Perfect Blue (1997) / Animation-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for animated violence, nudity, rape, brief language, and sexual situations
Running Time: 81 min.
Cast (voices, Japanese language): Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Okura
Director: Satoshi Kon
Screenplay: Sadayuki Murai (based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi)
Mima is a pop singer who desperately wants to be an actress. She realizes that if she ever wants to be taken seriously in that profession, she is going to have to shed her pop star image, and giving up singing altogether provides the first of many steps in her new direction. However, in order for her to get roles, she also must perform in a manner which she finds to be troubling, acting in scenes which require nudity, violence, and even rape -- all contrary to the bubblegum persona she was previously known for. Previously oblivious to the internet, she soon is introduced to a blog bearing her name and personality, written by an anonymous author claiming to be her, although the person writing it seems to know her true feelings even more than Mima herself does. Meanwhile, a strange man has been stalking her, while bomb threats are coming into her production, causing Mima to start to doubt whether or not she is on the path to happiness or if she should have stayed a pop star. Soon, reality and fantasy start to blur, as the Mima of old begins to haunt her, claiming that she is now an imposter of her former self.
Perfect Blue marks the first anime directed by Satoshi Kon (Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress), and judging from the level of maturity and complexity, it is a good beginning. Although most animated features in the US are aimed at children, Perfect Blue and the rest of its anime ilk, is aimed strictly for adults. As such, it is a mature and complicated thriller, often confusing at times, as layer upon layer of psychological elements are piled on as the film approaches its ambitious finale.
It is also one of the first films to deal with the internet in a realistic way, showcasing a diary style of celebrity page which would later blossom into what we now know as a "blog".
Perfect Blue is far from perfect, but it is intriguing, with excellent characterizations and a nifty thriller plot. The reality vs. fantasy element has been done before in films within films, most notably in the Oscar nominated 1980 film, The Stunt Man, although this anime takes the theme and runs with it for all its worth. There is also some choice commentary underneath regarding the state of Japan's entertainment industry, which pushes forward wholesome G-rated images in most of its popular music, while showcasing some very violent and sexual subject matter in its movies and magazines.
Perfect Blue starts off as a routine thriller, working quite well in that regard, only to have the foundation fragment into a myriad pieces, which will be a make or break point for most viewers. If you enjoy anime and like esoteric psychological thrillers that ask you to replay the entire movie in your mind in order to make some sense of it all, this animated feature may be right up your alley.
I can't say that I completely understand all of the events that transpire throughout the course of Perfect Blue, but by the time my grip on the story began to falter a bit, I had already been sufficiently entertained by it to give it a solid recommendation. Your guess is as good (or probably better) than mine as to what it all means, and while I can't come up with any wholly satisfactory conclusions, Perfect Blue offers enough intelligence and profundity to merit many discussions and arguments among the film's biggest fans.
-- Remade as a live action feature in 2002
-- Often cited as an influence for Darren Aronofsky's acclaimed film, Requiem for a Dream
©2005 Vince Leo