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Man convicted of murder for arson attack at Japanese anime studio that killed 36

TOKYO — A man was convicted of murder and other crimes Thursday for carrying out a shocking arson attack on an anime studio in Kyoto, Japan, that killed 36 people and drew an outpouring of grief from anime fans worldwide.

The Kyoto District Court said it found Shinji Aoba mentally capable to face punishment for the crimes, and the judge was expected to announce the penalty later in the day, according to NHK television and other Japanese media.

Aoba stormed into Kyoto Animation’s No. 1 studio on July 18, 2019, and set it on fire. Many of the victims were believed to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning. More than 30 other people were badly burned or injured.

Prosecutors said Aoba was seeking revenge after thinking the Kyoto Animation had stolen novels he submitted for a company contest.

Aoba, 45, was severely burned and was hospitalized for 10 months before his arrest in May 2020. He appeared in court in a wheelchair.

Aoba’s defense lawyers argued he was mentally unfit to be held criminally responsible.

About 70 people were working inside the studio in southern Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, at the time of the attack. One of the survivors said he saw a black cloud rising from downstairs, then scorching heat came and he jumped from a window of the three-story building gasping for air.

The company, founded in 1981 and better known as KyoAni, made a mega-hit anime series about high school girls, and the studio trained aspirants to the craft.

Japanese media have described Aoba as being thought of as a troublemaker who repeatedly changed contract jobs and apartments and quarreled with neighbors.

The fire was Japan’s deadliest since 2001, when a blaze in Tokyo’s congested Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people, and it was the country’s worst known case of arson in modern times.

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