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Confiscated manuscript suggests alleged Kyoto Anime arsonist was writing novel

A visitor to the Kyoto International Manga Museum in the ancient capital's Nakagyo Ward donates money on July 20, 2019, for victims of an arson attack on a Kyoto Animation studio and their families as well as to the company. (Mainichi/Mai Suganuma)
Kyoto Prefectural Police investigators bring out cardboard boxes containing articles they confiscated during a search of the home of Shinji Aoba in Minuma Ward, Saitama, on July 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Naotsune Umemura)

Police have confiscated a manuscript paper from the home of a man who allegedly set fire to a Kyoto Animation Co. studio in the ancient capital, and obtained information that he may have been writing a novel, those linked to the investigation into the incident said.

The sources quoted the suspect, 41-year-old Shinji Aoba, as telling Kyoto Prefectural Police that the company in western Japan "stole" his novel as the motive behind his alleged attack. However, police have not confirmed that the company plagiarized such a novel.

Prefectural police investigators suspect that Aoba carried out the indiscriminate arson attack on employees of Kyoto Animation as he held a baseless grudge against the company.

Prefectural police confiscated the manuscript paper, merchandise related to the company's anime, a tablet computer and a smartphone among other communication equipment, and three high-end speakers during a raid on Aoba's apartment in Minuma Ward, Saitama, north of Tokyo, on July 26.

One of the speakers, a large cylindrical unit, was badly damaged, and investigators suspect that Aoba may have smashed it.

The investigative sources quoted Aoba as telling prefectural police when he was taken into custody, "(The company) stole my novel. I demand the president show his face (to provide an explanation)."

Kyoto Animation solicits the public to submit novels for a competition it organizes, but the company denies that Aoba ever sent the firm any works.

"He hasn't entered his work in the competition and had absolutely no connection to us," said Hideaki Hatta, president of Kyoto Animation. "I don't understand what he was talking about."

The police investigation has so far found no connection between Aoba and the company.

In a related development, some 1.248 billion yen had been collected in donations for Kyoto Animation by July 30.

Over 965 million yen in donations had been remitted to the company's account by 3 p.m. on July 29. Moreover, Texas-based animation distributor Sentai Filmworks, which specializes in Japanese animation, has collected over $2.32 million (approximately 253 million yen) through crowdfunding over an 11-day drive. The Tokyo-based Japan Animation Creators Association had also collected 29.79 million yen through Yahoo! online donations by 11 a.m. on July 30.

The Association of Japanese Animations also set up an account exclusively for its donation campaign on July 26, while setting up donation collection boxes in the city of Kyoto and the Kyoto Prefecture city of Uji among locations where some Kyoto Animation works are set in.

The money collected through the donation campaigns will be used to extend assistance to victims, their families and the company.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka, Satoshi Fukutomi, Kanae Soejima, Mai Suganuma and Yuko Kunimoto, Kyoto Bureau)

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