SATOSHI KON’S OPUS Review: Meta Force

Source: Dark Horse Comics

There are figures in this world that, through all their accomplishments, manifest in our minds as immortal. Steve Irwin was one such figure, as was Robin Williams, and it’s hard not to say the same of acclaimed director Satoshi Kon. Despite all their sense of presence, the world reminded us all of their innate humanity, and we can now only remember them fondly.

It’s with that mindset that Dark Horse Comics has translated and collected together the last manga by the late Kon before he went on to work in animation with his debut film, Perfect Blue. It’s in 1996’s OPUS that we see what would later become Kon’s trademark storytelling elements.


Chikara Nagai is a veteran manga writer and artist that’s planning the conclusion of his latest work, Resonance, a supernatural police drama centering around telepathic Satoko’s battle against cult leader The Masque.

It’s tough being a comic creator, a job with long, grueling hours deprived of sleep and editors looming over you with constant deadlines. It’s enough to drive someone a little mad and maybe start hallucinating, which is what Nagai suspects when he starts seeing his characters come to life and finds himself dragged into their world.

Nagai finds himself in more trouble when that world begins falling apart as pivotal characters discover that they are just that, figments of a creator’s imagination, their lives directed by his every whim.

Or are they really? That’s the idea that Satoshi Kon plays around with not only in OPUS but in his later and more well-known works such as Paprika and Millenium Actress. Kon’s signature surrealism and experiments in the metaphysical and metafictional are on full display here. What is the nature of reality? How much do our ideas influence the structures of our reality, and how much are the limits of reality stretched and tested?

More specifically, OPUS is also a rumination on the creative process and the mind of the artist. Art can in ways be an attempt at gaining some semblance of control over the unruly forces of the world around us, despite however futile these attempts might be. As well, character writing is an exercise in creation of people, irrational beings with debatable amounts of free will. How much control does the artist truly have over their own creation–when does it become a world of its own?

OPUS considers a lot of ideas, but separate from that, it’s still just a darn good tale. The story moves at a breakneck pace, as much a thriller as the metamanga it centers around. It’s a strongly kinetic piece like much of Kon’s work, but never confusing or obtuse. It’s only  a shame that Kon never got the chance to finish it.


Satoshi Kon was once one of Katsuhiro Otomo’s chief assistants on his seminal work Akira, and the influence of that manga shows clearly in OPUS. Kon’s work is sophisticated, but has the roughness and semi-realism common to so much 90s Japanese cyberpunk and sci-fi.

What demonstrates most clearly Kon’s masterful handling of surreal ideas in still clear ways is his grasp of flowing action. Black-and-white is the realm of manga and yet so much fails to communicate story effectively through its visuals. Kon manages to play with the ideas of panels and transitions and world-building visually, taking full use of the medium. It’s a beautiful work and slightly nostalgic.

Even Satoshi Kon’s sketch work is impressive. Dark Horse smartly decided to include the last chapter written by Kon, although rough and unfinished. That in itself can also be a playful take on the assumed separation between reality and fiction.


OPUS is a bittersweet piece. It was never finished due to the cancellation of the magazine it was serialized in, and it never will be due to the untimely death of one of anime’s greatest creative forces. Yet, it’s a touching tribute to Kon and a necessary piece for any fans’ collection.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars




Featured Image Source: Dark Horse Comics


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Categories: Manga Reviews


Professional grump. Writes media criticism at Whines on Twitter a lot. Likes rice.

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3 Comments on “SATOSHI KON’S OPUS Review: Meta Force”

  1. Kyle
    11/26/2014 at 4:22 PM #

    So when you say it’s unfinished, does it just stop, or is there some amount of closure?

  2. GJ Corban
    04/03/2015 at 5:16 PM #

    Kyle, Story wise it leaves you on a cliffhanger, thematically though it’s the best ending possible. So it has a little bit of closure.


  1. WAYWARD #1-5 Review: A Stunning Hybrid of Comics and Manga | Another Castle - 01/09/2015

    […] encountered in each issue. Davisson–who, among other accomplishments, translated the late Satoshi Kon’s Opus for Dark Horse–is not only a smart scholar but a fluid writer, making this ancient history […]

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