Motoshi Ishida speaks about his son Atsushi, an animator who perished in the July 18 arson attack at the No. 1 studio of Kyoto Animation Corp., during a news conference held at the Fushimi Police Station of Kyoto prefectural police on Aug. 27. (Mari Endo)

KYOTO--A grieving father implored the public to remember his son killed in the July 18 arson attack here as a devoted animator, not a nameless statistic.

“By no means is my son ‘one of 35,’” said Motoshi Ishida, 66, referring to the overall death toll in the incident that gutted the No. 1 studio of the Kyoto Animation Co. in Kyoto's Fushimi Ward.

“He has a name, and he worked hard and gave his all every day,” Ishida said at a news conference held late Aug. 27 at the Fushimi Police Station of the Kyoto prefectural police.

Earlier in the day, prefectural police released the remaining 25 identities of all of the 35 victims. Ishida’s son, Atsushi, 31, was among them.

“I never thought that something this unjust, mortifying, trying and sorrowful could happen in life,” Ishida said.

DETERMINED AND PROFESSIONAL

From an early age, Atsushi was fascinated with animation, telling his father, “I want to work in anime when I grow up.”

Ishida was initially against the idea because he was concerned about working conditions in the animation industry.

But Atsushi would not take no for an answer.

He took evening classes at an animation academy while attending a university in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Ishida's terms for giving full rein to his son's ambitions were for him to obtain a position at prestigious Kyoto Animation.

Atsushi applied and landed his dream job.

“Honestly, I was surprised when I saw the acceptance letter,” Ishida reminisced.

Atsushi worked as an animator in charge of creating moving images that fill in the gaps and connect original pictures. His work included the hit, “A Silent Voice: The Movie.”

Shortly after joining the company, Atsushi received advice from a superior, who told him, “You should aim to be a creator of original pictures.”

But Atsushi held firm to his role. He found every aspect of his work deeply satisfying.

“I have to represent the exact way a person moves,” Atsushi told his father after returning to the Fukuoka home on a rare visit, explaining a particular scene in which a character turns around.

Atsushi worked at Kyoto Animation for 10 years or so.

“It delighted everyone in our family to see the name, Atsushi Ishida, in credits roll at the end of a show or movie,” Ishida said.

“Atsushi was a good son. He’s gone, leaving nothing but love for his parents. And I wasn't able to do anything for him,” Ishida said in a trembling voice.

MEMORIAL TRIBUTE

On July 18, Ishida heard the awful news. He hopped into his car and drove to Kyoto from his home in Fukuoka Prefecture. He arrived in the evening and rushed to a room where other anxious families were gathered.

He scanned a list of names posted in the room of those who had been rescued, but Atsushi’s name was not on it.

Police told Ishida that some of the bodies would have to undergo DNA testing for a positive identification.

Atsushi was identified on July 24.

“I have displayed a portrait photo of Atsushi at home. But I have a hard time grasping that his usual, coy smile no longer exists in this world,” Ishida said. “In all honesty, I’m still wondering if this is real.”

Most of the victims were in their 20s and 30s, and employees of Kyoto Animation. The animation company and many of the bereaved families opposed having the names of their loved ones released to the public.

After much consideration, the prefectural police decided to release the names in light of public interest in and the gravity of the incident, considered the worst murder case in the postwar period.

Ishida, explaining his decision to hold a news conference, told reporters: “The only thing that we the bereaved family can do is to ask (the public) to remember (Atsushi) and never forget about him. There is not much else we can do about it.”

He added that Kyoto and its neighboring city Uji, where the headquarters of Kyoto Animation is located, remain special places in his heart.

“These special places have become a harrowing site,” said Ishida in calling for a monument to be built to remember the victims.

Ishida had prepared a written statement before the news conference as he feared he would stumble on his words through sheer emotion.

The statement ended with the following plea to the public: “Please continue your support to Kyoto Animation that Atsushi loved. And please, please never forget that Atsushi Ishida, an animator, existed for a fact.”

(This article was written by Takaoki Yamamoto and Daisuke Hatano.)