Satoshi Kon

When my most favorite science fiction writer, Kage Baker, died earlier this year from cancer it felt like someone took a sledgehammer to my heart; I never had the chance to meet her or talk to her and only knew about her from her books and reading what other people who knew her said of her but I felt like a close family member had died. Being a blogger, I wanted to write a piece about my love of her books and the sorrow I felt and so I tried for several weeks to write something I felt worthy. I failed every time and as time slipped by I started thinking that it would be better not bringing the passing of Kage Baker back up so I let it slide. Which I regret doing, in hindsight.

I mention this because I found myself doing the same thing since the passing of my most favorite director (not just anime), Satoshi Kon, and I didn’t want to lose this opportunity to say how much I’ll miss Satoshi Kon. Even if what I write feels inadequate to me.

If one was to look at what I’ve written on The Null Set, the fact that Satoshi Kon is my favorite director and anime director almost assuredly comes as a surprise since I’ve mention him so infrequently (7 times out of 369 posts). I’ve mentioned how Paranoia Agent was my #8 top anime of all-time and how it was one of my top 10 most influential anime but that just barely scratches the surface and I’ve never mentioned the movies of his that I’ve loved to death – Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress. (And at this point I feel embarrassed to admit that I’ve yet to see Perfect Blue.)

Admittedly, if he had done more series, I’d’ve had more opportunities to talk about him. Though, I was planning on mentioning Satoshi Kon and Madhouse in a post I was going to write after reading an article on Anime News Network about how close Studio Ghibli was (and probably still is) to closing down it’s animation studio. Since it’s related I want to mention my thoughts, in brief, here.

I wasn’t surprised by this piece of news since the last time Studio Ghibli put out a movie truly worthy of their name was Spirited Away and have been living off of it’s name recognition ever since (see my Ponyo review). And their problem ( the future viability of Studio Ghibli) is further complicated by having no younger directors ready and capable to take the reins over for the aging staff. The best way to solve this problem, I feel, is look to how Madhouse runs it’s animation studio. Madhouse does a mixture of series and movies and varies both from being highly artistic – your Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Hosoda movies and Masaaki Yuasa series – to the fluffy entertaining anime like Maid Guy and High School of the Dead. This allows Madhouse the flexibility to try new things and give their younger, inexperienced employees the opportunity to learn what it takes to be a successful director before they’re given a big budget film to direct. So, is it any surprise that Madhouse was behind most of the great anime movies of this decade?

I hasten to add for those that haven’t yet seen a Satoshi Kon movie/series, calling him highly artistic does not imply he lacked the ability to entertain as well or that his films for the snobby “intellectual”. The key was his ability to layer many various themes and ideas into the shows he did. Take Millennium Actress, for example, it’s a love story and it’s a history of 20th century Japan and it’s a homage to Japanese film making and it’s a visual feast meant to bend your mind by blurring the lines of reality and it’s a character study and there’s probably some shrewd social commentary I can’t remember in there as well since his other works do and it’s thoroughly entertaining and  I’m sure there’s more that an English major or Film major could pull out as well. And I can’t forget the chase scene, there always seems to be at least one chase scene in his works.

Nor could I forget to mention that Tokyo Godfathers has become my favorite Christmas movie. It does all the stuff you’d expect to see in a Satoshi Kon movie and it still finds the room to showcase one of the best examples of what the “Christmas spirit” really means.

There is/was also a vivid liveliness to Satoshi Kon’s work that made the worlds he created feel real and I think I wasn’t the only one that subconsciously imparted this vivid liveliness to Satoshi Kon himself which made his passing even harder to accept. It wasn’t just the fact he was still young but that he was always going to be there, with something new and amazing, ready to enchant us. It took reading several different accounts of his passing and remembering that April First was too far away (sometimes I’m shocked what some people think makes a good joke for April Fools) and remembering that I had been wondering why there had been such a lull in news about his new film before my mind would start accepting that maybe Satoshi Kon was really gone. And I cried; I read what other people said of him and watched the clips of his works that people included and I cried. I watched Paprika and I cried. I waited a few days to watch Millennium Actress and I cried. I’m holding off on Paranoia Agent for now, I don’t want to have to  say in the future that I cried while watching it.

I wish I had the chance to meet him.

I wish I had the chance to tell him how much I loved his movies.

I wish there was something more I could do then praying for his soul and writing this.

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5 thoughts on “Satoshi Kon”

  1. 0.0

    I can’t believe he died! I’m going to go look that up now. To be honest, although I love anime I don’t really know about any directors outside of Hayao Miyazaki; I’ve never been too great with names.

    I have watched Perfect Blue, it was good, although I found it really trippy. I would never have picked that the same guy who directed that was responsible for Tokyo Godfathers. That was a really fantastic movie, and I definitely need to add it to my collection.

    Paprika and Millennium Actress are on my ‘must watch’ list, so he must really be something! I’m sure there are a LOT of people grieving with you about this.

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  2. He will be missed. He’s one of the few who’s works I tended to gravitate towards just because his name was attached. The others include many you’ve already named: Hosoda, Miyazaki, Yuasa, Takahata, Oshii, Otomo.

    I will miss him. Take some small measure of solace in the fact that there many all around the world who feel as you do.

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  3. @m1ssc0mmun1cat10n: Thanks for the comment. I’m horrible with names as well, even names of people I know, when I was checking how much I’ve mentioned Satoshi Kon before I found that a quarter of the time I misspelled his name “Satashi”.

    @vucubcaquix: Thanks for the comment. Definitely a good line-up of directors, I’d throw in Shinbou but that’s me. Takahata’s Only Yesterday might be my favorite Studio Ghibli work.

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  4. Oh right, Shinbou. Totally forgot.

    Love him or hate him, the man is unique and I will always give his shows a fair shake and a few episodes. He made one of my favorites this year (Arakawa) and also one that I ended up not caring all that much for (Vampire Bund); but he’s definitely not a complacent one in terms of style and direction.

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