s Studio 1 building on July 18, 2019. At the time, there were 70 people inside the building. The fire claimed the lives of 36 people and injured 33 more. Aside from the victims inside the building, the smoke also injured a man in his forties who was on his way to work.

Kyoto Animation’s productions were initially paused after the attack, and the onset of the pandemic further delayed its projects.

As a fresh comeback from the two-year aftershock of the tragedy, the studio resumed its production activities with the release of the second season of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.

Two memorials, as a symbol to honor the arson attack victims, are set to be unveiled on July 18, 2024, in order to mark the 5th anniversary of the incident.

Source: The Japan Times

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