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Japan: Anime Director Satoshi Kon's Last Message

Anime director Satoshi Kon died of pancreatic cancer on August 24th, and the world lost a visionary creator. He was 46 years old. As jbetteridge tweeted:

It's not that anime will never be the same with Satoshi Kon gone. It's now much more likely that anime will always be the same.

Kon's wife published his last words, Sayonara (Farewell)”, on his website on the 25th. It is a lengthy post that starts with how he and his wife were told in May that Kon had six months to live, and chronicles his decision to greet his fate in his own home, a near death experience, the love and support of his wife, colleagues and friends, and his unfinished film Yume Miru Kikai (The Dream Machine).

Writer Makiko Itoh translated the entire article on her blog, saying:

Satoshi Kon, the director of anime movies Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millenium Actress and Paprika, as well as the TV series Paranoia Agent, died on Tuesday, August 24th at the age of 46. (NY Times obituary.) He left behind a rambling but extraordinary document, which his family has posthumously posted on his blog.

They're the last words of a supremely talented artist who knows he is dying very soon, with work left unfinished. It's been the talk of the Japanese internet, and it struck me deeply.

Here are some excerpts:

“Why not try to keep living according to my own principles!” However, as is the case when I'm trying to create a work [a film], ones willpower alone didn't do the job. The illness kept progressing day by day.

When I envision your faces, I only have good memories and remember (your) great smiles. Everyone, thank you for all the truly great memories. I loved the world I lived in. Just the fact that I can think that makes me happy.

With my heart full of gratitude for everything good in the world, I'll put down my pen. Now excuse me, I have to go.

Itoh tweeted that there is a German translation as well. She's also posted Further language and cultural notes regarding Satoshi Kon's last words.

Satoshi Kon's last message made the rounds in the Twittersphere as his message resonated with legions of fans. @SAKAI_Kenzi:

先日亡くなった今 敏監督、余命宣告を受けていたんですね。オフィシャルサイトKON'S TONEの、長い長い最後の投稿を読んで、自分の死に冷静に向き合う姿勢に目頭が熱くなった。「死ぬための準備」僕にはできそうにない。http://bit.ly/asvCKo

I hadn't realized that director Satoshi Kon had known that his days were numbered. I read his long, long, final message on his official site, KON's TONE. His stoic stance on facing his own death made me tear up. Preparing to die… I don't think I can do this.

@KatsumiKuga:

再度、今敏監督の最後の日記を読む。 死にゆく者の達観にも圧倒されるが、監督を取り巻く群像の描写と、それにより今敏の死というシーンが鮮やかに立ち上がってくることに改めて衝撃を受ける。最後の最後まで表現者だったのだな。遠く及ばずながら、願わくは俺もそのように生き、死にたい。

I read Satoshi Kon's last entry again. The philosophy of a dying man is impressive enough, but it's the vivid way in which “Satoshi Kon's death” as a scene is protrayed that makes such an impact on me. He really was a creator until the very end. I can only hope to live and die like he did.

@dienojibigboss, referring to one of @konsatoshi's tweets:

故今敏監督は亡くなる一週間前にツイッターで「でも、やるんだよ」とつぶやいていた。涙がとまらんよ。俺も絶対頑張ろう。どんなツラいことがあっても 「でも、やるんだよ」

One week before the late Satoshi Kon passed away, he tweeted “even then, do it”. I can't stop crying. I swear, I shall also do my best. No matter how hard things get…. “even then, do it”.

One of Kon's best known works is Paprika, a film that explores the intersection of dreams and reality, released in 2006. Giving a brief overview of Kon's movies, James Leung writes:

When Paprika was released, Kon was reaching the zenith of his powers as a director and animator. He began using his patented nonlinear storytelling to tackle increasingly challenging and complex narratives. Therefore, his untimely death seems like an even greater loss to the anime industry. I can’t even imagine how many more potential masterpieces he could have created. […] Satoshi Kon’s life can be summed up in a memorable quote from Paprika, the inventor Tokita innocently remarks, “Isn’t it wonderful? The ability to see a friend’s dream as if it were your own. To share the same dream.” Thank you for sharing your dreams with us. We’ll miss you Satoshi Kon.

@susan0smith1985 watched Paprika over the weekend:

「パプリカ」鑑賞終了。ほんとにすごい作品。今敏監督の作品て意識的に理解するというより、無意識の領域で「わかる」ようなかんじ。現実と虚構が入り交じる現代社会、情報の波に踊らされてしまうのは至極当然。でもたまには立ち止まって「大事なモノってなんだっけ?」自分に問いかけるのもまた一興か

I just finished watching “Paprika”. It's a truly amazing film. I think director Satoshi Kon's movies are about unconsciously understanding the unstated, rather than deliberately analyzing what is expressed. In a contemporary society where reality and fiction mingle, it's natural to become lost in an ocean that's rocking with waves of information. Sometimes though, it's important to stop for a while and ask yourself, “What is really important?”.

Ohagi at Anipression, a group blog for anime bloggers, remembers the first time he saw a Kon film and says farewell.

「PERFECT BLUE」は当時衝撃を受けました。今でも見終えた後の放心感は覚えています。。当時(1998年)色々なアニメを見ているうちに「アニメーションの表現には大きな可能性があるのではないか」なんて考えていました。そんな時に緻密な描写とその描写・表現の革新性や演出力を見せつけた本作はまさに「新しいアニメーションの可能性」を感じさせてくれた作品でした。この人の動向はチェックしなければいけない。そんな事を感じさせてくれました

Watching “PERFECT BLUE” was such an eye-opening experience for me. I still remember being dazed after watching the film. At that time (1998), I was watching a lot of anime and thinking that animation as a medium for expression had great possibilities. And the elaborateness of detail and the freshness of the visual storytelling that was so powerful in the film was exactly what I was looking for in terms of “the possibilities of new anime”. I remember thinking that I should keep an eye on this director.
Satoshi Kon by Aaron Webb

Photo of Satoshi Kon in 2007 by Flickr user Aaron Webb, CC by NC SA

殆どのアニメ映画が原作有りの作品、もしくはTVアニメで人気が出た作品の映画化が多い中、ここ10年間で自らのオリジナリティを頼りにアニメ映画を作り続けた今敏監督。まさにナンバーワンならぬオンリーワンの方ではないでしょうか。だからこそ、平沢進氏や多くの素晴らしいアニメーター達が作品作りに参加され、驚異的なクオリティで作品を発表し続けることができたと思うのです。だからこそ、死によって彼が目指したアニメーション表現における先進的・野心的な方向性が消えて無くなると思うと、惜しいのです。

しかしそれだけ惜しまれるほど、今まで素晴らしい作品を送り続けたともいえると思います。だからまず我々ができるのは、面白いアニメを見たいと思っている友人に彼の作品を薦める事ではないでしょうか。こうした今敏氏が遺してくれたものをより広めていくこと。そして、今 敏監督のメッセージを感じることではないかと思うのです。

While most animated films are based on books or are film adaptations of popular TV series, Satoshi Kon created anime that was dependent on personal ingenuity for the past ten years. He is not only “number one”, but the “only one”. I think this is what attracted talent like [musician] Susumu Hirasawa and other wonderful animators, and led to the consistent release of works with incredible quality. That we are going to lose the ambitious, innovative direction that Kon envisioned for anime makes me so sad.

Perhaps it is a sign of how excellent his work is, for the world to lament this loss so much. One thing we can do is to recommend Kon's work to friends that want to see interesting anime films. Spread the word on what Satoshi Kon has left us. And last but not least, feel his message.

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