In this, Satoshi Kon's directorial debut, you bear witness to the events surrounding a Japanese pop idol turned actress. If you are unaware of what the pop idol scene, it wouldn't be unlike the flip side of boy bands in the U.S. during the 90's, just with more sweaty dudes fawning over young female singers with fabricated personalities. Very few movies embody the sense of psychological thriller such as this movie does. Kon uses a non-linear style of editing which would seem confusing to some with short attention spans. It's a bold form of story telling that few directors use and even fewer use it effectively as Kon does. You, the viewer, is often left to wonder, is this real, is this a dram, or is this part of the act? These devices, which are used anything but sparingly throughout the movie, are the crux of what makes this movie truly psychological. While jarring at times, it does well to hide from you what is truly going on while still showing you enough to keep you interested, if not fascinated. It's often left for the audience to determine what's really going on. Sometimes something will happen and turn out to be fake; first it appears to be an act, then a dream, but it's not always clear who is perceiving it. A big part of Kon's movies are the illusions and and the open interpretation of reality, this is no exception, but it does make you question, from who's perspective am I witnessing this? It must also be mentioned that this is one of a very limited number of horror movies that can sincerely obfuscate it's ending, not with a rubber mask or tensely grasping at a gun, but with a veil much thicker and more intriguing than your run-of-the-mil thriller.
In the movie, you get a sense for the time in which the movie occurs mostly because of the way in which the internet is presented. It's important to note that this is a contemporary setting for the time of the movies release in 1997. If you've watched any of Kon's more recent works such as Paprika or Paranoia Agent and pretty much any anime made since 2001, chances are that you are familiar with digital cell animation, weather you know it or not. In 1997 when this movie was made, digital cell animation was starting to become more and more integrated into the anime industry. In this movie, you may notice the use of various digital techniques that were vastly streamlined when compared to their analogue counterparts. It's also worth mentioning that another them brought into this story is that of transition, and the determination of the old to not be left behind. The movie ends in such a way that it is a seemingly poignant, and a little vexing non sequitur. Not just the falling action, not just the resolution, but even the very last shot before the credits. This is a truly fascinating film that serves as a good indicator of what to expect from other Kon movies, not necessarily in tone, but in boldness of direction and a deep, yet kinetic connection to the viewers of all his works.
-Gripping psychological thriller/horror
-Madhouse circa 1997
-Directorial debut of the man who would go on to make many more awe inspiring movies, all of which you should see.