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What Will Happen To Kyoto Animation?

by Justin Sevakis,

Safedork asked:

I have a lot of questions after the tragedy that befell Kyoto Animation. What's going to happen to the studio? Will they be able to pull through this? What about the projects they were working on? Is there anything that I can do to help?

The Kyoto Animation incident is, simply, the worst thing to ever happen in the history of animation, and one of the worst in the entire history of film and television production. It is the first or second worst massacre in Japan since World War II (only a building fire in 2001, also thought to be arson, claimed more lives, but no one was ever arrested). Its news has been an unmitigated horror, and everyone I know in both the anime industry and fandom alike has been walking around all week shell-shocked.

I don't need to explain the importance of Kyoto Animation, the studio internationally renowned as much for its incredible artistic flare as its treatment of its employees. Despite only releasing a handful of projects a year, their work was always among the most hotly anticipated. It was also noteworthy for being one of only a handful of anime studios that aren't in the Suginami ward of Tokyo. The arson attack on its main studio building, and the huge number of casualties has left us all wondering what will happen next.

We don't have a ton of answers. As of the time I'm writing this, we do know that the building itself will be torn down. It's extremely fire damaged, and company president Hideaki Hatta has already stated his intention not to subject friends, neighbors and employees to its gruesome spectacle any longer than he has to. He plans to reduce the land to park space as soon as possible, perhaps with a memorial.

As of this writing we still don't know who was killed in the tragedy, as DNA testing will be required to identify some of the victims. KyoAni has announced that they do not plan on releasing the names of victims until at least after the investigation is complete, and asked the media to respect their privacy and not to identify victims, families and other employees. This is likely a reaction to reports that director Yasuhiro Takemoto is still missing. Given that the Japanese tradition is to weather tragedies quietly with family and close friends, there's a strong possibility that we will never get a full list of names.

We don't know if and how KyoAni will continue as an institution; President Hatta is quite old, and rebuilding the company and finding new and promising talent to continue the tradition would be a daunting task that would take many years. We don't know how many of the injured will be able to recover or return to work. We don't know how many of the survivors will be too haunted to continue in that industry.

The Violet Evergarden Gaiden spin-off movie was completed, and will still premiere at Germany's ANImagic convention on August 2-4. However, projects that were still in production are almost certainly lost: the main Violet Evergarden movie, the new Free! movie, and TV series 20 Seiki Denki Mokuroku will likely need to be restarted almost entirely, or will be cancelled, as Hatta has confirmed that all art and equipment were destroyed in the inferno. (It's possible that some elements such as design work and storyboards survive in partner and assisting studios, such as the jointly owned Animation DO in Osaka, but whether any of those elements can be re-used with a new staff is unclear.) Works that were already published have master files and artwork in the hands of distribution partners and publishers around the world, and are safe, although countless elements from their production that were housed in the KyoAni building are also gone. Projects from other anime studios that Kyoto Animation may have been assisting with may also experience some delays.

For now, work is at a standstill while the company works to care for its injured employees and the families of those that were lost. A note pinned to the company Twitter account now defers all inquiries to an outside attorney. It's not clear if and when anime work will resume.

As far as what you can do to help... That's what everybody would like to know. Kyoto Animation has not really asked for money, but have opened a bank account for outside donations, since there is clearly a lot of interest. The GoFundMe fundraiser organized by Sentai Filmworks just passed the US$2 million mark as of this writing. Japanese retail chain Animate is also raising money in their local shops, and several other anime studios are rumored to be looking for ways to contribute. Money seems to be the way we try to show love to people when they're in trouble.

Many fans are buying original artwork off of the company website.

It's not clear that money is needed right this second. Businesses like KyoAni have to have insurance for tragedies, and while eventually hospital bills will need to be paid and the company will have to rebuild, for now the battle is a psychological one. Imagine the people at the KyoAni management offices, which were housed separately, or the second studio across town, having to go back to work after this. Just getting through the day would be a challenge for almost anybody.

There is one thing Mr. Hatta has asked for, and that is the continued love and well-wishes coming in from fans around the world, calling them their "emotional support." Crunchyroll is collecting messages of support (including graphics uploads), but have not yet disclosed how and when they'll be delivered. You can send them messages more directly via their corporate Twitter account, preferably in Japanese (although simple English may be better than using Google translate). Distributor Eleven Arts is also collecting paper cranes.

If you want to give money, I would try an international wire transfer with your own bank. (Please note that some smaller banks and credit unions may not be able to do this, and most banks will charge a fee.) There may be some legal issues involved in getting the giant $2 Million GoFundMe pile to Japan, as there are governmental controls over giant transfers of currency for non-commercial purposes -- at the very least, a substantial gift tax will apply. (Personally, I still donated to it, but that was before other options were available.) Purchasing art directly is still a good option, and buying and watching their shows legally is still important. That's pretty much all we can do for now. There may be other opportunities to help at some point, so it's a good idea to stay informed.

There is so much we don't know yet, and much like the days following 9/11 and similar cataclysms, we are so far out of charted waters that nobody can accurately predict what will happen next. As fans and as industry, it does not get any worse than this. It was impossible to imagine such a thing happening in our little industry until last week, and the immense loss of both life and culture has been hard to grasp. Some of us are angry, some of us are trying to be tough, all of us want answers. We're going to have to be patient.

Thank you for reading Answerman!

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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