In case you haven’t heard, Satoshi Kon, the great anime director, died of pancreatic cancer at age 54. He passed away on August 24.
Satoshi Kon will always be revered for creating some of the most unpredictable anime films in history, including “Perfect Blue,” “Tokyo Godfathers” and “Paprika.” He has an uncanny ability to tell stories through sudden transitions in time and place.
The first Satoshi Kon I saw was “Perfect Blue” in 1998. To tell the truth, I probably shouldn’t have seen such a bloody, explicit horror film when I was in middle school. However, “Perfect Blue” was an exquisite thriller about a Japanese pop diva who was being stalked by one of her most sadistic fans. The show took me through the haunting experience of an idol who is willing to take any means necessary to succeed in her career, even if she has to bare it all.
Of course, the anime had plenty of gratuitously violent scenes. The stalker’s brutal attack with an ice pick shocked my system with gushing blood and brutality. However, Kon’s cinematography was astounding. Even the final fight between the protagonist and the stalker had truly agonizing lighting effects and cinematography, taking me through every second of the frightened woman’s struggle for life.
The second Satoshi Kon film was “Milennium Actress.” It was an essential masterpiece that, frankly, didn’t receive the recognition it deserved from older critics. My parents didn’t understand a single bit of it when they first saw it. This piece can tend to be his most misunderstood movie, taking anime viewers through a movie actress’s entire career as she searches for her soul mate. The ironic ending was an introspective look at the true nature of romance stories. To say the least, it was a tale that forced us to reflect on all the failures of our own love lives.
By the time Kon released his third and fourth films, “Tokyo Godfathers” and “Paprika,” I was under a heavy load of college homework. I didn’t have the time to ponder endlessly over the meaning of another Kon film, although I always hungered for more of his works.
When a mysterious Satoshi Kon television series called “Paranoia Agent” aired on Cartoon Network, however, I couldn’t resist. “Paranoia Agent” was one of the only Adult Swim series where I wanted to watch every episode. Kon’s show just oozed with beautiful scenes that forced me to contemplate the true meaning of animation. The Shonen Bat was a such an elusive character that took on epic proportions in this series as a juvenile terrorist. Sure, the apocalyptic ending was a little far-fetched, but it transformed our vision of horror films and animation with unfathomably cryptic symbolism.
It’s hard for me to even imagine a world without Satoshi Kon. He will always live on in my memory as the best post-modern anime director who ever lived.
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