Kyoto Animation Arson Attack: Suspect Had Submitted a Novel to Company

Kyoto Fire 3 - Getty - H 2019
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The alleged perpetrator of the fire which killed 35 people had shouted about plagiarism when he was apprehended. Records of a novel sent by him to the company's annual writers' competition have been discovered.

The suspect in the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) fire on July 18 had sent in a novel to the company, but it was rejected in its initial screening, KyoAni's lawyer Daisuke Okeda said Tuesday.

When Shinji Aoba, 41, was apprehended by police immediately after the blaze, which killed 35, he was overheard by witnesses shouting that he had set fire to the company because it had stolen his novel.

The company initially said it had found no record of a submission by the suspect, but further investigation has found a novel sent by Aoba from an address which appears to be the same one that police searched Friday.

Since 2009, KyoAni has held its annual Kyoto Animation Awards to find new stories, from which it has gone on to publish some and make anime from them.

"We're confident that none of the company's products so far has any similarity," Okeda told local media without revealing the plot or other details.

Some of the studio's best-loved works began life as submissions to the contest, including Violet Evergarden, which won the top prizes in the novel, scenario and manga categories in 2014. It went on to become an anime series in 2016 and was licensed by Netflix in 2018.

The world premiere of a spinoff feature, Violet Evergarden Gaiden, is set to go ahead at Germany's AnimagiC convention on Aug. 3-4. Before the fire, a sequel was set for release next year; its status is currently unknown.

The suspect appears to have spent days in Kyoto planning the attack, before he spread 11 gallons of gasoline around the anime studio and igniting it on the morning of July 18.

About 10 employees remain hospitalized with burns, as well as the suspect, who has not yet been able to talk to police or be arrested.