Why I Cried When I Saw the News of ‘KyoAni’ Building Burning
Kyoto Animation Studio (left).
Kyoto Animation Studio (left).(Photo: NHK WORLD News/Altered by The Quint)

Why I Cried When I Saw the News of ‘KyoAni’ Building Burning

“There’s something wrong with people who seek reality in fiction.” 
Kyon, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya 

To my 13-year-old self, this line from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was equally profound and discomforting.

(Photo Courtesy: Kyotoanimation/Haruhi Suzumiya)

It easily underlined the very reason I was hooked on the series, and questioned why I loved to escape into the fantasy world of anime in the first place.

Speaking truth to the watcher, without explicitly doing so is a style of narrative Japanese anime studio Kyoto Animation Studio excelled in through their impressive portfolio of movies, shorts, and series.

Therefore, it broke millions of hearts when visuals of the burning KyoAni studio 1 building in Kyoto hit the news bulletins on 18 July 2019.

Also Read : 33 Killed, 36 Injured in Japan Animation Studio Arson Attack

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‘Our Hearts Bled as KyoAni Burned’

At least 33 KyoAni staffers lost their lives and several dozens suffered deadly injuries in what is being touted as the deadliest arson attack since the Myojo 56 building fire in 2001.

The suspect, identified as 41-year-old Shinji Aoba, walked inside the studio premises in Kyoto, with a trolley carrying 20 litres of petrol, which he doused on the building and people within the studio, before setting it ablaze, according to a BBC report.

As more horrifying details of the aftermath of the attack are revealed, fans can’t help but mourn the loss of some of the best animators in the industry.

Fans feared that well-known animators like Yoshiji Kigami, who worked in classics like Akira and Grave of the Fireflies; Yasuhiro Takemoto whose body of work includes Amagi Brilliant Park, Hyoka and The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya, couldn’t survive the fire, though the official report terms them ‘missing’ as of now.

Also Read : Several dead in arson attack on Japan animation studio

The attack was condemned by Justin Trudeau, Tsai Ing-wen, António Guterres, Tim Cook and several other celebrities across the world.

Fans Start #HelpKyoAniHeal and #PrayForKyoAni to Support Studio

While no words can ease the loss of human lives in this deadly attack, what comes as an additional blow to the company and the anime industry as a whole is the loss of the artists and the animators’ work that also perished in the fire.

Kyoto Animation Studio president Hideaki Hatta recently confirmed in statement to Japanese media what fans had been fearing: Almost all past animation materials and computers in Kyoto Animation's 1st Studio building are now destroyed.

“The [monetary] amount of the damage? Extreme. I don’t know the full details,” Hatta added. 

After bracing the initial shock though, fans across the world have poured in support for the studio, even setting up Go Fund Me campaigns to get the remaining staff and animators back on their feet, and hoping that the studio gets back on track with the scheduled releases.

Many contributed through the fundraiser set up by US-based merchandising and licensing firm Sentai Filmworks, after anime enthusiast, pop-culture lovers and YouTube creators put out appeal videos for fans to ‘Help KyoAni Heal’.

Others used the studio’s digital store online to buy high quality wallpapers so the money could go into restoring its lost work.

What Made KyoAni So Special?

(Photo: KyoAni/A Silent Voice)

What makes these fans go all out for this Japanese animation studio, one may ask. After all, having attachment to a character or a piece of story is understandable but how does the studio command such loyalty?

It’s because, from its content and stories it told, style of animation, to how the studio functioned, everything was revolutionary for the animation industry in Japan, and for its international fans.

(Photo Courtesy: KyoAni/Beyond The Boundary)

From a work culture standpoint, KyoAni got quickly distinguished as a gold standard among Japanese animators who otherwise work inhuman hours for big studios, for very little in return. The biggest improvement was how KyoAni would put animators in payroll with a fixed salary instead of contractual deal.

(Photo Courtesy: KyoAni/Violet Evergarden)

Its portrayal of strong independent and ‘cool’ women characters through its various animes was reflection of its strong team of women creators who wrote, animated and drew these stories. In fact, NYT reported that KyoAni had twice the number of women animators than it had men. Sadly, out of the 33 who perished in the fire, 20 were women.

It wasn’t just Haruhi Suzumiya, but animes like Hyouka, The Silent Voice, and Violet Evergarden produced by Kyoto Animation Studio, or KyoAni as it is endearingly called by fans, that have left a lasting impact upon fans.

(This blog is an anime fan’s tribute to Kyoto Animation Studio)

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