In the back of Dream Fossil, Vertical’s collection of Satoshi Kon’s manga shorts, composer Susumu Hirasawa shares some thoughts on meeting and getting to know the late creator. While discussing his unique style—which he describes as being neither like animation nor live action–Hirasawa says, “I do not know whether anyone will appear who will follow in Kon’s footsteps in the years to come, but I think that there was meaning in having explored this style.” That’s as good a summary of Dream Fossil as any. It’s a collection of extremely varied shorts that show a massive talent in his developing years, and there’s an equal amount of treasure to take away from its innards for both creative folks and casual readers alike.
The stories in Dream Fossil are presented mostly in chronological order, save for the final two-parter, Toriko – Prisoner, which is Kon’s 1984 debut work. It’s listed as an unpublished recipient of the 10th Annual Tetsuya Chiba Award for Excellent Newcomer, and it works in the collection’s favor that it comes in at the end. The content that precedes it lets us follow the progression from Kon’s “Carve” in 1985 to “The Adventures of Master Basho” in 1989. The steady rise in quality and complexity is truly impressive, and while his early stories have a very rough edge to them—the artwork is nice but it’s clear he’s developing his skill at sequential storytelling—they all have something unique to say.
There are some real standouts here worth reading multiple times. “Focus” (1986) is a short investigative page-turner; “Waira” (1988) is a harrowing period piece about facing one’s demons both literally and figuratively. The real crown jewel for me has to be “Beyond the Sun” (1988), a stunningly simple story that follows an octogenarian whose hospital bed ends up rolling out of control, carrying her wrinkly, wide-eyed self all across town like something out of a classic cartoon. Visually speaking, this is a tremendous piece of work. Kon’s knack for geography and storyboarding shine through to create a comic that comes off more like a piece of animation. Out of this whole collection, “Beyond the Sun” is perhaps most emblematic of what Hirasawa had to say about Kon’s style and the legacy he left behind.
Dream Fossil is a must-read for fans of Satoshi Kon’s work, and everyone else will be treated to a nice, thick collection of memorable short stories that will hopefully open them up to his world. Most of all, though, I found a lot of hopeful encouragement in Dream Fossil. Once you get to “Toriko” at the end of the book—noting its rough style, unrefined line work and character designs, and its mostly amateurish layout—think back to the Kon you know, or even the Kon you’ve heard of from someone else. This is a rare glimpse into a small pocket of an incredible career, and it’s one that screams of the possibility that lies in anyone with a dream and the drive to make it reality.
Story & Art: Satoshi Kon
Publisher: Vertical Comics
© 2015 KON’STONE, Inc.
For more on Satoshi Kon, check out our special issue on anime creators, Anime USA. Available by mail order via our online store, it’s got an in-depth special feature on Kon’s legacy, plus plenty of coverage on Gainax, Madhouse, Shirobako, crowdfunding and other behind-the-scenes topics. Get it now!
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