Perfect Blue (1998)
By: Captain Red Eye on June 2, 2010  | 
Siren Visual | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Japanese DD 5.1 | 78 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Satoshi Kon
Starring: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Okura
Screenplay: Sadayuki Murai
Country: Japan
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Great works of literature haven't always translated well to the world of anime, and the finished product often bears scant resemblance to the source material. Two examples that spring to mind are Alice in Sexland, a risqué bondage-themed romp that the Caterpillar couldn't have foreseen in the most potent of opium highs, and Nikkatsu's 1984 outing Lolita Anime, which has little in common with Nabokov's masterwork beyond the title and further owns the distinction of being the world's first entirely animated pornographic feature.

Yoshikazu Takeucki, author of the novel from which Perfect Blue derives its inspiration, can breathe a sigh of relief. Under the steady hand of director Satoshi Kon, Takeuchi's original premise has been extensively reworked and the end result stands as an accomplished and deeply engaging deconstruction of celebrity worship and the nature of obsession.

Incorporating elements of Hitchcock and Giallo into its semi-surrealist, Phildickian framework, Perfect Blue revolves around a young starlet named Mima, who has recently quit the fledgling pop group Cham in hopes of making it as an actress. Hounded by a persistent and apparantly murderous stalker the hapless Mima stumbles across a website, Mima's Room, which contains first person commentaries and purported excerpts from her diaries. Occasionally the posts on the site are predictive, at other times they contain information that Mima has previously only thought and that couldn't possibly be known to anyone but her.

It's no surprise then that as the film progresses the actress's personality becomes increasingly fragmentary and, in an intelligently-realised motif that isn't nearly as clichéd as it sounds, she eventually loses the ability to distinguish between real life and the characters she portrays. The violent acts committed by her stalker (or possibly Mima herself) escalate in both frequency and savagery and the plot grows increasingly complex and intense, introducing the notions of dissociative identity disorder or a potential folie à deux as two possible means of explaining the contradictions.

Originally planned as a live-action feature, Perfect Blue works extremely well within the confines of the anime genre. The animation is lush and the designs, from the characters down to Mima's perfectly-captured cramped inner-city apartment, are convincing and richly detailed. Though a decent edition has taken a while to hit our shores the film was well received by audiences and filmmakers alike upon initial release; director Darren Aronofsky paid $60,000 for the remake rights so he could incorporate a shot-by-shot recreation of a bathtub scene in Requiem for a Dream, and the storyline has reportedly influenced that of his upcoming feature Black Swan.

Perfect Blue isn't without its faults; a couple of unrealistic and annoyingly glaring plot devices, for instance, exist solely to keep the storyline chugging along. But while it may not be perfect the film never loses momentum, and Kon has imbued his directorial debut with more than enough panache to compensate for any deficiencies.
No issues here; superb animation, a quality transfer, no grain or artefacts and a vibrant and deeply textured picture throughout.
5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks are available in both English and Japanese. The Japanese track is great; Mashiro Ikumi's score starts out all innocuous and jaunty but becomes increasingly haunting as Mima's life spirals out of control, and Cham's cheesy J-pop tracks are also convincingly rendered. The sound itself is solid and expansive and even the most minute auditory details are rendered with impressive attention to detail. I didn't listen to much of the English dub but it appeared suitably impressive, and for what it's worth the (occasionally pseudonymous) English cast list reads like a who's who of the anime voicework scene.
Extra Features
The Siren Visual release is no slouch in this regard either. Included are an amusing and informative 40-minute mock lecture on the film with Satoshi Kon, interviews with several of the English voice actors, a much more straight-faced 11-minute interview with Kon, footage of the recording sessions for the Cham material and an audio track.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Both a dark denouncement of celebrity culture and a dextrous evocation of mental disintegration, Perfect Blue should appeal to those who habitually scorn anime as a genre saturated with tentacle debasement and pubescent girls with outsized chest pillows. The film certainly has its flaws but it's also an intense and ambitious debut outing from Kon, and 13 years later still stands as his strongest work.

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