The brilliant anime director Satoshi Kon has died at the age of 46 from pancreatic cancer. I’m not even going to pretend that most people have heard of him, let alone seen his work, which is a shame. Kon, along with Hayao Miyazaki, are two truly great artists whose chosen media is anime. Kon directed four amazing movies Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paprika, as well as the incredibly strange and good TV series Paranoia Agent.
Unlike many anime creators, Kon’s work was rooted in the present – not a science fiction future or fantasy past. My favorite of his movies is Millennium Actress (I’m looking at my copy of the poster for it as I write this). It gives the history of 20th century Japan in the form of an actress telling her life’s story. Tokyo Godfathers is about homeless men trying to raise a baby they find. With all of Kon’s work you are never quite sure if what you are seeing is real or not. He brought magical realism to the screen far better than any other director I’ve seen. In Paprika, my least favorite of his movies, he goes over the top in trying to confuse the waking world with the dream world. Paranoia Agent is a totally unique work and well-worth watching. It’s ostensibly about a serial murderer in Tokyo, unless it’s about a woman who create a Hello Kitty-ish character for her company, or maybe it’s about police corruption? Agent is so claustrophobic, weird and, well, paranoid that it makes The Prisoner look like a Disney special.
On the good news side of things, Katoshi’s final film, The Dream Machine, was already in production at the time of his death and will hopefully be finished and released.