Police have arrested a man suspected of starting a fire that killed 36 people in an animation studio in Japan.

Officers in Kyoto said Shinji Aoba, 42, was being detained on murder and arson allegations, 10 months after obtaining the warrant because they had to wait for him to recover.

He is accused of storming into Kyoto Animation’s No. 1 studio on July 18 last year with flammable liquid and setting it alight.

The attack, in which Aoba was injured, shocked Japan and drew an outpouring of grief from anime fans worldwide.

Police, quoting witnesses to the attack, have alleged Aoba entered the studio’s unlocked front door, where around 70 people were working.

One of the survivors, an animator, told Japanese media he jumped from a window of the three-storey building gasping for air amid scorching heat after seeing a “a black mushroom cloud” rising from downstairs.

Shinji Aoba on a stretcher is carried to Fushimi police station after being arrested in Kyoto
Shinji Aoba on a stretcher is carried to Fushimi police station after being arrested in Kyoto (Ryosuke Ozawa/AP)

Many others tried but failed to escape to the roof, fire officials said and many died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Aoba sustained severe burns on his face, torso and limbs, and was unconscious for weeks.

He reportedly still cannot walk or feed himself without assistance.

Police investigator Toshiyuki Kawase told reporters: “We will now focus on the suspect’s interrogation and pursue our investigation in order to fully examine the crime.”

Japanese television footage showed Aoba, his face scarred and eyebrows lost apparently from the fire, strapped to a stretcher as he was carried into a police station.

Police have said Aoba told them he set the fire because he thought “(Kyoto Animation) stole novels”.

Prosecutors are expected to seek formal criminal charges against him in a few weeks.

The fire was Japan’s deadliest since 2001, when an arson attack in Tokyo’s Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people.