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I just want to see him even once

Initially, this portion of the site was meant to be part of the previous page. Unfortunately, I severely underestimated just how massive it would appear with all of the content I wanted to touch upon. Thus, this section of the site was born, titled Mementos, mostly because all of the items pictured here are my own. Apologies in advance for the very dubious camerawork! (( ´ ∀ ` ;))


Official artbook (top), DVD version (bottom left), limited edition steelbook version (bottom right)

If you're interested in watching Millennium Actress, fortunately the film is readily available on various streaming platforms. The DVD is also quite affordable as well, and is pretty easy to find! The limited edition steelbook version in particular contains a small pamphlet with interesting commentary, some of it taken from the film's official artbook.

Speaking of which, if you're already a fan of the film or would like to learn more about it, I highly recommend taking a look at the official artbook, titled Chiyoko Millennial Actress Special Edition. There's a wealth of information included—with much of it translated into English! While I would've purchased it anyway, with or without English translations, they were definitely a wonderful surprise—along with everything else. There is a lot in this artbook I wasn't expecting, though admittedly my experience with official artbooks like this is very limited.
The inner cover: a crane with a keyhole on its breast
Text reads: "To the most important thing there is"

First, I love how the artbook opens: it begins with an introduction to Chiyoko and provides titles and synopses of every single one of her films that are shown throughout the movie. As if they were just—actual movies! Even the ones that are shown only very briefly! When I opened the artbook for the first time, I just couldn't believe it. This section shows just how much care and attention was put into the film—into creating Chiyoko's life story.
"Chiyoko Fujiwara Filmography"
They even included the Godzilla-inspired movie!

The artbook not only includes sketches, storyboards, and official art, it also goes into the different Japanese historical time periods presented in the film. I really like how this particular section is tabbed; it's such a small thing, but it just makes my heart happy.
Opening of "Historical Background" section
The different tabs sectioning out the content

Interspersed between the movie recap sections are interviews with the voice actors and, of course, with the director Satoshi Kon himself. In the latter part of the artbook, there's also more interviews with other people who worked on Millennium Actress, including Sadayuki Murai, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Kon. Unfortunately, these interviews don't have English translations accompanying them.

I especially enjoyed the interviews with Genya's voice actor, Shozo Iizuka, and all three of Chiyoko's voice actresses, Fumiko Orikasa, Mami Koyama, and Miyoko Shouji. They all provide unique perspectives on the ending of the film, and touch upon the different reactions it seemed to garner from men and women.
"Millennial Actor Interview Shozo Iizuka"
"A Talk with 3 Millennial Actresses"
Below are some favorite excerpts of mine.
The following contains unmarked spoilers for the movie.

From Millenial Actor Interview Shozo Iizuka:

Can you talk a little more about your impressions of Chiyoko Millennial Actress?
Iizuka: The title itself, Chiyoko Millennial Actress, is great. A woman's emotion is like strolling through space and time for a thousand years... Giving form to that kind of "concept" is difficult. It's often the case that, when you try to bring life to a world created in the imagination of a writer, it ends up being really off. You start with telling the staff, "the concept I want to create is like this", then the visuals are created, then we voice actors add the voices. So, by the time you've got the concept, the artwork, and the voices all mixed together, it can be pretty far removed [from the original vision].
So as you create the work, you drift away from the original concept...
Iizuka: Right, if you look at from the writer's perspective. For this film especially, it's an abstract vision. And the vision that the writer has is something beautiful and pure. When that gets transformed into film, in reality, there's bound to be some disparity. So what I would like to know is whether director Kon, who was also the writer, is satisfied with the outcome, or if there's a thousand-year divide between his concept and the final product. [laughs] For a superficial film, I wouldn't give that much thought, but this film evokes thought on several levels, such as women, gender, love, and infatuation. And because it's such a thought-provoking work, I'd like it to be seen by young people and the older generations that experienced the war. That's why I thought it would be perfect timing to show it on August 15, the anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
Is the reason you want to have it seen by a range of generations different from the one you mentioned earlier - about it portraying the nature of women?
Iizuka: No, it's the same. I'd like people to see this single-minded love, which is not something you often see these days. Young people might call it "old-fashioned" and "out of date", but there is the essence of love. You don't have to be moved by it, but I'd like you to experience what you might call a type of catharsis, or cleansing of the emotions. And also because this movie has an interesting backdrop of various time periods. I think that older men and women who see the movie will be moved by it. I, too, have experienced war.

From A Talk with 3 Millennial Actresses:

Regarding Chiyoko's final words, men and women seem to interpret them quite differently.
Shouji: I thought this was a story also geared to men. I think the notion of a blinding infatuation doesn't refer just to love. I think men and women both can become single-mindedly fascinated with something. In the movie, Chiyoko says "I love myself chasing...", but couldn't that also be applicable to men? Orikasa-san, what are your thoughts on that?
Orikasa: Well, do people seem to glow when they are captivated by something? I think so.
Shouji: I agree. People like that have a certain appeal. That's why I don't think there's really a difference between how men and women view the movie. And in that way, I think it's very profound. Many other things are also depicted. They say "a crane lives 1,000 years, a turtle lives 10,000", right? Playing up on that, Chiyoko wears a kimono decorated with cranes, for example, and cranes are drawn in the background.
Koyama: It's been over a year since we recorded the dialogue. When the voice over was done and we all said "It's a wrap", everyone was beaming. What I remember very well is all the actors saying over and over again, "I'd like to live like that, too".
Shouji: Yes, yes.
Orikasa: That's right.
Koyama: This film really depicts how people live.
Koyama: But didn't you naturally just want to play the actress's entire life all by yourself?
Shouji: I wanted to. [laughs]
Koyama: You did, too, huh?
[Everyone laughs.]
Shouji: It's like "But I know I could do it..."
Koyama: Yes, you could do it, right? I mean, it's just doing a voice after all. I can do anything from a 3-year old kid to someone over 80! [laughs]
Orikasa: At first, I thought you would feel strange to have 3 people play Chiyoko. But then actually looking at the final result, there's a certain profoundness that emerges. I thought "Ah, so this is what they were after by casting three different people."
Koyama: I think each one of us has a different interpretation of Chiyoko based on our age. (...)
So everyone here could relate to Chiyoko's devoting her entire life to chasing her love.
Koyama: It isn't a question of whether we relate or not. Everyone lives life with this illusion of love. Love is an illusion, right?
Shouji: Of course.
Koyama: In the end, you know, it's all about yourself. You love yourself as "someone in love". That's why we fall in love. Come on, nobody's paying any attention to their partner.
Orikasa: [laughs]
Orikasa-san, do you have a different opinion?
Orikasa: Huh? Well...
Koyama: No, she understands well enough. [laughs]
Orikasa: [erupts in laughter] But, after all, isn't it fun to fall in love?
Koyama: And what you really love is yourself having fun, right?
Orikasa: I like the "me" who is putting in the effort.
Shouji: [laughs]
Koyama: See, you're not paying attention to your partner. [laughter]
Orikasa: Right now, I felt it. "I'm not paying attention to him!" [laughs]
Koyama: To spend your whole life chasing someone you just bumped into, you must be thinking only of yourself. I'm sure that men are the same. The movie ends with my lines.
Shouji: [leafing through the script she brought] In the hospital room, I say "After all..." And after that, Koyama-san says it again, right? "After all..."
Koyama: Right...inside the rocket. "It's myself chasing after him..."
Shouji & Koyama: "That I really love."
[Everyone laughs.]
Koyama: It was like "Yes, yes" — I felt so convinced, so clear! I thought to myself, "I do like living like this".

The interview with Satoshi Kon is, of course, fantastic, as he delves into the symbolism of certain images or scenes, and also touches upon the film's ending and the meaning of it. Sadly, he passed away in 2010, which makes these interviews all the more poignant to read, particularly the parts where he explores death and rebirth.
"Director Satoshi Kon Interview"
Pages from the interview, containing storyboards

The following contains unmarked spoilers for the movie.

Some favorite excerpts from Director Satoshi Kon Interview:

Yokota: It may have a connection, but in the movie, there is a line that expresses belief in tomorrow. It says "I like the waxing moon."
Kon: That was a quote from a line from a movie that was introduced in Ms. Hideko Takamine's "Watashi No Tosei Nikki." It was supposed to be a representation of the youthful exuberance of the man with the key, but it became a very important line.
Yokota: That line, and the mysterious old woman's words of "fate" is really conflicting. It's about the conflict felt between choosing to say "I believe in the future" or "I can't believe in the future."
Kon: I think everybody has these conflicts in their life. You can accept what is going on, and flow with it, but a part of you wants to believe that there are other outcomes, as well.
Yokota: In generalization, I believe that is true. Regarding this work, thought [sic?], does fate have a connection with just getting older?
Kon: Myself and the screenwriter, Mr. Murai, are about the same age. I thought about why we're writing about "not wanting to be seen in my declining years" since we're only in our mid 30's [laughs]. I wasn't expecting those things to come out. The main character, Chiyoko grows older, and dies in the very end, but "Chiyoko Millennial Actress" clearly shows the cycle of life, or karma. I wanted to show the circular pattern of karma, while advancing the plot at the same time. The structure of the plot is based on fragments of episodes of similar experiences, but each with their subtle differences. We see 80 minutes of Chiyoko's life. In the large flow of events that is her existence, you see a repeating pattern. Therefore, Chiyoko believed that if she went with the repeating flow, she would one day see the man with the key again. It's not the fact of whether she will actually see him again that is important, but rather her attitude toward her dream.
Yokota: Did you already know the last line of the "Chiyoko Millennial Actress" when you started on this project?
Kon: Yes, it was already present when I wrote the original plan.
Yokota: So, the theme this time around was how the film advances toward that line.
Kon: I can't say that I wrote the film to revolve around that line. I don't want people to grasp the line simply and literally as a statement of "I like myself like that", because there is more behind it [laughs].
Yokota: To Chiyoko, the key represents a lot of trauma. Meaning, it is essentially the fear and uncertainty present in the individual. Experiencing a lot of heartache and disappearances as a result of chasing after the key, the last line means something because the key resurfaces after she thought she finally has overcome her trauma.
Kon: Yes, the line means so much because of all the life experiences leading up to it. Incidentally, during the after-recording sessions, the voice actor that played Tachibana, told me "I'm really unsatisfied with the ending. I can't like a woman that would say such a thing!" It was almost like Tachibana was scolding me [laughs].
Yokota: [laughs].
Kon: But, I was expecting those reactions, and I wanted those kinds of reactions. I wanted men to respond with a "What?!" Some women responded with something like "I felt really denied." I think it's better that way. You see, I don't want "Chiyoko Millennial Actress" to be seen as a simple, fantastic, romantic story.
This is something I like to tell people regarding that last line. During the Hanshin Earthquake, there were volunteers that were very pushy. Essentially, volunteering is about deciding how one can be a part of assisting other people's needs. However, for some people, the act of volunteering is the most important factor, not necessarily the helping aspect. But either way, volunteering is a wonderful act. If you can accept yourself, I think it opens up a lot of avenues. You can say "I like to volunteer for me", and accept that as such, because that's not necessarily a bad thing. I think it's important to understand that, and move forward with that in mind.
Yokota: In the movie, Chiyoko's death is implied. People say things like that when they are dying. In that sense, is it the concept of death and rebirth? I mean, I think it can be interpreted as a kind of rebirth, so to speak.
Kon: Yes, you're correct. During the different stages in Chiyoko's life, her goal was to find her self that she liked. In the next life, using her goal as a foundation, how she could progress further. Therefore, that line had to be there, and the story had to arrive at that destination.
Also, this was a statement I wanted to make as my own original work. Until now, I think a lot of people thought that I was doing whatever I wanted, but I was really trying to avoid expressing my intentions. But, with your original work, you have to express yourself, or the resulting product will not succeed. That was something I realized. Your original work is like a statement of who you are, what you like, what you create. I think that last line really expresses that.

In regards to the last excerpt, if you're interested in more of Satoshi Kon's work, I highly recommend his other films, including Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika. His directorial debut, Perfect Blue, is also incredible. However, it involves pretty violent and heavy themes, so if that's a concern for you, certainly approach with caution.

Films aside, he is also the creator and director of the psychological thriller, Paranoia Agent, a 13-episode anime series. I wish I could say more about this series because I know how iconic it is, but I watched it as a child and, frankly, didn't understand much! So it's certainly one that I have to revisit myself, especially now that I'm older.


Lastly, there's a section in the artbook dedicated to the film's soundtrack, with an interview of Satoshi Kon and the film's composer, Susumu Hirasawa. Unfortunately, this section, along with the sketches and storyboards, isn't translated into English. I really wish it were, though, because Hirasawa's music is so wonderful and unique, and I would've liked to learn more about the songs used in Millennium Actress. (Luckily, I can ask my sister for translations, haha. Perhaps I'll provide some of my favorite excerpts at a later date.)
Susumu Hirasawa & Satoshi Kon interview
Soundtrack section

Artbook aside, there is the book, Satoshi Kon Storyboard Collection: Millennium Actress. However, it's entirely in Japanese and, as far as I'm aware, hasn't been translated into English. From the descriptions I've read of it, it contains all of the storyboards for the film and past interviews, which makes me wonder if it contains much of the same content as the official artbook, which has all of those sections within it. Regardless, I may pick it up anyway, just out of curiosity!
Sketches & storyboards from the official artbook

Someday, for sure

Millennium Actress is also featured in The Art of Satoshi Kon, a retrospective artbook of Satoshi Kon's career that was published after his death. It includes some alternative versions of official artwork, as well as Kon's comments on certain illustrations. I've included one of my favorite snippets here, which is about the album cover of the film's official soundtrack.

The book is quite large (physically speaking, and we all know what my camera skills are like at this point—!), so I'm still thinking about what I'd like to talk about and how best to present it all. But I definitely wanted to mention it at the very least, as it's a wonderful compilation of a master artist and storyteller, who gave so much—and even then clearly had so much more to show and tell us.

So for now, I'd like to part with this small message from him, found at the very end of the artbook. I love it because of how relatable it is, as these are thoughts I often have when I look at old things I've created myself—from writing to art to even just website layouts! Did I really make that? How did I even do that? Coming from a creator I admire, I found it rather encouraging to read, and I hope you do, too.

A NOTE ON SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT

From time to time, I get cheered up when I look at my old work.
Of course, as they say, self-praise is no recommendation. But that's not what I mean. I just feel encouraged by my progress.
I know some artists panic when they see just how good they used to be. But I'm not like that. I'm not so self-critical. Or maybe it's just that I never really thought I drew that well to begin with. Or maybe that's contradictory. Whatever it is, when I look at my old work, I feel like, "Did I really draw that?"
Or sometimes, "How did I ever draw that?"
I really wonder. I can't remember what I was thinking when I drew something, or where the ideas came from. It's mine, but it's not mine. I can't understand it.
Every picture in this book is something from me. They are things I created, and I take responsibility for them. The muscle memory of my right hand remembers them. I know all of this art so well, but the one thing that remains a mystery is, where did it come from? Where? I have no idea.
That question is something that I concern myself with deeply when I make movies. But I am still wondering. My only answer is in Ten Years of Souvenirs.

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