UJI, Kyoto -- Hideaki Hatta, president of Kyoto Animation Co., said on July 20 that his company had no connection with the man suspected of destroying its 1st Studio building in Kyoto in a July 18 arson attack that claimed the lives of 34 people.
Speaking to journalists outside his company's head office, Hatta said he had never heard the name Shinji Aoba, the suspected arsonist. He affirmed his intention to demolish the three-story studio, which was destroyed in the fire.
According to individuals familiar with the investigation, the suspect appeared to hold a one-sided grudge against the company, and was reported to have made claims to the effect that the firm stole his novel.
Regarding Aoba's accusations, Hatta stressed the company had no past connection with him, saying, "I've never heard of us receiving a letter, email, work submission, proposal or anything of the sort with his name on it."
Hatta also mentioned that almost all animation cells and other documents pertaining to the company's past works had been damaged by fire. As for the fire's effect on the local community, he said, "I'm sorry to our neighbors for the impact this has had on them. With permission from police and the fire department, I intend to have the building demolished."
Regarding his future plans for the site, Hatta said, "People in the firm are saying we should turn the space into a park with a memorial." He added, "I want to respect the wishes of the families (of the deceased), and if possible, hold a parting ceremony at the company."
Regarding wounded employees, he said, "There are people who have had to undergo amputation." Commenting on the many whose lives were lost in the fire, Hatta said in a quivering voice, "They ranged from a new recruit who had just joined our company this year to a veteran staffer who had worked for over 30 years. It's gut-wrenching."
(Japanese original by Kentaro Suzuki, Gakken Uji Bureau and Maki Kihara, Wakayama Bureau)
Below are excerpts from a statement provided to the media on July 19 by Hideaki Hatta, president of Kyoto Animation Co. (At the time 33 people had been confirmed to have died in the arson attack. The death toll has since risen to 34.)
At around 10:30 a.m. on July 18, the first year of Reiwa (2019), a terrible incident claimed the lives of 33 young people who had their prospects ahead of them.
I want to first extend my sorrow to the bereaved families. To the many relatives of the company's employees, I apologize for the distress that has been caused.
For so many young people with a passion for animation, gathered from all over the country, to have their futures abruptly cut short is so regrettable that words cannot suffice. It is a huge blow to our company and the industry we work in. Each and every person was a truly excellent and exemplary colleague.
To lose colleagues we have grown with, or to hear of their injury, leaves a great pain in the hearts of those of us who remain.
I ask you to forgive me and allow me to focus first and foremost on what can be done now for those who have lost their lives and their families, and for those who have been injured and for their families.
Thank you all for your kind understanding.
July 19, Reiwa 1 (2019)
Hideaki Hatta, President, Kyoto Animation Co.