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I cried when I heard Satoshi Kon had died, earlier this year. His work has always helped remind me of the sheer scope of possibility that animation has as a medium, the way that every visual element can be planned in a manner impossible for live-action, the way the laws of physics and gravity are totally irrelevant. Satoshi Kon, Masaaki Yuasa's Mind Game, Shoji Kawamori's Spring and Chaos: there are points when I would have stopped watching anime entirely if not for the beautiful, disciplined yet surrealist grandeur of work like that.

Osmond's book is from 2009, meaning that it covers all of the things Kon finished before he died. (The unfinished Dream Machine is still in progress.) I honestly had not been expecting much-- it's a thin book, a large percentage of which is taken up by synopses, from an author I had not heard of-- but this is very good and I'm glad to have it; it achieves a nice synthesis between going into detailed analysis of each film and concentrating on the arc of Kon's career as a whole. There's a nice range of quotations acquired from Kon in direct conversation and quotes gathered from magazine and other interviews, and the background details for each film include not only the standard discussion of voice actors and character designers but mention of the film pedigree of animators and studio personnel and the careers of the writers whose novels Kon adapted. In addition, I was interested by the section on Kon pre-Perfect Blue, because I'd known he must have done something but hadn't tracked down what-- his several not-terribly-successful manga sound like interesting failures.

I would not suggest reading any given segment of this book before seeing the work it covers, because the synopses are incredibly detailed and the analysis assumes familiarity with the material. Mind you, the synopses are also sufficiently confusing at times that I'm not sure they'd be terribly illuminating to someone trying to get an idea of a film from them, but I really ascribe only minor blame to Osmond about this, because trying to adequately summarize Perfect Blue is pretty high on my lifelist of things I don't want to have to do as a writer. I don't think that reprinting the complete script would make that synopsis any less confusing. (I was interested to note that you can adequately summarize Millennium Actress, which I wouldn't have bet on.)

Also, if you're looking for an actual biography (and I for one would find that interesting) this isn't one, although it does have some biographical details where relevant.

In general, though, I'm happy with this book, which told me things about every one of the films I didn't know, and boggled me with the revelation that they didn't plan the ending of Paranoia Agent in advance, despite it being an ending that follows perfectly logically from what appears to be foreshadowing throughout the entire series. Apparently they looked over the series-in-progress, picked out some things to take as foreshadowing, and went from there. If you want to spend some time thinking about Satoshi Kon-- and you do, he's one of those directors I recommend heartily to people who hate anime-- this is a book you would enjoy.


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March 2017

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