And what else was big back in 2003? Anime.
The short-lived t.A.T.u. Paragate was always something of a mystery. It was an anime film starring the stage personae that Katina and Volkova projected, but the details were vague, referring to some paranormal gate that the two characters entered. Even the official website's story section had a “coming soon” label until it all abruptly closed in 2005, revealing little else about Paragate.
The swift demise of the film was likely due to Katina and Volkova cutting ties with their manager, Ivan Shapovalov. As the architect behind much of t.A.T.u.’s image, Shapovalov was the driving force behind Paragate, and he’s even credited with the screenplay. Without him, the movie died quickly. Shapovalov never answered my e-mails, so I’ll assume that’s the whole story.
But why should anyone care about t.A.T.u. Paragate, a hollow vanity project based on an equally hollow pop act? There’s one reason: Shinichiro Watanabe, director of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. Some see him as the best thing about the anime industry, and he excels at mixing music and animation. He signed on to direct Paragate’s opening, and even a t.A.T.u. song could be amazing in Watanabe's hands.
It’s not clear if that opening animation was ever completed, or if any other parts of Paragate came together. It was in the planning stages for nearly a year, reportedly overseen by directors Norio Kashima and Susumu Kudo (who, coincidentally, ended up in charge of his own Mardock Scramble anime years after Gonzo canceled theirs). No footage of it can be found today. Searching for Paragate remnants is strange at any rate, as it’s hard to tell where the official material ends and the fan art begins. Perhaps that explains why t.A.T.u. Paragate was no major loss. At the most, it’d have a nice opening.