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Media & Entertainment

Kyoto Animation rebuilds after deadly 2019 arson attack

Studio restarts training program while ramping up production of new films

The arson attack has not dampened enthusiasm for the studio, as movie goers converged on theaters during the first day of the release of a new film in September 2019. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

OSAKA -- Kyoto Animation, which saw at least 36 employees killed in a devastating arson attack in July 2019, has been gradually coming back to life.

The Japanese studio, affectionately known as "KyoAni," has long been a fixture in the anime world and is known internationally for its richly detailed slice-of-life stories.

About 40% of its staffers were killed or injured in the attack, forcing the studio to temporarily suspend its training program and new hires. But the studio resumed activities in autumn last year while continuing production of new films.

An enrollment ceremony for the studio's training program was held in early April. "I'm overwhelmed with emotion while reflecting on the fact that I can now study animation with new people," said a lecturer for the program in a blog on April 7.

The studio reopened the program for aspiring animators in September and started accepting applications for the one-year course beginning in April.

Founded in 1981, KyoAni was established for applying the finishing touches to productions. The studio then embarked on its own works, pioneering a new genre in the late 2000s called "nichijo-kei" -- films depicting highly detailed aspects of young people's lives.

Its most influential and successful works include "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and "Eiga Keion (K-On! The Movie)."

The studio racked up 2.5 billion yen ($23 million) in sales in the year ended March 2019, according to Teikoku Databank.

The arson attack was a disastrous blow to the studio, which has been a driving force behind the growth of Japanese anime.

In an October 2019 news conference, however, Kyoto Animation President Hideaki Hatta spoke of the studio's determination to continue producing works.

Even though the attack occurred in the middle of a recruitment exam, Hatta said the screening process has resumed, as many applicants expressed a strong desire to work for the studio.

Even after the deadly attack, the studio continued production of a new anime film, "Violet Evergarden: the Movie," the release of which was scheduled for April but since postponed due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

On Kyoto Animation's official website, the film is described as "a work created by our staff with extraordinary enthusiasm."

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