Kyoto Animation Arson Attack: Leading Anime Director Feared Among Dead

Kyoto Fire 3 - Getty - H 2019
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The premiere of Kyoto Animation's new 'Violet Evergarden Gaiden' feature is to go ahead in Germany next month, despite the massacre at the studio which killed 34.

Yasuhiro Takemoto, director of TV series Lucky Star and co-director of feature The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, both by Kyoto Animation (KyoAni), is feared to be among the 34 who died in the arson attack on the studio July 18.

Takemoto’s father told The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper Monday that he called his son's cellphone after hearing news of the attack but couldn't reach him, and was later asked by police to help with a DNA test to identify the victims.

"I've cried and cried. I'm exhausted from crying," Takemoto's father told the paper.

At the request of KyoAni president Hideaki Hatta, the police are not releasing the names of the dead who have so far been identified.

Takemoto, 47, joined KyoAni in 1996, reportedly inspired to become an animator after watching Hayao Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986).

His big break came in 2007 when he replaced Yutaka Yamamoto on the popular Lucky Star comedy mid-series. He went on to co-direct the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya with Tatsuya Ishihara. The pair worked together in 2010 again on the subsequent feature The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, which at 162 minutes is one of the longest anime ever made. It took around $8 million in Japan, was released in the U.S. in May 2010 and since picked up by Netflix.

The two productions inspired "anime pilgrimages" by fans to locations that feature prominently in them.

Aya Hirano, the voice actor of the main character in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, wrote on her blog Monday, "I've bottled up my feelings. I'm devastated but we can’t let the tragedy keep us down," and "Anime is a representative aspect of Japanese culture. It's essential that we don't allow such a shockingly malicious act to destroy this culture and art."

The world premiere of KyoAni's Violet Evergarden Gaiden is to go ahead at Germany's AnimagiC convention Aug. 3 and 4 "at the express request of the studio," according to organizers.

Violet Evergarden started life as a 'light novel' published by KyoAni after winning the grand prize at the studio's Kyoto Animation Award in 2014. It was turned into an anime series in 2016 and licensed by Netflix in 2018. Violet Evergarden Gaiden is a spinoff feature and before the arson a sequel was set for release next year.

Series director Taichi Ishidate and series producer Shinichiro Hatta will not now attend the premiere in Germany, but music producer Shigeru Saito will represent the film in their place.