opus manga cover

Opus, Manga Review

Opus by author Satoshi Kon

Opus is a manga about a manga artist who falls into his own creation. It is written by Satoshi Kon who went on to direct such acclaimed anime films as Paprika and Perfect Blue. My only previous experience with his works was with Perfect Blue and I had a very… memorable experience with that film.

I went to see it at a special screening with my boyfriend (now husband) very early in our dating history. He asked if I wanted to see an anime movie I had never heard of and he did not prepare me for what was about to be played. If you have not seen Perfect Blue I don’t want to spoil it but it is… difficult.

Honestly, it’s one of the most upsetting movies I’ve ever seen. I cried in the parking lot afterwards for a good twenty minutes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a GREAT film. It’s extremely well made and the animation and voice acting are incredible but the material itself broke me. Which is also a testament to the writer. Great art should be challenging. Perfect Blue was one of the most challenging films I’ve still ever seen.

So I was hesitant to go in to any of his other works despite my boyfriend telling me that Perfect Blue is not his typical piece. I’m happy to report that Opus is much easier to digest. It’s a fun meta story full of action and commentary on writing and what it means to be a not all powerful creator.

When the writer falls through the pages of his own manga the characters have no choice but to believe that he is God. He did create them and knows everything about them after all.

Panel from Opus, "he's not god"
Some would disagree

But this god is not all powerful, he has editors and publicists to answer to. He also needs assistants to create the world.

panel from Opus, the manga artist's assistant didn't finish the background
Read right to left

He also completely loses control over his own creation. The characters in Opus were unaware before that they were not real so they have their own wills and continue on with their own plans despite the author being present. The author struggles with his own writers block and conflicts with his own creation.

manga artist isn't god
not all powerful

He also then must come to terms with the consequences of how he’s treated his creation. He had planned to kill off one of the main characters in order to end the series with a bang but the characters obviously don’t want to die and don’t like the idea of their world no longer being written into existence.

god prefers death to being boring
nobody likes watching happy people be boring

The book is more a commentary about the creative process and the tortured psyche of artists than it is about the characters and their plot within the plot. It is also semi autobiographical about the author as he attempts to transition his career from manga artist to film director.

Readers always want the series they love to continue forever. But not all series get satisfying endings. The ending of this book is just as meta as the story and may not satisfy all readers. But we do not always get the ending we want. Sometimes artists are finished with their creation.

And more unfortunately, as was the case with this artist, they die before they can get all of their creations out into the world. It is a melancholy truth. Let’s enjoy what we do have and try not to mourn too much for what could have been.

I would recommend Opus for any fans of Satoshi Kon, it’s a great insight into his mind and process. Also for any writers or creators themselves, this is actually quite relatable as an over the top metaphor.

4/5 ink pens🖋🖋🖋🖋

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Buy Opus here: Satoshi Kon’s: Opus

And if you want to watch a movie that will make you feel as broken as its heroine I really do recommend Perfect Blue, buy that here: Perfect Blue

If you like less traditional Manga also check out No Longer Human.

I love comic books, nonfiction, and everything in between! Come discuss your favorites!

2 thoughts on “Opus, Manga Review

  1. If you haven’t seen it, I’d strongly recommend Kon’s movie: “Millennium Actress.” It has plenty of the mixing of reality/imagination and artist/creation that is so characteristic of his work, without the disturbing psychological terror. The TV series “Paranoia Agent” is also great. It contains some unsettling and horrific elements, but not on the level of “Perfect Blue.”

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I really do want to check out more of his work. Perfect Blue was just a rough introduction for me. Not always in the mood for psychological horror on that level!