Satoshi Kon: Remembering the legend who created new paths in anime surrealism, breaking barriers in every work

With the recent release of 'Tokyo Godfathers' on VOD, it's worth taking a look back on his career as a film-maker, manga artist, and animator


                            Satoshi Kon: Remembering the legend who created new paths in anime surrealism, breaking barriers in every work
(Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Satoshi Kon was a legendary film-maker who pushed the boundaries of a genre that already defies convention: Anime. He has been behind some of the most iconic contributions to anime films, mixing surrealism with psychological horror. With the recent release of his film 'Tokyo Godfathers' on VOD, it's worth taking a look back on his accomplishments, and his career as a film-maker, manga artist, and animator.

Born on October 12, 1963, Kon had aspirations of being an animator from a very early age. Inspired by the works of science fiction author Yasutaka Tsutsui, Satoshi Kon pursued his interests in animation and storytelling, graduating from the Musashino Art University in 1982. His early work consisted of writing manga, and screenplays. He got his start into the world of animation working on the film 'Roujin Z'. One of his more notable projects saw him serve as the scriptwriter, layout artist and art director of the short film 'Magnetic Rose'. Right from the start, Satoshi Kon earned a reputation for themes of blurred lines between fantasy and reality. 

He got his first taste of full direction on an episode of 'Jojo's Bizarre Adventures,' and made his full directorial debut with 'Perfect Blue.' The film was a psychological horror centered around a popstar slowly losing her grip on reality, a story adapted from the novel of the same name. The book was written by none other than Kon's idol, Yasutaka Tsutsui himself, who generously allowed Kon to make liberal changes to the novel in its adaptation as long as the themes of idols, horror, and stalking remained. The screenplay was written by Sadayuki Murai, and the film marked a strong start to Kon's directing career. He went on to direct 'Millenium Actress' and 'Tokyo Godfathers' and a television series called 'Paranoia Agent'. 

Arguably his most famous work, 'Paprika,' was released in 2006. The movie features a woman who can move effortlessly between the real world and the world of dreams, in a future where dream therapy is used as a form of psychotherapy. The film has a devoted fan following and won a number of awards, including the Public's Choice Award at the Montréal Festival of New Cinema, and Feature Film Award for Best Animation at the Newport Beach Film Festival. 

Satoshi Kon passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer on August 24, 2010, at the age of 46. His final work, 'Dreaming Machine', remains unfinished, out of respect to the director. He leaves behind a legacy of some of the most groundbreaking works in anime storytelling, and though his career was tragically cut short, it will not soon be forgotten.

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