A lot of anime nerds will say that Hayao Miyazaki is their favorite anime director. Not me. If you were to ask me, I’d say that my favorite director is Satoshi Kon.
It was with great shock and sadness that I learned yesterday, right in the middle of one of the worst migraines that I’d ever had, that he’d passed away at 46 due to pancreatic cancer.
The first of his films that I saw was Millennium Actress, and I saw it at the Kendall Theatre here in Cambridge (I’m on my lunch hour at work as I write this), and I was blown away by the story and the animation. He’d been at the Big Apple Anime Fest introducing that film, but at the time I wasn’t very interested in going (what a fool I was). I’d known about Perfect Blue, but hadn’t seen it and at that point didn’t really have a lot of interest in seeing it (what a fool I was). We’d also seen Tokyo Godfathers, which was a much more lighthearted film than Millennium Actress, and then Paranoia Agent was on TV and I always meant to watch it, never did. Paprika is probably my favorite film, running neck-and-neck with Millennium Actress. Even if you don’t give a rat’s ass about anime or animation, these are two films that I think can be enjoyed by any person with even the slightest bit of sensitivity. Even a twinge.
One of the things that struck me about his films is that they were clearly meant to be enjoyed and appreciated by someone other than teenagers or little kids. It was what I’d think of when I thought of animation that adults could enjoy without a lot of spooge or horny tentacles. They were truly beautiful films. Other people will be able to write a lot more eloquently about Mr. Kon and have probably already done so. I can’t really wax intellectual about the nature of dreams that ran through his films or the nature of mankind or any such thing, only to say that his movies made me think about my own dreams, my own feelings of love and longing, self-awareness, identity, family, et cetera et cetera et cetera, and the thought that I won’t be able to see any more of his movies really bums me the fuck out. He’s got one unfinished work in the can and I’m already picturing myself bawling my eyes out at the Kendall theatre when this is ready to be shown.
During a time where a lot of the animation coming from Japan is absolute crap, where animators are dissatisfied with the work they must do and the signal-to-noise ratio for good animation versus shitty animation seems to be at an all-time high, Satoshi Kon was making beautiful things happen on screen. The world of animation has lost one of its best minds and it saddens and angers me that he won’t be able to finish the film he was working on last, and that we’ll never get to see what else he was capable of bringing to light.
Down the street from my office, MIT is working on the final touches of its new multimillion-dollar cancer research center. I only hope that this building, which has been a big pain in the ass for me as a commuter at times, can bring about results that mean nobody else like Satoshi Kon or my friend Rhonda’s sister or indeed anyone else has to die way, way too young and way before achieving all the things that are possible for them.
Rest in peace, Satoshi Kon, and fuck you, cancer.
Edit: Maki Itoh of Just Hungry and Just Bento has translated his final words. May cause heartbroken weeping.