The 41-year-old man, who reportedly shouted “Die!” as he set the fire, confessed his motive to police, the Kyodo News reported on Friday, citing investigative sources. He poured gasoline around the building from a bucket and was also carrying a backpack full of knives. He is believed to have started the fire at the front door to prevent escape, and the combination of the gasoline, poor ventilation, and abundance of paper in the building contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. The suspect was injured in the inferno and arrested at the scene.
Kyoto Animation had received anonymous death threats by email in the past but it was unclear whether they were connected to Thursday’s horror. In addition to the fatalities, at least 36 more victims were hospitalized, 10 with critical injuries. The fire was the deadliest in Japan since 2001, when a blaze in Tokyo’s Kabukicho district left 44 dead.
Violent crime is extremely unusual in Japan, and the Kyoto Animation arson is the worst mass murder in the country in at least 18 years. PM Shinzo Abe tweeted his condolences, calling the attack “too awful for words” and praying for the survivors’ speedy recovery. Anime fans have come together to help the studio, which is behind popular titles like K-ON! and Lucky Star. Sentai Filmworks, which has licensed several Kyoto productions for Blu-ray and other products, has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the studio rebuild.