You will find very few directors as dedicated to their work as Kon Satoshi. Intense research, strive for originality and viewing of anime as an art form help him turn everything he touches to gold and allow him, with only a few works under his director’s belt, to compare in reputation to the most prolific creators in anime.
Born October 12th, 1963 in Hokkaido, Kon Satoshi started as a manga artist influenced by other manga-ka, such as Katsuhiro Otomo. He managed to make quite a name for himself after his manga Kaikisen won the Kodansha Manga Award. Looking back on it now, he feels directing an anime is much like writing a manga; it is all about how shots are presented and how to make them flow. Being an anime fan, Kon was drawn into the world of animation in 1991 when he was given a chance to work on the same anime as his idol, Katsuhiro Otomo.
The movie was Roujin Z, and his job was to design the sets and backgrounds. He liked making ordinary objects tell a story, and it really shows in the movie. The complexity of the sets was astounding. Katsuhiro Otomo must have been pleased with his work, too, and realized he was not just good at drawing, but had quite a creative mind. Kon again collaborated with Katsuhiro after another layout job in Mobile Police Patlabor II: The Movie as the writer for Magnetic Rose, the primary piece of Memories‘ short-film compilation. He naturally did his own designing in the short and supervised the animation, as well. The guy could draw and write, but as it turns out this was just a sample of Kon Satoshi’s talent.
Having the chance to head 1993’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, the idea of directing a feature of his own grew on him. After Memories and a few literary projects, it was time to for him to take the next step in 1999 with Perfect Blue (Kon himself doesn’t really know what the title stands for). The heart of his storyline was based on a book by Takeuchi Yoshikazu, but, as was proven with his following works, Kon likes putting his own twists on things. He made it clear that he would not direct the movie unless he could rewrite the script he was offered. Aside from having an idol and a stalker, there are very few similarities between the original and the Konified result. All these changes must have been for the best because the awards from international festivals pilled up and the critics raved, making Kon Satoshi internationally admired.
Taking a liking to the director’s chair, the now famous Kon immediately started work on a second feature. It was actually producer Maki Taro who came to him after being very impressed by his work (and probably numbers…). He wanted to create a movie similar to Perfect Blue, in the sense that it could be viewed from different angles and perspectives. With the help of some of his old crew members, Millennium Actress slowly started to take shape.
This was a very ambiguous project, but everyone must have been reassured by Kon Satoshi’s attention to detail. Location scouting and reference videos are not things every anime director feel is important, but it is to Kon Satoshi. After completion in early 2001, Millennium Actress went on a tour of world festivals for months before premiering in its birthplace, Tokyo. The results were the same everywhere: “another instant classic” and “we want more”.
And he gave more. Tokyo Godfathers was his next movie, which was also first shown overseas at the Big Apple Anime Fest in New York City on August 30th, 2003. Featuring a somewhat lighter side of himself, despite being set in the darker side of Japan, Tokyo Godfathers showed he had no problems delivering comedy, as well. He also proved to us… and perhaps to himself… that his movies did not need to be ming-boggling and have a warped timeline to be enjoyed by anime fans across the world. With endearing characters, amazingly detailed settings and, as with Millennium Actress, a big Studio Madhouse budget to back it up, this story of three homeless people with conflicting personalities worked marvelously well, and a lot of this is due to Kon’s magic touch.
His latest work is a series called Paranoia Agent. With the help of Studio Madhouse’s checkbook once again, this surreal thirteen-episode series is sure to generate enough sensation to ensure Kon Satoshi’s position as one of the top directors of the new millennium. As long as his passion for this art form called anime still burns, it will show in his works, making them all must-sees for everyone who is not afraid of a little brainwork.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Mobile Police Patlabor II: The Movie
Run (Hashire) Melos!