Friday, September 20, 2013

Good Morning Satoshi Kon

One of the interesting things that you run into with folks here in North America is the idea that animation is a genre, not a medium. For them animation is limited to family friendly fare that doesn't deal with anything much more complex then "be yourself" or "try your best". Animation is fun and exciting at the best of times, but can be your typical kiddie stuff the next.  Sadly when some of these people see an animator who loves the medium, the first response is, "Well that is weird". Because of this genre concept, animation in North America seems stuck in a stasis most of the time, with it's true potential untapped.

Then you see the work of Satoshi Kon and understand what is possible in the medium. The man was a master, and it is painful to think that we lost him at the young age of 47 back in 2010.

Here is the final completed project he worked on. It's a short one minute film called Ohaiyo which translates to "Good Morning" made in 2008. It is also the only line of dialogue in the whole film. Like all of Kon's other works, it deals with the concept of self, perception and uses visuals to explore it in a single minute. It's a bit trite to say this is Kon in a nutshell, but it gives a taste of the amazing talent we only saw a glimpse of. Give this a watch and if you're curious seek out Millennium Actress or Tokyo Godfathers to take your first steps with a master of animation.

Full Filmography (as a director and or writer)


  1. Worse yet, for me, is the animated sitcom stuff: American Dad, South Park, Aqua Teens, and the stuff with sort of low brow humor. Really I don't even find the humor there for the most part and it's crappy looking artwork. But I guess, to each their own...

    A couple I might recommend: The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist.

    1. I hear ya. Most of that stuff is basically low brow jokes with bad visual punchlines. Some of it is creative use of animation, I'll give it that. But mostly it's stuff that deals with "how far can we push this just because the characters are 'cartoons'". Most of the time it gets real old, real fast. And "Family Guy" I'm looking at you.

      I will defend "South Park" though. Yes, they get really gross, and yes they make a lot of low brow jokes. But they also include a huge amount of very funny social commentary. When they are on, they have some of the funniest stuff on television. And the beauty is, they make fun of EVERYONE. The humor is never one sided. So if you feel they picking on something you support or believe. Well a few episodes later they're making fun of something you're against or don't believe. It can be very funny. But yeah, sometimes they just take a joke and play it to death (reminding me strongly of "SNL" when they get hung up on a joke). But other times the comedy fusion is perfect.

      One of my favorites is when Stan keeps trying to resist going onto Facebook. The way it pulls him in and how it ends up affecting his life is pretty hilarious. And then when he tries to delete his profile Facebook won't let him - so he gets pull into the computer world, just like the "Tron". And it just gets funnier from there. They nail the look of the old 1982 movie (in "South Park" form of course) and there's even social commentary about kids who don't have any friends on Facebook. Just a solidly fun, entertaining and yeah a bit sad all rolled into one.

  2. Wonderful short.

    There has been the occasional stab at adult-oriented animation on these shores, e.g. some of Bakshi, Waking Life, or A Scanner Darkly. They are isolated curiosities though. Most animation is, as you say, family oriented. I don't know why. Maybe if Kubrick had done one...

    1. I really think the Disney mold too hold in North America. Since most folks associated animation with Disney - and then with kiddie fare, it just sticks in that mode. I don't have a problem with Disney at all. In fact some of their stuff is really amazing. "Fantasia" blows me away each time I watch it, and the visuals in "Sleeping Beauty" are amazing. They also had (not so much these days) a great grasp of storytelling and using visuals to tell the story. When Disney is on, they make great animated movies - period.

      In a similar way you have Hayao Miyazaki who is famous for his family oriented creations. And yet he never makes "kid films". Even "My Neighbor Totoro" never plays down the to the audience, even if it is filled to the brim with cute cuddly characters. It also feels very natural with real relationships between the young girls, their father and their sick mother. The lack of having mother around (and father being so busy) makes sense why the girls reach out to the forest spirits. And you could argue that Totoro and his little family aren't even real. None of the adults see them. There are a few layers in a film that on the surface appears to be nothing more than a child-like fantasy.

      Anyway, got way off track there. I'll need to blog about Miyazaki's work some time in the future.

      I know you appreciate Bakshi's stuff, and I enjoy it quite a bit too. He has such a unique style and his use of roto-scope makes things work so well. I still think "FIre and Ice" is the pinnacle of his work. But his older stuff is a lot of fun too.