There are two responses when you hear the name Satoshi Kon.
In the Japanese anime world, indie/experimental dramas and movies are a very unique genre. This is mainly due to the fact are very progressive in styles, textures, colors, technology and even in plot and character development. There are many well known indie animators/directors in the community to date such as Mokoto Shinkai (Voices of A Distant Star, 5cm Per Second), Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Monoke, Ponyo) and Shinchiro Wantanabe (Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop). But we are going to talk a man named Satoshi Kon, a trailblazer in the indie anime world, who has gone onto the next life too early.
Hailing from Kushiro, in the Hokkaido Prefecture of Japan, he originally went to art school to become a painter. That all changed however when he graduated and worked on the manga titled “World Apartment Horror” with the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo (Known to the world as the guy who created Akira). He then entered the anime industry as the set designer for the series Roujin Z in 1991. A few years later, he made his screen writing debut in the anime anthology titled Memories in 1995.
But he wanted to move into directing and creating his own anime. So in 1998, he finished his first project Perfect Blue, which garnered great reviews in Japan, despite it’s dark and very intense storyline of a pop star who will do what it takes to maintain their fame at all costs. He takes a different path in 2001 with his next work Millennium Actress which tells the tale of an aging and regretful actress who is sharing her life story with a documentary crew, all the while leaving the viewer wondering the difference between the main character’s story and the movies that the character was in. He took a more comical approach with the 2003 release of Tokyo Godfathers, which won him the excellence prize at this Japan Media Arts Festival that same year. In 2007, he ha reached a high point in his career when his psychological thriller piece Paprika, not only garnered many prizes in Japan, but also received a worldwide release by Sony Pictures that same year.
However, many anime fans know Satoshi Kon’s work from an anime series that he did titled Paranoia Agent in 2004 and debuting on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming in 2005. The show received many reviews, but due to the adult content and the rather disturbing images of violence, the show was played at a very late time slot, and there were many notices about this anime was not intended for young children in anyway. This show however put Satoshi Kon and Madhouse Productions right onto the map into mainstream anime market for all those to see.
Satoshi Kon was working on a project titled Yume Miru Kikai, (translated to The Dream Machine in rough English) which was based on the lives of robots and their interactions, when he was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer that had spread to his bones in May 2010. In his final days, he prepared his final estate and ordered that this last work be finished and premiere after his death. He passed away on August 24th, 2010 at the age of 46, two months short of his 47th birthday. He is survived by his wife Kyoko and his two parents.
In his final manifesto that was posted on his official blog the day after his death by his family, he explains to all the world his reasoning for not sharing his battle with cancer. He went further on to thank all the people in his life that he has met and all of his fans for sharing in his vision. Despite his works being intricate and intertwined with deep psychological roots, in his final manifesto he shares how simple his life really was. One full of deep, yet simple and unique observations with great respect for the attributes of the human race.
Satoshi Kon was an indie/experimental anime director, writer and artist. In the 46 years of his life, he shared his never-ending imagination and observations through his works. Kon’s work, while it explored the human condition by bending the traditional laws of reality, there was always a sense of inner delicacy and respect for the complex and subconscious actions of humanity when dealing with issues of life, death, and all the sensations in-between. In doing this he put on display for all to see the beauty and ugliness that is human condition. He poured his heart, mind and soul into every project, and his talents will be greatly missed in the anime community.
To learn more about Satoshi Kon’s Works:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satoshi_Kon#Filmography —Wikipedia Page
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0464804/ — Internet Movie Database Website
To read Satoshi Kon’s Final Words:
http://konstone.s-kon.net/ — In English