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Satoshi Kon, Auteur (recent class paper)

Japanese anime director Satoshi Kon burst into the spotlight in 1997. With just one film, he went from small-name cartoonist and writer to hot new director. That film was Perfect Blue, a psychological thriller that was one of cinema’s greatest reality-bending puzzles. Perfect Blue made Kon a celebrity on both sides of the globe and won him a level of artistic freedom afforded only to a few very special directors. With his subsequent works, Satoshi Kon demonstrated that he was more than just a flash in the pan. He wrote and directed a total of four films and one TV series before his untimely death in 2010, and a forthcoming fifth film is being completed by his associates. While Kon’s films sometimes varied in quality, they always benefited from his presence, and they were always recognizable as the work of a singular artistic vision.

Satoshi Kon’s works frequently explore schizophrenia, feminist concerns, and the doubling of characters and themes. But one thing remains constant: Satoshi Kon always loved to bend reality. Whether he used dreams, hallucinations, schizophrenia, films and TV, or good old-fashioned imagination, Kon loved to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.

 

But let us begin our exploration of Satoshi Kon’s directorial oeuvre with his first film; his artistic breakthrough. Perfect Blue is the story of Japanese pop idol Mima Kirigoe, who leaves her pop group to become an actress. Mima has been so sheltered by her managers, the matronly Rumi Hidaka and the more flexible Mr. Tadokoro, that she is still in a pre-adult stage of psychological development, which leaves her unprepared for her new choice of career. Mima joins the cast of a cheesy soap opera/psychological thriller series called Double Bind. The events that follow rob Mima of her innocence, and then her grip on reality.

The first blow to Mima’s innocence is the rape scene that she is persuaded to star in for Double Bind. The day Mima agrees to do the scene, she sees another version of herself reflected in a pane of glass; a warning that she fails to heed. While Mima is not actually raped, the scene becomes a kind of metaphorical rape. While the cameras role, Mima’s surroundings – the other actors, the set, the driving music – bring the scene to life with frightening intensity. To make things worse, the producers in the control room brag about how crassly they are exploiting Mima as a sex object. Mima herself leaving the scene traumatized, and with a split personality.

After the rape scene, Mima begins to see her illusory doppelganger in one place after another; on her computer monitor, outside her window, in a radio station, in a passing car, on and on. And Mima fears, perhaps justly, that this second Mima will take control of her body, and perhaps make her do terrible things. But Mima’s situation is even more complicated. In this age when personal websites are a relatively new invention, there is a website called Mima’s Room. The site is run by someone who claims to be Mima and who knows Mima’s daily activities in intimate detail. It even has audio recordings of things that Mima said in relative privacy. Who is this person who has such intimate knowledge of Mima’s every move? Perhaps it is Mima’s stalker, the grotesque Uchida, or “Me-Mania.” Uchida is an obsessed fan who cannot accept the change that he sees in his beloved Mima. What is more, Mima sees Uchida, or imagines that she sees him, everywhere she goes. Is he the author of Mima’s Room? Or is there someone else?

But things get even worse. Shortly after Mima acts in the rape scene, the murders begin. First, Mr. Shibuya, the writer of Double Bind, is murdered in an elevator. Shortly after this murder, Mima poses nude for a photographer named Mr. Murano. The nude photographs become more yellowed and tawdry every time we see them. And so a few days later, Mr. Murano, too, is murdered. Who is the murderer? Perhaps it is Uchida. He was definitely responsible for the hit-and-run attack on a rude young delinquent who nearly ruined Mima’s farewell concert with her pop group. And when Mima’s nude photos came out in an adult magazine, Uchida bought up every copy he could get to keep Mima from becoming a sex object to the public. But then again, Mima did dream about murdering Mr. Murano and then woke up to find that it had actually happened. Perhaps her second personality took hold. And what about that F. G. G. bag filled with bloody clothes?

Who killed whom? Who wrote the website? And how can we account for every last clue? When you think you have it all figured out, everything will suddenly shift on you. But this is the great strength of Perfect Blue: the viewer’s understanding of the puzzle changes with repeated viewings. Indeed, the puzzle is densely layered and immaculately written. For this reason, though Satoshi Kon completed three more films and a TV series, he never bettered Perfect Blue.

 

For many people, Perfect Blue is the beginning of Satoshi Kon’s oeuvre. For some, however, it begins a little bit earlier. Satoshi Kon wrote the script for a short subject called “Magnetic Rose.” It was one of three parts of the 1995 anthology film Memories, a collaborative project helmed by legendary anime director Katsuhiro Otomo (of Akira fame.) Otomo had a basic story idea about a team of astronauts that explore a derelict space station and find that it is haunted. Kon, in writing the script, singled out one astronaut and expanded his character. In “Magnetic Rose,” a team of astronauts discover the aforementioned derelict space station. Two of these astronauts, Heintz and Miguel, go in to explore the station. At first, they find only empty rooms, once opulent and beautiful but now in a state of decay. But soon, Heintz sees the ghost of his young daughter Emily, who died years ago. The astronauts also encounter the master of the ship: the ghost of the retired opera singer who called the station her home. This ghost and her seductive illusions may be supernatural, may be hallucination, may be computer-generated holograms. Satoshi Kon, ever the man to bend reality, keeps the audience guessing. But while Miguel is merely seduced by the ghost, Heintz is further tortured by the apparition of his daughter Emily. The opera singer’s ghost even forces Heintz to relive the day when Emily fell from the roof of her home and died.

With “Magnetic Rose,” Many of Kon’s signature concerns were already in place. There was the hero haunted by memories, the bending of reality, the descent into madness, the final conquest of reality over illusion. If an auteur’s canon may be said to include films he wrote but did not direct, then “Magnetic Rose” may be seen as Kon’s oft-overlooked beginning. (Satoshi Kon has one earlier writing credit, for Katsuhiro Otomo’s World Apartment Horror, but that film is outside the scope of this paper.)

 

Perfect Blue firmly established Satoshi Kon’s reputation, both in his home country and in anime circles around the world. Shortly after it was released, the production company, Rex Entertainment, went bankrupt, halting plans for Kon’s adaptation of the novel Paprika. However, Kon’s reputation put him back on his feet quickly. Producer Taro Maki approached Satoshi Kon and asked him to make another movie with the particular quality of Perfect Blue. When Kon asked what that quality was, Maki reached for a specific word: “stereogram.” Perfect Blue, he said, had many different appearances when viewed from different angles. And so Kon had a new movie deal. This time around, he would have a much larger budget to work with, and a higher quality of animation. He would also be able to enlist one of his favorite musicians, electronic pop artist Susumu Hirasawa, to provide the soundtrack. (Kon ultimately used Hirasawa for every subsequent project except Tokyo Godfathers.)

2001’s Millennium Actress, Satoshi Kon’s second film, is the story of two documentarians, Genya (or, shortened, Gen) Tachibana and his long-suffering camera man Kyoji, and a legendary Japanese actress, Chiyoko Fujiwara. Gen and Kyoji are filming a documentary about a famous Japanese studio, which is now out of business and presently being demolished. Chiyoko Fujiwara was the studio’s signature actress; and significantly, Gen idolizes her, even loves her. So Gen and Kyoji travel to Chiyoko’s house, where she lives in quiet retirement, to interview her about her long and storied career. Of course, the interview is no simple affair. In short order, the documentarians enter Chiyoko’s memories, and her movies. Chiyoko and Gen are completely comfortable in this surreal world of memories, but Kyoji is startled, even panicked, by the shifting nature of reality.

Chiyoko recounts the story of her life, and of all the movies in which she starred. But of course, the division between what actually happened and what merely happened in the movies is blurry, even non-existent. And at every opportunity, Gen appears in Chiyoko’s movies, in leading roles. Why? Because it is the fantasy of the movie lover to enter his most treasured films himself, as new characters that he has created, in order to help or even save his favorite characters in their times of need. This fantasy is especially strong when the movie lover’s favorite characters are played by a beautiful actress who holds a special place in his heart. And so, with Chiyoko’s cooperation and their combined imagination, Gen is able to co-star in in Chiyoko’s movies.

The events in Chiyoko’s life and in her movies all revolve around a single event. One winter, when Chiyoko was a little girl, she gave refuge for one night to a political dissident; a handsome painter on the run from the authorities. He spent the night in a storage room behind Chiyoko’s house. In that one night, Chiyoko fell deeply in love. The artist wore a key around his neck, which he said was the key to the most important thing in the world. He promised he would tell Chiyoko what that was on the morrow. But when Chiyoko got back from school the following day, the police had discovered the artist’s hiding place, and he had fled to the local railroad. By chance or design, he dropped his key in the snow for Chiyoko to find. Chiyoko spent the rest of her life wearing that key around her neck, longing for the artist who had slipped away. Every movie Chiyoko starred in told the story of her search for that artist. As Chiyoko tried in vain to locate him, her characters also searched endlessly for him, with devotion in their hearts.

With Millenium Actress, Satoshi Kon proved that he was no one-trick pony. Both Perfect Blue and this film freely blurred the lines between reality and unreality, but they did it for different reasons and to achieve different ends. Perfect Blue was a psychological puzzle that challenged the viewer to separate the real events from the dreams and hallucinations. Double Bind, the soap opera, paralleled Mima’s life in order to, not only make solving the puzzle difficult, but also to reflect and confound Mima’s own fading ability to tell what was real. Perfect Blue was a puzzle that asked to be solved. Millenium Actress was not. To try to separate Chiyoko’s life from her films would be fool’s play; they were not meant to be separated. Chiyoko Fujiwara and the events in her life are, in the end, both constructs. Chiyoko’s life and her movies mirror one another because they are both expressions of the same thing. Millenium Actress is a kaleidoscoping tribute to the Japan and World War II and is movies; and then to all the versions of Japan that have existed throughout history and all the films made about them; and then to cinema itself, and to every great movie actresses who made us fall in love.

 

In Satoshi Kon’s films, there was often a strong overtone of feminism, and nowhere was it more prominent than in Millenium Actress. In Millenium Actress, Chiyoko’s mother insists that she must follow the common path of a Japanese woman; she must stay at home, raise a family, never make a name for herself. Instead, Chiyoko breaks free from her mother’s control and becomes an actress. Though people try to force her to forget about the painter she loved and lost one day long ago – to compromise her heart and live complacently as somebody else’s wife – she never does. She remains true to herself and refuses to her own heart.

The feminist overtones extend to earlier and later films. In Perfect Blue, Mima’s problems began because she had been so mothered throughout her life that she was unable to handle adulthood. She resolved her problems by standing up to the people who attacked her (physically and verbally) for daring to break free of her pop-idol innocence, and presumably thereafter those who wanted to make her into a sex object, and asserted that she would choose the kind of person she wanted to be.

Tokyo Godfathers and Paranoia Agent (see below) are less direct with their messages, but they are still there. Both Tokyo Godfathers’ Miyuku and Paranoia Agent’s Tsukiko are female characters who are running away from a painful truth. Miyuku covers herself in a hat and overcoat and does her best to forget her past. Tsukiko uses her cartooning career as an escape and has blocked her painful memory. Both must shed their disguises and work through their feelings, Miyuki by talking a woman out of suicide, Tsukiko by remembering and accepting what she has forgotten, in order to heal themselves. And when they have healed themselves, they are able to become strong young women.

Paprika (see below) takes on feminism by simply having a strong female lead, or perhaps two. Dr. Chiba Atsuko is one of the foremost doctors in her field. Of all her colleagues, Atsuko is the most adept at diving into other people’s dreams. When an unknown villain uses a stolen experimental device to enter people’s dreams and take control of their minds, Atsuko is the only sensible choice of person to dive into the dream world and set things right. Or, rather, the sensible choice is Atsuko’s alter-ego, Paprika. Paprika is another strong character, full of vitality and spirit, able to adapt to her environment with great dexterity. However, she is merely a disguise for Atsuko. Paprika wins a few battles, but when it comes time to defeat the villain in the final battle, it is not Paprika who enters the fight and wins, but Atsuko; the true identity is stronger than the disguise.

 

With two films under his belt, Satoshi Kon had the world at his feet. Going forward, he would be allowed to choose whatever projects he desired , his projects would all have generous budgets, and in America, his feature films would be distributed by big-name movie studios (Dreamworks for Millenium Actress, Columbia TriStar for Tokyo Godfathers, Sony Picture Classics for Paprika.) With this freedom, Kon changed gears and turned out his first comedy.

2003’s Tokyo Godfathers is the story of a family made up of three homeless people. Gin is a middle-aged former family man. Hana is a camp, cross-dressing homosexual man (and proud of it) who acts as a mother within the family. Miyuki is a troubled teenaged girl. On Christmas Eve night, these three homeless people find an abandoned baby girl in a pile of debris. They name her Kiyoko, and they take care of her as they journey across Tokyo to find the baby’s mother, and find out why the baby was abandoned.

Gin, Hana, and Miyuki have all run away from their respective families. Gin collected an enormous gambling debt and left his family in shame. Hana, formerly a performer at a cabaret, lost his temper and attacked a customer, and felt that he could never return. Miyuki stabbed her father with a knife, believing he had given away her pet cat; Miyuki’s nightmare, in which she recalls the incident, is the only instance of reality-bending in this film. Over the course of the film, each of these three people encounters the family he (she) left behind, and learns that his loved ones are willing to forgive him, and that he is welcome.

 

Of all of Satoshi Kon’s works, perhaps Tokyo Godfathers makes the greatest use of visual details. Satoshi Kon always placed a high value on visual detail. Even in Perfect Blue, with a more modest budget than his later works, he used every opportunity to add texture to his environments, including such caring touches as a pile of CDs sitting on a speaker in a meeting room; look carefully and you will see it. He also used details as a way of hiding possible clues to the puzzle; watch closely for the shopping bag labeled “F. G. G.” With Millenium Actress, Kon was able to elevate his artistry and set his characters against opulent backgrounds. But Tokyo Godfathers is the film in which he utilizes his details the most. Here, details once again became a method of hiding things; in this case, surprises. For example, our three heroes come across a car seeming left in the middle of a street. One of them comments on it. It’s merely an extra detail, one of many, and nothing to take special notice of, until the heroes suddenly discover a fat Yakuza boss trapped underneath the car. Much later in the film, Hana and Miyuki walk across a bridge. Hana muses, not seriously, about how he ought to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge. He describes the details: taking off his shoes, standing on the handrail, and jumping. Suddenly, Miyuka and Hana turn back the way they came and run to catch a young woman who has taken off her shoes, is standing on the handrail, and is about to jump! They walked past her only moments ago, and she could clearly be seen in the background taking off her shoes and climbing onto the handrail at the same time Hana was talking about those very things. But because she was just one of many visual details in the background, only the most observant viewers would have noticed her.

Tokyo Godfathers is also notable for the way it tends to create groups of three. Satoshi Kon liked to double his characters and his themes in various ways. Mima in Perfect Blue was echoed by her matronly manager Rumi, who was herself a former pop star and wished she could return to it. While Mima lost her grip on reality, so did two other principal characters (I hesitate to directly name them and ruin all surprise.) Similarly, the many schizophrenics in Kon’s TV series Paranoia Agent (see below) strongly echoed one another, whether they suffered from multiple personalities or just hallucinations. In both Perfect Blue and Millenium Actress, the heroines’ real lives are echoed by the works of fiction (the soap opera, the many movies) in which they star.

Tokyo Godfathers, however, was unique for its groups of three. All three of the leads in Tokyo Godfather are echoes of one another; as I said before, each one ran away from home after doing something he felt was unforgivable, and each one reconciled with the people he or she had left behind. The movie also features three women named Kiyoko: the baby, the Yakuza boss’s daughter, and Gin’s daughter. The name Kiyoko means “pure child,” which establishes an important quality that they all share. But most interesting of all is a story that appears three times in the film in different versions. First, Gin tells Hana a story about how he took a risk gambling on races because he needed the money to save the life of his ailing young daughter. Gin says that the gambling broke him, his daughter died anyway, and his wife died soon after. Much of the story turns out to be a fabrication, although the part about being broken by gambling is true. Later, when Gin meets his now-grown daughter working at a hospital – by sheer luck – she tells him that she is getting married to a doctor who works there. He is much older than she is, but she loves him. The doctor, she explains, lost his daughter when she was just a child and lost his wife shortly after. A little later, Gin confronts a man who is a self-absorbed gambler. His relationship with his wife is rough. The couple had a baby on the way who died before she was born. And if this man does not give up the lottery and fix his relationship with his wife soon, she will commit suicide.

 

Satoshi Kon turned to TV in 2004 and created a 13-episode series called Paranoia Agent. Kon was back to his old tricks of bending reality and portraying schizophrenic characters. Paranoia Agent has an enormous cast of characters. But at its center is a woman named Tsukiko Sagi. She is the designer of the popular character Maromi, a pink cartoon dog a la Hello Kitty that has won the hearts of the Japanese people. When Tsukiko comes under heavy pressure to create a new character, her psyche begins to fall apart. Her Maromi doll starts to talk to her. It constantly extolls the Narcissist’s Creed: “It’s not your fault.” And then one night, Tsukiko is attacked by a boy on roller skates wielding a golden baseball bat. This is Shonen Bat (Lil’ Slugger in the English dub.)

Soon, more and more people get attacked by this mysterious assailant. But does he really exist, or is he simply a product of mass schizophrenia? After all, Shonen Bat only appears to people who have been backed into a corner and can no longer face life. And after he attacks, his victims are relieved because their problems are no longer their own fault, and so they can move on and be happy. Paranoia and schizophrenia over Shonen Bat spread like a virus, and while giving in to narcissism gives people temporary relief, it leaves them helpless when an actual threat appears. And what is the solution to end the cycle? Tsukiko Sagi must take responsibility for something that happened many years before; something that really was her fault.

With Paranoia Agent, Satoshi Kon found a certain tone, with bizarre hallucinations and reality-bending games that strained credulity. Kon carried this particular tone through into Paprika. For that reason, I will address the specific qualities of Paranoia Agent and Paprika together.

 

2006’s Paprika is the story of a talented woman, named Paprika, who can enter other people’s dreams and move skillfully through the dream world. She does this using a sophisticated experimental device known as the DC Mini. Paprika is, however, not a real person, but the alter-ego of Dr. Chiba Atsuko, a talented scientist who is part of the team that developed and currently tests the DC Mini. Matters become complicated when an unknown thief steals a DC Mini and uses it to wreak havoc on the scientists, and then on the world at large. Will Paprika be a match for this new dream terrorist? Or will she need the help of her patient, Detective Toshimi Konakawa, whose dreams are haunted by the specters of famous movies and a murder case he is struggling to crack?

Paprika is the last film Satoshi Kon completed before his untimely death from pancreatic cancer. Of all his directorial works, it is his least memorable. His cast has a lot to do with that. Paprika herself is fun to watch, but her alter-ego, Atsuko, is a bland character who leaves almost no impression at all. Atsuko’s fellow doctors are little better; they’re either underwritten and forgettable or downright grotesque; Tokita, the brilliant scientist who invented the DC Mini, is monstrously obese beyond all reason. Besides Paprika, Detective Konakawa is the only other character to leave a favorable impression.

Paprika also suffers because of an annoying concession. When one person wants to enter another person’s dreams, they use the DC Mini. Yet there is a kind of “anaphylaxis” that develops with prolonged usage of the device that allows the user to become connected to another person’s dreams without having to use the device. A person can become trapped inside a dream without warning or reason, and it isn’t over until the movie says it is. In other words, there are no rules to govern what can and cannot happen in this world. Without rules, everything is diminished in meaning.

Furthermore, with Paranoia Agent and Paprika, Satoshi Kon tended toward self-indulgence. He created a fantasy world that was bizarre, but to no end. It was bizarre for the sake of being bizarre. Frequently, sequences were downright goofy, and cloying. With each successive project after Perfect Blue, which was for the most part a very serious film, humor took on a stronger and stronger role. With Paranoia Agent and Paprika, Kon was dealing with serious themes again, but the comedy element remains, and it had grown into something tiring. This was especially true of Paprika, with its silly monologues about parades of assorted paraphernalia, the actual images of those parades, the circuses, the movie-themed dreams, and a dozen other random visuals.

But even worse, Kon became so involved in his increasingly goofy reality-bending games that he didn’t give needed attention to his stories’ realities. In Paranoia Agent, there was still a sense that while the characters were exploring their fantasy worlds, there was at least an idea of what was actually happening. However, the amount of delusion the characters were suffering strained credulity. How can an entire city achieve schizophrenia and share in the same hallucination? In Paprika, things became even more problematic. It didn’t help that Kon was repeating Paranoia Agent by once again making an entire city go crazy. But when buildings were being destroyed, giant toys were marching through the streets, an enormous black crater was being burned into the center of the city, and our heroes were running for their lives, what was really happening? It’s as if the movie itself forgot to have answers to these questions. Perhaps the destruction can be explained away by saying that there was a freak meteor shower, but what about the final battle between good and evil giants? And what about the fact that the whole city saw this happen and yet went on with their normal lives after it was over? And how was Detective Konakawa able to interact so much with two computer characters on a website anyway? Reality-bending got out of hand and turned into reality-breaking.

 

In his films, Satoshi Kon regularly makes references to other works, whether by imitating their visual styles or borrowing their themes. Paprika and Millenium Actress did this the most. Millenium Actress, a movie about movies, had such a wealth of references that it is difficult to pin them all down. Yet specific movies are designed in the likeness of films by Kurosawa and Ozu, including homages to Throne of Blood and Yojimbo. At times, the movies are not references to specific films but to genres, such as the high-flying martial arts films of the ‘70s. At other times, the scope moves outside of Japanese cinema, referencing such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even jokingly referencing Great Expectations. There is even a passing visual reference to Casablanca, as well as two quick tongue-in-cheek nods to the Godzilla franchise.

Paprika, which stars a detective with a love of movies, references films in much the same way as Millenium Actress. Konakawa’s dreams reference such films as From Russia with Love, The Greatest Show on Earth, and the ever-popular Tarzan, to name a few. Other people’s dreams reference Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and The Collector, again, to name a few. Less explicit references appear in the visual design. Atsuko and her team travel to the home of a fellow scientist who has gone missing. His home is filled with dolls, many of them robotic, some of them vocal. The allusion is clear, and Kon openly confirms on the commentary track that he is referencing J. F. Sebastian from Blade Runner. Elsewhere, a certain unkempt workshop with computer components sprawled out in all directions references seminal anime series Serial Experiments Lain (a big influence on Paranoia Agent, incidentally.) But the film referenced most is Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark anime movie Akira. Akira is referenced a hundred times, with human bodies morphing out of shape into putrid masses of flesh, illusory scenery falling apart when it is touched, the aforementioned enormous black crater being burnt into the center of Tokyo, the aforementioned giant toys attacking people, a villain who can summon up waves of destruction with a wave of his hand, and the final resolution of one character swallowing up another.

Earlier, in Perfect Blue, Kon deliberately makes the TV show-within-a-movie Double Bind an unoriginal series that borrows liberally from better works. Our first taste of Double Bind is a scene in which two characters discuss a serial killer who peels off the skin of his female victims because “He wants to become one,” a clear reference to Silence of the Lambs. Continuing on the films-with-Jodie Foster theme, the rape scene Mima is persuaded to star in is likened to the one from The Accused. Mr. Tadokoro even directly references “Jodie Whatshername.”

Satoshi Kon also had a habit of referencing himself. For example, both Millenium Actress and Paprika feature tracking shots of multi-layered city backdrops that visually echo one such shot in Perfect Blue. In an episode of Paranoia Agent, an obese man is forced to race through the city on a bicycle, just like Gin in Tokyo Godfathers. When Kon shows schizophrenic women in Tokyo Godfathers and Paranoia Agent, they inevitably feel like echoes of Perfect Blue’s Mima Kirigoe. But the biggest reference of all comes at the end of Paprika. Detective Konakawa goes to the theater to see a movie for the first time in a very long time. Guess what’s playing! The posters are all right there in a row: Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers… and then a film called Kid’s Dreaming, perhaps a teaser of things to come (perhaps a working title for The Dreaming Machine.)

 

Paprika was not a bad movie; just an underwhelming one. It had plenty of superb animation and some compelling ideas. It just didn’t measure up to Satoshi Kon’s other works. The impression left by Paprika was that Satoshi Kon’s films were becoming not reasons to bend reality, but excuses. Though the films were still strong enough to merit attention, it looked as though the wise thing for Kon to do would be to break completely from his established pattern. It was time to put reality-bending on the shelf, at least for a little while, and try something entirely different, like he did before with Tokyo Godfathers. Unfortunately, Kon died before he got the chance. There will be one last film by Satoshi Kon. The Dreaming Machine promises to be more youth-oriented than his other films, while retaining the important qualities that fans have come to expect from Satoshi Kon. It could be more of the same, or it could be a refreshing change of pace. It might not be a fitting swansong, or it might be. In any case, it will be Satoshi Kon. That alone makes it something special.

2 responses

  1. E

    As much as I love Satoshi Kon’s work, I really wouldn’t say that any of his films are feminist. The protagonist of Millennium Actress does go against the norm, but it’s so that she can be with a man that she didn’t really even know. Perfect Blue ended with the character being strong and in control of her life, but she was a victim throughout the movie. I’d probably say that the most feminist is Paprika/Atsuko, but even in that movie there are some pretty uncomfortable scenes with undertones of sexual assault. I really can’t wait for Dream Machine, though.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    • But of course, in Perfect Blue, the story is about how she overcomes those who want to control her; where she ends up is the main thing. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

      Anyhow, you may be waiting a long time for The Dreaming Machine. Production has been halted. I suspect, however, that it would have been his weakest film yet.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm

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