On the KyoAni Arson Incident

This is a rarity for me on this blog, both in that I’m posting on it after a long hiatus and that I’m writing something personal on here. Unfortunately, the events of this week have led me to want to write something to share my thoughts and experiences with Kyoto Animation.

I had a long day at work after a tiring week thus far and planned to go to sleep early when I saw a “Fire at Kyoto anime studio” tweet appear on my timeline from NHK. Instantly my heart leapt. “Is it them?” I clicked the link and saw Studio 1, a studio I’ve seen in behind-the-scenes footage several times and been to in-person, smoking. I immediately shared it with my good friend Yuyucow saying “WTF?” because it was and still is unreal. “I’m speechless. Like it’s not that it’s KyoAni, it’s that anyone would do this type of thing.” Those were my immediate reactions. Shock. Awe. Fear. Confusion. Sadness. The fact that this is either the worst or second-worst murder incident in Japan since 1945, nearly 75 years ago, says it all to me. “Why?”, but more importantly “is everyone alright?”

Part of why I kept translating news (and still maintaining that thread on Twitter) was hoping that something positive would be said. Would someone live? Could people be saved? Unfortunately, the more I found out, the more devastating it was. I tried to go to sleep when we knew that 10 people were dead. I tossed and turned in my bed, afraid of what the world would be when I woke up the next day. Things were predictably worse when I woke up after 3 hours of sleep and at least 90 minutes of trying to sleep/rest. At that point, 25 people were confirmed dead and 7 missing. In hours, those numbers would be combined for 33 people who passed away in the fire and 36 injured (now 34 dead and 35 injured). A mere 7 people were completely uninjured. Seven out of 74. My mind still boggles at how few that is.

Throughout this whole event, my mind continues to wander about many things. Why did this happen? Who have we lost? Who is hurt and suffering this very minute? What can I do to help? How can I do anything at all? The answers I’ve arrived at remain unsatisfactory and will continue to be that way. Even this morning, I found myself in a sudden period of immense sadness and grief over everything.

KyoAni wasn’t a company to me; they were like my family. My first translation project was the Haruhi 10/11 novels (which I don’t recommend; get the official version instead). I continued on, translating the interviews from the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya fanbook and then translating the Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai novels when the first anime season aired. After that, I wanted to share what the staff themselves thought and so I started translating more interviews with staff members. A LOT OF INTERVIEWS! Naoko Yamada, Tatsuya Ishihara, Yasuhiro Takemoto, Shoko Ikeda, Futoshi Nishiya, Kazumi Ikeda, Hiroko Utsumi, the list goes on. As I started to translate and read more from what these creators said, they weren’t strangers anymore. They became a part of me because I had attached voices to them through my work. Seeing the rise of Naoko Yamada from “someone who made K-On!, a show oriented for men and only for pervy men at that” to artistic creator from the Tamako series and reading her thoughts has been one of the highlights of my life. I vividly remember disagreeing with people, stating that Yamada was the best director at KyoAni after seeing her thoughts and now she’s a niche, but immensely beloved director in anime fandom. To know that I’ve had a role in that via my translations (and the effects from them in YouTuber videos, articles on ANN, articles on Crunchyroll, articles on blogger sites, etc has been one of the sources of pride that I hold dear.

As time has gone on, delusions of “I hope everyone will be alright” moved to a hope of “it’s going to be okay” and to the reality of “it’s likely that someone I’ve translated has passed away.” To know that their lively and creative minds are no longer on this Earth is incredibly saddening and depressing. Survivors’ guilt: wishing that it was you instead of them. I’m not as free as I used to be. The me that was so active on this blog would’ve easily said “I’d trade my life for theirs in an instant.” The me that’s writing this now knows the obligations and relationships I have and knows how much it’d hurt those people to see me gone. That’s another source of sadness: that I desperately want to feel like I’d be willing to sacrifice myself to save people because “it’s the right thing to do.” And yet, it’s those people that have helped me immensely throughout this. Have I been sad? Yes. Have I felt overwhelmed? Yes. Have I cried tears? Multiple times. But have I been able to bounce back and feel good again? Yes, thanks to my dear friends and special someone. I know the me of a couple years ago would’ve gone into immense depression over this and maybe shut down. The current me was able to be strong and translate news updates because of these bonds.

When I think about it, that’s truly the lesson that the KyoAni works taught me: when you’re with people who care about you and want to help you through your pain, you’re able to make it through tough times. Rikka had Yuuta to help her begin to overcome her grief at not being able to say goodbye to her father. Tamako had the market to help her live and thrive without her mother. Haruka swims not for himself, but for the team. Mirai found people that cared about her and didn’t shun her because of her abilities. Kumiko’s band overcame their issues and became one together. Team E in Phantom World came together to save the day in the finale. Shoko reunited the group of Shoya’s friends for him to heal his and her hearts. Violet learned the meaning of love through her co-workers and the people she wrote letters/lyrics for.

And so these times haven’t all been horrible. I’ve learned more about the history of this wonderful company through this incident. I’ve seen how great people can be in times of grief, giving of themselves to try and help in any shape or form. I’ve had a bit of my humanity restored after being jaded so much. I grieve over the people we’ve lost. From pillars in the industry down to people who just graduated from university and were just starting their careers. Every single one of the 34 people who have passed away and every single one of the 35 remaining injured people worked to make us feel better about ourselves and to become closer together. While I’m going to cry and feel sad knowing those people will never be the same or won’t be around again, I want to honor them by trying to become a more kind and gentle person. To become as open as the KyoAni family was. To share the love that I have with people.

This is just me. I’m not you and I can’t be you. If you need to be sad, be sad. If you need to have an outlet for your feelings, find a healthy one. Grief takes many forms for each of us and we’re all unique in how we’re going to handle this. But at the end of it all, when we see the next KyoAni work, I want us to let our emotions out, say thank you to everyone who created that title, and think of the good times we’ve had and the good times yet to come. In the end, they wanted us to be happy

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5 thoughts on “On the KyoAni Arson Incident

  1. I think of the most famous Kyoani meme (at least in western fandom)

    “Kyoani finds a way”

    They, we, all of us together,

    We will get through this,

    We will find a way

  2. Beautiful message. Thank you for posting this. I feel the same way even though I’ve never done anything.

    I’ve read a lot of interview translations from fans and really came to love them as people. Kyoani just moved me. They touched my soul so many times when few others could. I have autism and it’s rare for me to be moved by things. But Kyoani managed in almost every attempt they made. Their stories felt genuine and their animation helped make it immersive. It was always so obvious how much they cared about every single frame they made and word that was written/spoken.

    Kyoani has gotten me through very dark times of my life, starting when I first discovered them in 2004 and as recently as last month when I was very depressed. Last month I rewatched Lucky Star and The Disappearance of Haruhi and again Kyoani had helped me push through a very hard time. I can’t express my sadness right now. I only wish those that survived can heal quickly with as little pain as possible. I hope that the company itself can come back someday and continue to bring more smiles to the world.

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