Directed by former photographer Mika Ninagawa, Helter Skelter (2012) is based on the 2003 manga of the same name and tells the story of a model whose faultless beauty and doll like form ultimately becomes her downfall. Momoi Kaori (“Swallowtail Butterfly”, “Ai Futatabi”, “Kagemusha”) excels in her role as Tada, a former model who tries to recapture fame by literally creating the perfect “living doll” model in LiLiCo. Momoi’s subtle and balanced performance is in nice contrast to Sawajiri’s wild portrayal. But 30-40 minutes could easily be shaved off the running time to make Helter Skelter a more succinct experience.
Ninagawa offers audiences a kaleidoscope-like assault on the senses with her colorful, disturbing exploration into the entertainment industry, showing both its shiny glamor and its darkest corners. Despite much of the film being based on the manga with each scene being almost exactly the same, there are a few aspects which could help clear the confusion for some. Especially as to why Lilico took the path she did. Of course, I won’t spoil it for you, but Lilico’s good looks and perfect figure hide a terrifying secret that will tear her world apart and reveal a darker side of the modelling industry.
Plastic surgery is a hot topic in today’s world, and some people just don’t know when to stop. This is especially true of celebrities who are constantly under the spotlight and feel the need to become “perfect” in order to please their fans. The Japanese manga Helter Skelter deals with this exact topic. Showing us what it takes sometimes to be one of today’s mega idols in the country. After watching it a few times I gotta say it sure reminds me of the late Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, along with the more recent Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky which took a lot of inspiration from the former.
Furthermore, the clothes in the film are a clear representation of the Japanese fashion climate, in such intense detail, particularly some of Lilico’s outfits and looks which fits perfectly fit in a Manga. Overall, Helter Skelter is an interesting film to see as it’s an emotional roller coaster ride ideal to be adapted to an animated thriller, with a solid creepy main character who is the result and product of the dark side of showbiz in Japan and possibly worldwide. Like I said earlier in this review however, the running time could have benefitted from a short time. Perhaps the film’s only let down is its 3 hour duration which could be reduced as the movie repeats itself sometimes without getting to the point: Lilico becoming a psycho. So when that finally happens, you want to see more of it but it happens so quick after many twists (mixed with music and visual effects) that you get confused at the end.