During the 6th and 7th day of the trial of the Kyoto Animation Arson attack, the defendant, 45-year-old Shinji Aoba, revealed more details behind his motivations for the deadly attack he carried on Studio 1 of KyoAni.
From his thoughts on the victims, to inspiration behind writing his own novel, and finally, the incident which he took as a reference for the Kyoto Animation arson attack, Aoba talked about several things during the last two hearings.
The accused, who is charged with murder and arson for spreading gasoline and setting fire to the first studio of Kyoto Animation in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, four years ago in July 2019, killing 36 employees and seriously injuring 32 others, also expressed regret for having done what he did.
Inspired by Haruhi Suzumiya anime to create novel:
Aoba revealed on the 7th hearing of the trial that he started writing his novel after being inspired by the anime Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. He had watched the anime back in May 2009 and was enraptured by what he saw.
“I was amazed that such an incredible anime existed,” Aoba said, recalling that he “realized that there was something as interesting” as the Internet games he used to play to the point of addiction at the time.
This was the beginning of Aoba’s “Haruhi fever,” and he purchased all of the original novels of Haruhi Suzumiya that had been published at that time, reading them all in about two days.
Aoba then began to wonder if he could create something similar, and began writing his own novels imitating a similar style he saw in the Haruhi Suzumiya novels.
He explained that he wrote his own full-length novel, “Realistic Weapon,” in the same genre as Haruhi and submitted it to Kyoani’s competition, the Kyoani Grand Prize. However, he did not succeed in winning in the competition.
Rejection and shock led to downward spiral:
Aoba claimed that someone called “number 2” was behind the rejection of his novel and he was shocked that there was nothing he could do.
“I somehow knew that there was someone working behind the scenes, so I was in shock that there was nothing I could do,” Aoba said in the Kyoto Animation arson trial.
He later burned his novels and by doing so he felt that he had lost a crutch he could lean on. This was the beginning of Aoba’s downward spiral.
“When I decided to burn it, it was like I lost a crutch. The connections that were supposed to help me live a decent life disappeared, and I started heading in a direction that led to unfortunate events,” he said.
According to the prosecution, missing out on the KyoAni grand prize convinced Aoba that his ideas had been stolen and decided to take revenge “out of a misplaced grudge.”
They had also 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.
However, the defense is claiming that Aoba is insane or incompetent due to mental illness, and are seeking acquittal or a reduction of his sentence on the grounds of insanity.
“The victims were all equally guilty of stealing”
Speaking on the seventh day of the trial, Aoba revealed more about his thought process at that time.
When asked about his feelings toward the victims at the time of the incident, Aoba stated that he “thought [the victims] were all equally guilty of stealing” his work and that he set the fire with “an intention of a suicide attack”.
Talking about his reason for targeting the studio no. 1 of Kyoto Animation, Aoba said that he “thought many people would die” when the building where many people were working would be attacked by him. This was during the 6th hearing of the trial.
Aoba carried six additional knives along with the gasoline, in order to protect himself in case of being attacked or to counter if someone tried to stop his plans.
However, Aoba felt regret for his actions of starting the Kyoto Animation fire, killing 36 employees and seriously injuring 32 others, in hindsight.
During the first trial, the defendant had stated that he “didn’t think so many people would die” and that looking back he felt he’d “gone too far.”
When asked to elaborate on what his statement meant, Aoba expressed regret for his actions.
“Considering that more than 30 people died, I do have a small feeling that I shouldn’t have gone that far for one novel. That is my honest feeling right now,” Aoba said during the trial.
At that time he acted under the impression that Kyoto Animation had plagiarized his work.
Learning from a 2001 attack:
Aoba also revealed that he used a similar incident as a reference for the Kyoto Animation arson attack.
The incident in question was the arson attack against a branch of consumer finance firm Takefuji Corp., in the city of Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture in 2001, from which Aoba took inspiration and learned.
He also revealed that he felt sympathy for former death-row inmate Tomohiro Kato, who went on a rampage in 2008 at Akihabara, killing seven people. Kato, dubbed the Akihabara mass murderer, was executed in 2022 for his actions.
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.
The verdict of the trial will come out of Jan 25, 2024.
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.