Director Satoshi Kon dies at 46

Anime filmmaker was working on children's project

TOKYO -- Acclaimed Japanese animated film director Satoshi Kon, known for "Tokyo Godfathers," "Millennium Actress" and other prize-winning movies, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 46.

Considered one of Japan's most exciting directors of animated films, or "anime," Kon was born in 1963 on the island of Hokkaido and debuted as a comic book artist at age 23 while still an art student at Musashino Art University near Tokyo. He began making animated films about 1990, establishing a style that blurred the boundaries of reality and fantasy.

Kon died Tuesday, his wife Kyoko said in a statement released on his official website, Kon's Tone.

In his Oscar-nominated 2003 film "Tokyo Godfathers," loosely based on the 1948 John Ford movie "3 Godfathers," Kon featured three homeless people instead of three cowboys, breaking with the clean and ritzy image of the Japanese capital. Kon's characters — a drag queen, a runaway high school girl and a former professional bicycle racer — pick up an abandoned infant from a garbage dump on Christmas Day and set out to find its parents.

The 2006 film "Paprika," based on a novel by popular writer Yasutaka Tsutsui, uses breathtaking cutting-edge animation and won a prize at the Brussels anime festival in 2007.

Kon was working on his first children's film, "The Dreaming Machine," at the time of his death.

In a "Goodbye" statement released Wednesday, Kon said his doctor told him in May that he had terminal pancreatic cancer which had spread to his bones, and had at most six months to live. Two months later, his condition worsened and his doctor said his days were numbered.

So he decided to go home and die there, he wrote.

"My biggest regret is 'The Dreaming Machine.'" he wrote. "I really worry about the film, and the staff."

The film is based on an original story, characters and a unique view of the world that "nobody else but Satoshi Kon could understand or create," he said.

He thanked his parents, his wife and his fans for their support.

"Thank you everyone," he said. "I'll go ahead now."