[From July Issue 2010]
Chiyoko Millennial Actress (Directed by KON Satoshi)
This is an anime film written and directed by KON Satoshi, who started his career as a manga artist. It won the Grand Prize in the animation category at the 2001 Japan Media Arts Festival held by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, tying with “Spirited Away,” directed by MIYAZAKI Hayao. Centering on the present, the plot advances in a unique manner, with a mixture of the past and the future, and of reality and fantasy.
TACHIBANA Genya, the president of a film production company, is asked to make a documentary in commemoration of the demolition of Ginei, the movie studio where he once worked. So, he decides to interview FUJIWARA Chiyoko, the greatest actress the studio has ever produced, in order to record her life’s story. Though a big fan of Fujiwara himself, even 30 years after her retirement from show business, Tachibana has no idea where she lives, nor does anyone else.
Having finally managed to arrange an interview with Chiyoko, Tachibana visits her home along with a young cameraman. Despite having refused interviews for 30 years, she agrees to the meeting after being told that Tachibana has something for her. As soon as they meet, Tachibana hands her a small box. With a surprised look, Fujiwara opens it to find an old key inside.
Taking it in her hand, Chiyoko explains that it is “the key to open the most important thing there is.” Little by little, she begins to tell how as a high school student, she was discovered by Ginei, and about the real reason for her entering show business, in spite of her mother’s opposition – her burning love for a man whom she saved while she was in high school.
Chiyoko recounts how she met the man long ago, when Japan was still very militaristic. He was an artist, and a criminal wanted for having anti-government views. As it happened, Chiyoko sheltered this fugitive, and the two talked and talked without ever learning each other’s names. Then, she caught sight of this key he had.
The man told her that it was the key to open the most important thing. The following day, on her way home from school, she found it lying in the street. With a sense of foreboding, she rushed home only to find that he had already disappeared, just ahead of the police, who had discovered where he was hiding. From then on, Chiyoko searched for the man using what little information she had, so she could give him back his key.
Reflecting on her life, she sees herself move from wartime Tokyo, where she was born and raised, through her past movies which depicted the Sengoku period and the last days of the Tokugawa Shognate. Tachibana and the cameraman also appear in those scenes, but only Chiyoko can see them. Her story travels through various eras, mixing real events with her fantasies.
Just before the end of the interview, Chiyoko faints. When she awakens at the hospital, she realizes that her time is soon coming. Smiling at both Tachibana and the cameraman by her side, she tells them that she is not afraid of death. “After all, I’m going after that man again,” she says, before gently closing her eyes forever.