Otaku USA Magazine
Anime Anime celebrates Millennium Actress

It’s hard to believe, but Millennium Actress is 12 years old.

Millennium Actress
, a film about a famous actress recalling the story of her life, was the second feature directed by Satoshi Kon (Paranoia Agent, Paprika), who died in 2010.

The film quickly became a favorite with anime fans in Japan and abroad, displaying a more positive, uplifting tone than Kon’s debut, Perfect Blue, while retaining the director’s signature themes – the blending of fact and fiction, a strong female lead, and the love of moviemaking.

Millennium Actress
is set to be released on Blu-ray in Japan this month, and animation news website Anime Anime has created a unique retrospective with an interview with the film’s character designer, Takeshi Honda, and a gallery of the various fictional posters used within the film.

In the interview, Honda explains though he was much more well known as animation director, he was tapped by Kon to do the character designs for Millennium Actress after expressing a desire to do non-moe, more realistic characters.

As you might expect, Honda has a lot of praise for the late Kon. He says the director never gave him a direct order about the designs, stating “for starters, draw however you like.” Honda also frequently mentions the extreme speed with which Kon could draw.

As those who have seen the film know, it tracks the protagonist, Chiyoko Fujiwara, both through the span of her life and her film career, requiring dozens of costume designs and new facial designs for various ages. Honda reveals they worried about being able to draw the recognizably same character over such a span, but, he laughs, “we gave it our all.”

Honda went on to work on Tokyo Godfathers and “helped out a little” on Paranoia Agent, but was busy working on Denno Coil when Paprika was being made. But, laughs Honda, both productions were being made at the same studio, so he would occasionally go say hi to Kon and “steal a beer from the fridge.”

The full interview (in Japanese) is here.

Anime Anime’s other Millennium Actress feature is a gallery of the posters designed to be used within the film. The titular actress of Millennium Actress, Chiyoko Fujiwara, starred in dozens of films based on real Japanese movies of the Showa era. Incredible detail was put into the posters even though they appear on screen for mere moments, so this gallery is a real treat for fans of the film. Our favorite is definitely Gigara, a loving tribute to Godzilla.

Click on over and peruse away.

As of now, it looks like the only Satoshi Kon film available in the States on Blu-ray is Paprika. It’s a good start, but hopefully this Japanese release of Millennium Actress means one Stateside isn’t far behind.


Matt Schley

Matt Schley (rhymes with "guy") lives in Tokyo, and has been OUSA's "man in Japan" since 2012. He's also written about anime and Japanese film for the Japan Times, Screen Daily and more.