On Kon

A couple of years ago I woke up on a plane, too early, half-way across the Atlantic. After a failed attempt to switch my brain back off again I flicked through the in-flight system, past a whole truckload of tedious shit, and settled upon one of the few Japanese programmes – an animated film about some homeless people, it said. That should kill an hour, or at least lull me asleep again. I fiddled with the headphone socket and sat back, glassy-eyed.

And then, much to my surprise, spent the following 90 minutes completely glued to the screen.

Laughed out loud.

Didn’t care.

Totally absorbed.

That film was Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers, and I scribbled both those names on a my ticket stub so that I could seek them out later. Since then I sought out his other films – Paprika and Perfect Blue are also remarkable – and his television series, Paranoia Agent (pictured, above), which is just exceptional: Sanrio meets Twin Peaks.

Last week, Satoshi Kon died at just 47. He is survived by his wife and parents, who he thanked in a farewell message posted online. English-language obituaries have been published in the Guardian and the New York Times.

From a personal perspective – that of merely a fan – it’s hard to explain exactly how great a loss this is to fans of anime, animated cinema and perhaps even cinema in general. In a genre sadly dominated by the mediocre, Kon’s work stood head and shoulders above a landscape scattered with commercial dross and fanservice: beautiful, intelligent and original. As the news broke last week, one message in particular was picked up and retweeted by hundreds of fans online: “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.” And they’re quite right.

Satoshi Kon, 1963-2010, rest in peace. And thanks.

All © 2020 Tom Royal