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Fans Gather and Mourn Together at Kyoto Animation Memorial Event

posted on by Crystalyn Hodgkins
Waiting for my turn to pray at the altar, there was almost an unspoken relief in the solidarity of the process of grieving en masse in a large crowd of strangers. It was both indescribably sad and somewhat hopeful at the same time — that somehow, maybe, our collective grief and messages of support might help the victims, their families, and the company to move forward.

On November 3 and 4, Kyoto Animation held a free public event titled "The Ceremony of Farewell and Taking Over the Will" at the Miyako Messe event hall in Kyoto. The event that weekend was originally planned as the first of two back-to-back weekends of the "KyoAni and Animation DO Fan Days" event held once every two years. But understandably, the staff decided to cancel the original event for the weekend, and changed it to a free public memorial.

Miyako Messe is the site of the Kyoto International Manga and Anime Fair each year, in addition to being the site of past "KyoAni and Animation DO Fan Days" events. The leaves on the maple trees outside the entrance were just starting to turn.

Going into the building, staff performed a thorough bag search then gave attendees a post card and a pamphlet, both of which were in Japanese and English. Attendees were then guided to a large hall and directed to line up in rows to wait their turn to pray at the altar at the front of the hall. Coming into the hall, attendees could see the thousands of paper cranes hanging in curtains from the ceiling.

The back of the hall featured a selection of messages of support Kyoto Animation has received from all around the world. Unfortunately, attendees could not come within about 15 feet of those messages as they were blocked by stanchions. And no pictures were allowed inside the building.

However, on November 2, some media outlets and 500 people who are members of the manga, anime, and video game industry were invited to attend the memorial at Miyako Messe at a private event. Below are videos from TV Tokyo and Mainichi Shimbun from that private event that show what the altar looked like as well as some of the samples of messages of support.

Other news outlets such as NHK, Kyoto Shimbun, and Asahi Shimbun also posted pictures and video from the private event.

Kyoto Animation also posted images of the flower altar and of the support messages on Twitter and on the event's website.

Kyoto Animation asked attendees to dress normally and not wear flashy clothing or cosplay. The attendees I saw varied in age from young children accompanied by their parents, to men and women in their 50s and 60s. Everyone was dressed in muted colors, and many attendees wore full black suits or black dresses.

In the line waiting to enter the main memorial hall, and in the hall itself, select music from various Kyoto Animation works played in the background. Everyone was silent and respectful and waited their turn to pray at the altar. It is no stretch to say that there was not a dry eye in the room itself; everyone was sniffling, audibly crying, or wiping their eyes and noses with hand towels and tissues.

When attendees got to the front of the line, staff would call them up in groups to stand in front of the flower-decorated altar and pray. Afterward, attendees were ushered out of the hall and there was an area to sit down or use the restroom and compose yourself or wait for others in your party, before exiting the building.

Unfortunately, dozens of reporters with cameras and microphones were waiting outside the exit to pounce on the people leaving the hall — many still in tears. But thankfully, no media were allowed inside the building, and it was relatively easy to escape the media outside the building, as Miyako Messe is very close to the famous Heian Jingu temple, and there's an open area across the street.

On November 3, there was a separate gyoza street festival in that open area, and while at first it may seem in complete contrast to the somber experience of the memorial, the sense was more that it was a nice place to go after such a sad experience to eat with friends and enjoy life in a lively atmosphere. I saw many people who were at the memorial make their way toward the street festival after exiting the building.

Mainichi Shimbun reported on Tuesday that 11,000 people attended the memorial across the two days. Waiting for my turn to pray at the altar, there was almost an unspoken relief in the solidarity of the process of grieving en masse in a large crowd of strangers. It was both indescribably sad and somewhat hopeful at the same time — that somehow, maybe, our collective grief and messages of support might help the victims, their families, and the company to move forward.

As mentioned earlier, attendees received a postcard and a pamphlet featuring English messages from both the company and Kyoto Animation CEO Hideaki Hatta.

(Click to see full-size image)

The message from the company reads:

The kind messages and support from all over the world since that day have reached all of our staff, and have been a big help for us to move forward once again.

We lost many of our friends and colleagues with bright futures and were left with many deeply injured.
Our grief will not go away, but the love and passion for our works, and the sure breath that existed there, are firmly engraved in us and shall continue to live.

The feelings received from all of you,
The feelings entrusted by our friends and colleagues,
The feelings to our future.

—We will connect those feelings and combine these emotions, and we will move forward.

We will continue to create animation for all over the world that help people have dreams, hopes, and impress them.

Please watch over us as we make our advancement.


(Click to see full-size image)

The message from Hatta reads:

Over three months have past since the murder-arson case in our 1st studio on July 18th, 2019. We have not forgotten this case not even for a day. We just think of "the everyday life" that disappeared in a moment.

During this time, we have received support fund, warm messages, and floral tribute from all over the world, and were very much encouraged. We found that our works that we create with our friends and colleagues reached the world so much.

Also, we are grateful that we have received such an amount of support fund from so many people. We have been thinking that it would be impossible for the company to rebuild itself without our victims and their families. Therefore your support has been a huge relief for us.

The disaster of this case is immeasurably terrible, and when we think about the possibility of loss, and we cannot find words.

We promise that Kyoto Animation will continue to create animation that would help people have dreams, hopes, and impress them. Kyoto Animation will continue to make its employees and staff lead happy lives, and contribute to society and local community. I assure you that Kyoto Animation will not give up, or will go quietly into the night... we will not vanish without a fight. It may be a long fight, but we hope you will keep watching over us warmly.


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