By Adam B. Vary
Updated August 25, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Sony Picture Classics (2)

Image Credit: Sony Picture Classics (2)Satoshi Kon, one of the true visionaries of Japanese animation, died on Aug. 24 of pancreatic cancer at 46. Kon’s first film, 1999’s psychological thriller Perfect Blue, established what became a hallmark of his all-too-short career, and helped earn him a dedicated cult following in the U.S.: Mature, grounded storytelling spiced with a distinctive and substantial magical surrealism. His 2002 follow-up, Millennium Actress, blurred the lines between an enigmatic Japanese movie star’s real life and film career; it won Kon two Annie award nominations for directing and writing, and further established him as a filmmaker eager to use animation to tell stories aimed thoroughly at adult audiences.

Tokyo Godfathers, released stateside in 2004,edged more towards direct sentiment with its story following three homeless people — an alcoholic, a drag queen, and an 11-year-old girl — after they come upon an abandoned infant on Christmas Eve. But it was Kon’s 2006 Paprika, a dazzlingly dark fantasia bursting with visual invention, that truly solidified its maker’s reputation as a giant of anime. In fact, thanks to the film’s mind-melting imagery and dream-sharing narrative, many have noted striking similarities between Paprika and this year’s blockbuster Inception — check out a mash-up trailer of the two films, as well as Paprika‘s original trailer, after the jump.

Kon died working on a new film tentatively titled The Dream Machine, which he called in a 2008 interview “like a ‘road movie’ for robots.” Hopefully, the project was far enough along that we will be able to see the finished film, if only so audiences can experience Kon’s singular vision one last time.

What will you most remember about Satoshi Kon’s films?