As with any branch of the entertainment industry, video game publishers sometimes find themselves on the receiving end of needlessly harsh online anger. However, threats of violence are getting increased scrutiny in Japan following the arson attack on Kyoto Animation that left 35 dead, and a recent incident was even more alarming since it involved a game publisher that’s worked very closely with Kyoto Animation in the past.
Osaka-based Visual Arts’ generic sounding name may be easy to forget, but the company serves as publisher for in-house development studio Key, which has a spot in the highest tier among makers of games in the visual novel genre. Key may not be a prolific producer of content, having released only about a dozen games in its 20 years, but its high quality standards and enthusiastically loyal fanbase have earned anime adaptations for several of its games, with some of its best-loved having been handled by Kyoto Animation (specifically Air in 2005, Kanon in 2006, and Clannad, often cited as Key’s masterpiece, in 2007). As further proof of the depth of their relationship, Key donated 10 million yen (US$92,600) to the Kyoto Animation recovery fund which was set up in the aftermath of the arson attack.
On August 4 and 5, multiple threatening tweets directed at Visual Arts were sent from the same Twitter account. Among the messages were “I’m getting my gasoline ready,” seen as a reference to the Kyoto Animation arsonist, who filled and used gas canisters in his attack, and “Even I’m feeling tense, since I don’t know when I’ll attack Visual Arts.”
“[The things he wrote] bore a strong resemblance to the arson attack on Kyoto Animation, so I informed the police,” explained Visual Arts managing director Manabu Okamoto. A formal complaint was filed on August 6, and investigators from the Osaka Prefectural Police’s Oyodo Precinct were able to determine that the tweets came from the personal account of a 25-year-old man living in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture. He was arrested on August 30, and has admitted to sending the threatening tweets.