Revered Japanese animation director Satoshi Kon died suddenly on August 24 at the age of 46. The cause of death has been reported as pancreatic cancer.
Born in Hokkaido in 1963, Kon got his start as a manga artist in the mid-1980s. Kon soon began to work under Akira director Katsuhiro Otomo, whom influenced him greatly. Kon worked as a designer on Otomo-scripted animated feature Roujin Z and story writer on Otomo’s live action feature World Apartment Horror, both 1991.
Kon made his directorial debut with animated psychological thriller Perfect Blue in 1997. The film was invited to the Berlin film festival, later becoming a cult favourite. Director Darren Aronofsky famously bought the US rights to replicate a sequence in Requiem For A Dream. Perfect Blue established Kon’s highly stylized, sometimes disturbing visions that blended reality, dreams and illusions.
His 2006 feature Paprika, based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel of the same name, garnered a coveted competition slot in Venice, followed by a limited North American theatrical release through Sony Pictures Classics and Mongrel Media in the US and Canada respectively.
Upon the release of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Kon fans noted similarities to certain images and story ideas in Paprika’s fantastical dream world.
Kon’s other credits include Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers and 13-part animated series Paranoia Agent. Aside from his numerous domestic accolades, Kon won awards at the Fant-Asia film festival, Fantasporto, Neuchâtel, and Sitges.
Kon was currently in production at his regular animation company Madhouse on animated feature Yume-Miru Kikai (The Dreaming Machine), his first film aimed at younger audiences. Whether the project will be or can be completed without Kon has not yet been confirmed.
Venice Film Festival director Marco Mueller paid tribute to him: “Kon-sensei left us. He was one of the ultimate creators of new images and new narrations – always imitated, never surpassed. The film industry, worldwide cinema (not only Japanese cinema, or the animated one) has suddenly become poorer. We will keep looking up to him, and to his films, in order to shape the future of visual and digital culture”.