Photo/IllutrationA second-year junior high school girl who is a big fan of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” talks with tears in her eyes in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward on July 27 about her feelings of devastation and being rescued by Kyoto Animation works. (Mayo Tomioka)

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  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Numerous fans who had been helped through difficulties in their lives by Kyoto Animation Co.’s works visited the No. 1 studio to pay tribute to the 35 victims of the deadly July 18 arson attack.

Many mourners stood for minutes in the extreme heat to offer prayers at the table set up for floral tributes near the burned-out building on July 27, saying, “I was saved by Kyoto Animation.”

Some fans, in interviews with The Asahi Shimbun, shared their experiences and problems in school and society before encountering the company’s works.

'THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA'

“I can live (now) thanks to the existence of Haruhi and Kyoto Animation,” said a second-year junior high school student who lives in Nantan in the prefecture, who is a big fan of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya," one of the company’s works.

The 14-year-old girl, accompanied by her mother, offered origami paper cranes, which are often given to express general well wishes or feelings of condolence in Japan, at the table for floral tributes. The girl, with tears in her eyes, almost collapsed in grief.

After entering junior high school, the young girl had become so mindful of those around her, thinking, “I did not want to be hated by my classmates,” that she could not show her true personality.

She could not come out of her shell and struggled to attend classes, finally leading to the refusal to go to school from September last year.

What filled a void in her heart during the time the girl was at home was "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya," which she unintentionally started to watch through a paid video site.

A line decisively said by the heroine Haruhi, while introducing herself after her high school enrollment ceremony in the first episode, resonated with the teenager.

“I am not interested in just humans. If any of you are an alien, a person from the future, or parallel universe, or someone with supernatural powers, just come to me. That’s all,” Haruhi said in the story.

The teenager started to watch Haruhi behaving in a manner opposite to that of herself, who had been feeling inferior, thinking, “I could not seek in that way my fellow classmates or friends whom I wanted to have.”

Haruhi, an eccentric person, continues to act strangely. The protagonist, who hurtles through life as she pleases, alienates herself in the classroom, but is liked by her fellow students.

Watching Haruhi made the once-devastated teenager smile. She could think that she did not need to try to be nice to those she had poor compatibility with, but was allowed to express her true self.

In April, the new second-year student returned to school. She was nervous about attending classes after the long absence, but was able to be confident and approached some girls whom she wanted to befriend.

Now, they are great friends with whom she can enthusiastically share the animation works.

When the teenager encounters a hardship, she recalls “a chest-thumping voice, with which Haruhi is never afraid of anyone,” used by the protagonist when calling out her classmates. The second-year student is not afraid of attending school anymore.

The girl recently had a dream of creating animation works at Kyoto Animation, which had inspired her, after improving her drawing technique. But the deadly arson blaze occurred in the meantime, which has frustrated and made her feel powerless.

“It is difficult and pathetic not to be able to do anything when Kyoto Animation is in need of help the most,” she said.

'FREE!'

A 21-year-old woman, who lives in Tokyo, covered her face with her hands and bowed her head at the floral table saying, “They saved my life. Why did they have to die?”

After entering high school, the woman could not fit in with those around her and make friends, which drove her to think, “I wanted to die.”

Before the summer vacation when she was a first-year high school student, she watched Kyoto Animation's "Free!" anime series on TV about teenage boys who are swim team members. She saw the protagonist, who was challenging himself in an unfamiliar environment, and felt they had much in common. She came to be very much a fan of the work.

Her favorite character was always looking to the future even while encountering obstacles. The anime also helped the woman refrain from thoughts of suicide, thinking, “If I continue to live, I will have another (opportunity).”

She started working part time at a drugstore and cut down even on her lunch expenditures to save money to buy animation-related items.

“If I spend my money and it goes to Kyoto Animation, I could find my life worth living,” she thought.

She could not make friends at school, but through events showcasing Kyoto Animation's works, she could meet other people through talking with someone sitting next to her or exchanging items with them.

“If Kyoto Animation does not exist, I would not have any friends,” she said.

It is impossible to know whether the animation director who created her favorite character or the many staff members who completed the beautiful anime that she enjoyed are safe.

Anxiety gnaws at her, but she has been given encouragement by others who are all connected by their shared love of Kyoto Animation.

(This article was written by Mayo Tomioka and Ai Tanabe.)