One of the best things about life in Japan is that it’s generally a safe country, free from crime and fear to one’s person. If you lose your wallet, there’s an incredibly high chance it will be delivered to the local police station with all cash and credit cards intact, even if you drop it in the middle of the insane Halloween riots in Shibuya last year. It’s common for children, even elementary school-aged children, to ride public transportation for an hour to get to their school, and there are few fears that they’ll meet with violence during their commute. As a parent, the safe society that Japan offers has been a huge benefit to my family’s happiness.
And yet, we’re all familiar with sad news reports of bizarre and unexpected violence that emanate from Japan occasionally. Random reports of brutal murders that seem impossible to square with the civil and peaceful country we all know. The senseless stabbing by a 通り魔 toori-ma — “a devil passing by on the street” who stabs random bystanders — which resulted in the death of Nitroplus’s music producer Shingo Minamino, who had overseen the music in Super Sonico and other popular games. And the heart-breaking truck-and-knife attacks in Akihabara by an unhinged company employee which claimed the lives of seven unlucky people in 2008. These reports seem all the more shocking due to how rare they are.
Wednesday was the saddest day imaginable for fans who count Kyoto Animation as among their favorite companies creating bold and exciting animated stories from Japan. As you’ve probably read by now, a deranged 41-year-old-man allegedly brought a large container of gasoline into the main KyoAni headquarters located in Uji, a pleasant city in between Japan’s ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara, starting a fire that ultimately claimed the lives of 33 and injured 35. The suspect, whose name has not been released, is hospitalized with serious burns and has not been questioned yet as to his motive. According to various reports, he shouted “Die!” and may have been in possession of several knives. He purportedly blamed the company for “stealing” an idea for a novel.
It’s the saddest day for anime fans, who have had to stare numbly as they read about the deaths of the hardworking animators and other staff that have brought us such amazing works as Fullmetal Panic, Air!, Kanon 2006, Lucky Star, Clannad, The Melancholy of Suzumiya, K-On!, Nichijou, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and Violet Evergarden, all series that sit near the top of many fans’ personal anime rankings. More than just making outstanding anime that live in the hearts of fans for years in an industry where most shows are forgotten the moment the final episode airs, Kyoto Animation has shown themselves to be good corporate citizens, paying their workers on a salary basis rather than on how many in-between animation frames they produce per hour, and have in-house training programs to raise the skills of their animators [source].
Why did this terrible attack occur? If answers are coming, they’ll take a while, and will probably leave us sorely wanting. While we wait, fans around the world will continue to keep the affected staff members of our friends at Kyoto Animation in our hearts and donate to the GoFundMe set up to assist the survivors, which has already passed $1 million in donations.