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I just did a full watch through of Satoshi Kon’s four feature films. It’s really hard to rank these, because while they all speak with the voice of Satoshi Kon, they all speak about something different. I think they’re all great.

All four films are ones that are often as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable, on subsequent viewings. The only downside to them is that Satoshi Kon only made four feature films before his death in 2010 at the age of 47… an age when many filmmakers are just breaking in.

Perfect Blue is his first film, one of its most (unfortunate) claims to fame is being repeatedly plagiarized by Darren Aronsky—although, I think inspired/homages is a fair argument. Perfect Blue has a great story, inspired by films by Alfred Hitchcock and the Hitchcockian films, especially Gaslight. The story revolves around a young woman transitioning careers from a squeaky clean teenage J-pop group, into an actress. Her first role involves a rape scene, and this angered some fans, and one of them wants to kill her for it.

Millennium Actress, his second film, is generally considered his masterpiece. Although, it is probably his least accessible film due to the heavy arthouse elements. It delves even more heavily into the whole “what’s real and what’s not” than Perfect Blue; although, it’s more of a Mulholland Drive thing (both films came out in 2001) rather than Gaslight. The film is Kon’s most artistic of the four. It’s perhaps his most emotional film in the lineup. The story is about film biographers interviewing an aged actress who tells them a story about falling in love with a artist who is part of the rebellion against the fascist Japanese government—and then proceeds through her life while pursuing him; although, mainly in the 1930s and 40s. As the story progresses, reality, the story of the films she acted in, and storyline of her real life starts to blend.

(EDIT: The reason the clip is in Japanese is because they're the only ones that appear on YouTube. This film, and all four Satoshi Kon films, can be watched in any of the EFIGS languages).

Tokyo Godfathers might be the most accessible both plotwise and tone. The film is emotional, much like Millennium Actress, although it’s a comedy-drama (think something like Chasing Amy in terms of the comedy/drama split). The story revolves around a makeshift family of three homeless people (a runaway teenage girl, an older transgender woman, and a middle aged gambler) who discover a baby in the trash and decide to look after it. The story then blends in their own life stories about how they became homeless, their relationships, as well as the mystery of who this baby is and why it was abandoned. I’d say there’s some Don Bluth/Secret of NIMH spice in the film (except with humans instead of mice).

Paprika was his fourth and final film, released about four years before his 2010 death. This is a science fiction featuring doctors who enter the dreams of clients… and is a heavily surreal film with dream logic physics and a blending/confusion of dream and reality—and the seduction of the dream world… until one of the machines is stolen. And yes, the film Inception is often considered to plagiarize or be inspired by many elements of Paprika—not just in terms of concept, but the physics, scenes, and philosophy.

Last edited by Jumpin - on 28 April 2024

I describe myself as a little dose of toxic masculinity.