Satoshi Kon Dead at 46 After Battle With Pancreatic Cancer
Satoshi Kon suddenly died yesterday from pancreatic cancer. Holy.....Wow. This is a sudden and terrible shock. Satoshi Kon was one of my favorite anime directors from the past decade. He only directed four feature films, but each one was better than the last. I especially enjoyed the way he confronted imagination and illusion, often in the form of popular culture, challenging our assertions of reality. Millenium Actress and Paprika were brilliant in this regard.
I think my favorite Satoshi Kon movie is Tokyo Godfathers, thanks to the wonderfully touching and funny characters, the unique flair given to a John Ford/John Wayne classic, and the sharp willingness to peel back the illusions of modern Tokyo, to reveal the hidden suffering of the underclass. I was lucky enough to see it on 35mm film at the University of Minnesota. It played only for one weekend, and there were only a handful of attendees at the screening (where were all those anime fans?!), but I had a wonderful time and laughed myself silly.
I'm also a great fan of Kon's drawing style. His characters have more rounded faces than standard anime fare, slightly more fleshy and weighted. They feel more solid to my eyes, more natural and less caricatured. It may be a surprise to you, but I'm really not a fan of most Japanese anime. Too much character design is given over to huge saucer eyes and scrawny, spindly bodies that always seem fragile and lifeless. I'm thinking of Ninja Scroll for some reason (ugh), but there are plenty of other examples.
Kon's skills are far more evident, and his realism reminds me greatly of Isao Takahata. I've often wondered what would happen if the two collaborated together; indeed, Takahata appears lost without his right-hand man, Yoshifumi Kondo. Wouldn't that have been fantastic? A meeting of the minds - Tokyo Godfathers meets Taeko-chan, Paprika meets Anne Shirley.
This is such a terrible loss. Who else in the anime world are we looking forward to? I think Ben Ettinger is absolutely right: the man is irreplaceable. No one else among the younger generation possesses his skills as an animator, a storyteller, a director. No one else can match his razor sharp intellect. In lesser hands, a film like Paprika would fly apart at the seams and turn into a hallucinatory mess. Satoshi Kon always felt completely in control, and had a purpose, an agenda. Here was an educated adult making movies for other educated adults, who just also happened to be an illustrator.
If Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata have any peers in Japan, it's most definitely Satoshi Kon. Now his voice and his mind are forever silenced. He has fallen into what Terence McKenna called, "the black hole of biology." This is a devestating loss for the animation and film world.