The anime industry is struggling to cope with the human and material losses of Thursday's apparent arson attack on animation production company Kyoto Animation, which has killed at least 34 people. Investigators began inspecting the burned-out No. 1 Studio building on Friday, shortly after firefighters declared the fire completely extinguished at 6:20 a.m. local time.
In addition to the human loss, all of the studio's past animation drawings and production materials, including computers and electronic storage devices, were destroyed in the fire. "The monetary damage? It's enormous," said Kyoto Animation president Hideaki Hatta in an interview with Japanese media on Friday morning, following an inspection of the building. "We don't know the full details yet."
Police began permitting members of the media to approach the charred studio building for the first time on Friday, allowing a closer look at the aftermath of the fire. The Shukan Bunshun magazine published a photo showing an illustration which appears to have miraculously survived the blaze and is still pinned to a cork board.
Because anime production involves many staff members to create drawings and art, some in the industry worry that the losses will impact productions for years to come. "The production process gets very difficult even when one of the staff is missing. The entire studio burned down. It might be difficult to continue the animation production as it is now," said Mushi Production company director Toshiyuki Morii in an interview with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. The company has previously contracted Kyoto Animation for animation work.
Film production company Shochiku, which distributes movies made by Kyoto Animation, is said to be considering postponing the release dates of the studio's upcoming releases. However, a Shochiku representative told the Sankei Shimbun newspaper on Thursday that the company's anime department is still "assessing the situation" and has not made any decisions at this time. Shochiku is currently expected to release Violet Evergarden Gaiden on September 6, Violet Evergarden Movie on January 10, and a new Free! movie later in 2020.
Kyoto Animation's most recent theatrical release, Free!: Road to the World - Yume, began screening on July 5. Many in Japan have made an effort to watch screenings of the movie as a show of support for the studio. Box office data show that one-day ticket sales on Thursday were up 27.1 percent compared to the same day last week, whereas one-day ticket sales on Friday were up 12.7 percent.
Public broadcaster NHK interviewed a woman in her 50s, who is a fan of the studio's works, after a screening in Shinjuku. "I made a reservation before the fire, so I never expected something like this would happen. I cried throughout the film and couldn't see the screen very well," she said. "When the staff credits began rolling in the end, I became very worried and hoped that they were all safe. Others were also crying."
Around the country, cities which were used as the setting of Kyoto Animation's anime titles demonstrated their solidarity in supporting rebuilding efforts. City officials in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, which was used as the setting of Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice), have set up a donation box, while Toyosato in Shiga Prefecture has set up flower stands at the former elementary school used in the K-On! anime. In Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, the city's head librarian credited the studio with increasing tourism through Hyouka.
When asked about the prospect of reopening the studio building, Hatta said, "We will think about it. First, we will take into account the feelings (of the remaining staff members), and then we will do our best according to everyone's determination." Regarding works currently in production, "We want to release them to the public while considering the feelings of the staff," Hatta asserted.
"I absolutely believe in the power of the staff," said the woman interviewed by NHK. "I don't want the company to disappear because of this incident."