Satoshi Kon (born October 12, 1963), a director of anime, died on August 24, 2010, of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 46. He knew of his coming death since May 18, when he was told that he had at most 6 months left to live.
After studying to be a painter, Kon got his start as a mangaka working as an assistant to Katsuhiro Otomo. He entered the world of anime in 1991 as a set designer for Roujin Z, and sold his first screenplay, Magnetic Rose, in 1995. His debut as a director was the anime Perfect Blue in 1997. In the following years, he created the anime Millenium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika and the TV series Paranoia Agent.
His work usually dealt with subjective realities, blurring the edges between reality, deams and fantasy. Yet his stories, as bizarre and over the top as they were, were very much grounded in humanity. Despite the tragedy of the human condition that was found in his work, it was always in its own way upbeat and humorous.
We had the privilege of translating Paranoia Agent into German a few years ago, an assignment that made me a fan of Kon’s work. Kon was a brilliant anime creator, and his passing is a great loss for the artform.
His final, incomplete work The Dream Machine will be released posthumously in 2011.
He left a final message on his blog. Excerpts from it have been posted on various places on the internet, so I’ll leave you to find those. In his final blog, he writes about how he was in constant pain so he went to see a doctor. He writes about the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, which had alread metastatized into his bones, and how he was told he had only a few months left to live. He writes about how he made his final arrangements and set his affairs in order. How he arranged, against the wishes of his doctors, to die at home. He describes an out-of-boy experience he had while he was taken out of the hospital.
The greatest gift he has for the readers of this last message is that he lets us know that he was at peace. He wasn’t angry at his fate, or upset that he was dying. He accepted the fact and had made his peace with it. That, at least, is a comfort.