Posted on 25 February 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews


Back in August, I made a rather large list of all kinds of worthwhile movies and OVAs, as a way to systematically catch up them, just like I did before with 13-episode series. I became an anime-fan relatively late, so I missed out on a lot of good stuff and this was the prefect chance to get my hands on a number of true anime classics. And with Millennium Actress, I finally finished this list. I’ll try to come up with some kind of compilation-post with my highlights tomorrow or the day after that.

In any case, Millennium Actress by Satoshi Kon was the perfect movie to save for last. Not only is it an excellent movie, but it also pays homage to all kinds of historical movie-genres. While I can’t say that it’s been the definite best movie ever, it does have the most imaginative storyline that I’ve ever seen in one. It even leaves the various Ghibli-productions miles behind it!

You can also recognize elements of other productions of Satoshi Kon. Suddenly, the RPG-episode of Paranoia Agent makes perfect sense and I can understand a bit where Paprika went wrong with its constant repeats of the same shots: Satoshi there tried to relive one particular scene of this movie, but he went much too far in that. Also, like all of his movies, the main characters stand miles apart from the sort of cast you usually see in anime, and their average age is probably the highest of any anime I’ve seen.

And this yet again shows that older characters can be just as fun to watch as the teenage ones. All members of the main cast are absolutely lovable, both the males and the females. I just couldn’t help but root for them throughout the entire movie. What also absolutely shines is the story. This is much more than just a simple love story, and Satoshi Kon goes way beyond the usual clichés and formulas. Unfortunately, the movie is not perfect. One thing I really missed in the second half was the hilarious sense of humour of the first half. It’s of course inevitable to become more serious as the movie progresses, but Tokyo Godfathers demonstrated that the jokes in the second half can really work in the movie’s advantage if they’re delivered well.

Looking back, it’s a shame that Satoshi’s record got spoiled with Paprika. That movie just feels outright mediocre when compared to all his stellar works, and it’s much, much worse than all of his other directing-jobs. Seriously, Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress and Paranoia Agent all are excellent recommendations. All four are unique, all four have an excellent and realistic modern art-style, and all of them have an absolutely stellar soundtrack, with the background music from Millennium Actress probably being the best of them all.

11 Responses

  1. wackedfoo says:

    hm…what would this list include? i have one of my own but it’s more like a “To Download” list.

    anyway, my first satoshi kon film was paprika. while i thought it was definitely creative, it wasn’t as good as i thought it’d be. millennium actress blew away any low expectations i had for kon’s other movies though.

  2. AG says:

    All in all this film definitely had its touching moments but for me was a disappointment overall.

    The time-travelling with the cameramen as spectators / actors / participants did not feel clever, more like a standard artistic trick.

    The film feels like Paprika but has a better story, ie I don’t think its radically better.

    Just my tuppence worth ;)

  3. Martin says:

    I recall seeing this at a convention in ’05 and was utterly spellbound. I’d already seen Perfect Blue at that point but after watching everything Kon has directed since (and holding every one of them in very high regard) I think this one is still my favourite.

    It’s a romance movie, an historical movie, and I guess a movie about movies! It’s also really beautiful – right down to the muffled crunch of footfalls in snow – and the soundtrack is brilliant too.

    You really have left the best till last – the greatest work so far from one of my favourite directors. This review just reminds me how badly I want to rewatch it actually…

  4. Wyrdwad says:

    You know, I actually gained a new appreciation for Paprika after buying it on DVD and watching all the interviews and commentary. I think anything Paprika was lacking, it was actually kind of INTENTIONALLY lacking… evidently, the original Paprika novel was Kon’s favorite book of all time, for YEARS, and served as his impetus to become a movie-maker… and the author actually approached HIM to make a movie out of Paprika… so Kon basically reverted to “fanboy mode,” and decided that since the movie was all about dreams anyway, he might as well just make the entire movie based on his own impulses, no matter how brash or amateurish they may be, with no second thoughts and no revisions.

    I’m not sure if that EXCUSES the movie’s flaws, but it certainly goes a long way toward explaining them, and it shows me that Kon HASN’T lost his touch… he just tried something different, and it didn’t quite work as well as he’d hoped. I have every faith that his next movie will be up to par with his other amazing works, though.

    And speaking of his next movie, straight from Kon’s mouth (I got to see him live at the east coast Paprika premiere!), it will be taking place in the future… but not the future as we think of it: a time SO UNIMAGINABLY FAR in the future that life is just completely different from anything we know. Sounds promising, and I can’t wait to see it. (:

    Anyway, glad you finally got around to seeing Millennium Actress, my favorite movie of all time (animated or otherwise!). I was hoping it would wow you a bit more than a 91′s worth, but still, for you, giving a movie a 91 is pretty damn good, so I’m satisfied. (:

    -Tom

  5. Northern says:

    For me, Paprika was better the second time I saw it. That’s because I had a better sense of who the characters were and understood why things happened the way they did.

  6. lostty says:

    I actually didn’t like this movie that much, I just felt bored watching it. I think it had good potential, but it never reached my expectations. Though, I would probably watch it for a second time just to see if my opinion would change…

  7. Wyrdwad says:

    Heh, and my reaction to it is quite the opposite: I must’ve seen Millennium Actress a dozen times already, and listened to its soundtrack over a hundred times… and I never get tired of either. (:

    -Tom

  8. omo says:

    I think Paprika is much more meaningful if you watch it in order. That is, if you’ve seen each Kon work as they are released, Paprika makes a lot more sense. In a way it is the accumulation of all the stuff he wanted to pull off in his directorial career so far.

    Personally Millennium Actress is my favorite film coming from him. It’s not flawless, and I think it’s a less impressive work than Paprika, but there’s more charm in this film than just about anything Studio Ghibli have ever released. Only if it was less arthousey.

  9. Got nothing to say about your Millennium Actress Review, You really got an awesome informative blog, would you mind if i ask you for a link exchange? Regards…

  10. replicas oakley sunglasses says:

    I think Paprika is much more meaningful if you watch it in order. That is, if you’ve seen each Kon work as they are released, Paprika makes a lot more sense. In a way it is the accumulation of al

  11. replicas oakley sunglasses says:

    and I think it’s a less impressive work than Paprika, but there’s more charm in this film than just about anything Studio Ghibli have ever released. Only if it was less arthousey

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  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 03:27 PM)
    Ghibi’s up would certainly be a different beast altogether.
  • K-Off
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 03:08 PM)
    @Ken no, the ghibli one.
  • Kenjeran
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 01:55 PM)
    @Juno: Up? That Disney-Pixar one?
  • Noel
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 01:39 PM)
    Hi there. I’m currently interning for a small company in London, and they tasked me with creating a video tribute to Howl’s Moving Castle. I came up with this, and I thought you might like it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-zTTQzgjI Noel
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 12:23 PM)
    The only time they ever get along seems to be during non-canon alternate universes made for fanservice, official or not.
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 12:21 PM)
    Erm, no. They didn’t “get along” so much as Sayaka at least sympathized nicely with her. At least, until the end, when she basically swore never to sympathize with her again. XDDD
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 12:20 PM)
    Another interesting point is that the character relations are pretty fluid, too. Characters can act differently toward each other in different timelines/potential futures. Rebellion actually solidifies Homura’s consistent feelings toward Mami and also that Sayaka just cannot seem to be on good terms with Homura… but even then, for a while, they got along pretty well until the end. XD
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 12:17 PM)
    Madoka’s characterization seems pretty non-linear and only show up when necessary, so it’s definitely easy to see that they’re “dependent on the plot,” but there’s a ton of stuff there to piece the characters together into something coherent and solid.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 11:55 AM)
    Madoka’s characters act pretty confusingly? I never got that. I always felt there actions were pretty logical in the first viewing.
    Though a second viewing of anything can help. Mostly because you know the main story so you can focus on the little details.
  • Juno
    (Thursday, Apr 24. 2014 11:27 AM)
    If anyone wants me to ask any specific questions, let me know. Funny enough, people are saying the same thing I’ve been saying for a long time–that multiple viewings help us understand the characters better. Because a lot of characters DO act pretty confusing at first, but upon a second viewing, after we know more about them, those actions make complete sense. Meaning that Madoka’s characterization is not linear.

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