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Satoshi Kon, director of Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress, dead at 47
August 24, 2010 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Satoshi Kon, the director of such celebrated anime movies as Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Paprika, has died (reportedly of cancer) at the age of 47. Kon's movies dealt with the slipperiness of the boundaries between performance and reality, truth and illusion. His death leaves the status of his next movie, The Dream Machine (Yume miru kikai), in doubt. As outsourcing and a long recession have taken their toll on Japan's increasingly insular anime industry, David Cabrera notes, I cannot think of a single person alive in the Japanese animation industry who would have been a greater loss than Mr. Kon.
posted by Jeanne (99 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by rebent at 7:15 PM on August 24, 2010


"Paprika" is the reason I haven't seen "Inception" yet. I'd just spend half the movie pointing out what it stole from Kon's dreamscapes.

Sweet dreams, Mr. Kon. We'll try to keep our imaginations going, but without you, it will be harder.

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posted by oneswellfoop at 7:16 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 7:17 PM on August 24, 2010


I absolute love his work. He will be missed.

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posted by defenestration at 7:17 PM on August 24, 2010


*absolutely

He transcended Anime. He made great films, period.
posted by defenestration at 7:19 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by AdamCSnider at 7:21 PM on August 24, 2010


Selfishly, my first thought is that I will not be able to enjoy any more Satoshi Kon creations. He was a true master of storytelling and surreality.
posted by Durhey at 7:21 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


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His work left me totally confused, more often than not, but the theme song for "Paranoia Agent" is one of my favorite things ever.
posted by bibliowench at 7:24 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by sswiller at 7:24 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by Sticherbeast at 7:26 PM on August 24, 2010


I was going to say, don't forget Paranoia Agent. What a fantastic, harrowing story that was.

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posted by GameDesignerBen at 7:31 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by TwelveTwo at 7:32 PM on August 24, 2010


(T_T)
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:36 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by naju at 7:36 PM on August 24, 2010


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I loved Perfect Blue.
posted by limeonaire at 7:37 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by strixus at 7:42 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by monocot at 7:42 PM on August 24, 2010


Perfect Blue is amazing -- flat-out the most distressing, and as such challenging, film experience I've ever had. I went back years later to figure out why it had affected me so, and figured out it was the viewer's abject inability to separate reality from fantasy. It's all animation, after all...
posted by lumensimus at 7:43 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by recursion at 7:44 PM on August 24, 2010


That dude made some difficult movies. PERFECT BLUE is incredible just as lumensimus says. MILLENNIUM ACTRESS is a love note to the history of Japanese cinema. Damn. He lft us too early.

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posted by PsychoTherapist at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2010


I'm going to miss this man.
posted by tyllwin at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2010


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What a loss, certainly one of the most interesting directors working in animation
posted by smoke at 7:47 PM on August 24, 2010


A terrible, terrible loss. He was an incredible director. :(

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posted by zarq at 7:51 PM on August 24, 2010


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Damn it. I love, love, love Satoshi Kon's work. I watched Paranoia Agent for the first time when I was in high school, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities inherent in surreal and horrific animation. I was really looking forward to The Dream Machine. Does anybody know how far in production it is?
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 7:52 PM on August 24, 2010


The best of all anime for me are his. They are of the exact flavor of serious and twisted storytelling I thrive on.

This rather hurts.

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posted by hoot at 7:54 PM on August 24, 2010


He was great and he will be missed. "Perfect Blue" is a great work.
posted by chairface at 7:57 PM on August 24, 2010


Whoah. I had no idea we were about to lose him. I'm not sure there's another director's work I look forward to as much.

I hope his family knows how much he has been and will continue to be appreciated.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:57 PM on August 24, 2010


Wow.

With Kon gone... I don't think anime will ever be the same now.

In fact, with him gone, I think much of anime will only BE the same. He was a visionary.
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:59 PM on August 24, 2010


Man, I don't know what to say. Most of the anime of the last ten years or so has left me cold, but Satoshi Kon's work was a shining exception -- I think it's fair to say that he fulfilled Mamoru Oshii's legacy post-1995 better than Mamoru Oshii himself ever did, and more. What a terrible, awful loss. Guess I'll let the end of Millennium Actress speak for me:

「だってあたし、あの人を追いかける、あたしが好きなんだもの。」
("After all, it's the chasing after him I really love.")

May you chase forever, Mr. Kon.

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posted by vorfeed at 8:08 PM on August 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


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posted by juv3nal at 8:14 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by yeloson at 8:23 PM on August 24, 2010


I didn't love what I've seen of his work, Perfect Blue left me totally cold, and Paprika had a pretty weak story, though the visuals were fantastic. But even so, it wasn't hard to recognize that this was an artist at work, and he was doing stuff no one else was, and that's really really valuable, especially in a field like anime, where there's so much repetition and cloning. So this is sad news indeed.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by MrLint at 8:32 PM on August 24, 2010


Ohayō (Good Morning) is a 1 minute short he directed for NHK in 2008.

He was amazing.
posted by clearlydemon at 8:38 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh damn. I'd forgotten about Perfect Blue - co-worker lent it to me about five years back and I put it on with zero expectations ... damn near had a brain explosion at some point during that film.
posted by mannequito at 8:44 PM on August 24, 2010


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But shit, is David Cabrera famous? Sweet.
posted by grobstein at 8:48 PM on August 24, 2010


Epic bummer.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:48 PM on August 24, 2010


Ugh, I can't stand it.
posted by arcolz at 8:53 PM on August 24, 2010


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I saw Paprika the week before I saw Inception, and it was the first of his films I'd seen or heard of. It was brilliant. I was looking forward to exploring his oeuvre and here it is cut short.
posted by immlass at 8:53 PM on August 24, 2010


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A great loss.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:01 PM on August 24, 2010


He made some truly great films. I think Perfect Blue took anime as a medium to such great heights, it has yet to reach them again. And Paprika was just such a fun, mind-bending experience. Great loss indeed.
posted by fryman at 9:07 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by zabuni at 9:46 PM on August 24, 2010


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I've been thinking about him a lot recently because I thought if he and Christopher Nolan ever directed a feature together it would be brilliant.

I am sad and furious. Too soon.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 9:50 PM on August 24, 2010


Satoshi Kon is one of the great directors of anime who showed the world that animation held more potential than cartoons for the entertainment or distraction of children. A quick glance at the above-mentioned films makes it seem like he's all about the mindfuck, (not so much with Millenium Actress, but the flow of time is a bit weird in that one), especially if you add in Paranoia Agent. But then there's Tokyo Godfathers, of which Roger Ebert said some pretty great things ("an animated film both harrowing and heartwarming, about a story that will never, ever, be remade by Disney"). It's a nod to the old John Wayne western, 3 Godfathers, set in modern Tokyo, again on Christmas eve. No twists of time and space, just some damn fine storytelling and beautiful animation.

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posted by filthy light thief at 10:01 PM on August 24, 2010


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Satoshi Kon was my Miyazaki.

Much, much too soon.
posted by cerulgalactus at 10:01 PM on August 24, 2010


Oh no, this is terrible! He's one of the best!

Dammit.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:06 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by timshel at 10:33 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by clockworkjoe at 10:34 PM on August 24, 2010


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DAMMIT!

I too was reluctant to see Inception due to having seen Paprika. Tokyo Godfathers was damn fine storytelling, and Perfect Blue awesome, worthy of Hitchcock (okay, lesser Hitchcock).

So sad to see he won't be doing this up through his 50's and 60's. Bear in mind, at this point in his career (age 49) Miyazaki was in the middle of Kiki's Delivery Service, with Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away many years ahead of him. What a loss.
posted by Ndwright at 10:49 PM on August 24, 2010


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For me personally, this will take a little while to sink in.
posted by a sourceless light at 11:20 PM on August 24, 2010


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posted by shii at 11:52 PM on August 24, 2010


Although I was not an especial fan of his work, the trend in anime these last five or so years has been so disheartening that his passing seems like a metaphorical cap-stone on the moe-fication of anime. He made beautiful, dizzying films that stood out even among his peers (although were always a bit too fast-and-loose for my tastes), and is almost certainly responsible for the possibility of things like Kaiba and Bakemonogatari. He was a giant, and I for one will miss standing in his shade.

Ndwright: To be fair, Nausicaa was already behind him.
posted by cthuljew at 12:29 AM on August 25, 2010


SHIT! No...

He was was one my favourite directors, in any medium. Argh. I love animé, but there's only a handful of creators whose work I'd defend as genuinely mature, important and universal, and he was just about at the top of the pack. Even if you don't normally go for animé, I strongly recommend checking out some of his stuff, especially Tokyo Godfathers and Millenium Actress.
posted by Drexen at 1:41 AM on August 25, 2010


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Very sad. He was the heir to Hitchcock, in many ways. His work was always worth watching - it combined commentary on modern life with a clean and intelligent grasp of the mechanics of the thriller. This is a great shame.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:07 AM on August 25, 2010


This blows. He was the greatest.... better than Miyazaki in my opinion. Why is this such a surprise? Did he keep his cancer secret from everybody?

Jeeez. Crap. F*ck.
posted by ELF Radio at 2:23 AM on August 25, 2010


Not the news I wanted to see this morning. It's a terrible loss.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:00 AM on August 25, 2010


"Paprika" is the reason I haven't seen "Inception" yet. I'd just spend half the movie pointing out what it stole from Kon's dreamscapes.

It hasn't stolen anything but maybe it should have done. The dreams in Paprika are significantly more strange and dream-like than anything in Inception (which is one of the main failings people see with the latter).

Paprika is a great film, particularly given the dodgy source text it was adapted from. I must get round to watching Perfect Blue.
posted by ninebelow at 3:01 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a huge loss and a tragedy. A brilliant filmmaker.
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posted by mek at 3:05 AM on August 25, 2010


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posted by jammy at 3:24 AM on August 25, 2010


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This is sad indeed.
posted by oulipian at 3:27 AM on August 25, 2010


Genuinely saddened by this; Tokyo Godfathers is one of my favourite Xmas movies, moving without being sentimental.
Short little interview with him here.
Didn't realise he was Art Designer on 'Rojin Z'. Hmm.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 3:31 AM on August 25, 2010


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The first time I watched Perfect Blue was sometime after midnight in my dorm room in college, alone. It really heightened the experience for me, because the dreamlike parts really stood out. If you haven't watched it I recommend it highly, it's a great film and could've stood up without being anime.
posted by graymouser at 3:38 AM on August 25, 2010


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Perfect Blue is clever and well made but was just too disturbing for me to rewatch - I gave the DVD away. But Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers and Millenium Actress are wonderful.

I haven't rewatched Millenium Actress because just thinking about it makes me get something in my eye and a bit sniffly.
posted by BinaryApe at 4:15 AM on August 25, 2010


Geez. I haven't purchased or watched much anime in recent years, but for a time in my life it was one of my passions. Among those who I touted as incredible was Satoshi Kon. There really were few peers to his achievement and I eagerly looked forward to every new thing he produced. Millennium Actress was a fantastic journey into Japan's film past, but also just its own recent history. After he did this retrospective, he then offered Paranoia Agent which examined Japan's present society. One of my favorite episodes featured a story about an internet suicide "club" in which the club members continually found their suicide plans preempted by either other suicidal people or other problems and ultimately gave up on the idea when they realized one of the members from the online group was a young girl (who gave the others a reason to live). It was a story with heart, the spirit of such that was reflected in Three Godfathers that has one of those endings that just lifts your own heart.

I can't speak to the directors or creators of the last few years, but of the 80's, 90's and early 00's, Japan's anime industry has lost one of its titans.
posted by Atreides at 4:22 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tokyo Godfathers has become something of a fixture around Finnish Christmas television scheduling and I endeavour to watch it every year... The world has lost a unique voice and a rare talent.

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posted by slimepuppy at 4:33 AM on August 25, 2010


A great loss to world cinema.
posted by rdone at 4:43 AM on August 25, 2010


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A true visionary.
posted by Dr-Baa at 5:07 AM on August 25, 2010


One of my favorite episodes featured a story about an internet suicide "club" in which the club members continually found their suicide plans preempted by either other suicidal people or other problems and ultimately gave up on the idea when they realized one of the members from the online group was a young girl (who gave the others a reason to live).

You might want to watch that one again... that's not quite how it ends.
(I don't want to spoil things here so I'll just say the old man realises something at the end - take note of what he's looking at in the parking lot.)
posted by eykal at 5:16 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by lapolla at 5:16 AM on August 25, 2010


Awwwwwww, crap. (Huge PA fan. Digging my copy of PB out of storage today for watching.)
posted by Samizdata at 5:19 AM on August 25, 2010


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posted by Samizdata at 5:19 AM on August 25, 2010


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posted by SageLeVoid at 5:36 AM on August 25, 2010


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I am finding a weekend to lock myself inside, get lifted, and have a marathon in honorarium.
posted by Theta States at 6:31 AM on August 25, 2010


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posted by Aznable at 6:32 AM on August 25, 2010


dammit.

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posted by toodleydoodley at 6:59 AM on August 25, 2010


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Absolutely one of the best, his work will be missed.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 7:05 AM on August 25, 2010


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posted by ipe at 8:33 AM on August 25, 2010


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posted by jiroczech at 8:59 AM on August 25, 2010


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posted by domakesaypat at 9:03 AM on August 25, 2010


Millenium Actress is one of those movies where I just sat there as the credits rolled and tried to parse what I'd seen. It was just that brilliant and beautiful.

And Paprika was so much fun. Was not a fan of Perfect Blue though, although I recognized the genius.

Thank you so much, Mr. Kon.
posted by palabradot at 9:21 AM on August 25, 2010


Perfect Blue was so awesome and my first anime movie. RIP.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:25 AM on August 25, 2010


Well, that's no good.
posted by ServSci at 9:30 AM on August 25, 2010


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posted by troubles at 9:34 AM on August 25, 2010


One of the wonderful things about Millennium Actress is the way it makes you feel nostalgic for a time and place that you've never actually experienced. That's one of Kon's strengths: the ability to project emotion through a story without being overly melodramatic.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:10 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kon's last blog post, as a screencap and in Japanese. Title is "Sayonara". It ends simply - "Zya, osakini." ("Then, I'll be going ahead/first."). Anime News Network has translations of small portions of the post if you scroll down to the latest update.

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posted by shortfuse at 10:10 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Millennium Actress is one of the few anime movies I would recommend to people who don't watch anime - it's one of the great movies about movies like Contempt.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:14 AM on August 25, 2010


No, no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

No, I won't have this. I will not fucking have this.

Goddamnit, Kon is/was shaping up to be the best writer/director since Miyazaki.

Goddamn. So young, so talented.

Goddamn.

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posted by lekvar at 12:33 PM on August 25, 2010


mannequito: "Oh damn. I'd forgotten about Perfect Blue - co-worker lent it to me about five years back and I put it on with zero expectations ... damn near had a brain explosion at some point during that film."

That's the way to see all of his films. Having never heard of Satoshi Kon, I thought Perfect Blue was going to be something cheesy, so I watched it as a guilty pleasure and was really surprised. After that his movies went straight into the DVD drive without any preparation, not even reading the back cover text on the case. It's easier to get into stuff like that when you start with zero expectations.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:32 PM on August 25, 2010


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posted by Smart Dalek at 2:07 PM on August 25, 2010


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posted by Hactar at 4:10 PM on August 25, 2010


He seemed to not like gay folks too much, if his work is any indication, but no doubt he was an artist, whatever faults he had.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:40 PM on August 25, 2010


Loved, loved, loved his work. I am so saddened by this.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:18 PM on August 25, 2010


Dammit.
posted by subbes at 6:53 PM on August 25, 2010


I heard about this from a friend who I saw Paprika with in theaters, and I think Perfect Blue and his short from Memories at various points. So, you know

fuck.

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posted by silby at 7:08 PM on August 25, 2010


Oh hell. Another good person lost to fucking pancreatic cancer.

I saw "Millennium Actress" a few years ago and enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to watching his other movies, but sad that we'll never get to see what he could've done.

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posted by mogget at 7:29 PM on August 25, 2010


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posted by and hosted from Uranus at 8:58 AM on August 26, 2010


This is a tragedy. Thank you for all the wonderful work that you did, Satoshi Kon.
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posted by PostOfficeBuddy at 10:28 AM on August 26, 2010


This appears to be a full translation of his last blog post. Very much worth reading.
posted by domakesaypat at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


domakesaypat, that's just utterly heartbreaking. Thank you very much for posting it.
posted by zarq at 11:37 AM on August 26, 2010


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