A Japanese man left scarred for life when he allegedly tried to burn down an animation studio in Kyoto, killing 36 people, has been charged with murder and arson by prosecutors.
Authorities have accused Shinji Aoba, 42, of setting fire to a famed anime studio in July 2019 known for its “slice of life” television shows and movies.
Thirty-three people died on the scene of the Kyoto Animation blaze, many as they attempted to escape onto the roof. Three others died later of burns; another 33 were injured.
Many of the victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning after failing to escape, fire officials said.
Prosecutors in Kyoto said Aoba has been charged with five crimes including murder, attempted murder and arson.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that doctors who had carried out a psychological evaluation for Aoba, who has a history of mental illness, found that he could be held criminally responsible.
Police only arrested him in May when he had fully recovered from his own injuries.
Officers said he purchased about 10 gallons of gasoline at a service station near the studio before the attack.
Prosecutors said Aoba screamed “Die!” as he set the building alight. He had targeted the studio because he believed that it had stolen a novel from him, according to news reports at the time.
Violence is rare in Japan, although the country occasionally experiences horrific attacks.
Kyoto Animation’s hits include the 2008 film Lucky Star, K-On! and Haruhi Suzumiya, released in 2009.
Its new feature film, Violet Evergarden, about a woman who writes letters professionally, was scheduled to open in April but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The fire was Japan’s deadliest since 2001, when a blaze in Tokyo’s Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people in the country’s worst-known case of arson in modern times.
Murder still carries the death sentence in Japan, which is carried out by hanging.