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Kon Satoshi

Entry updated 16 August 2021. Tagged: Artist, Film.

(1963-2010) Japanese Manga artist and Anime director whose brief career produced several landmark works questioning human Perception of reality (see also Metaphysics). Kon became an art assistant to Katsuhiro Ōtomo while still a student at Musashino Arts University, and was acclaimed for his early manga work Toriko ["Captive"] (1984 Young Magazine). He collaborated closely with Ōtomo after the latter's success with Akira (1988), working on the clutter and kipple of set backgrounds in Rōjin Z (1991), and drawing the entire manga World Apartment Horror (1991) based on Ōtomo's script. He subsequently collaborated with Mamoru Oshii on the unfinished Seraphim (1995 Newtype), but had by then largely moved into anime. Kon created layouts for the second Mobile Police Patlabor (1988-1989) movie and worked on several episodes of the surreal anime Jojo no Kimyō na Bōken ["Jojo's Bizarre Adventures"] (1993), before scripting the "Magnetic Rose" segment of the anthology anime Memories (1995).

Kon often utilized sf tropes in the telling of mundane stories, a style later also adopted by Makoto Shinkai. Conscious of the essential unreality of animation, he typically highlights unreliable narrators, dream sequences and hallucinations, often with Absurdist juxtapositions inspired by George Roy Hill's film of Slaughterhouse-Five (1972). The protagonist of his feature debut, Perfect Blue (1998), is an actress experiencing a mental breakdown, whose shaky grasp of reality elides her performances into her daily life. Meanwhile, her stalkers are subject to their own delusions, rendered as real onscreen as the physical world, casting the entire narrative into periodic doubt. A similar style informs his Sennen Joyū (2001; vt Millennium Actress, 2001 US), in which an actress's experience of Japan in the twentieth century, from her childhood before World War Two to the present day, is mixed with her own unreliable memories of the roles she has played. Kon would return to the contrasts of dreams and reality in Paprika (2006), based on the novel Paprika (1993) by Yasutaka Tsutsui.

A native of the far northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Kon embraced an outsider's perspective on contemporary Tokyo itself, and rendered it as a recurring character in his films (see Cities). His anime television series Mōsō Dairinin (2004; vt Paranoia Agent, 2005 US) begins as a detective story, but unravels into a complex discussion of the power of Urban Legends and social malaises of the modern world (see Sociology). The city is also a powerful presence in Tokyo Godfathers (2003), a secular Christmas movie loosely based on John Ford's 3 Godfathers (1948), in which three tramps seek to do right by a foundling child, here relocated to the unseen realm of Tokyo's down-and-outs (see Wainscot Societies).

Kon's death from pancreatic cancer, partway through production of his «Yume Miru Kikai» (intended for English-language release as «The Dream Machine»; this animated film is still unfinished) was a tragic loss to the anime industry, depriving it of one of its tiny handful of true auteurs. [JonC]

Satoshi Kon

born Kushiro, Japan: 12 October 1963

died Tokyo: 23 August 2010


manga works

  • Kaikisen ["Littoral"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1990) [graph: pb/Satoshi Kon]
  • World Apartment Horror (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1991) with Katsuhiro Ōtomo [graph: pb/Satoshi Kon]

works as director

  • Perfect Blue (1998; 1999 US)
  • Sennen Joyū (2001; vt Millennium Actress, 2002 US)
  • Tokyo Godfathers (2003; 2004 US)
  • Mōsō Dairinin (2004; vt Paranoia Agent, 2005 US)
  • Paprika (2006; 2006 US)
  • Yume Miru Kikai (2011, projected English-language release as «The Dream Machine» 2011 US)

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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