Over thirty people at Kyoto Animation (Suzumiya Haruhi, Sound! Euphonium, Free!) died tragically this past week, with more injured and missing, after a suspected arson attack on their main studio office. The news has gained international attention, reaching far beyond the world of anime. In certain respects, it’s worse than the infamous Tokyo subway sarin gas attack, and as far as I know, nothing even close to this has ever happened in the anime industry.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families. Last I saw, they haven’t yet been identified in full detail, only that they were mostly in their 20s and 30s. But regardless of their positions or levels of experience, these were people who helped support a studio famous for supporting its creators and having women in prominent positions in their staff. Losing these people means a blow to a place where people could apply their passion and be proud of what they do and where they work. This potentially also sets back the progress of women in the anime industry for years, as there was a lot of talent in that one building.
This really is unprecedented in the history of anime. There have been a number of incidents related to anime fans and places where fans shop, but a direct attack on creators of Japanese animation is so unexpected and new that it’s bound to have a ripple effect on the industry as a whole. Putting aside, the effect this will have on schedules and the like, this will likely affect aspects we haven’t even thought about. Similar to how 9/11 changed what it meant to fly in the United States, the relationship between animation studios and the public might just change permanently.
Right now, there are few details suspected arsonist who was caught and taken to the hospital, but the last thing I want to do is assume anything about the person or their motives. It’s all too easy to jump to conclusions about who would attack Kyoto Animation.
My hope is that this is not the end of Kyoto Animation. They produce good work while treating their employees like people, and I want them to come back, recover, and be stronger than ever.