Photo/IllutrationPolice seize a broken speaker from Shinji Aoba’s home in Saitama’s Minuma Ward on July 26. (Takara Yoshioka)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--The motive of the suspect in the arson attack that killed 35 people at Kyoto Animation Co. remains unconfirmed one month after the incident.

Shinji Aoba, 41, is currently undergoing medical treatment for serious burns over his entire body.

The arson occurred July 18 at Kyoto Animation’s No. 1 studio in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward.

Aoba, who police have obtained an arrest warrant for on suspicion of murder and arson, has undergone repeated skin transplants. He is responsive but is still in serious condition.

Police said Aoba shouted “(Kyoto Animation) stole my novel!” when they apprehended him after he fled from the blaze.

Since 2009, Kyoto Animation has solicited novels from the public by setting up a contest for the Kyoto Animation Award in the hopes of turning them into animation or paperback books.

The company initially denied that Aoba had submitted any work to them.

However, after media reported his address in Saitama’s Minuma Ward, the company said it rechecked its files and located a submission matching his name.

Kyoto prefectural police received the novel from the company that they believe Aoba submitted for the contest. According to investigative sources, the novel contains a storyline and is “decently done.”

A lawyer representing Kyoto Animation said the novel didn’t pass the contest's initial screening.

“We are sure there are no points in the novel that resemble any past Kyoto Animation work,” the lawyer said.

When police searched Aoba’s home, they found evidence of his high interest in Kyoto Animation. Police confiscated Kyoto Animation-related items such as books, film brochures and drawings of “Sound! Euphonium,” one of its popular works.

But how such a fan of the company might have developed an obsession with it that led to perpetrating the arson attack is still a mystery.

Police have been focusing on a string of comments left intermittently on an Internet bulletin board between September and November 2018.

The comments suggest that the writer harbored increased resentment against Kyoto Animation after his submitted novel was rejected.

They include such strong words as “(They) had planned to turn down my draft and betray me from the beginning,” “I will never forgive (them),” “I will attack Kyoto Animation with explosive materials” and “indiscriminate terrorism.”

Police are analyzing a tablet and smartphone confiscated from Aoba’s home, but they have not yet identified who wrote the comments.

Still, an investigative source said, “The comments include things only Aoba knows.”

Why did the writer of the posts think Kyoto Animation stole his novel?

“We'll never know the true reason until we hear from the perpetrator,” said a senior Kyoto prefectural police officer.

(This article was written by Takahiro Kawamura and Yuka Honda.)