Anime Director Bibliographies: Satoshi Kon

Satoshi KonWhen thinking about the “best”, “greatest”, “most influential”, or even simply “most recognizable” directors of Japanese animation, the first two names are easy – Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii. But, beyond those two, who else to name? Using the simple measure of scholarly attention, the third name that comes up is of the late Satoshi Kon. And so, the next item in my new bibliographic project of lists of scholarship on major anime directors will address English-language scholarship on his work.

Kon’s career, first in manga and then in anime, spanned a period of 26 years – from his 1984 debut with the award-winning short comic Toriko, to his death from pancreatic cancer in 2010. But over the course of this career, he directed only four feature films and one anime television series. But, as I demonstrate, these five works have received significant attention in the literature of anime studies.When leading animation scholar Paul Wells wrote his appreciation of Kon’s work (Playing the Kon trick: Between dates, dimensions and daring in the films of Satoshi Kon, Cinephile: The University of British Columbia’s Film Journal, 7:1, 4-8), he did not hesitate to refer to Kon as a “true auteur” of anime, and to evaluate him as a director whose vision was “more socially grounded” than that of Miyazaki. Similarly, Joseph Schaub (in Otaku evolution: Changing views of the fan-boy in Kon Satoshi’s Perfect Blue and Paprika) notes that Kon’s first film, Perfect Blue, immediately earned him comparisons not only to Miyazaki, but to various Western film directors. In a way, it is precisely these two qualities of Kon’s work – its relatively compact range, and its place viz-a-viz both other anime and live-action cinema – that have attracted scholars to it. Some scholars have read Kon’s films specifically together with those of Miyazaki and Oshii, others have traced specific themes through his works, and others have approached Kon when looking for an example of a Japanese director’s take on themes and topics that are also treated in Western films. The bottom line is that when scholars write about Kon and his films, they are able to draw on established ways of writing about cinema, and on a wide-ranging existing literature, and simply extend these ways and sources to a particular director and particular works. Perhaps the only question that still remains is how long after his death will scholars continue to be interested in Kon’s work, or if at some point, interest in him and his films will simply fade away.

As with all other bibliographies in this project, the scope of this one covers books, book chapters, and articles in scholarly/peer-reviewed journals on Satoshi Kon and his works. Theses/dissertations, conference presentations, class papers, and publications in languages other than English are not covered. It is based on searches in a number of general and subject-specific academic databases, such as the Bibliography of Asian Studies, EBSCO Academic Search Premier, Film Index International, GALE Academic OneFile, International Index to Film Periodicals, International Index to the Performing Arts, and the MLA International Bibliography, as well as Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search. Whenever possible, I have also reviewed the lists of titles cited in the included publications to locate any additional sources.

As of the date of initial publication (December 2014), the bibliography includes a total of 23 items – 1 monograph, 5 essays in edited collections, and 17 journal articles. Three of the articles were published in Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and the Fan Arts, and two each in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal and the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema. 14 journals have only published one article each on Kon/his works. 9 of the items cover more than one of Kon’s works. Five focus on Millennium Actress, four on Perfect Blue, two on Paprika, and one each on Paranoia Agent and Tokyo Godfathers.

This bibliography is also available as a separate page. Any new updates will be reflected on that page only, not in this post. As always, additions, suggestions, corrections and any other comments are welcome and appreciated.

Satoshi Kon: A Bibliography of English-Language Scholarship

2014

2013

2012

2011

  • Wells, Paul. Playing the Kon trick: Between dates, dimensions and daring in the films of Satoshi Kon. Cinephile: The University of British Columbia’s Film Journal, 7(1), 4-8.

2010

2009

2008

2007

  • Mes, Tom. Requiem for a dream: The films of Satoshi Kon bring the depths of the subconscious into bright anime light. Film Comment, 43(2), 46-48.
  • Ortabasi, Melek Su. Teaching modern Japanese history with animation: Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress. Education About Asia, 12(1), 62-65.

2006

2005

2004

  • Sharp, Jasper. Perfect Blue – Satoshi Kon, Japan, 1997. In Justin Bowyer (Ed.), The Cinema of Japan and Korea (pp. 161-168). London, UK: Wallflower Press.
  • Yokota, Mamao. Satoshi Kon’s transition from comics to animation. International Journal of Comic Art, 6(1), 250-265.
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