Japanese Man Sentenced to Death for Animation Studio Arson, Says He Must "Pay for My Crime"

Written by Henrik Rothen

Jan.25 - 2024 10:50 AM CET

Photo: Wiki Commons
Photo: Wiki Commons
The tragedy claimed 36 lives.

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On January 25, a Japanese man was sentenced to death for setting fire to a Kyoto animation studio in 2019, a tragedy that claimed 36 lives. This incident, caused by 45-year-old Shinji Aoba in an act of vengeance, marks one of the deadliest crimes in Japan in recent decades, eliciting shock and outrage both domestically and internationally.

According to Ziare.com, Aoba faced charges including murder, attempted murder, and arson at the Kyoto District Court. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty last month for his actions. Most victims of the blaze were young employees of Kyoto Animation, known as "KyoAni," including a 21-year-old woman, with over 30 others injured.

"I didn't think so many people would die, and now I believe I went too far," Aoba stated on the first day of his trial in September last year. During a subsequent hearing in December, when asked about the victims' families wanting to see him sentenced to death, he conceded, "I think I must pay for my crime."

Attended the Trial in a Wheelchair

Aoba broke into the studio building, doused it with gasoline, and set it ablaze, shouting, "You are going to die." Firefighters described the incident as "unprecedented," highlighting the extreme difficulty in extinguishing the fire and rescuing people.

Motivated by a belief that KyoAni had stolen his scenario idea - a claim firmly denied by the studio and dismissed as "delusional" by prosecutors - Aoba himself suffered severe burns in the July 18, 2019 fire. His injuries required multiple surgeries, and he attended the trial in a wheelchair.

His defense argued for his innocence, citing Aoba's alleged inability to distinguish right from wrong due to mental disorders. However, the court determined that Aoba "was neither demented nor had diminished mental capacity at the time of the crime," as reported by public broadcaster NHK.

Japan, alongside the United States, is one of the few democratic countries that still practice the death penalty, carried out by hanging. Despite international criticism, the Japanese public largely supports capital punishment.

The last execution in Japan, where over 100 death row inmates await their sentences, occurred in 2022. Founded in 1981, KyoAni, renowned for its production finesse and ties to its location in Kyoto, has produced works like "Lucky Star," "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya," "K-ON!," and the animation film "Violet Evergarden," in production at the time of the fire and released in 2020 in Japanese cinemas.