Satoshi Kon, visionary anime filmmaker, dies at 46

satoshi-kon-paprikaImage Credit: Sony Picture Classics (2)Satoshi Kon, one of the true visionaries of Japanese animation, died on Aug. 24 of pancreatic cancer at 46. Kon’s first film, 1999’s psychological thriller Perfect Blue, established what became a hallmark of his all-too-short career, and helped earn him a dedicated cult following in the U.S.: Mature, grounded storytelling spiced with a distinctive and substantial magical surrealism. His 2002 follow-up, Millennium Actress, blurred the lines between an enigmatic Japanese movie star’s real life and film career; it won Kon two Annie award nominations for directing and writing, and further established him as a filmmaker eager to use animation to tell stories aimed thoroughly at adult audiences.

Tokyo Godfathers, released stateside in 2004, edged more towards direct sentiment with its story following three homeless people — an alcoholic, a drag queen, and an 11-year-old girl — after they come upon an abandoned infant on Christmas Eve. But it was Kon’s 2006 Paprika, a dazzlingly dark fantasia bursting with visual invention, that truly solidified its maker’s reputation as a giant of anime. In fact, thanks to the film’s mind-melting imagery and dream-sharing narrative, many have noted striking similarities between Paprika and this year’s blockbuster Inception — check out a mash-up trailer of the two films, as well as Paprika‘s original trailer, after the jump.

Kon died working on a new film tentatively titled The Dream Machine, which he called in a 2008 interview “like a ‘road movie’ for robots.” Hopefully, the project was far enough along that we will be able to see the finished film, if only so audiences can experience Kon’s singular vision one last time.

What will you most remember about Satoshi Kon’s films?

Comments (21 total) Add your comment
  • meg

    i could be a young sounding women

  • sarah

    Perfect Blue is such a good movie. Creepy as all get out, but good.

  • Vicki

    Wow, I was wondering when he would be coming out with something new… I didn’t know he had pancreatic cancer. I don’t like most animes, but I loved his work, even though I didn’t fully understand them at times. But I think that’s what I liked about them. They were dark and psychological, sometimes abstract… they made me think.

  • mrgnexus

    Satashi Kon’s crowning achievement (to me, at least) is his TV series Paranoia Agent. No other anime series captivates me like it does. The opening credit sequence alone is thought-provoking nightmare fuel.
    Satashi Kon’s genius will be missed.

    • steph

      I really liked that show, or at least what I saw of it. I’m going to need to watch all of the episodes

  • Shea

    He was a master filmmaker; to lose someone so gifted so young is just a tragedy. R.I.P. Satoshi Kon.

  • Sean

    I shook his hand at the Cherry Blossom Festival. He radiated a man with heart and love. RIP, Satoshi-san. I will dream of the films you were unable to share with the world.

    • Former J

      Baaaawwww!!! You are a freakin drama queen! “I will dream of the films”. Hahahaha!!!

    • Rachel

      What year was he there?

      • Sean

        Okay, he wasn’t really there, but metaphorically I’ve shook his hand many times in my heart.

  • Woot

    Wow. I’ve only seen Paprika but it was amazing! He died far too young.

  • Rachel

    Millennium Actress is one of my top 5 favorite anime. Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika are also high on my list of favorites. I will always fondly watch and admire his work! R.I.P

    • Hoi

      Agree, I love Millennium Actress the most. Tokyo Godfathers next. I love his works that are grounded more in reality. Paprika was too obscured towards to end for me. So sad.

  • jeff

    He also had a tv series called “paranoia agent” that was pretty good. He’ll be missed.

  • paige

    not only is Perfect Blue my favorite anime- its also one of my favorite films – period. This man will be missed.

  • J

    A shock and a major loss to the anime community. Yumemiru Kikai looks promising, and I hope we get to see it.

    While promoting Inception in Japan, Nolan noted Paprika as an inspiration.

  • Vina

    What a horrible loss. I’m absolutely stunned.

  • Laura W

    I think I might need to watch some of his films to really get what you mean?!

  • Kim

    omg! This is such sad news since I absolutely love Millennium Actress. It’s such an amazing movie!

  • Veralee

    About time! Someone with some info on this. Hah, you’d hope with how popular Live Action Comic Movies are recently, some info would actually be relatively easy to locate. Surprisingly not. Anyway, thankyou for this! I appreciate it!

    • John

      I’m taking a Hist of Anime/Manga class this semester. He was my favorite anime director of all time and one of the best directors, period. ALL his works are genius. “Millennium Actress” is his best work and always leaves me in tears at the end.

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