A man who deliberately set fire to a three-story animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 2019, killing 36 people, has been sentenced to death for mass murder.
The guilty man, Shinji Aoba, is reported to have held a grudge against Kyoto Animation, which is also known as KyoAni, in the belief it had stolen ideas from novels he submitted to a competition run by the company.
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The court found no evidence backing up Aoba’s claims that KyoAni had plagiarized his work.
The 35-year-old studio, created by husband and wife team Yoko and Hideaki Hatta, was known for works such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Violet Evergarden.
On July 18, 2019, Aoba entered the studio and started throwing gasoline around the premises, while screaming at the employees.
He then ignited the fire with a lighter and flames quickly engulfed the building.
A total of 36 people died, many of them young animators who were trapped on the upper floor, and another 34 people were injured.
Aoba was also heavily burned and had to undergo intensive treatment before Kyoto police could officially arrest him.
The crime resulted in the worst act of mass murder in the recent history of Japan and sent shockwaves across the country.
Aoba’s defense said that he should be acquitted or receive a reduced sentence due to diminished mental capability.
His mental state divided two testifying psychiatrists, but presiding Judge Keisuke Masuda ruled that Aoba had been in possession of his senses at the time of setting the building alight and was responsible for the crime.
He said the gravity of killing of 36 people was such that there “no reason for the death penalty to be avoided.”
Some 100 people are currently waiting for their death sentences to be carried out in Japan.
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