Satoshi Kon

Satoshi Kon (今敏, Kon Satoshi, October 12, 1963  August 24, 2010[3]) was a Japanese film director, animator, screenwriter and manga artist from Sapporo, Hokkaidō and a member of the Japanese Animation Creators Association (JAniCA).[4] He was a graduate of the Graphic Design department of the Musashino Art University. He is best known for his acclaimed anime films Perfect Blue (1997), Millennium Actress (2001), Tokyo Godfathers (2003), and Paprika (2006).

Satoshi Kon
Born(1963-10-12)October 12, 1963
DiedAugust 24, 2010(2010-08-24) (aged 46)
Other namesYoshihiro Wanibuchi
Alma materMusashino Art University
OccupationAnimator, film director, screenwriter, manga artist
Years active1984–2010
Notable work
Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, Paranoia Agent, Paprika
Spouse(s)Kyoko Kon (?–2010; his death)[2]


Early life

Satoshi Kon was born on October 12, 1963.[5] Due to his father's job transfer, Kon's education from the fourth elementary grade up to the second middle school grade was based in Sapporo. Kon was a classmate and close friend of manga artist Seihō Takizawa. While attending Hokkaido Kushiro Koryo High School, Kon aspired to become an animator.[6] His favorite works were Space Battleship Yamato (1974), Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974), Future Boy Conan (1978) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979),[7] as well as Katsuhiro Otomo's Domu: A Child's Dream.[8] Yasutaka Tsutsui served as an influence on Kon's drawings. Kon graduated from the Graphic Design course of the Musashino Art University in 1982.[6] During that time, Kon viewed numerous foreign films and enthusiastically read Yasutaka Tsutsui's books.[8][9]

Early career

While in college, Kon made his debut as a manga artist with the short manga Toriko (1984) and earned a runner-up spot in the 10th Annual Tetsuya Chiba Awards held by Young Magazine (Kodansha).[6][10][11] Afterward, he found work as Katsuhiro Otomo's assistant.[11][12] After graduating from college in 1987,[6] Kon authored the one-volume manga Kaikisen (1990) and wrote the script for Katsuhiro Otomo's live-action film World Apartment Horror.[11] In 1991, Kon worked as an animator and on background design for the animated film Roujin Z.[6][11] Kon worked as one of five layout artists on Mamoru Oshii's Patlabor 2: The Movie along with other animated films.[6] He then worked on the manga Seraphim: 266,613,336 Wings with Oshii, which was published in 1994 in Animage.[13]:17 In 1995, Kon served as the scriptwriter, layout artist and background designer of the short film Magnetic Rose, the first of three short films in Katsuhiro Otomo's omnibus Memories.[6][11] Kon's work afterward would be distinguished by the recurring theme of the blending of fantasy and reality.[14]


In 1993, Kon scripted and co-produced the fifth episode of the original video animation JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.[8] In 1997, Kon began work on his directorial debut Perfect Blue (based on Yoshikazu Takeuchi's novel of the same name).[15] A suspense story centered on a pop idol, it was the first film by Kon to be produced by Madhouse.[5] Kon was initially unsatisfied with the original screenplay written by the author and requested to make changes to it.[16][17] Aside from maintaining three elements of the novel ("idol", "horror", and "stalker"), Kon was allowed to make any changes he desired.[16] The screenplay was written by Sadayuki Murai,[8] who worked in the idea of a blurred border between the real world and imagination.[16]

Following Perfect Blue, Kon considered adapting the 1993 Yasutaka Tsutsui novel Paprika into his next film. However, these plans were stalled when the distribution company for Perfect Blue (Rex Entertainment) went bankrupt.[18] Coincidentally, Kon's next work would also feature a film studio going bankrupt.[16] In 2002, Kon's second film, Millennium Actress, was released to the public. The film centers on a retired actress who mysteriously withdraws from the public eye at the peak of her career. Having the same estimated budget as Perfect Blue (approximately 120,000,000 yen),[9] Millennium Actress garnered higher critical and financial success than its predecessor and earned numerous awards. The screenplay was written by Sadayuki Murai,[16] who utilized a seamless connection between illusion and reality to create a "Trompe-l'œil kind of film".[19] Millennium Actress was the first Satoshi Kon film to feature Susumu Hirasawa, of whom Kon was a long-time fan, as composer.[20]

In 2003, Kon's third work, Tokyo Godfathers, was announced. The film centers on a trio of homeless persons in Tokyo who discover a baby on Christmas Eve and set out to search for her parents. Tokyo Godfathers cost more to make than Kon's previous two films (with a budget of approximately 300,000,000 yen),[9] and centered on the themes of homelessness and abandonment, with a comedic touch worked in.[11][16] The screenplay was written by Keiko Nobumoto.[21]

In 2004, Kon released the 13-episode television series Paranoia Agent, in which Kon revisits the theme of the blending of imagination and reality, as well as working in additional social themes.[22] The series was created from an abundance of unused ideas for stories and arrangements that Kon felt were good but did not fit into any of his projects.[23]

In 2006, Paprika was announced, after having been planned out and materializing for several years. The story centers on a new form of psychotherapy that utilizes dream analysis to treat mental patients. The film was highly successful and earned a number of film awards. Kon summed up the film with "Kihonteki na story igai wa subete kaeta" (基本的なストーリー以外は全て変えた)[24]—roughly, "Everything but the fundamental story was changed." Much like Kon's previous works, the film focuses on the synergy of dreams and reality.[9]

After Paprika, Kon teamed up with Mamoru Oshii and Makoto Shinkai to create the 2007 NHK television production Ani*Kuri15, for which Kon created the short Ohayō.[25] That same year, Kon helped establish and served as a member of the Japan Animation Creators Association (JAniCA).[26]

Health deterioration and death

Following Ohayō, Kon began work on his next film, Dreaming Machine. In May 2010, Kon was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Given half a year to live, Kon chose to spend the remainder of his life in his home. Shortly before his death Kon composed a final message, which was uploaded to his blog by his family upon his death. As Kon explained in the message, he chose not to make news of his rapidly advancing illness public, in part out of embarrassment at how drastically emaciated and ravaged his body had become. The result was that the announcement of his death was met with widespread shock and surprise, particularly given that Kon had shown no signs of illness at relatively recent public events, as the cancer progressed to a terminal state in a matter of months after being diagnosed.[27] Kon died on August 24, 2010, at the age of 46.[28][29] After his death, Kon was mentioned among the Fond Farewells in Time's people of the year 2010. Darren Aronofsky wrote a eulogy to him, which was printed in Satoshi Kon's Animation Works (今敏アニメ全仕事), a Japanese retrospective book of his animation career.[30][31]

Dreaming Machine

As of 2013, the completion of Dreaming Machine remains uncertain due to funding difficulties, with only 600 of the 1500 shots being animated. At Otakon 2012, Madhouse founder Masao Maruyama stated: "Unfortunately, we still don't have enough money. My personal goal is to get it within five years after his passing. I'm still working hard towards that goal."[32] In July 2015, Madhouse reported that Dreaming Machine remains in production but they are looking for a director to match Kon's abilities and similar vision.[33]

In August 2016, Mappa Producer Masao Maruyama Said in an interview: "For 4~5 years, I kept searching for a suitable director to complete Kon's work. Before his death, the storyboard and script, even part of the keyframe film was already completed. Then I thought, even if someone can mimic Kon's work, it would still be clear that it's only an imitation. For example, if Mamoru Hosoda took the director's position, the completed Dreaming Machine would still be a good piece of work. However, that would make it Hosoda's movie, not Kon's. Dreaming Machine should be Kon's movie, him and only him, not someone else's. That means we cannot and should not "compromise" only to finish it. I spent years to finally reach this hard conclusion. Instead, we should take only Kon's "original concept", and let somebody turn it into a feature film. By doing so, the completed piece could 100% be that person's work, and I'm OK with that. I also considered about doing a documentary of Kon."[34]


When asked about his interest in female characters, Kon stated that female characters were easier to write because he is not able to know the character in the same way as a male character, and "can project my obsession onto the characters and expand the aspects I want to describe."[35] With a frame of reference up to Tokyo Godfathers, Susan J. Napier notes that while the theme of performance is the one obvious commonality in his works, she finds that the concept of the male gaze is the more important topic for discussion. Napier shows the evolution of Kon's use of the gaze from its restrictive and negative aspects in Magnetic Rose and Perfect Blue, to a collaborative gaze in Millennium Actress before arriving at a new type of gaze in Tokyo Godfathers which revels in uncertainty and illusion.[35]

Dean DeBlois said, "Satoshi Kon used the hand-drawn medium to explore social stigmas and the human psyche, casting a light on our complexities in ways that might have failed in live action. Much of it was gritty, intense, and at times, even nightmarish. Kon didn't shy away from mature subject matter or live-action sensibilities in his work, and his films will always occupy a fascinating middle ground between 'cartoons' and the world as we know it."[36]


Satoshi Kon's most prominent influences were the works of Philip K. Dick and Yasutaka Tsutsui.[9][15] Kon viewed various manga and anime up until high school.[8] He was particularly fond of Space Battleship Yamato, Future Boy Conan, Galaxy Express 999 (1978), Mobile Suit Gundam and Domu: A Child's Dream.[7][37] Western films also served as an influence, most notably George Roy Hill's Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), The City of Lost Children (1995) and the works of Terry Gilliam, particularly Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989).[5][8][15] In addition to Gilliam, he also blogged about watching Monty Python.[38] He was fond of the works of Akira Kurosawa, and worked in a reference to him in Paprika.[18] However, he claimed to be largely unfamiliar with Japanese film in general.[19][39]


Satoshi Kon had an impact on a number of influential directors. American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky acknowledged the similarities to Perfect Blue in his 2010 film Black Swan, but denied that Black Swan was directly inspired by Perfect Blue.[40][41] Several critics and scholars have noted many striking similarities between Kon's Paprika (2006) and Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010), including plot similarities, similar scenes, and similar characters, arguing that Inception was influenced by Paprika.[42][43][44][45][46][47]


Year Title Director Writer Animator Notes
1991 World Apartment Horror Yes Feature film. Story by Kon, later adapted to his own manga of the same name.[48]
1991 Roujin Z Yes Feature film. Background designer and key animator.[13]:16
1992 Hashire Melos! Yes Feature film. Layouts and key animator.[48]
1993 Patlabor 2 Feature film. Layouts.[48]
1993 JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Yes Yes Yes OVA. Co-written with Hiroyuki Kitakubo. Storyboard and direction for episode 12. Animation for episode 9.
1995 Memories Yes Anthology film. Writer, background designer, and layouts of Magnetic Rose.[48]
1997 Perfect Blue Yes Yes Feature film. Director, script adapter.[13]:122
1998 Detatoko Princess Yes OVA. Key animator for episode 2.
1999 Master Keaton Yes TV series. Key animator for episode 15.
2001 Millennium Actress Yes Yes Feature film. Director, original story writer, and character designer.[13]:122
2003 Tokyo Godfathers Yes Yes Feature film. Director and original story writer.[13]:123
2004 Paranoia Agent Yes Yes TV series. Director, original idea and storyboards for the opening and episodes 1, 9 and 13.[13]:123
2006 Paprika Yes Yes Feature film. Director and screenwriter.[13]:124
2008 Good Morning Yes Yes Short film. Part of Ani*Kuri15[48]



Year Title Notes
1984Toriko ()Manga debut and a doujinshi work. It won the 2nd place Tetsuya Chiba Award for "Superior Newcomer".[13]:14 Published in English in the collection Dream Fossil. It is not related to the Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro manga Toriko.[49]
1990Tropic of the Sea (海帰線)Published in Young Magazine by Kodansha.[13]:15 Published in English in 2013 by Vertical Comics.
1990AkiraUncredited assistant artist.[13]:15
1991World Apartment Horror (ワールド・アパートメントホラー)Adapted from the film of the same name directed by Katsuhiro Otomo from a Keiko Nobumoto screenplay. After the main feature the volume collects three much shorter manga original to Kon: Visitors, Waira and Joyful Bell, which last prefigures Tokyo Godfathers.
1994Seraphim: 266613336 Wings (セラフィム 2億6661万3336の翼)An unfinished collaboration with Mamoru Oshii that first ran in the May 1994 issue to the November 1995 issue of Animage.[13]:17[50] Partially reprinted posthumously in a memorial supplement of Monthly Comic Ryū in 2010 and published in comic book form by Tokuma Shoten in December that same year. Published in English in 2015 by Dark Horse Comics.[51][52][53]
1995–1996OpusAn incomplete manga that was released bi-monthly in Comic Guys from 1995–1996.[54] It was collected and re-released in December 2010.[55] Published in English in 2014 by Dark Horse Comics.[56]

Other literary works

Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
2002Kon's Tone: The Road to "Millennium Actress" (コンズ・トーン: 「千年女優」への道)Shobunsha Publications978-4794965462Biography-type work documenting his journey to his second film.[57] Reissued in 2013.
2002Chiyoko: Millennial Actress (千年女優画報―『千年女優』ビジュアルブック)Kawade Shobo Shinsha978-4309905112Artbook containing interviews with the cast and director as well as character design art by Madhouse animation.[58]
2003Tokyo Godfathers: Angel Book (東京ゴッドファーザーズ・エンジェルブック)Takarajimasha978-4796636803Artbook containing interviews with the cast and director as well as character and background art.[59]
2011The Anime Works of Satoshi Kon (今 敏アニメ全仕事)G.B. Co. Ltd.978-4901841948Retrospective book containing interviews, character design sheets, and more.[60]
2012Kon's Tone IISold exclusively through Kon's Tone online store. Collection of essays and sketches including his farewell message.[61][62]
2015Perfect Blue Storyboard Collection (今敏 絵コンテ集 PERFECT BLUE)Fukkan978-4835451411Complete storyboards for Perfect Blue, smaller print originally bundled with Limited Edition of the 2008 release of Perfect Blue on home video.[63]
2015Dream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi KonVertical Comics978-1941220245Originally published in Japan in 2011. A collection of his short manga stories published between 1984 and 1989. Includes Toriko, Waira, and Joyful Bell.
2015The Art of Satoshi KonDark Horse Comics978-1616557416Released in Japan as Kon's Work 1982-2010 in 2014. Artbook spanning entire career, contains character design for unreleased film Dreaming Machine .[64]


  1. Scott, A. O. (August 26, 2010). "Satoshi Kon, Anime Filmmaker, Dies at 46". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
  2. Osmond, Andrew (August 26, 2010). "Satoshi Kon obituary". Guardian Media Group. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  3. 《今 敏 永眠のお知らせ》 (in Japanese). Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  4. "Japan's Animator Labor Group Legally Incorporates - Anime News Network". Anime News Network. June 6, 2008. Retrieved May 29, 2009.
  5. マッドハウス・公式プロフィール (in Japanese). Madhouse. Archived from the original on June 16, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  6. "Konstone 公式プロフィール" (in Japanese). Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  7. Giron, Aimee (December 7, 2005). "HT Talks To . . . FilmMaker Satoshi Kon". Sound & Vision. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  8. "Interview with Satoshi Kon, Director of Perfect Blue". Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  9. "Interview de Satoshi Kon sur le site Catsuka" (in French). December 10, 2006. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  10. ちばてつや公式サイト (in Japanese). Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  11. Sevakis, Justin (August 21, 2008). "Interview: Satoshi Kon". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on April 8, 2016. Retrieved October 24, 2008.
  12. フランスから「パーフェクトブルー」に関するインタビュー (in Japanese). March 1998. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
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  14. DVD Memories Interview
  15. Aguiar, Bill (April 25, 2007). "Interview with Satoshi Kon". Archived from the original on April 14, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  16. Mes, Tom (February 11, 2002). "INTERVIEW Satoshi Kon". Midnight Eye. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  17. "Interview 07 2004年6月 アメリカから、監督作品全般に関するインタビュー" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
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  19. "Director Satoshi Kon Interview DVJ2.0". Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  20. "Interview 23 2007年6月 アメリカから「パプリカ」について". Archived from the original on March 11, 2012.
  21. "東京ゴッドファーザーズ:オフィシャルサイト". Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  22. "Interview with Satoshi Kon". Gamestar. Archived from the original on August 13, 2010. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  23. "妄想の産物 妄想の二「総監督の謎」". Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  24. "Satoshi Kon-ITW-Interview". Archived from the original on August 28, 2010. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  25. "NHK Launches Ani-Kuri 15". Anime News Network. May 1, 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  26. "Japan's Animator Labor Group Legally Incorporates". Anime News Network. June 6, 2008. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  27. "Anime News Network". Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  28. "公式ブログ「KON'S TONE」". Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  29. Itoh, Makiko (August 26, 2010). "Satoshi Kon's last words". Makiko Itoh: Not a Nameless Cat. Retrieved November 11, 2010. As far as I know there's no translation of the whole document into English out there, so here it is.
  30. Corliss, Richard (December 15, 2010). "Person Of The Year 2010". Time (published September 13, 2010).
  31. "Satoshi Kon Book Adds Message by Black Swan's Aronofsky (Updated)". Anime News Network.
  32. Sevakis, Justin (July 28, 2012). "Masao Maruyama/MAPPA Q&A". Anime News Network. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  33. Green, Scott. "Madhouse Founder Comments on Satoshi Kon's "Dreaming Machine"". Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  35. Brown, Steven (September 2008). Cinema Anime - "Excuse Me, Who Are You?": Performance, the Gaze, and the Female in the Works of Kon Satoshi by Susan Napier. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 23–43. ISBN 978-0-230-60621-0.
  36. Solomon, Charles (August 26, 2010). "Satoshi Kon dies at 46; Japanese anime director". Los Angeles Times.
  37. "Interview 05 1998年2月 アメリカから「パーフェクトブルー」に関するインタビュー". Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  38. "NOTEBOOK »NOTEBOOK» ブログアーカイブ » 先月の傾向 - KON'S TONE". Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  39. "Interview 03 2002年12月 カナダから、主に「千年女優」に関するインタビュー". Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  40. "The cult Japanese filmmaker that inspired Darren Aronofsky". Dazed. August 27, 2015.
  41. "KON'S TONE » VSダーレン". January 23, 2001. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  42. Drazen, Patrick (2014). Anime Explosion!: The What? Why? and Wow! of Japanese Animation, Revised and Updated Edition. Stone Bridge Press. p. 339. ISBN 9781611725506 via Google Books.
  43. Wardlow, Ciara (March 2, 2017). "The Synergy of 'Inception' and 'Paprika'". Film School Rejects.
  44. Rizzo-Smith, Julian (August 24, 2018). "An Ode to Anime Auteur Satoshi Kon". IGN.
  45. Horner, Joshua (January 26, 2014). "20 Suspiciously Similar Movie Scenes You Never Noticed". WhatCulture. p. 4.
  46. Boone, Steven (July 16, 2010). "'Inception': As eye-catching, and as profound, as an Usher concert". Politico. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  47. Emerson, Jim (July 17, 2010). "Inception: Has Christopher Nolan forgotten how to dream?". Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  48. "A Tribute to Satoshi Kon". Catsuka. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
  49. "Satoshi Kon's Short Manga Stories to be Published (Updated)". Anime News Network. December 22, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  50. "Kon's Tone Unreleased Comic" (in Japanese). Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  51. "Kon's Tone 月刊COMICリュウ 12月号" [Kon's Tone December issue Monthly Comic Ryū] (in Japanese). October 19, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  52. "Satoshi Kon's Seraphim, Opus Manga Reprinted". Anime News Network. December 8, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  53. Oshii, Mamoru; Kon, Satoshi (December 4, 2014). セラフィム 2億6661万3336の翼 [Seraphim: 266,613,336 Wings] (in Japanese). Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten. pp. 6, 231. ISBN 978-4-19-950220-0. Archived from the original on March 7, 2014. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  54. "Opus – Satoshi Kon Manga Book Review". Halcyon Realms. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
  55. "【コミック】OPUS(オーパス) (上) (Opus)". Anime Onlineshop. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
  56. "Satoshi Kon's OPUS TPB :: Profile". Dark Horse Comics. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  57. "In remembrance of Satoshi Kon". August 24, 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  58. "The Art of Satoshi Kon's Millennium Actress". Halcyon Realms. May 29, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  59. "The Art of Tokyo Godfathers - Satoshi Kon". Halcyon Realms. July 8, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  60. "The Anime Works of Satoshi Kon Book Review". Halcyon Realms. January 9, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  61. "CATSUKA - KON'S TONE II Satoshi Kon notebook. Collection of..." Tumblr. August 17, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  62. "'Kon's Tone II', segundo volumen de materiales de Satoshi Kon". Crunchyroll (in Spanish). August 17, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  63. "Perfect Blue Storyboard Collection Art Book Review". Halcyon Realms. April 1, 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  64. "Kon's Work 1982-2010 - Kon Satoshi Art Book Review". Halcyon Realms. January 7, 2014. Retrieved July 8, 2016.

Further reading

  • Andrew Osmond. Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist, Stone Bridge Press, 2009, ISBN 1-93333-074-0
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