Annual novel contest submission apparently connected to suspect’s shouting “They stole my novel, so I set the fire.”

The July 18 arson attack on Kyoto Animation’s Fushimi studio has resulted in the deaths of 35 employees who were in the building at the time the arsonist struck. Though the building was compliant with all local fire codes, such regulations are largely designed as precautions for accidental fires, not the sort of pre-meditated attack that was carried out on the anime production company.

Based on security camera footage and witness reports, investigators believe that the suspect, 41-year-old Shinji Aoba, purchased two 20-liter (5.3-gallon) canisters of gasoline at a gas station, the wheeled them to the studio on a hand cart before igniting them inside the building, and also spraying the flame accelerant directly on victims.

The pre-meditated nature of the attack suggests a grudge against the company and/or its employees, and as Aoba was taken into custody by police he was heard to have shouted “They ripped me off” and “They stole my novel, so I set the fire.” Following the attack, Kyoto Animation CEO Hideaki Hatta said “I have no idea what he’s talking about,” and that he had never had any written or spoken communication with Aoba.

However, on July 30 Kyoto Animation’s attorney said that they have since confirmed that the company did receive a novel from a person named Shinji Aoba, and from an address that matches that of the suspect’s apartment.

Since 2010, Kyoto Animation has annually solicited novel submissions, from professional or amateur writers, for its Kyoto Animation Awards. In addition to a one-million yen (US$9,260) prize for the grand winner, Kyoto Animation has entered into publishing deals for outstanding entries via its KA Esuma Bunko book label, and a number have also been adapted into Kyoto Animation anime series, such as Violet Evergarden, Free!, and Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions.

Kyoto Animation’s attorney went on to say that the novel submitted by Shinji Aoba was formally eliminated from the contest in the first round of judges’ evaluations. “We have confirmed that it has no similarity to any Kyoto Animation works,” he added.

It’s unclear whether Hatta’s initial statement that he had never received any written communication from Aoba is a result of one quickly eliminated novel not being noteworthy enough to stick out in his memory, or if the Kyoto Animation head simply wasn’t personally involved in the initial round of contest judging. Meanwhile, Hatta has promised that, despite the immense loss the company has suffered, Kyoto Animation “will not go quietly into the night.”

Source: Kyoto Shimbun via Yahoo! News Japan via Jin
Top image: Wikipedia/L26
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