Satoshi Kon, 46, Passes Away

Today we are saddened by the loss of one of the true greats in the anime industry, Satoshi Kon. He passed away today at 620am after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Any further details on his death are hard to come by (maybe if I understood more Japanese), but when we celebrate his life and work we come to remember how much of a under-appreciated behemoth he was in the film industry. Satoshi Kon, rest in peace. You will be missed.

I’m not sure how many of the general public would recognise a work by Satoshi Kon, not to mention have had the chance to watch one – but if you’re missing out, now’s always a good time to catch up. I cannot actually remember if I’d watched Perfect Blue or Millennium Actress first, during those years when I was watching any half interesting anime – but I remember my zest to consume his works (and in turn chase after quality Japanese movies) really began when I watched Millennium Actress way back during the Singapore International Film Festival. (Said interest in anime movies ended up with us watching A Tree of Palme the next year, which nearly killed any interest in anime just by how silly and obtuse it was. Also, I still get brickbats from Pete for making him watch it.) If I were to rank my favourite anime creators I’d rank him above Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) and even Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion).

Since then I’ve watched Paprika and Paranoia Agent, and even Magnetic Rose. Tokyo Godfathers remains elusive, but I promise I’ll rectify that soon. Each movie has left an indelible mark on me and my psyche, and that impact cannot be taken lightly. (A personal favourite would be how the transitions worked in Millennium Actress) In each, Satoshi Kon proved a master at manipulating reality and emotion, and we cannot help but get pulled along deeper and deeper – just as in a dream. Each movie or series was unmistakably illustrated in that very specific Satoshi Kon art style, and both his artistic talents and his vision has impacted visionaries today, from Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (and maybe Black Swan), and possibly even Christopher Nolan’s Inception (which Paprika arguably out-dreams it). His works deserved to be watched, loved and debated by many.

Satoshi Kon leaves behind his family and his incomplete The Dreaming Machine – hopefully enough of his vision was already on paper to bring that movie to fruition without diluting it. It is somewhat fitting that he was working on another movie on Dreams – maybe we’ll get to watch it one day.

Do you remember your first or favourite Satoshi Kon experience? With so many crazy and powerful scenes, maybe there’s one that you just can’t forget.

Thanks to Bleeding Cool, we’re informed that he had his final words on his blog which were then translated and also backed up on Anime New Network. I’m no Japanese whiz, so the Google Translate version is here, but I think ANN chose the right words to highlight, with the right translation. I will quote it here.

May 18 of this year, an unforgettable day.
My wife and I received the following prognosis from a cardiologist at the Musashino Red Cross Hospital: “The pancreatic cancer is terminal and has metastasized to the bone. You have at most a half year left.”

When I conveyed my concerns for Yume-Miru Kikai (The Dream Machine) to (MADHOUSE founder) Mr. Maruyama, he said, “It’s fine. Don’t worry, we’ll do whatever it takes.”
I cried.
I cried aloud.

With feelings of gratitude for all that is good in this world, I put down my pen.
Well, I’ll be leaving now.

Satoshi Kon


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  1. Oh man that is awfully sucky. Dude did a lot of my favorite anime from recent years, and he was really notable for not being a guy who let crappy fanservice or moe or any needless pandering get in the way of writing a good plot.

    Perfect Blue was the first of his films I ever saw, at 2 AM at a convention. So yeah, maximum brainf*** right there. I hunted down some of his other stuff over the years once I realized that it wasn’t just a completely isolated thing. Whatever his dysfunctional, screwed-up characters might imply, the guy was an absolute master at creating surreal worlds that acted under their own logic and had that eerie feeling of half-rationalized dream logic behind them.

    While I love Anno and Miyazaki, both of them have some pretty huge faults and, in a lot of ways, their creations are flawed to some degree. (Evangelion’s incompleteness, Ghibli’s semi-identical main characters, etc.) Kon stands out as someone who does what he does incredibly well and somehow manages to avoid falling into the many traps that diminish other directors’ works.

    The world is a bit less beautiful place without him.

    1. That’s true… and I think it’s increasingly rare, especially when huge money is as stake, to have someone who seems to have so much control over his own vision. I guess losing all that funding and thus being forced to do Perfect Blue animated really forced him to think outside the box and have his vision be met – and from then on he’s never looked back. And while things might be trippy or confusing – there’s always a huge part of you that knows or even hopes that life is just a little bit like that.

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