In Millennium Actress a starlet on her death bed recalls her lifelong chase to catch up with the love of her life. From this simple premise, Satoshi Kon crafts a kaleidoscopic love letter to Japanese cinema. His heroine, Chiyoko Fujiwara, is the perfect mirror to Mima from Perfect Blue - a hopeless romantic with an astounding career and indomitable spirit. Her journey through the golden age of the Japanese studio system (roughly early WWII to the turn of the century) blurs the line between fantasy and reality. In the process, Kon tries his hand at Kaiju eiga, the samurai epics of Kaira Kurosawa, the understated dramas of Yasujrō Ozu, and everything in-between. It's a stunning achievement and one host's favorite Kon film full-stop.
Curiously, Millennium Actress didn't light the world on fire the way its predecessor did - it wasn't even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002 (Miyazaki's Spirited Away did). Masterful though it may be, it sets up Kon's long struggle to craft a commercial successor to his debut film. On the plus side, though, it also sets up Kon's long-standing partnership with composer Susumu Hirasawa, whose arresting New Age bombast became synonymous with Kon's work.
Ian and Joseph break down the cornucopia of references and easter eggs ticket into Satoshi Kon's too-overlooked second film - not to mention its absolutely killer soundtrack.