Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 82


by Satoshi Kon
Genre: mind-bender, meta
384 pages
ISBN: 1616556064 (Amazon)

With all the collective mourning across the last year over lost lights and luminaries, I was reminded of my own sadness over a celebrity loss. Over the death of a man I didn't know in any way outside through his work.

Satoshi Kon died years ago at age 46 of an aggressive cancer. He was an amazing director with a luminous imagination. He was half done with his next film when he got the news of his condition and immediately shelved the project to spend his remaining days with family. He was a creator of a magnitude that not many creative people will attain and so our loss as a culture is strong (even for those who remain unaware of him, his work, or his influence).

Anyway, before Kon began directing films, he was into comics. He worked as an assistant to Katsuhiro Otomo (the guy who did Akira, which is a landmark work, you may have heard of it). Eventually, he moved off on his own and produced a number of interesting comics stories. A number of these have been released over the last couple years for the first time in the US.

I didn't know that Satoshi Kon's Opus was an incomplete work when I bought it. All I knew is that another of Kon's comics had arrived finally in the US. But I didn't know it was never finished.

Now you do. Now you know what I didn't. And now you also know that it doesn't matter. Because I'm telling you: it doesn't matter.

(Kon was nearing completion on Opus when his film career took off and he spent the next decade working on one film then another.)

Opus is great and inventive and wonderful. It's about a manga author's characters who (because of psi-powers given them by the author) become aware of their status as characters and the unreality of their world and the place of the author's hand. It's a self-aware work. Like many of Kon's later films, it explores the nature of reality and fiction and the overlap between the two. And its lack of a real ending but inclusion of a posthumously-discovered proposal for an ending may actually elevate the work in certain ways that couldn't have been otherwise accomplished. Kon had, a couple years before his death, been bothered by the lack of an ending to the graphic novel and so had begun writing and penciling one. It's rough and in some ways abrupt, but that ending plays so well into the metafictional aspect of the story that it could have been intended all along.

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