Fans flocked Friday to the opening of the first film released by Kyoto Animation Co. since a deadly July arson attack on one of its studios claimed the lives of 35 staff members.
A theater in Kyoto was packed with the audience for "Violet Evergarden Gaiden: Eien to Jido Shuki Ningyo" (Violet Evergarden Story: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll) from the first show beginning at 9 a.m.
Some of the audience were seen sobbing when the film's end credits displayed the names of those killed and injured in the fire.
"I can't find the right words to describe my feelings as I think of the victims who were hard workers but no longer can make (the anime) they loved," said Naoko Kurachi, a 32-year-old Kyoto resident, after the film.
The company decided to list in the end credits the names of all staff members who worked on the latest movie as a testament to their efforts, despite Kyoto Animation films usually only including the names of staff with more than a year's experience.
"It's difficult to be truly happy because of the incident, but I'm glad that the film was released," a 46-year-old woman said at a theater in Osaka.
The movie will be screened nationwide until Sept. 26.
The July 18 attack killed 35 people working at the company's studio in Kyoto's Fushimi Ward, with many others injured.
The movie, which was completed one day before the attack, is a spinoff from the popular television series "Violet Evergarden," aired last year, and is based on a novel of the same title that won an award in a writing contest held by the company in 2014.
The story revolves around a girl named Violet Evergarden, a former soldier and an "auto memory doll" or ghostwriter who learns how to love and acquires emotions by writing letters for others.
The release of the series' next movie, originally scheduled for January, has been postponed, according to Kyoto Animation.
Meanwhile, the Kyoto prefectural government said Friday it will establish bank accounts dedicated to accepting donations for the company from next Monday to Oct. 31.
Over 2 billion yen ($18.7 million) has already been donated to an account created by Kyoto Animation. The money will be transferred to the prefectural government's accounts, officials of the local government said.
The fire at the Kyoto studio, the center of the company's anime production, was allegedly started by Shinji Aoba when he splashed and then ignited gasoline inside the three-story building.