Lily Chou-Chou is a popular Japanese pop star who may or may not be real. Her legions of alienated teenage fans seem able to find solace and meaning in their lives only via an internet site devoted to her. One of these fans is Hayato, a high school student living in the provinces, who has a crush on music prodigy Ayumi. Online, Hayato expresses his devotion to Lily with passion and verve. Offline, like Ayumi, he is painfully shy, unassuming and lonely. He and others like him are easy prey for extreme forms of bullying -- which include public masturbation, rape and prostitution -- at the hands of a group of boys whose ringmaster is bored classmate, Shugo.
Shugo and Hayato were once friends, joining the kendo club together, discussing astronomy and engaging in a little petty crime. But Shugo began to change after a trip to Okinawa ended fatally. On his return to school, he defeated the reigning school bully and unleashed his own violent and arbitrary brand of humiliation that left few -- including his friend Hayato -- untouched.
An extremely painful and graphic story of wanton teenage cruelty, made all the more haunting and bleak by the beautifully kinetic digital cinematography.
+ "I started out wanting to depict a youth who lives in a state of confusion between daily life and virtual reality, someone for whom the virtual reality is totally confused with real life. But as I developed the story and worked on the film, I realised that most people are living that way." Director Shunji Iwai.