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Arson suspect likely sent novel to KyoAni

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A woman bows in front of Kyoto Animation Co.’s fire-ravaged No. 1 studio in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, on Tuesday evening.

The Yomiuri ShimbunKYOTO — A man with the same name as the suspect in the fatal arson attack on Kyoto Animation Co.’s studio submitted a novel to the company in the past, a lawyer for Kyoto Animation said Tuesday.

Police have obtained an arrest warrant for Shinji Aoba, 41, from Minuma Ward, Saitama, on suspicion of murder and other allegations involving the arson attack that killed 35 people in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto.

Aoba reportedly made comments accusing the company of stealing his novel at the time he was apprehended by police. However, Kyoto Animation lawyer Daisuke Okeda has said, “I’m positive none of the works created by the company are identical or similar to the novel.”

Kyoto Animation announced on July 20 — two days after the incident — that it had not received a novel from the suspect. However, the company subsequently decided to recheck submissions after the media reported part of Aoba’s address and other information, and discovered a work from someone with the same name and address as the suspect, according to Okeda.

The novel did not pass the first screening because it did not follow the proper format. Information on the novel was therefore not disseminated within the company, resulting in the announcement that the suspect had made no submission, the lawyer said.

The company has held the Kyoto Animation Awards since 2009, soliciting novels and other works from the public and then choosing winners to be published under its KA Esuma Bunko label or made into anime. Whether Aoba submitted his novel for the awards is unknown.

According to the Kyoto prefectural police, Aoba poured gasoline inside the company’s No. 1 studio and ignited it. When he was apprehended, he reportedly told police that the company “ripped off my novel” and that he wanted to see the president. Police later seized blank manuscript papers during a search of Aoba’s apartment and are investigating whether he has written a novel.

Police also found memorabilia from the company’s popular anime “Sound! Euphonium” and brochures for Kyoto Animation’s movies during the search.

After arriving in Kyoto by Shinkansen on July 15, Aoba went to the company’s head office, No. 1 studio and other related facilities, as well as near a location featured in “Sound! Euphonium.” Police suspect Aoba became obsessed with the company and bore resentment over the novel.

Aoba continues to be in critical condition with burns over his entire body, according to the prefectural police.

Resentful online posts found

A number of comments attacking Kyoto Animation were posted on an internet message board last autumn, including accusations that the firm “rejected my work” and “stole my idea, which is unforgivable,” according to the Kyoto prefectural police and other sources.

Police are investigating on the suspicion that the comments were posted by Aoba because they match his past remarks and background.

Investigative sources said the Kyoto prefectural police have found dozens of comments posted between September and November last year on the message board. The comments mentioned the company by name and included such complaints as: “They rejected my work,” “I was betrayed by KyoAni” and “They ripped off my ideas. I will never forgive them.” There were also comments that hinted at an attack on the company, such as: “I’ll charge into KyoAni with explosives” and “indiscriminate terrorism.”

The poster wrote that he had served prison time in 2012 but did not describe in detail why he held such animosity toward Kyoto Animation.

In June 2012, Aoba robbed a convenience store in Ibaraki Prefecture and received a 3½-year prison sentence. Though police have not yet concluded that Aoba is the poster, the fact that such a background matches the online comments makes him a strong suspect and has prompted police to begin analyzing the personal computer and smartphone seized at his apartment.

Police have yet to receive information useful for identifying the poster.

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