Perfect Blue (1997)
By: Trist Jones on May 8, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
The AV Channel (Australia). Region 1, 2, 4 PAL. 1.78:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 5.1, Japanese DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 81 minutes
The Movie
Director: Satoshi Kon
Starring: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Okura
Screenplay: Sadayuki Murai
Country: Japan
I don't know about you, but one of the biggest deterrents in anime these days is the overabundance of confusingly similar properties and cheap crap sold to TV networks. Fantasy and sci-fi anime seem to dominate the Australian DVD market, and the titles alone often make browsing the anime sections at JB HiFi a daunting prospect, which is why masterpieces like Perfect Blue often go unnoticed.

Thematically and stylistically different from the majority of animes, Perfect Blue presents the harrowing story of Mima Kirigoe, one of the three members of the hugely successful J-pop act; Cham. Mima shocks fans when she announces that she's leaving the group to pursue a career in acting. There's an immediate backlash against the young performer, which spirals into controversy when she accepts a role in an erotic thriller. Mima's life starts to take a turn for the worst and the influence of the public masses and media begin to take their toll on her. Reality starts to blur around her and upon the discovery of an internet site, detailing every intimate detail of her daily life, Mima descends further and further into a state of dangerous paranoia. All the while, her friends and associates are threatened and brutally murdered by a mysterious stalker.

It really is a breath of fresh air, to come across a psychological thriller of this calibre not only in anime, but in general films as well. I can't recall a thriller I was as impressed with as this one. Not only is it extremely well written, but the presentation of the material is executed far better than it could be were it a live action production. This film could simply not be replicated live and retain the same power it does as an animation. I've heard a lot of people complain they can't come at animes that deal with real world issues, or even just great animes in general, because they are just that; animated films. I've seen that notion turn right around in just about everyone who makes that claim after making them watch Perfect Blue.

The animation itself teeters a little bit, being absolutely fantastic for the most part, but occasionally falling into the same old traps anime always seems to (static, sometimes lifeless shots where one body part is animated to limited capacity), but these instances are rarely noticeable or impacting in any way to the film itself. The film also presents some of the most underplayed, and in the same stride, shockingly gruesome violence I've ever seen in an anime. Sure you get your Genocybers and Devilman films where gore and violence is as in your face as it can be, but Perfect Blue's violence is realistic and straight up nasty. Even a scene depicting the filming of a rape sequence involving Mima is slightly uncomfortable to watch, and I doubt it would've been as effective had it been done in live action. Interestingly, the film was actually supposed to be a live action piece, but financial backers pulled out at the 11th hour and the film became an anime. There has since been a live remake, that I have been unable to track down.

The character designs, though bearing the recognisable traits of an anime production are also far more realistically proportioned than other mainstream animes, and race, be it Japanese, American or otherwise, are all very easily distinguished (visually at least). The film's soundtrack, though subtle, is a perfect partner to the images, and one of the more effectively creepy scores I've heard.

Some big names in anime came together to make this film. Director Satoshi Kon also directed the fantastic Memories (a collection of three short sci-fi pieces), and was advised by Katsuhiro Otomo of the seminal anime classic Akira. To top that off, the film was put together by Madhouse Studios, the team responsible for Ninja Scroll.

The film also draws itself to a mind-blowing conclusion, that stands today as one of the best endings I've ever seen. It's also a sentiment resounded by just about everyone I know who's also seen it. The pace it gathers leading up to the ending is furious and when things really start happening, it becomes unrelenting, pretty much right through to the moment the film ends.
For the most part the image is pretty clean. Our DVD has been sourced from the Manga Entertainment master, and there is some slight hazing on the print, whether this came from the actual print itself or is a by-product of the NTSC sourcing I can't honestly say. The print transfer though is fairly clean. There are a couple of very minor areas of noticeable grain but that's about it.
Both the Japanese and English soundtracks a pretty much flawless. The quality of the recording is fairly standard for anime these days, clean and crisp, but some people often have a problem with anime voice actors, as there is a very noticeable difference in acting style when held up against European animations.
Extra Features
The problem with releases like this is that they often have a lot of fairly insubstantial, low key extras. I am yet to be totally impressed by the extra features on an anime release, the closest so far being the commentaries on the Neon Genesis Evangelion DVD's (but they're for another review), and unfortunately Perfect Blue doesn't really cut it in terms of extras. You get a couple of quasi-fanboy interviews with the main American voice artists, though the questions aren't exactly thought provoking and the answers are sometimes less. What was interesting however, was watching the three singers recording the Japanese Cham songs, and the interview with the actress who voiced Mima in Japan (though both are still fairly shallow in terms of informative viewing).
The Verdict
One of the most impressive animes available is let down by a less than impressive DVD. The presentation of the DVD itself shows a very clear appreciation for the film; it's just a shame about the lack of features many of these releases get nowadays. It's understandable, as the amount of animation that comes out of Japan compared to the rest of the world is vastly superior in terms of quantity (quality can be debated), and therefore understandable that when Disney puts out an animated feature that there's going to be more promotional material such as behind the scenes docos and interviews along with it. Still this is a five star film, and the quality of Perfect Blue raises it beyond the need for extras.
Movie Score
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