Asia-Pacific

Suspected Japan arsonist a recluse

Japanese police are set to arrest the reclusive man suspected of killing 34 people in an arson attack on Kyoto Animation studio.

The man suspected of killing 34 people in an arson attack in Japan lived alone, hundreds of kilometres from the torched Kyoto Animation studio, where he played video games non-stop and had "terrified" his neighbour just days earlier.

Police late on Saturday issued an arrest warrant for 41-year-old Shinji Aoba, suspected of causing Japan's worst mass killing in two decades on Thursday when he went to the studio in western Japan, poured fuel around the entrance and shouted "Die" as he set the building ablaze, according to public broadcaster NHK.

They plan to arrest Aoba, who suffered serious burns and on Saturday was airlifted to a university hospital for treatment, once he recovers, NHK said.

Police said Aoba had previously been convicted of robbing a shop.

Aoba lived alone on the ground floor of a two-floor apartment building on the outskirts of Omiya, a commuter suburb of Tokyo and some 500km east of Kyoto. His next-door neighbour recalled Aoba as pudgy and unkempt, with blemished skin. He kept odd hours and barely spoke to anyone.

"I've never seen him go out during the day, not even to the convenience store. I would regularly hear him go out around midnight," the neighbour, a 27-year-old man who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

Music from video games blared from Aoba's apartment at all hours, the neighbour said, adding that there had been complaints from residents about the noise in the last year.

On July 14 Aoba grabbed and threatened the neighbour over an apparent misunderstanding. It started when Aoba began pounding on the wall to complain about noise, the neighbour said.

When the neighbour went to Aoba's front door to tell him the noise was coming from another unit, he heard a loud wail inside the apartment and then the door opened.

"When he came out of his apartment, his eyes were bloodshot, and he started yelling at me to my face to shut up," the neighbour said.

"He grabbed me by the collar and started pulling my hair. It was terrifying."

After the Kyoto attack, Aoba told police he had done it because the studio had plagiarised his novel, Kyodo news reported. Kyoto Animation is well known in Japan and abroad for its series and movies, including "Violet Evergarden", which has been on Netflix.

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