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Andrew Osmond drops in on a Tokyo celebration

A while ago, this blog reported on the Suginami Animation Museum in Tokyo, which runs a series of temporary exhibitions on various animated subjects. The museum’s current exhibit should be of particular interest to British fans. It’s a showcase of the art of Satoshi Kon, who built an international reputation as a truly adult, often bitingly satirical anime director before his tragically early death in 2010, aged 46. His main works are the films Perfect Blue (1997), Millennium Actress (2001), Tokyo Godfathers (2003) and Paprika (2006), as well as the TV serial Paranoia Agent (2004).

The exhibition is in two parts. The first features Kon’s early work before he was famous, with samples of his student art and his manga. Kon’s strip Kaikisen, published in English as Tropic of the Sea, concerns a fishing village haunted by the legend of a mermaid. Kon’s two other long manga serials were both unfinished, for different reasons. Seraphim was an ill-fated collaboration with Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, The Sky Crawlers), whom Kon had worked under on Patlabor 2. The manga even features Oshii’s beloved basset hound. The strip was intended to be an epic, but Kon claimed that Oshii never moved the story forward. A bored Kon tried supplying ideas for the scenario himself, hoping to give it some momentum. Instead, Oshii quit the project, leading Kon to be more careful about who he worked with in the future.

The similarly unfinished Opus was a story about a manga writer who finds himself becoming part of his own strip. Kon was well into the story when he received news from the magazine serialising Opus (Comic Guys). The news was bad; the magazine was ending in three issues. Kon was told he could either leave Opus unfinished, or wrap it up in that time. Kon’s solution was to go ‘meta.’ Putting himself into the story, he roughed out a strip version of what had just happened: Kon meeting with the editor, and being told that he had to terminate Opus... For some strange reason, this idea was rejected by the magazine editor. (Much later, Kon would have a similar ‘meta’ idea for Paranoia Agent. “Mellow Maromi,” an episode set in the anime studio, was originally planned to be in live-action, and would have starred Kon himself!)

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The second part of the exhibition features Kon’s more familiar anime work, with storyboards, character sheets and publicity art. As well as the anime listed above, it also features the storyboard for Kon’s last completed anime, the one-minute film “Ohayo” (‘Good morning’) made for NHK’s “Ani-kuri” short film strand in 2008. For more on Kon’s still-unfinished last feature, The Dream Machine, see our interview with the animator Aya Suzuki.

The Satoshi Kon exhibition is running at the Suginami Animation Museum until 25th January. Admission is free, but please note that the staff only speak Japanese. The museum is near Ogikubo station on the JR Chuo Line (the station is also on the Marunochi subway line). From the station, take the Kanto bus at the north exit, and get off at Ogikubo Police Station, about 5 minutes away. The museum is on the opposite side of the road from the police station, on the third floor of the Suginami Kaikan building.

Alternatively, the museum can be accessed from Kamiigusa Station on the Seibu Shinjuku line. Take the Seibu bus towards Ogikubo and get off at the Ogikubo Police Station.

The museum is usually CLOSED on Mondays, but open other days between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. (last entrance 5.30). It will be open on Monday January 12 but closed on Tuesday 13. There may be temporary closures at other times; please check the above link for updates.

Thanks to the Suginami Animation Museum and to Carlos Nakajima for their kind help with this article.

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