Book Review: THE ART OF SATOSHI KON Makes You Crave More

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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(Did you know there were Perfect Blue Trading Cards? Neither did I...)

Me being a fan of anime director and artist Satoshi Kon isn't exactly a secret. I was very much shocked by his death five years ago, first because it was so unexpected and second because he was still so young. I'm actually older now than he ever got to be. I wrote his obituary here at this site (one of the crummiest, yet most heartfelt things I've ever written), and last week I dedicated our weekly "Have Your Say" series of discussions to the anniversary of his death.

Recently, several of Satoshi Kon's manga were released in the west, like Tropic of the Sea, his collection of short stories Dream Fossil, the meta-manga Opus, and his collaboration with director Oshii Mamoru (acting here as co-writer) Seraphim: 266613336 Wings. The last two of these titles were distributed by Dark Horse comics, and they have now also released a 140-page hardcover book which collects several of Satoshi Kon's most beautiful artworks.

Truth be told I was circling this book like an indecisive shark, kinda unsure of whether I should or shouldn't pounce. At just 140 pages, how much could there be in there? And didn't I already own a lot of it through other releases? But then a friend actually bought it, and sent me some pictures of it online, showing how gorgeous this release is. That settled it: I bought it and... well, time for a review!

The Art of Satoshi Kon is basically an updated reprint of an earlier book, which was released in Japan in conjunction with an exposition of Satoshi Kon's artwork. As such, most of its pages are filled with large pictures, like the poster art of his films, created for marketing purposes. Many of these are very beautiful, and some are unavailable or even unknown, unless you own several different releases of each of his films.

The book is mostly textless. Satoshi Kon's comments on most of the artworks are in the back, and these are fun to read, but this is all about the pictures. Darren Aronofsky's tribute is mentioned on the cover, but to be honest it's just the short condolence note he wrote upon hearing of Kon's death.

As most of the art in this book was part of a specific exposition, it doesn't provide an even representation of his anime output. Perfect Blue and especially Millennium Actress fare best in that regard, but his series Paranoia Agent only gets four pages, and Paprika not much more.

But by now it may seem I'm slamming the book, and that is definitely not my intent. For its price, it provides a lot of great and unique looks at artworks of Satoshi Kon I was unfamiliar with. Early experiments, commercials and advertisements, private tinkerings... what's there sure is worth looking at. And the many works I did know already, I hadn't seen yet in this size and gorgeous print quality. The fact that I want more is... well... let's face it: I'd always want a lot more of Satoshi Kon art anyway.

In short: if you're a fan of Satoshi Kon's drawings and paintings, this is a no-brainer. The Art of Satoshi Kon has been released in August both in the UK and the US, so go get it.
I'll end this review with a gallery of pictures of (and from) the book, so you can get an idea about just how good it looks.

(And a special thanks to Kris Van Damme for alerting me!)

And here it is: a thin but big hardcover coffee table book, sized 23.5 x 1.8 x 31.4 cm
(which is 9.3 x 0.7 x 12.4 inch).

Click on the edges of a picture to move to the next, or in its center to see a bigger version!

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zulluluiSeptember 3, 2015 8:22 AM

That's a nice coincidence - I bought this thing yesterday. I agree it could do with more Paprika illustrations, but for 30 bucks, it's still a very nice collection.

bricriu .September 3, 2015 3:54 PM

Has there been any news on Dreaming Machine or is that film officially dead?

GJSeptember 3, 2015 10:01 PM

Masao (founder of Madhouse and head of Mappa), is in charge the project, and has said it's just in haiatus because they can't find someone talented enough to finish it. That was at Otakon a month or two ago.

bricriu .September 4, 2015 12:00 AM

Masaaki Yuasa?

GJSeptember 4, 2015 8:45 AM

Masao Maruyama promised Satoshi Kon in his death bed.

As for Yuasa as a replacement, the problem isn't just straight up talent, otherwise we could choose from him, Miyazaki, Watanabe, Anno, and a bunch of other people. It's the talent to emulate the style of Kon, and well enough to pick up where he left off.

Yuasa has very distinct style that I think would begin to conflict with what's left of Kon's.

bricriu .September 4, 2015 2:54 PM

Of the anime director's I'm aware of I believe he's the closest in style. If they're really looking to emulate the look they could always go with Aronofsky... Wasn't Black Swan basically a remake of Perfect Blue?

Maybe it's best if it isn't finished? Steven Spielberg's ham-fisted 'homage' to Stanley Kubrick still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

GJSeptember 4, 2015 3:57 PM

I honestly think the best thing is to release it as is. It's two thirds animated, soundtrack was made before the movie even, and it's fully storyboarded. It'll be the two thirds animated, and the rest in storyboards like deleted scenes in animated movies.

That said, Kon asked on his deathbed for his close friend Masao to finish it.

theACSeptember 5, 2015 4:43 PM

Why is there no link to the book anywhere in the article?

Ard VijnSeptember 6, 2015 7:10 PM

Because we no longer use a system of affiliate links, and your best buying option may differ depending on where in the world you are.

This book is easily available through its distributor and all major sellers, on-line or not. Just Google the title.

Neil ClingermanOctober 7, 2015 9:18 AM

Koji Morimoto would be better. He did direct the satoshi kon written magnetic rose and it did feel kind of like a kon film.

bricriu .October 8, 2015 12:03 PM

Good suggestion... I've never understood why the Ottomo anthology films don't get more recognition. I was delighted to see the latest would be playing at my local art house theater and showed up early figuring with only one showing it'd be a packed house. I think there were 3-4 other people in the theater total. Ottomo, creator of the most infamous anime of all time "Akira" and his newest film barely registers in a metro area of 4 million people.

God damn you slice-of-life.

Neil ClingermanOctober 9, 2015 12:04 PM

Only Yesterday is "slice of life" and is one of my favorite films. I think your problem is with moe or dumb high school comedies ;)

bricriu .October 9, 2015 1:27 PM

You make a good point. Welcome to the NHK was one of my favorite animes of the past few years...

slippyandproud1August 11, 2016 3:45 PM

I found this article (or rather I was looking for something related to Perfect Blue trading cards) because I was recently travelling through a relatively small town just outside of Onomichi in Hiroshima (Matsunaga according to google) and, while I was waiting for a bus to take me to Abuto Kanon, I stepped into a collectibles store called Pierrot. Hiding on a small rack in the back dedicated to gravure idols was a six pack of Perfect Blue trading cards. When I asked the octogenarian store owner, who ran the place with his wife, if he knew the movie he said no. In any case I'm now the proud owner of six perfect blue trading cards. They feel so special to me I'm too nervous to take them out of the package so I dont even know which ones they are.

Anyway I'm curious if the book has the complete collection. According to the package there are 117. It would be interesting to see all of them.

Ard VijnAugust 11, 2016 7:21 PM

Jealous! And no, they don't have the full set in the book. Many of those 117 cards will be movie-stills and posters though, so maybe the ten shown here are the ones with original (card-only) art.